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).
Thinking Out of the Box
I can still remember the moment when I was up in the sky looking down on Frankfurt, anxious yet excited. In June 2015, I moved from my hometown Hong Kong to a country known for its beer, sausages and miserably cold winter – Germany. It was indeed pretty intense for me as I had never travelled to Europe before. And when I did, I started living and working as a UX designer there.
Being International: More Than a Matter of Geography
After going through the culture shock, I realized that being a truly international designer is more than just a matter of geography. Travelling and living in another country won’t make you international if you are narrow-minded, reluctant to look further at the cultural influences behind those behavior and thoughts that you find it hard to identify with. read more…
Please take the following with a grain of salt, a slice of lime and a big portion of good-natured humor: Below we dive into the fictional world of a very naïve designer. The situations are exaggerated on purpose to illustrate some of the difficulties designers can fall prey to when they do not have an overall understanding of the design process with its stakeholders on client- as well as on user-side. Each issue of the fictional designer is contrasted with that broadened perspective.
The first Feedback
Monday morning. I am launching Outlook and, behold: The e-mail I sent on Friday has just been answered. There is feedback on my newest design – yay! With a humming growing louder and louder in my ears I read that almost everything looks ok – which, of course, to my artistic soul feels like a slap in the face! Because “…almost everything…” and “…looks ok…” basically means that my, oh so perfect visual concept will be taken apart.
All my work for nothing! Researching for hours to find the perfect font. Putting so much thought into every margin. Wisely selecting colors with the pantone catalog I stole from the hardware store specifically for that purpose. And now someone dares to demand changes to my creation? Did da Vinci have to make changes to the Mona Lisa? Did Picasso do usability tests? Did Van Gogh ever read his e-mail? Who knows… I, for one, know immediately and with certainty: After all the changes that are being demanded the design will be ruined and, adding insult to injury, I will have to be the one to destroy that work of art.
The last article dealt with the question of how we can secure the future of the IT industry in Germany through youth development. Also and most importantly, it dealt with the question how software teams can position themselves better. As an analogy to software engineering I am referring to football as a sport that can teach us a lot about team work and that I am myself involved in with passion since my childhood.
How do interdisciplinary experts become a team?
In the last part we learned about the benefits of broad-based groups of experts. But how does a group of different people working in different disciplines become a team?
When developing graphical user interfaces (GUI) with Java Swing one tends to stumble upon surprising effects and problems, often wondering about the cause behind the effect. Ignoring background mechanics like database integration or the modelling of business logic, the effects in question regard windows and components right in front of you: the part of the software that the user will actually see and look at. To illustrate this further a simple but effective test-application was written that for all intents and purposes compares to applications out in the real world – allowing for enough room to optimize while making it easy to investigate the phenomena.
So there it is – the Apple Watch. One year after the Pebble review, the long awaited gadget has arrived on my desk. Some months later, I finally get to test it. As it can be seen by the time passed by, my anticipation is limited – the information I got from the internet and the multiple reviews have rather only been moderately inspiring. Charge every day? Change the wristband only for some hundred Euros? Only limited app support so far? All these facts do not really strengthen the wish to buy an Apple Watch for my private use.
If one reads reviews on the internet, the conclusions reach from „How could I ever live without this? “ to „A total waste of money!“. I think that no Apple product so far has had such a polarizing effect. Honestly, the Apple fan boy and the somewhat more realistic interface designer in me are also fighting a tough fight right now. read more…
The title of this article may sound absurd. After all, nowadays a user-centered approach is considered a must for launching successful products to the marketplace.
Therefore, the early and continuous involvement of end users in the development process should be highly recommendable. – So why the advice of not asking users when conducting such projects? This, undoubtedly provocative, statement should provide a contrast to the tendency of equating user-centered design with asking users about existing problems and feature requests. This article points out why such a perspective is problematic and how the corresponding risks can be avoided. read more…
In the last few years, more and more people have started talking about “Virtual Reality”. The possibility of completely immersing in a virtual world via new technologies like e.g. the Oculus Rift fascinates gamers, developers and UX-Designers alike. Looking around a virtual environment by just turning your head, or moving virtual objects with your own hands, offers a completely new and extremely direct way of interacting. In consequence, many users of VR applications really feel like being inside of the virtual environment. It is exactly this feeling, called “immersion”, which makes users expect to be able to really interact with the virtual objects, just as naturally as they would with real ones. But unfortunately, this is not possible with the contemporary setups. VR-glasses just offer visual access to the virtual world. Hence, a user touching a virtual object will not feel any haptic feedback.
To discover how the integration of the tactile sense into a virtual reality application affects the immersion of their users, we at Centigrade developed the prototype “DeepGrip” – an application combining visual and haptic feedback in a virtual reality.read more…
Bored during the train ride? Rolling Stones. Angry in a traffic jam? Slayer. Party with friends? Daft Punk. Sitting in a wing chair with a brandy in your hand? Chopin. Gang warfare? 2Pac. In the age of streaming services like Spotify, music is probably more ubiquitous than ever. Equipped with a smartphone everybody has the possibility to use an enormous database of songs. Our favorite interprets accompany us to almost every place in almost every situation. But what about the working environment? When is it acceptable to listen to music and can it help you do your job? Or is it more of an unnecessary distraction? read more…
Recently I gave a talk at the dotnet Cologne and also at the DWX Developer Week titled “4K and other challenges – Next Generation Desktop UIs for Windows 10”. The session discussed the term Universal App Platform in Windows 10 and showed what a developer can make out of it in order to create future oriented user interfaces. This blog article is not only supposed to target those who attended my session, but also those who were not present to hear it. Moreover the article will provide further information to the topic. As in the session there will be a coding part at the end where some new Universal App features are shown. read more…