Centigrade GmbH
Thinking Out of the Box
Laura Festl

What is aesthetics and how can we determine it? Can usability tests be performed remotely to save time and money? And what happens to a Facebook profile when its user dies? These and many more interesting topics about human-computer interaction, user experience and usability where subject of this year’s conference Mensch und Computer 2014 (Human and Computer 2014) which took place in the premises of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. read more…

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Tobias Gölzer

Times have changed. Back in the time, during my school days, before smartphones flooded the market, I felt naked without my watch. This most important accessory was also some kind of status symbol and could never be missing. I looked at it probably a hundred times a day, consciously or unconsciously. Every morning when I left the house and had forget the watch at home for some reason, I walked around all day with the feeling, that something important is missing.

Several years later, I got my first smartphone. read more…

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Günter Pellner

Videogames are a great enrichment to our cultural environment. With advancing technology, video games become more realistic and engaging. Unfortunately, texts, sculptures, pictures, music and movies do not have the same potential letting the recipient immerse into another world (at least not without drugs). For this reason, game development has become an absolute dream job for many people. However, the conditions and requirements for that job are not as great as media suggest – at least in Germany.

In this article I will compare game- and software development showing that developing “serious” software applications can be as fulfilling as game development.

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David Patrizi

Icon design is my day-to-day business, ranging from universally applicable Home icons to very special icons for the wiring of electric relays in substations. Recently I learned that interpreters also use symbols to be able to “sketch” the meaning of spoken words quickly and recall them later. I used this occasion to take a step back and look at other helpful uses for symbols.
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Patrick Decker

Intro

This article is intended for developers that are creating and/or maintaining applications with a Java Swing based GUI. Though JavaFX is being pushed as the “new Swing” nowadays, Swing is still around.
Look & Feels are inextricably linked with every Swing application. Even if none is used explicitly, every time, a Swing based GUI is created, a Look & Feel cares about the look and (you may guess it) the feel of what you see and interact with on the screen.

A Look & Feel – so its official title says – is pluggable. This means you can plug a new or different one to your application (strongly simplified, as this actually goes down to the level of a single JComponent). You may now ask: “But why should I care, if I do not change the Look & Feel now?” In an ideal world, you would not need to care. But, as often when using something, there are contracts.

This is what this article is about. I want to point out why you should care and develop or even maintain your Java Swing GUI or custom component with the pluggable Look & Feel technology in mind.

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Markus Weber

Why observing competitors may be detrimental

April 14th, 2014 by Markus Weber

Observing competitors is a common activity in user interface design. It may, e.g., take the form of the designer collecting insights regarding design approaches of relevant competitors when a project is started. Later in a project, the user interface may be benchmarked against competitors’ solutions. While including insights about competing solutions may enrich a user interface design project, such observations are also associated with some pitfalls. A user interface designer should be aware of those in order to not endanger the success of a project. This article describes some aspects to keep in mind when engaging in competitor observation.
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Jörg Niesenhaus

Gamification: Critical reflection in German media

February 18th, 2014 by Jörg Niesenhaus

This article is only available in German language.

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Jörg Niesenhaus

In December Centigrade carried out an evaluation of the racing game “Need for Speed: Rivals” for Electronic Arts – one of the biggest publishers and developers of computer- and videogames. Focus of the evaluation was the recording and analysis of the game experience under consideration of different situations in the game.

Based on their vast experience regarding the evaluation of computer and videogames, the pilot study was conducted by the Centigrade team of the North-Western branch under direction of Joerg Niesenhaus in close collaboration with the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Cologne. The Deutsche Sporthochschule runs a state-of-the-art interaction lab and contributed expertise in the evaluation of interactive entertainment via Dr. Carsten Moeller.
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Andreas Burghart

Some new e-mail clients have been introduced recently. Unibox, Airmail, Mail Pilot and others feature convincing visual design, increased joy of use and intriguing interaction concepts.
In my opinion, the person-centered approach of Unibox is very promising. Instead of being organized in a folder hierarchy, e-mails are sorted based on contacts (friends, colleagues, etc.), which results in speedier e-mail retrieval. In addition, one almost forgets that one is dealing with e-mails – it feels more like a conversation between two people. I wonder why nobody has thought of this approach earlier.

The redesigns have inspired me to have closer look at e-mail clients and propose some additional concepts.

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Jörg Niesenhaus

A few months ago we discussed the challenges and potentials of gamification and the process of implementing gamification methods. We pointed out that an extensive analysis of the existing processes and well adapted gamification mechanisms increase the chances of success – for instance to optimize the efficiency of a process or raise the employee satisfaction.

In our current blog article we dive into the widely debated industry 4.0 theme and focus on the application area of industrial production and the role gamification methods could play within this area, and also which specific requirements have to be fulfilled to enable the implementation of playful elements.

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Frederic Friess

This article is currently only available in German language

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Günter Pellner

In Part 1, we discovered that the emotional factor of user experience is more important to games than goal-oriented functionality (though being an effective and efficient way of reaching a goal, there is no “Save the Princess” button in a Mario game at the beginning). Up to a certain degree, well-designed user experiences can distract from negative and/or not fixable interaction flaws and can make users “like” an application more than another.

Furthermore the diverse team composition of game development studios was discussed in the first part. In this context we pointed out that the production process of games forces programmers and visual designers to work closely together. Design is not seen as an add-on but as an essential part, which is necessary for the product to work.

The last chapter focused on the aspect of small budgets in game projects. Rapid iterative testing and evaluation (RITE) helps to detect and fix flaws of a UI in a very fast way, thus reducing time and money spent on traditional usability optimization.

In Part 2 we will look at the aspects of imaginary worlds and the link between reality and simulation. Thereafter, we will show which techniques are used in games to reduce loading, and even more important, waiting times. In the last section we compare how serious applications and games introduce their functionality to the user. To get a better understanding of the concept of Gamification you can also read: “Gamification as a design process” by my colleague Jörg Niesenhaus.
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Jörg Niesenhaus

„Game-Based Learning“, „Serious Games“,„Games with a Purpose“ and „Gamification“– the list of concepts, which build upon the prospect of using the potential of games in other application areas is long. All concepts share the same idea of generating additional benefits beyond pure entertainment by using games, their technology or mechanisms. By no means, all of these expectations raised by the concepts are achieved. A lot of projects fail due to the incompatibility of games and serious applications and it often appears, that the effort for achieving compatibility is not commercially viable.

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Tobias Gölzer

„We need Ribbons“ – Pros and Cons

June 28th, 2013 by Tobias Gölzer

“We need ribbons” is the new “Make it like the iPhone“. Since Microsoft introduced ribbons as part of the Office Fluent User Interface with Office 2007, this sentence is frequently uttered by clients. The rationales for this requirement range from „Microsoft has probably put a lot of thought into it“ to „Our customers are used to Office“. Ribbons seem to be perceived as a remedy for poor usability. But not every interface benefits from using ribbons.

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Jonas Stallmeister

Microsoft’s Modern UI design language has arrived in many applications with varying success. By now, almost everybody has seen Modern UI (formerly known as Metro), and Microsoft seems committed. Developers of Windows software have to think about the fact that a lot of established interfaces look out of place in a Modern UI environment. It needs to be adapted to the current state of interface design, even more with Apple similarly moving iOS 7 to a flat UI style. Working on such updates, we have collected a set of 10 design principles we call, for the sake of simplicity, “Desktop Modern UI”, and we want to share them with you. read more…

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Andreas Burghart

Introduction

“Form Follows Function (FFF)” – You can think for hours about these three words and for their explanation quite some words are necessary, for it is a frequently misunderstood design principle. read more…

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Philip Schäfer

Launching their new operating system Windows 8, Microsoft establishes an entire set of novel technologies and concepts. The familiar desktop will be supplemented with an additional Start screen in “Modern UI” style (formerly known as “Metro UI” style); in addition to that, Microsoft introduces a new application type called “Windows Store App” (also referred to as Windows RT application or Modern UI application). Especially this new application type is the subject of controversial discussions in the community and thus requires to be focused on in particular. read more…

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Maren Wolff

They are considered intuitive and their handling easy to learn – Touchscreens. To humans it feels far more natural to touch an object of interest with the finger on screen instead of using the mouse. Apart from the clearly easier hand-eye-coordination, touchscreens create an elegant and user friendly experience through merging input and output actions into one device.

But even despite of all these advantages, they can create a lot of frustration and anger, which probably every one of us has realized at some point. For example: If you accidently call someone although you only tried to scroll down the address list, if you have to type in a word five times, because you hit the wrong letter, or the alignment of “Ok” and “Cancel” is so narrow that you are afraid to click the wrong one. It would be too good to be true, if touchscreens did not raise new usability problems. Especially the usage of desktop operating systems like Windows 7 or OS X with touch devices creates a bunch of problems. read more…

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Jochen Maurer

Have you ever thought about switching from Windows Forms (WinForms) to WPF seriously? Try something new and stop to develop along the old well known patterns? To be honest until a few months ago, I haven’t had any thoughts about making a transition. I was very familiar with Windows Forms and WPF would have been something I would have to learn from scratch. So it was only a test project and my applications remained Windows Forms applications. So, when I joined Centigrade earlier this year, after working as a developer for nearly 15 years in the financial industry, Centigrade made the transition to WPF long ago. Just take a look at related blog articles on our website! My colleagues in the field of design engineering are working for several years with WPF. Especially younger designers and design engineers only knew Windows Forms from their study – if at all. They never worked with it in practice. Many companies already use WPF, but despite the fact that already the fourth version of the technology is out lot of them are still in the evaluation phase. From my own experience, I can only report – it can even be worse. Especially, in the financial sector applications with a rather boring look and feel are created until today. Yet, things could be so much more appealing…

So a new chapter started in my programming career. With a healthy dose of skepticism, I joined my first WPF Project. I was hooked immediately. I have collected some of my experiences and summarized them within this article. read more…

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Jenny Gemmell

In April I blogged about metro style pictograms being the new sliced bread in icon design. Remember? The article was, of course, highly interesting, incredibly important and not to mention terribly knowledgeable – and naturally it was in no respect longwinded. Well. Let’s just say it was rather formal and academic. Today, dear reader, I am going to be emotional. And pretty much so. Why? Because bad user interface design can drive you up the wall.
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