Thinking Out of the Box

Is it enough to create a Design System?

Günter Pellner

This article won’t cover the basics of Design Systems like “What is a Design System?”, “How does it work?” or “Do I need it?” (to which the answer is “Yes”). It will also not cover tool specific topics (Carbon, KSS, Pattern Lab, Sketch, AdobeXD, Invision, UXPin… it is too much). It is a fairly broad overview of the challenges companies have to face, when they try to install a Design System for the very first time.

The main question we usually get from clients, regarding Design Systems, is something like: “How do we create a Design System?”. Or: “We want you to create a Design System for us”. But actually, what this means for us as a service provider is:

“Is creating a Design System enough?” The short answer is: No.

Congratulations, you don’t have to read any further. Now you can go outside and enjoy life. If you don’t like to be outside or if you want to dig deeper, here is the longer answer:

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Spoilt for choice – comparing four concept tools

Laura Festl

When a small concept turns into a hundred wireframes that quickly turn into a prototype, sometimes the question arises too late: Which tool would have been the right one? In our work at Centigrade, we often consider which tools we can best use to create concepts. As always, this depends on many factors and we decide on different criteria in every project. First, the context matters: Will the concept be directly implemented? Are specifications to be written? Do we do the visual design for the concept or do we hand it off directly to the customer? The decision could also hinge on whether a click prototype should be built, whether a usability test takes place or whether animated transitions between the individual wireframes/screens are prioritized for the project from the very beginning. Finally, customers also may have preferences for tools that they use themselves.

The bottom line is: there is no general recommendation for a particular tool. Still, I want to break down what advantages and disadvantages I see in some of the common tools to help other designers to decide.

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Conquering IoT with Lean UX – Part 2

Kai Deller
Kai Deller
March 29th, 2018

In the first part of this two part series my colleague Simon Kieke drew a bold conclusion regarding the importance of IoT for medium-sized enterprises. Instead of adapting an “all or nothing” mentality, he suggested to integrate small and user-centered digital services into already existing products. This way, IoT products are created with reduced risk and guaranteed benefit for the targeted user group.

This approach is based on the “Lean UX” framework and its core idea of working with Minimum Viable Products (MVP). But how do you define an MVP and how can other Lean Principles further reduce risk and complexity during the project?

In this second part I want to illustrate different Lean Principles with a project rooted in product design & development. The project team consisted of computer science students without design background who participated in my lecture “Designing the User Experience for Ubiquitous Computing Devices” at Saarland University.

The main stage of our story is a restaurant kitchen. This context was chosen freely by the students as part of their imaginary start up.

Context of our fictional start up (Source: https://pixabay.com/de/küche-arbeit-restaurant-kochen-731351/)

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Becoming the office hero – Gamified Task Management Systems

Anna Kizina

We are confronted with very different kinds of to-dos every day. It is only natural that some of those tasks are more fun than others. Especially less motivating tasks, for example housekeeping, are last on the list: cleaning the coffee machine, tidying up the refrigerator, sorting empty bottles. The preferences and aversions may be individually different but supposedly everyone knows special tasks that he or she does rather reluctantly. Also, in office routine, there are frequent tasks that come up extra to the actual working activities: cleaning up the meeting room, deposing waste batteries (only professionally of course!) or writing a blog article for the company website 😉

What can be done to make such to-dos – as well as the everyday (working) life – more engaging? In this article, I introduce not only known approaches, but also our “in-house” concept that was developed at the Centigrade branch of Mülheim Ruhr.

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Adobe XD – the perfect UX Workflow?

Roger Towae

In October 2017 Adobe released the first beta of XD, its “all-in-one UX/UI solution”. As a graphic designer, I’ve used Photoshop and Illustrator in my workflow for years and wonder how XD measures up as an UX tool so far.

Quick historical excursion about the possible impact of the new tool’s release: in print, Adobe has practically eliminated competition starting in the 2000s with InDesign 2.0, setting the standard with Photoshop and Illustrator integration and smooth output of print data.  This raises the question if XD can already cover the different processes in the UX cosmos and if it has the potential to push aside tools like Sketch as thoroughly as InDesign pushed aside QuarkXPress.

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Angular or React? – Embracing modern web technologies

David Würfel
David Würfel
January 4th, 2018

In addition to classical Desktop frontend technologies such as WinForms or WPF even large industrial companies can’t deny that there is an interesting movement towards web frontend technologies. As a UX company that also supports its clients in frontend engineering to a large extent, we are often asked whether web technologies fit their needs and if so which one to choose. Besides many relevant libraries and frameworks, the two predominant players are Angular* and React. The question which one to favor over the other is not a trivial one. It can only be answered through comparing up several criteria according to a set of defined developer requirements. In the following I will outline the answers we found at Centigrade, and that will be most helpful for our clients.

Why choose a web technology?

At first, we must answer, why it could be reasonable to use web technologies for frontend engineering at all. Deciding to do this because of famous buzz words or trends is not a good reason. However, this is often an initial motivation for this topic to arise. Web frontend technologies are a chance to develop systems that are truly cross-platform. This can refer not only to operating systems (like Windows or Unix) but also to mobile devices, and basically every system that runs a browser. Modern client-side web frameworks even go a step further by abstracting from the browser, which makes them able to target native desktop, mobile or even other systems. Focusing on the digital age and Industry 4.0, where several different devices are inter-connected, having this flexibility oftentimes is a strong requirement. Therefore, taking web frontend technologies into account is a valid choice. 

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Conquering the IoT with Lean UX – Part 1

Simon Kieke
Simon Kieke
November 30th, 2017

2014 is ending, and  the term IoT (Internet of Things) is entering the public awareness of the German-speaking regions for the first time. The concept is promising: individuals can rely on a connected intelligent environment to solve everyday problems. Businesses can develop previously inconceivable products and services, and sell them at scale. McKinsey is predicting a potential economic effect of $2,7 trillion to $6,2 trillion and businesses like Intel are painting a colorful and profitable picture of the IoT world. Of course, product managers and top-level managers in companies across the developed world are ordered to get on the IoT bandwagon.

Three years later, at the end of 2017, the hype has sobered. A few large companies like Alphabet or Amazon can bring IoT products to market with varying degrees of success, but especially medium-sized companies find it hard to convert the new opportunities into hit IoT products. What is the problem? Can remarkable results also be achieved with low risk and unusual methods like Lean UX?

Kai Deller – Centigrade Head of Design

 

“Lean principles help to gain a foothold in the large field ‘Internet of Things’ by making human needs the starting point of each project. The complexity of IoT becomes manageable through sharply focused projects and continuous learning. This focus allows to gain groundbreaking insights early through methods like Rapid Prototyping. Early feedback is especially important for haptic products.”

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The UX Academy – UX competence for software experts

Saskia Hehl

Once upon a time there was a city by the sea that was famous far beyond its frontiers because it had the most beautiful houses that would ever be found. Not only did they offer protection against wind and weather but also the highest convenience for the people. Therefore, the city attracted numerous visitors from near and far which filled the citizen`s hearts with pride.

 

They were proud because it was them who had conquered the art of architecture throughout the years and became known as experts in this field. But of course they were able to realize their ideas only when they trusted in the abilities of other experts: for example carpenters for building the doors correctly and road planners offering lovely winding paths between the houses. Therefore, the citizens were able to convince the city council to bring specialists into the city from whos skills they could benefit.

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3D Printing Experiences: A Handle for a Novint Falcon Controller

Niki Hermkes
Niki Hermkes
September 1st, 2017

When I first heard of Centigrade in 2015, I was looking for a design company where I could complete my internship for school. The internship was successful and since then I have been working at Centigrade as an Assistant User Interface Designer. Besides working in many visual and conceptual design projects, I could gather first experiences for Centigrade in the field of 3D printing.

UseCase “DeepGrip”

My task was to design a handle for the Novint Falcon Controller, a device which translates our hand movements into inputs, e.g. within a VR simulation. This allows us to create a very authentic experience in VR games.

Novint Falcon without adjusted handle

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Efficient, aesthetic, suitable – style definition for 3D, AR, and VR

Sascha Blättgen
Sascha Blättgen
August 9th, 2017

Visual design has a long and storied tradition. Still it is a lively and dynamic topic and constantly exposed to current influences and trends. With the emerging technologies of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) designers have to learn how to create impressive and positive experiences for users of these media.

There are hundreds of tutorials on developing 3D applications, but one part routinely left out in these tutorials is the style definition for the visualization. There is a wide range of visual options that carry distinct advantages and disadvantages.

This article is a quick summary of possible styles, each illustrated with examples from video games.

Photorealism

Photorealism is characterized by being as lifelike as possible – from detailed textures to high-polygon models to real-world lighting.

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About Automation and User Centered Design – Interfaces at SEW EURODRIVE’s Hannover Messe booth 2017

Marie Schiemann
Marie Schiemann
June 30th, 2017

Hannover Messe 2017 – Enterprises present their new technological miracles: robots that can play the drums, robots that play table tennis, robots that move like animals, 3D printers, VR worlds and AR glasses that combine the digital and physical world. Let us be honest, as visitors of the exhibition, we are, of course, entertained but some might have asked themselves what kind of substantial benefit one or the other exhibit might bring to the daily production routine.

„Our Chancellor always calls on us to be cautious not only doing nice things but rather things that are profitable and productive and this is what we tried to do here.“

– Udo Aull (Managing Director Sale and Marketing at SEW-EURODRIVE)

As User Experience providers, we are always happy to see when companies are more deliberate: our customer SEW Eurodrive portrayed a complete production process at its exhibition booth. From the moment of ordering to the finished product, the visitors could experience what it means when robots are used efficiently and the human machine interaction goes hand in hand.

What seemed to work smoothly and natural at the exhibition booth, took a lot of effort in the setup. The smarter and the more autonomous the robots and computers interact with each other, the more important it is for the human user to maintain an overview of single steps in the production process. In the following, we want to explain how visitors of Hannover Messe were enabled to monitor and operate the production process at the SEW exhibition booth through playful, intuitive and accessible 3D user interfaces.

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How playful do you like it? Motivation and Potentials through Gamification and Serious Games

Jörg Niesenhaus

Lately, I have been asked more frequently, when Gamification will emancipate from its role as a niche topic and reach mainstream. Since mid-2016, I am sure, that we find ourselves just in the phase of emancipation of this topic and I would like to reveal, why this is my opinion.

During the last year, the media in German-speaking regions frequently covered Gamification: many TV productions, newspaper reports and scientific papers covered potentials of the use of motivational and playful elements in non-game contexts. But not only media response was consistently positive – also Centigrade received numerous requests for Gamification projects, some of which where moved into realization and, by now, are used on a daily basis.

However, one important question occupies many of our customers: How much “game” is suitable for a certain context of use as well as for users‘ and customers‘ needs. This question is crucial as playful and motivational elements can be integrated in existing processes and products in many different ways. Our customers also ask themselves which manifestation of playful systems fits best in their user context: are some playful elements enough or should it possibly be a full game to meet the pursued benefits?

Gamification vs Serious GamesGamification vs. Serious Games: Although both approaches share common traits, there are some significant differences when it comes to the application of playful elements.

This question in mind, this article covers similarities and differences of Gamification and Serious Games and aims at gaining better understanding of potentials as well as conveying possible scopes of application for both concepts and thus, facilitating the decision for or against one of them. read more…

DeepSight – looking into the future of Augmented Reality

Ronja Scherz

Festo-DeepSight-Teaser

A shift supervisor is standing in a large machine hall monitoring production. From her vantage point she can overlook the complete hall. She is carrying no laptop, no tablet, not even a phone. Instead she is wearing a plain pair of glasses and looking from one machine to the next. When she gazes at a machine, a window opens in her field of view, showing the machines’ current status. The shift supervisor can check which job the machine is working on, the number of finished items, and if all tools are in order. When she gazes away from the machine, the window disappears and she can look around the machine hall freely.

A promising vision, but is it realistic? Unfortunately at the current state of technology (March 2017) it isn’t – yet.
 

Update 2018: Results of this study are already being used in current Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality projects. You can take a look at our 3D services portfolio.

 

But the progress of companies like Microsoft, Magic Leap, or Daqri in the development of augmented reality glasses suggests that augmented reality will be ready for use in the near future. This is a giant step towards Industry 4.0: across the production process workers can be supported in their everyday tasks. But how can we prepare for this new technology? How can we already gain experience now to start developing user-friendly applications when operational devices are released, integrating augmented reality effectively and efficiently into work routines?

With the DeepSight project we at Centigrade have found a way to prototype augmented reality applications right now while identifying and leveraging possible advantages of this promising technology. For this we resorted to another technology that might be surprising in this context: virtual reality.

read more…

Multi-platform mobile software development: Qt instead of Xamarin

Jörg Preiß
Jörg Preiß
February 28th, 2017

Microsoft is accessing the field of WPF platform independence with Xamarin Forms. However, there has for a long time been an existing framework that runs on Windows, MacOS, Linux and starting with version 5 on iOS, Android, Sailfish OS and other operating systems – without re-implementation: Qt.

LISTING 1: MAIN.CPP

 

Qt has been around since 1992. For a long time, the company Trolltech distributed the framework commercially. There was a free version for the Linux desktop KDE that later was licensed under GPL. The two versions differed in the availability of certain modules. Starting with version 4.5 in 2009, the LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License) was added. The current version 5.x is available in commercial and free versions as well. The rights are currently owned by The Qt Company.

Qt development was distinguished by the signal/slot principle. While other frameworks still used events, this already was an implementation of the publish-subscribe pattern. A button provides the clicked() signal, which view components can bind to a slot onClicked().

Version 4.7 introduced the Qt Markup Language, QML. While designers previously generated the completed source code, now the interface could be described in a JSON-like language. On-screen elements can be manipulated with JavaScript, values and lists can be bound. The framework achieved an architecture called model-view-delegate. Version 5.6 was used for this article. read more…

Digitalization – serious monkey business

Clemens Lutsch

Imagine that you are chosen to handle digitalization for your company. Of course, you hear the talk of heads of politics and business ringing in your ear. You have quite possibly already visited trade shows loudly promising digital transformation and industry 4.0, but delivering very little on the matter. What’s the reason for this letdown? Is digitalization an empty word, a bubble filled with hot air? Is it just monkey business?

The monkey business of digitalization

What has gotten into the author? Google Trends clearly shows that digitalization is a hot topic!

„Digitalisierung“ in Google Trends (D) over the last five years. [Google is a trademark or registered trademark of Google Inc. in the US and/or other countries.]

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Eight steps to create an app icon

Olga Poliakova
Olga Poliakova
December 22nd, 2016

BeforeAfter

The Icon – it is a small element, yet it is the first thing that users see when meeting an application – and a first impression can last for a long time. So, it is very important for a product to have an attractive, clear and explanative icon. But how to reach that? I would like to share my knowledge in passing through these steps using pen and paper as well as Adobe Illustrator. I worked as an Icon Designer for many years, and I still create icons from time to time, so maybe you will find my experience useful and can use some of my tips for your work.

Just as an example, I will create an Icon for a hypothetical insurance oriented application “Weather Event”, which warns about dangerous weather conditions (such as storm or hurricane) and suggests to insure a property depending on a situation. I will take you through the necessary steps. So, let’s start! read more…

Establishing an HMI Styleguide in a Company – Part 2

Thomas Immich

The first part of this article was about the treacherous intuitiveness of establishing an HMI styleguide based on a Corporate Design (CD) styleguide, and why this decision is risky: unlike a CD styleguide an HMI styleguide has to work for software engineers as well as visual designers. Also, this form of documentation is too rigid for a dynamic modern HMI. The most important insight: an HMI styleguide cannot be the sole basis for developing a consistent, aesthetic and intuitive HMI. Looking back on many years of big HMI design projects and speaking as a UX consultant I can say: only a combination of tools and processes will lead to success.

TRUMPF-Centigrade-HMI-Styleguide

Figure 1: Centigrade is supporting TRUMPF to establish a company-wide HMI styleguide.

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Establishing an HMI Styleguide in a Company – Part 1

Thomas Immich

Intuition seems to be one of those things we all profit from a lot. But at times it will deceive us. Designing an intuitive HMI seems to be one of the highest priorities of modern software development, minimizing both the need for training and the risk of operational errors. Still, a lot of software engineers and even HMI designers stumble into one trap when aiming for intuitive software design: listening to their own intuition. They will tell themselves, and quite rightly so, “A good HMI design has to be aesthetic and consistent, so that operators will be able to profit from already learnt patterns in a new context of use – if they can use one machine, they can use all machines.” So far, so good. But now comes the misconception: “If you want your HMI design to be consistent in every way, why not adapt the already established corporate design? It has been there for ages, guiding along the way to consistency and brand experience: the corporate design (CD) styleguide”.

Alas, this is the wrong analogy – but not the first time it has been used: the early years of television had the same problem, reading the daily news to their audience the same way radio did, or the early years of the internet, displaying long columns of information in serif fonts, just like contemporary newspapers did. This might have felt intuitive because it was well-known and long-established – but it was still wrong.

The philosophy of a CD styleguide cannot be transferred to a modern HMI and its development.

screenshot Amazon 1994 und AppleCom 1997 newspaper metaphor in the web

Even Amazon and Apple were wrong to assume it was a good idea to apply a newspapers’ design guidelines and know-how to the internet.

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Getting to the root of the problem: Debugging TypeScript projects with Visual Studio Code

Thomas Becker
Thomas Becker
September 29th, 2016

Although being relatively new Visual Studio Code has already gathered much attention since its publication in November 2015. At first glance you could believe that Visual Studio Code was just another iteration inside the Visual Studio family, but that is not the case. Visual Studio Code is a completely new phenomenon and does not have much in common with its namesakes, except for its actual name.

There are many good reasons for using TypeScript in a new project instead of JavaScript. To name just one advantage TypeScript allows you to structure code in classes. In this post I would like to address how to debug a TypeScript project with Visual Studio Code.

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OK Google, what about good UIs?

Olga Poliakova
Olga Poliakova
August 31st, 2016

Not everyone likes Google products, but everyone who has a computer / laptop / smartphone uses them. It’s really fascinating how a company founded by two students conquered a huge part of the market, became the most desired employer, and every year continue to surprise us with highly innovating ideas. And it’s even more fascinating how a company with about 60.000 employees apparently can’t afford good user interfaces (UI).

Search results – bad Google UI

Google is a trademark or registered trademark of Google Inc. in the US and/or other countries.

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