X = 27


Just found this old cartoon I drew 8-9 years ago in Microsoft Paint. Well it makes me laugh anyway.


X = 27




Last week I went along to UX Sketch Club here in London, hosted by Eva-Lotta Lamm, and we learned to make sketchnotes – a visual note taking technique. Some excellent examples of sketchnotes are those on the RSA website, including this one.

And you can see loads more examples here on flickr.

The next time you’re studying for an exam, you could try making some sketchnotes from your existing, conventional, written notes to help consolidate what you’ve learnt. Having said that, during the class we practised making sketchnotes in real-time while listening to a speaker, which is a little more difficult.

It’s hard trying to sketch fast enough to be able to keep up with what is being said, and either you end up missing chunks of the talk or you end up with scribbles. We all discovered that when you only have a few seconds to draw something, any natural drawing talent disappears out of the window and it’s a level playing field.

The talk we listened to in Sketch Club was this talk, though we only listened to the first 5 or so minutes of it. It’s called “When Ideas have Sex”…

Erm… Eva, you sure you want us to sketch the stuff we used to sketch into the back pages of our books in high school?

Luckily we were all true professionals… to an extent. And the talk is mostly about how evolution and mixing of genes has led to us becoming increasingly smart and creative in what we do.

I present some sketches for your amusement. If you watch some of the TED talk, maybe you can work out what the hell I’ve drawn here. Bear in mind each sketch took about 20 seconds. :-)

Things didn't turn out as bad as we were expecting after all.

Nothing happens when I try clicking my rock.

I dont think this needs a caption.

And candles are so big...

Last week was quite a big week for User Experience Design in London, as designers flew in from all over the world to attend the three-day UX London event which featured a devastatingly good list of speakers.

Although I didn’t make it to UX London itself, I managed to get a spot for UX Bookclub London, which in April doesn’t usually involve reading a book much, it’s more an excuse to get together with some of the speakers from UX London to discuss all things UX.

I was lucky enough to meet the authors of many books that are lying on my shelf here, and shook hands with some of the pioneers of user centred design. It was a chance to pick their brains on a range of topics from the future of UX and our interaction with technology down to the small things that bug me at work each and every day. Like bugs.

A philosophy worth aspiring towards…

Saul Bass (May 8, 1920 – April 25, 1996)

Size Matters


There are a lot of messy desks in the world. But I’d guess that desks are becoming less messy these days, especially compared to the days when computers didn’t exist, paper was plentiful, and smoking at your office desk was the norm.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Desks are nice and big though compared to the average computer screen, and it’s easy to push stuff out of the way for later and make space for what’s important now. Or if I want, I can lay stuff out easily if I need to look at lots of things at once.

Although computer screens are getting bigger, and we’re not too far away from having giant monitors that cover our desks, most of us still use screens that are only big enough to display one or two applications at a time.

But screen sizes aren’t just getting bigger. A lot of screens now fit in our pockets.

Tiny little Sheilas everywhere. In fact, mobile is so pervasive that even Google are advocating creating web applications for mobile first.

So how do we cater for such a wide range of screen sizes, from mobiles to tablets, laptops, desktops and even 50-inch HD TVs being used as monitors? Developing the same application multiple times, potentially in multiple programming languages is annoying and expensive.

Well a new CSS web page layout technique using media queries seems quite promising in making things easier. It allows developers to create pages that respond to changes in the width of the browser window, and is being termed responsive web design.

A good example of a site that uses media queries to full effect is http://css-tricks.com/. Try opening it and dragging to increase or decrease the width of the window. Notice how stuff appears and disappears based on the width.

If it’s not working for you and you’re using Internet Explorer then please don’t.

We, the people of Earth, at some point in the past thought it a good idea to adopt standardised paper sizes and it makes a lot of sense to have a range of standard screen sizes too. Measured in displacement units (in Europe, we’re keen on the metric system) rather than pixels, which vary in size from display to display.

But just because we happen to run an application on a screen of given size, it doesn’t mean that the application should assume it needs to use all of the space available to it. The reason I think a lot of people find mobile apps great is because of how simple and usable they are. With limited screen estate on mobile apps, and it being hard to type and fill forms in, functionality is stripped down until only the important and frequently used actions are available.

Why should mobile apps only run on mobiles? Applications should be designed to fit the available window space rather than the available screen space. I can think of many times while sat at my laptop when displaying 5-6 small windows all running mobile apps would have been less hassle than having a single maximised browser open with six tabs.

As screen sizes increase, applications simply won’t need to take up the full screen, and being able to resize and lay windows out will become very important.

And let’s face it, there’s a lot of room for improvement in this area.

Why, for example, would I opt for opening six tabs so that only one tab  is visible at a time and then proceed to  flick repeatedly between the tabs like some sort of madman?

Because we’re still using computers where users are forced to drag a window from its title bar to position it, and then move to the bottom right of the window to resize it. Oh and then move back up to the title bar to nudge it a bit more. And so on. Six times.

Praise the Lord that in Windows 7 it’s possible to resize windows from any corner. Not that I realised until I started writing this post.

And Windows 7 also has some neat features for resizing and positioning windows automatically e.g. fill half the screen or the entire screen by dragging to the side or top of the desktop. A very powerful feature and a real novelty. I’m a PC by trade, not a Mac, but I hear Apple have had similar functionality for years. Maybe Microsoft Googled for it.

Even then, these improvements are just the tip of the iceberg. Simple actions to move, resize and switch between applications should place minimum cognitive load on users and shouldn’t distract from completing the task at hand. You could say it should feel as easy as moving around paper on a desk…

Simply the best video of 2010.

Twitter has been around for a few years and up till now I’ve never really seen the appeal in using it. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve mocked Twitter users in an earlier post. And I haven’t been posting very long.

Twitter-ers often suffer being perceived as self absorbed egomaniacs. For the last couple of months though, I’ve been playing around on Twitter to the point where I much prefer it to Facebook. Twitter has a clear identity and a beautiful simplicity about it.

Here are the four main reasons why:

1. Really a friend?

Let’s face facts – Facebook is pretty annoying when it comes to accepting friend requests. Should you accept or shouldn’t you? You haven’t even seen or spoken to this person since school and when you look at their profile and see that they’ve already got over 900 friends… hmm.

(I think you can buy these mats)

Well with Twitter, just because someone starts following you, it doesn’t mean you have to follow them. They can read your tweets but won’t pollute your feed with their stuff unless you follow them too.

With Facebook what you’d probably end up doing is adding them and then blocking them from your feed. Or denying their request and then sitting down opposite them on the tube the following Tuesday.

2. Privacy

Every now and then on Facebook, you are forced to read a mind-numbing conversation between two people that goes something like this:

Hiya hun, how r u?!!!!!1 xx Free for drinkies this Friday??!?? xx

Hi hun, haven spoke to you in aggggeees, I miss u!! Friday I cant do, Im goin pilates!!!!! Its amazing!!! U should so try it!! We shud def hook up soon though!!! I’ve got some news! Love u!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Why this conversation isn’t carried out over SMS, email, phone or other private means is unfathomable.

But I’ll try.

Facebook for most users is about privacy, and after you’ve carefully crafted your privacy settings to be top-secret, you’ll know that everyone that can read your status updates is someone you know.

And if you know them, why wouldn’t they want to read all your stuff, right?

Facebook gets a lot of bad press over its privacy settings because Mark Zuckerberg is trying to make Facebook more open, but this isn’t necessarily what most Facebook users want.

Twitter on the other hand is public by default. You can make Twitter private if you want but I haven’t tried. If you use Twitter with a public mindset, chances are you’ll separate what should be public from what the public should be safe guarded from.

3. A record of all your stuff

Because tweets are limited to 140 characters of text, a lot of tweets are links to other pages like blog posts or interesting articles. I can tweet about every single cool thing I see on the web and can always go back and see a record of all my tweets. You never have to ask yourself what was the name of that youtube video.

OK, it was a bad choice to use the most watched youtube video ever as an example here.

And now saving the best till last…

4. Information vastness

You can follow any other Twitter account that interests you, whether it’s another person, website, company etc. As long as they haven’t made their tweets private or decided to block you. This is great from the point of view of keeping up to date with the latest developments in your field of work for example. Or if you’re interested in a particular topic, you can search across all tweets that contain relevant words for that topic and then save these searches. So you can always find out what’s going on in #AshesCricket or #CryingAussies or #WarneAndHurley.

Ultimately when it comes down to it, Twitter and Facebook serve different purposes, which I think are nicely summarised at the end of this article.

If you think Facebook is annoying, join the birds.