In light of the uproar over Twitter's apparent plans to "curate" our feed using really awesome algorithms just like Facebook. I thought I would finish a little post that was sitting in my drafts for a while.  

I've been designing user experiences for over 10 years now and since the very beginning I've struggled with balancing the ever increasing trends of simplifying (removing functionality) and personalizing our digital environments, with my desire to empower people and put them in control.

In an of themselves simplifying and personalization can be great methods for solving specific design problems but their rise to cultish like status within the digital design world has me concerned. The uproar of the possible Twitter stream changes is a perfect example of the issue.  Farhad Manjoo in Fast Company explains some of the issues very well in this article and I love this quote.

"There is still too much presuming that we 
want a steady diet of what we just consumed. "

I will piggy back on that quote and say these trends (business practices) bug me for another reason we are creating a culture of ignorance. Each time these magic little algorithms are applied and each time we strip down our experiences to their most basic features we are removing opportunities for people to participate fully in their own digital lives. Correction: Lives.

We are not singular. 

We are not the same.

Our needs change (often). 

Interface should reflect this.

We need to ask more of users.

They need to learn and grow so they can have more control.

Designers have a responsibility to make better ways to do more and get better at providing innovative filters that we control. 

It's important to foster an environment of learning and achievement in service of a technology intelligent world.  Interestingly video games don't dumb everything down. They seem to understand that people can learn. 

Doing it for them is creating an ignorant populous, out of control of basic human activities - Consuming information. Learning. Sharing. Transacting.

 

Do we only get to learn what is put before us.

 

Just some thoughts and obviously business needs and specific use cases play a huge role in how to apply this type of thinking but it's always a good idea to put your decisions up to a test. Think about it next time. 

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Authortyesha

Old LinkedIn email notification for new invitation to connect:

screenshot_751.jpg

Includes option to view the person's profile before accepting. Smart. Especially since the integrity of the site is based on people have real and meaningful connections.  

 

New LinkedIn email notification for new invitation to connect:

screenshot_753.jpg

One button/link.

You either accept it or do nothing. This is dark man.

We know it's best to give users the options they would naturally look for even if we as the business really want them to do what we want.

Sometimes the business desires prevail but with this case I just can't see doing this. As a user of this service I really need to visit a person's profile before I decide to connect and I image most people would feel the same way. 

 

But wait!  Just a week or so later they are went back to the old way.  

I bet they got a lot of accepts for that short time they messed with us. So curious why they changed back but I'm glad they did.  

Happy ending. 

 

PS: Hope you ladies don't mind me not masking your sweet faces. If you do let me know. Go connect with these ladies ya'll! 

 

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AuthorTyesha Snow

Facebook just launched and updated header and it's raises an issue we designers should be aware of.  If your users habitually use your product, like many Facebook users do they develop muscle memory for the tasks they complete most often. Before you decide to move an access point to a feature or play with the flow give some really good thought to how this will effect your most faithful users.   

This is the old header:

screenshot_760.jpg

Notifications and access to friends, messages and activity are on the left.

 

Here is the new one:

screenshot_759.jpg

They've moved the notifications and access points to the right! Very annoying for a user that has been using the site for a long time. I see lots of wasted mousing and tapping motions going on over the next while. 

I wonder why they thought this was an important redesign? 

One other point. Re: this new gigantic search box - isn't it form design 101 to make the size of the text box relate to the number of characters the user might enter?  Maybe that's old school but one of my pet peeves. 

 

 

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AuthorTyesha Snow
screenshot_630

It's an exciting time for new  ideas and interesting digital products. I'm signing up for about 5 new services a week. Many I'm genuinely interested in using, others just to keep my eye on the interaction design, startup, digital landscape ball.  I'll have to write a post on the many trends I'm seeing because their are a ton. The biggest trend I see is coming up with something new. With the emergence and persistent growth of stuff like the smart phone market, tablet devices, the new an totally unrealized world of location based services and community created information and sharing , everyone is looking for the next new thing. But what about all this stuff we already use. Is it done. No more creative problem solving around the products we use everyday. Are we done working on the products so essential they were developed first? Google keeps trying stuff. Wave, that social media thing I can't remember, Google Docs.  Not all of it has worked but I like that there are smart people still trying to make my every day more efficient and effective.  I like that there are groups of people working on eliminate the daily frustrations that go with using software instead of coming up with something new I have to figure out how to integrate into my life. Don't get me wrong I love new ideas, I have a few in the works and I'm addicted to trying new products out. My life is better with all of this new stuff. But I think if some of the basic activities of my day were streamlined I'd have better success utilizing the new stuff.

So I was extremely please to discover Fantastical a calender input program that integrates with all your Mac calenders.

The idea is brilliant. Throw away the old clunky methods of entering events into your calender and replace with an elegant time saving input program.

You must try it yourself but here is what I like about it.

1. Natural language input.

2. Enter all of the information into one field rather than the average 4 field steps of other calender programs.

3.  You can cut and paste into said field!!!

4. Beautiful interface design with fun and elegant visual feedback of actions.

5. Easy to access list view of all upcoming events and meetings.

6. Search

High five! to the creators flexibits.

Love their company description too.

 

Flexibits is Michael SimmonsKent Sutherland

...and we create applications that are enjoyable and flexible. What do we mean by flexible? Making your Mac better. Making your life better. Removing frustration.

We're users too, so we know what a good user experience should be. If you're disappointed or frustrated with anything, please let us know. With many years of experience working on many popular apps, our hope is that our experience and passion is evident in everything we do.

Flexibits: Flexible bits.

 

Hooray for improvement instead of invention! Hooray for not giving up on the dream of seamless, enjoyable, natural computing!

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Authortyesha
2 CommentsPost a comment
bud facebook ad

Here's how it goes. You decide to be a Budweiser bottle for Halloween. You think, "I should really get into the head of Budweiser. Really study up on the brand voice, observe it's customers, dive deep into the underworld of Bud."

So you "Like" Budweiser on Facebook.

 Bud Like

Bud Like

Fast forward to mid-November. Your costume was a success.You were even able to keep perfect beads of condensation flowing down your neck all night and still get a few phone numbers from girls that "don't really drink beer" but might make an exception for you. That was fun.

Continuing to get marketing messaging for a beer you don't even drink in your Facebook stream, not so fun.

So you bop over to the page and look for the "Unlike" button.

 Bud Unlike

Bud Unlike

It takes you 5 mins of looking around. You didn't find it where it was when you "Liked" it. You look on your profile. You look in your settings. Nothing! You go back to the page and carefully walk your eyes down every piece of text on the page and finally there it is, right next to "Create a Page for My Business" What?!? Why?

You've just been victim of a Dark Pattern.

Site designers place the functionality or information they want you to find front and center, then move it once you have completed the desirable behavior so you are less likely to undo said desirable behavior or re-find  information that does not support  the business's plans for you.

So slimy

Now I get that it would be unsavory to have a big "Unlike" button at the top of the page but may I suggest a couple palatable solutions.

1. Provide an "Unlike" button for each item in my Like list.  As you can see the one place where you can find a full list of your Likes has no management capabilities.

 Like List

Like List

2.  Add the Unlike button or link to the group of other functions available on the page. This just makes sense.

 Other Facebook functions

Other Facebook functions

I could be wrong maybe this was just an oversight, but I don't think so.

What really bothers me is every time a site does something like this....

1. Users  lose confidence in themselves. Most people will blame themselves for the inability to complete a task on-line. When people feel less confident, they stop trying to learn and we need users to grow with us so we can continue to grow the web.

2. We lose the trust of users. If users consistently feel they are being tricked and don't understand, they will become more selective about what they do and how quickly they will do it. This makes our jobs a lot harder.

3. The site metrics are skewed. Good data is only as good as the data its self. If I've got 2k people that "Like" me only because they can't figure out how to not "Like" me, the metrics of the entire program are thrown off.

If you haven't checked out the Dark Patterns wiki be sure you do. I'm sure none of you are doing these things but just in-case ;)

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Authortyesha
2 CommentsPost a comment
Walden University_ Small

Loved seeing the test results from this test on Which Test Won. I have recently lost a couple fights to display form fields rather than a call-to-actions in newsletter promos.

Next time I shall be armed with this.

This increased conversions (submitted forms) 72.27%.

Over This

Not bad.

Be sure to subscribe to Which Test Won 's email. Tons of great tests results posted here. We don't always get the research budget this site can fill some knowledge gaps and answer some "I wonders" (yeah I just made that up. you can use it)

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Authortyesha
screenshot_627

I am having a positive reaction to this site

for the following reasons....

100 to watch home

.

The bookmark metaphor

The color coded medium identifiers (colored dots, key in the top left)

Getting a nice preview of the work

Navigating with arrow keys

It mimics the experience of walking through a gallery.

It utilizes the wide screen (i have one so I like it)

I'm so so about the audio announcing each artist. As a an English speaker I enjoy hearing how to pronounce the names.  It is a bit futuristic and creepy though.

(I found the site via SiteInspire)

100 to watch inside 1

100 to watch inside

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Authortyesha
From the Basement _ PJ Harvey

Anyone else tired of consuming their media, art and news in a cluttered environment?  I am. If you know me you've probably heard me say many times, that I just can't use online tools, sites or resources that aren't pleasing to my design and to a certain extent aesthetic sensibilities, although a do appreciate anything well designed even if it isn't really my taste.

Behold.....FROM THE BASEMENT

Besides the bad ass content, including, photos, well shot HD video and great sound.  The space in which the videos live is simple and let's you do what you came to do. Rock out, tear up, get inspired, enjoy the music. I even like how a featured video starts when you land on the site. Never thought I'd say that but it envelopes you right away and I guess it just feels good.

If you haven't checked out the site....have fun....

From the basement_ The Kills

The Kills

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Authortyesha
Work at Play home page

Work at Play_Twitter business account 2 I haven't done much thinking about Twitter lists yet, but I did stumble upon this very elegant and smart way to use them.   I like that the lists are completely relevant to the profile and answer questions you would like the answer to.

While we are highlighting the smartness of Work [at] Play...you must check out their site.

I love how the background (image of them working) is supporting and standing behind the work (it pops over the background)  nice little metaphor.  I'm also really into the horizontal movement when you navigate.

 

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Authortyesha

The Brooklyn Museum has jumped right into the "community pool" They're working with most of the tools available: collecting members for their "Posse", utilizing Flickr & Twitter, publishing member blog posts to the site, soliciting and posting member videos and what I'm looking at today, they have implemented a community tagging program on their site. Art is the perfect candidate for this type of cataloging. Imagine all the many descriptive words you could come up with for this this photograph.

Now think of the words your father or grandfather might use to describe it, today or 30 years ago. The potential value of a cataloging public perception of art over time is extremely exciting too me.

Here's how they are doing it and using it.

click to enlarge

Logged in "Posse" members can add tags to the full catalog of images. Tags can be added and removed. This removal function moves the tag into a state of limbo where the community can "play the game to decide the tag's fate"

"Here's how this works: you'll be presented with tags that have been flagged for removal by other posse members and your job is to provide a second opinion about the relevance of the tag. Consider these examples as guides: What I think is really successful about this is the tone, it's positive and productive. It empowers the users without creating a climate of competition or negativity.

Users also receive points for participating and are rewarded with special views of art not available to everyone else. I love these very appropriate awards, organization and companies should take a look at why their users are participating and find ways to strength this reason. In the case of the museum rewarding with more exposure to what the users love is brilliant. Although it may seem obvious many site might have given a t-shirt or points towards partner products instead of what the users really want.

In addition to viewing all of the tags associated with a piece you can also see who contributed to the tags. Great for helping you explore other pieces that are related by a particular users taste.

The museum also does a bit of curating, as you would expect. It pulls out a few specific tags and links to other works tagged the same. It appears that these tags aren't necessarily included in the community tags and are more similar to a standard controlled vocabulary system.

Users can also comment and indicate that a piece is a favorite.

There's a lot going on here, I think I'll explore some more and continue to come back to see the growth of the community and the health of this community tagging program over time. Over all you guys at the Brooklyn Museum are doing a really nice job:) and are an example for other organizations to watch.

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Authortyesha

We are all trying to create something that will be used and the path to this success is designing for a particular group of people. It isn't just about solving a particular PROBLEM or coming up with a particular IDEA.

Only when you match a PROBLEM with a PERSON or an IDEA with a PERSON are you at the place where you can start making design decisions.

There's always more than one way to do something and what validates one choice over the other is if it's the best choice for someone specific (this often means a group of someones)

This example is super simple (maybe too simple) but it expressed my point.

This site has a main navigation just like most sites because like most sites it needs to solve the problem of getting peeps to some major chunks of content so they may interact with it. They also have an idea (to share information about the company)....

but where is the Navigation? If this was a store or a bank site we would have a problem. But it isn't a store or bank. It's a creative company that is hoping to attract companies who are ready to engage the creative process to improve their businesses.

These people don't have the same needs. There is no need for a persistent, in your face navigation. They will enjoy the page and then when ready roll over the little box, expose the navigation and choose another topic to explore. They are willing to discover and uncover (woo, i like that)

I'm just a fan of the O.W.N (only when necessary) approach to design (yes, I just made that up) Not everything needs to be shoved in our faces, and for some PROBLEM + PERSON combinations, the more standard, blatant approach is the wrong one.

Screenshots are from MilkShake , who you already know I *heart*

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Authortyesha

While doing some looking around after I made the discovery in my last post about the lack of Author pages on Amazon I came across the BBC's FAQ page. Couple things struck me about the page.

1. Their FAQ is pretty good.

We should all think a bit more about FAQ's and how we can make them useful and work on behalf of the site goals and the health of the Brand.

I like that they give a quick list of the answers available below. I like that the answers appear to have some good thought behind them. FAQ's often leave you with more questions then they answer or use it as a place to dump content that has no other place to live. They seem to really want to address reader's questions not just lower the calls to customer service.

2. Loving their very open approach to adding a new feature to the site.

They have taken the opportunity to explain to the readers that they are trying something new and they ask for feedback.

We can't ignore that the websites we design are places that people care about, take time out of their day to visit and often become an intimate part of their life. Being transparent and open about the innovations of the site shows a great amount of respect for the people who care enough to come back day after day. And if you decide the new stuff isn't going to work it might not be as hard for the users to take since they have been with you all along.

3. The Topics pages are a great idea. Hope it works out.

So much news is being produced everyday. It comes and goes. Great content is pushed down the page till it disappears. News organization should take the time to catalog and curate the best most desired content.

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Authortyesha