Thursday, September 29, 2005

Flash8 is, erm, great

If you're into film and video, then the new version of Flash should be whetting your appetite too. The ability to make use of alpha channels in video will change the way Flash looks forever, creating a seamless and more attractive user experience at no cost to the interaction elements. With us being interactive designers and all, use of ActionScript in Flash is pretty much unavoidable. Hats off to Macromedia then for the addition of ScriptAssist, a tool that makes the use of ActionScript less of a headache for those of us who consider it some kind of dark art. Also included in the new package is FlashLite, opening up the world of mobile content to regular Flash users.

Donald Norman

Donald Norman; Professor, author, former head of Apple Research Labs and (seemingly) all round nice bloke. His book, 'The Design of Everyday Things' deals with the psychology behind the usage of everyday objects. How do we use something? Is it clear how something should be used? Is it easy to make mistakes? Are these mistakes reversible, and if not, how come it is so easy to make them? One of my favourite sections in the book - To Err Is Human - is concerned with issues around people making errors. Norman reasons that if you use an object or interface in an incorrect manner, then it is not your fault but the failing of the designer. A tough call for us as designers, but a message that we should heed with great enthusiasm. He makes a number of logical observations that should really be post-it noted to any designer's monitor. Don't forget that as a designer, you already know how your product works, hence when you tested it, all was well. Give it to somebody else and... uh oh.

The book is well worth a read, it will open your mind up to concepts and ideas that may not have occured to you before and hopefully make you a better designer. It's an easy read too; informal style, quirky and often amusing... I'll be picking up some of his later titles in the future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Picking bones with phones

My Nokia 6250 poses an 'interesting' design concerning it's main navigation control. The control works in a north/south/east/west fashion, with the 'select' function being slightly sunken into the center. Making a selection with this phone can be a nightmare - countless times have I wished to select one option only to move the cursor by mistake and end up with a completely different result; sending a text to the wrong person, deleting a message I just recieved or some similar mishap. It seems like a strange design choice; an over-sensitive navigation control coupled with a very indistinct selection button... perhaps I just have a poorly designed thumb, eh?

Another Nokia example now, this time the 3260. This phones whole styling was very different to other models before and since, but the main interaction element - the keypad - has (what I consider) to be an unnecessarily confusing layout, with six buttons instead of nine. I appreciate the idea but there are more conventional ways of breaking conventions.

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