Taken one summer at the then family cottage in Canoe Cove. That summer we had no TV or internet so we had to find all kids of creative uses for our time. Mostly we read, played outside and went to the beach, but sometimes we would record silly little videos like this.
In France, in 1818, a nine-year-old boy accidentally blinded himself with a hole puncher while helping his father make horse harnesses. A few years later the boy was sitting in the yard thinking about his inability to read and write when a friend handed him a pinecone. He ran his fingers over the cone and noted the tiny differences between the scales. He conceptually blended the feel of different pinecone scales with reading and writing, and realized he could create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so the blind could feel and read what was written with it. In this way Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind. Braille made a creative connection between a pinecone and reading. When you make a connection between two unrelated subjects, your imagination will leap to fill the gaps and form a whole in order to make sense of it. It is this willingness to use your imagination to fill in the gaps that produces the unpredictable idea. This is why Einstein claimed that imagination is more important than knowledge.
I’m in one of my favorite coffee shops in Hsinchu. They have a great new location near our house and their coffee knowledge is second to none. My wife especially loves their coffee and dropped by their old shop almost daily. Unfortunately the music playing a touch too loud, over poor sounding speakers, doesn’t match the rest of the experience. It’s a shame because they are otherwise a world class gem tucked away in the side streets of the Science Park. They pay attention to their customers and the interior design of their shop. Companies need to remember just how important the audio experience is to the overall experience a customer has with their product. This would include data gained from user research, personas and customer feedback etc. Starbucks gets this to a certain extent I believe.
When I was working in China I had a service design project where I in part focused on how sound could enhance their experience.
Here is a list of reading material I read to get me started.
The menu bar has been, and in my opinion remains, the best mechanism for providing familiarity, discoverability, and progressive disclosure in user interfaces on any platform. Even beyond the Mac, anyone who has clicked on a File menu in one platform has a pretty good shot at guessing where a Save command might be when provided a File menu somewhere else. Likewise and also regardless of operating system, someone presented with an entirely new application can safely open and explore menus to try and locate features they might need. Never pivoted data before, but need to for the first time? Hey look, there’s a menu in the bar called Data! Finally, let’s say that same seemingly one-time operation becomes a regular course of action that is needed multiple times a day. The best menu bars provide an equivalent keyboard shortcut right next to the command so, for example, anyone can discover how to save using command – s without having to be told.
So then why are menu bars fading out of more modern UX conventions?
The Menu Bar
I start our move to Prince Edward Island in earnest at the end of this week, all of our planning has been long finished, and for reasons mentioned in “Difficulties in finding housing in Prince Edward Island” it’s going to be more of a challenge than I ever imagined. I’m actually concerned about moving forward.
My concern stems from a belief that if a business with established communication channels cannot bother replying to inquiries then they are not deserving of my business. If I send a business an email, essentially wanting to give them my money, and they don’t reply, what else should a person do but move on to another company.
But there are only so many companies on Prince Edward Island. I have already sent email to a range of banks and rental agencies in PEI. None have replied. If I continue and I get the same lack of response than I’ll have no one to do business with. It’s funny.
Perhaps this is simply a case of a clash between business styles, and not rude as I feel it is. PEI might be like the small Islands of Thailand, relaxed, slow, and informal.
I’m taking a break from what I consider hell … trying to massage a WordPress theme to fit my humble needs. The ftp client crashed taking all my tracked changes with it and now the website won’t load.
It’s a lesson and a longing for a return to my former self when I had time to labor over a non-client project, building everything myself. I have so much respect for product designers who, like the web designers of lore, can create the whole stack, and make it look and work great.
This is one of the reasons why I started learning programming in earnest. To have more control over what I wanted to create. Self-reliance. And it’s why I plan on spending time in late summer, hopefully much sooner, brushing off my web development skills so that I can stop this WordPress bloat that has appeared in many of my web projects these past number of years.
Hard to believe this is still an issue.
When I started in design many years ago, particularly when I started working with small and medium sized corporate clients in Taiwan, one of the most common features that we would work on to improve their corporate websites user experience was the addition of easily findable contact information, and all the back-end systems required to make it effective. There was no point in including a phone number for support if no one was there to pick up the phone. At that time this was one of the primary tasks that users would visit a website to perform. Of course, it’s as common as air today, and yet this most basic element of a good user experience, has been the most frustrating for me in my interactions with a number of companies of late.
In Taiwan, I think it must be generally accepted that email is broken. With some exceptions, you don’t send an email to a government department and expect a reply, nor do you email a company and expect a timely response. I once sent an email to Garmin in Taiwan about one of their products and got a short 2 sentence reply 8 months later. In the interim I bought a competitors product. Facebook or Line is the way you interact here and I have had varying levels of success with that as well.
When I was last in Canada, I sent out a number of email to various local government departments. Reply times were generally 2 weeks – its best to use the telephone.
This past summer I had an agreement with the TD Bank in Charlottetown that we would communicate via email so that I could do some investing and take care of my mothers estate. The first couple of email replies were within a couple weeks, then no replies for months, then no replies at all. I doubt I will do any further business with this bank, and am considering switching completely to another institution.
Correspondence with a local Charlottetown insurance agent went unanswered, and the requested actions never took. That coupled with a misrepresentation of the policy itself means that they will lose all my current and future business once the current policy expires.
TDBank isn’t the only bank in Charlottetown with a poor communication experience. I sent an email, via their internal systems, one of the required methods off contact, to the Royal bank in Charlottetown looking to set-up an appointment to discuss a loan. It’s been a week and no reply. I guess they don’t need the business.
Finally, in looking for a place to live in Prince Edward Island, I’ve sent email to a number of rental companies. Despite a big bold contact box on all their websites, not one has replied. The rental market in PEI is a landlords market, so perhaps they don’t need to worry about drumming up business or damaging their reputation.
These are just a few examples of the may experiences I’ve had.
What companies don’t seem to realize is that by including a simple means of contact on their website they are setting the expectation that they actually want, and or are able, to communicate with their customers. By not paying attention to this most basic user task their customers experience with their company is most certainly poor, thereby losing opportunities, harming your brand, and doing a disservice to your organization. And for smaller organizations it’s just plain rude.
Before you absentmindedly add that contact information module to your website, do yourself and your company a favor and ensure that you truly are committed to communicating with your customers. You might even try stating when they might expect a reply, something even I do on this weblog. Set your customers expectations with a statement stating when they could expect a reply, and perhaps a follow-up email acknowledging receipt of said email with further confirmation of as to when you will get back to them. It’s not really that difficult.
It is not the design of an object that makes it special, but what a person does with it — the interaction — that makes it special. A well–designed object must have the capacity to offer interaction, express deep human needs, and form relationships.
But don’t mistake these interactions as the entirety of the users experience. Great user experiences happen beyond the screen and in the gaps. Gaps between channels, devices and business silos. They happen when organisation’s pay attention to the nuances of their interaction with customers.
In the same way that industrial designers have shaped our everyday life through objects that they design for our offices and for our homes, interaction design is shaping our life with interactive technologies – computers, telecommunications, mobile phones, and so on. If I were to sum up interaction design in a sentence, I would say that it’s about shaping our everyday life through digital artifacts – for work, for play, and for entertainment.
Gillian Crampton Smith