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Kevin Arthur does user experience research and design. This blog is a personal project and the opinions here are strictly my own.

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Usability Books
  • Cost-Justifying Usability, Second Edition: An Update for the Internet Age, Second Edition (Interactive Technologies)
    Cost-Justifying Usability, Second Edition: An Update for the Internet Age, Second Edition (Interactive Technologies)
    Morgan Kaufmann
  • Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services
    Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human-Centered Products and Services
    by Kim Goodwin
  • Designing Gestural Interfaces
    Designing Gestural Interfaces
    by Dan Saffer
  • Designing Interactions
    Designing Interactions
    by Bill Moggridge
  • The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist
    The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist
    by Frederick P. Brooks
  • The Design of Everyday Things
    The Design of Everyday Things
    by Donald A. Norman
  • The Design of Future Things: Author of The Design of Everyday Things
    The Design of Future Things: Author of The Design of Everyday Things
    by Donald A. Norman
  • Designing the iPhone User Experience: A User-Centered Approach to Sketching and Prototyping iPhone Apps
    Designing the iPhone User Experience: A User-Centered Approach to Sketching and Prototyping iPhone Apps
    by Suzanne Ginsburg
  • Designing the Mobile User Experience
    Designing the Mobile User Experience
    by Barbara Ballard
  • Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules
    Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules
    by Jeff Johnson
  • Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
    Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
    by Donald A. Norman
  • Handbook of Usability Testing: Howto Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests
    Handbook of Usability Testing: Howto Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests
    by Jeffrey Rubin, Dana Chisnell
  • The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, Second Edition (Human Factors and Ergonomics)
    The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, Second Edition (Human Factors and Ergonomics)
    CRC Press
  • The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
    The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
    by Alan Cooper
  • Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics (Interactive Technologies)
    Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics (Interactive Technologies)
    by Thomas Tullis, William Albert
  • Moderating Usability Tests: Principles and Practices for Interacting (Interactive Technologies)
    Moderating Usability Tests: Principles and Practices for Interacting (Interactive Technologies)
    by Joseph S. Dumas, Beth A. Loring
  • Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems
    Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems
    by Steve Krug
  • Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Interactive Technologies)
    Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Interactive Technologies)
    by Bill Buxton
  • Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps
    Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps
    by Josh Clark
  • Text Entry Systems: Mobility, Accessibility, Universality (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies)
    Text Entry Systems: Mobility, Accessibility, Universality (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies)
    by I. Scott MacKenzie, Kumiko Tanaka-Ishii
  • The Trouble with Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity
    The Trouble with Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity
    by Thomas K. Landauer
  • Usability Engineering
    Usability Engineering
    by Jakob Nielsen
  • The Usability Engineering Lifecycle: A Practitioner's Handbook for User Interface Design (Interactive Technologies)
    The Usability Engineering Lifecycle: A Practitioner's Handbook for User Interface Design (Interactive Technologies)
    by Deborah J. Mayhew
  • User-Centered Design Stories: Real-World UCD Case Studies (Interactive Technologies)
    User-Centered Design Stories: Real-World UCD Case Studies (Interactive Technologies)
    by Carol Righi, Janice James
  • Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test!
    Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test!
    by Carol M. Barnum
Sunday
Sep122010

How not to do gestures in your iPhone app

With apologies to this app's developer for a harsh critique of what's obviously meant to be a throwaway novelty app, here is the simplest example I've seen of mistakes made when using gestures in an iPhone app.

RPS Gestures (iTunes link) is a "gesture-based version of the classic" Rock Paper Scissors, a.k.a. Rochambeau. This version of the game lets you play paper by swiping, rock by tapping, and scissors by pinching.

Here is the interface. Can you spot a problem?


IMG_0173 

What's novel about this app compared to the 100's of other RPS apps (yes, there are that many) is that you have to make your play using gestures -- slide for paper, tap for rock, pinch for scissors. But that's the only way to do it. If you mistakenly tap on the nice big icon for paper you don't get paper, you get rock. This reviewer sums it up eloquently:

IMG_0174

As any good UX'er should do, I confirmed this issue with a totally (im)precise 1-minute usability study. I found that 100% of users shown this game for the first time, without having read the app store description, tapped on the icons rather than doing the gestures (sample-size = 1).

Some lessons here, about this issue and others with the app:


  • Don't give misleading cues. (Don't make the icons look so darn tappable; put the descriptions in a list or something and make the words "slide," "tap," and "pinch" more prominent.)

  • Don't make gestures the only way to perform actions. Many users just won't know to use them or will have difficulty. An exception is a creative novelty app like this, which is all about gestures. That's fine as long as you pay attention to these other details.

  • Give good feedback and if you're going to ask people to do the extra work of gestures, give them some sort of reward or eye candy that makes it fun. This app could give animated feedback of the gestures as you're doing them. Instead it doesn't show you any feedback until you complete a gesture.

  • Give people plenty of space to do the gestures. It's hard to do a pinch inside that blue square, which is what it looks you have to do (even though the app actually lets you do the gesture over the whole screen).

  • Make sure your gesture recognition is rock-solid (pardon the pun). I sometimes get paper in this app when I try for scissors. 


Okay, enough harshing on this poor app.

Via Google I also stumbled upon this fascinating site by independent game developer David Lovelace: RPS-101. It's a 101-gesture version of RPS -- "The most terrifyingly complex game ever." I look forward to the iPhone version!

Rps101_banner

Sunday
Aug152010

NYT on "smart" touch keyboards

The NYT has a blog post by Virginia Heffernan about adaptive keyboards and interfaces. The summary: "Having touch-screen displays that look like keys but are really responsive mini-apps introduces excitement but also unease."

The article is kind of a "what if" piece about how adaptive software, including keypads, could destabilize the experience for people. Link: The Promise and Peril of 'Smart' Keyboards.

The text-input examples given (from Apple's iOS devices and Swype) are really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to shaking up qwerty. There's a rich history of research into text-input methods, with many more radical, and in some cases more efficient, ideas -- look at Dasher from the Cambridge University for example. For a serious book-length treatment I'd recommend Text Entry Systems by MacKenzie and Tanaka-Ishii.

Related: The BBC recently had a good write-up on the history of Qwerty: Why do we all use Qwerty keyboards?

Monday
Aug092010

And designing for young people

Also worth checking out is this new book by Allison Druin: Mobile Technology for Children: Designing for Interaction and Learning. If you hurry you can get it today for half price via Morgan Kaufman's twitter deals.

Sunday
Aug082010

Designing displays for older adults (book)


DesigningDisplaysForOlderAdults Another interesting forthcoming book: Designing displays for older adults (CRC Press, Amazon) by Richard Pak and Anne McLaughlin, who blog at the Human Factors blog.

The CRC link has the table of contents, which includes sections on vision, hearing, cognition, movement, and on involving older adults in user-centered design processes. (Not sure if touch interfaces are specifically covered.)

Tuesday
Aug032010

Synaptics is hiring a usability engineer

Synaptics (where I work) is hiring for a usability position. We make TouchPads, touchscreens and other input devices. If you're interested let me know.

Here's a link to the official job description; the requirements are somewhat flexible: http://j.mp/SynaUEJob

Tuesday
Aug032010

Touchfrastructure

Fabio Sergio of Frog Design writes about a coming touch device infrastructure, starting with the iPad: Touchfrastructure meets the HypePad. Sounds plausible to me, though I don't think that word will catch on.

(Via Small Surfaces.)

Sunday
Jul112010

New UX Books

It's hard to keep up with all the great usability and user experience books being published these days. Here are some that I've recently picked up or am especially looking forward to:


A couple that are more directly related to touch interfaces (from the many many iPhone development books out there):


Rosenfeld Media is a relatively new publisher of user experience titles. Check out their announcements or twitter feed (@rosenfeldmedia) for 50% off specials every Wednesday.

Morgan Kaufman publishes many books on UX, HCI and related computer science topics, and they too have 50% off twitter specials (@Morgan_Kaufmann).

Monday
Jul052010

Upcoming Events

Some interesting events coming up related to design/usability and touch interfaces:


  • Device Design Day, August 20th in San Francisco. "A one-day conference for professionals who design hardware or software
    for consumer electronics, appliances, and mobile devices." Hosted by Kicker Studio.

  • Design For Mobile 2010, September 20-24 in Chicago. "The first and only North American mobile user experience conference. The
    focus is on strategy and tactics for user research, product definition,
    interaction and other design, and usability testing." Hosted by Little Springs Design. I'll be attending this and giving a talk on touch gesture usability.

  • Touchscreen Application Usability, October 6th in San Francisco. A one-day tutorial by Raluca Budiu, part of Neilsen Norman Group's Usability Week 2010 seminars.

  • Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces 2010, November 7-10 in Saarbrücken, Germany. This is a relatively new annual conference sponsored by ACM, publishing original research.

Saturday
May292010

Lukas Mathis on gestures

Saturday
May292010

Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen: Gestures are a step backwards in usability

(9/12/10 - Corrected link and authors)

Provocative article: Gestural Interfaces: A Step Backwards in Usability.

Link: interactions magazine: Gestural interfaces

I agree completely with the issues described, though I think many of them are temporary in nature and will be overcome with good usability/design practice. It's early days for gesture interfaces, so people are experimenting and failing often. That's not to say that gestures aren't overhyped. They surely are.

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