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.
Thinking Out of the Box
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.
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.
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).
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…