Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: design (page 2 of 3)

Links from May 22nd

Today’s batch of links:

Becoming a designer

I don’t actually want to be a designer or a usability expert, but I’d like to know more about design and usability. I’m always working on various kinds of Web pages — content pages, listing pages, reports, forms, and so forth. My specialty is server-side programming, but I spend enough time on the output side that I’d like to be better at it.

So where to start? Is Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information the best place to start? What are the other good options? I’m not trying to put anyone out of a job, but I’d like the things I build myself to look less terrible.

Links from March 30th

Links from March 12th

Links from January 23rd

I’m going back to packaging up my del.icio.us bookmarks daily and posting them here.

  • The Black Triangle is an article from 2004 about game development found by Jason Kottke. It describes the disconnect between programmers and users, where users are unimpressed by seeing something relatively simple on the screen, and developers are thrilled at the huge amount of work that into getting that simple thing onto the screen. I’ve found it’s never a good idea to show customers the Black Triangle. It always comes later in the process than they’d think and often freaks them out.
  • waferbaby: The Setup. Interviews with people about their computer setups. I can never read enough of these.
  • New York Times: Gazan Doctor and Peace Advocate Loses 3 Daughters to Israeli Fire and Asks Why. The horrific cost of war.
  • Dr. Saturday: Australian Rules’ blood’s worth bottling. A proposed playoff structure for college football. A more interesting approach
  • Going.com: Newspapers Covering Obama’s Inauguration. A huge collection of newspaper front pages from President Obama’s inauguration. And yes, it still feels weird to type “President Obama.”
  • CSS Newbie: The EqualHeights jQuery Plugin. I’m always looking for better ways to set columns to equal heights on a Web page.
  • Glenn Greenwald: Mohammed Jawad and Obama’s efforts to suspend military commissions. When anyone questions whether the United States tortures people or tortures the wrong people, you can forward them the story of Mohammed Jawad, a teenager captured in Afghanistan who was coerced to confess to killing US soldiers with a grenade. The military prosecutor in his case petitioned that he should be released and ultimately resigned rather than prosecute him.

Why design should not be divorced from engineering

Jack Shedd on why should be no separation between design and engineering:

The idea of design divorced from engineering is laudable, but the way it so often plays out makes it implausible. Yes, in theory, the design team should come up with a perfect solution and the engineering team should be smart enough to figure out how to pull it off and neither should ever have to talk to each other. The resulting product would look exactly as designed and would work perfectly. Keep on trucking you radical dreamer. Here’s a quarter for the jukebox.

The world’s supply of brilliant-the-first-time designers and can-figure-anything-out engineers is not nearly vast enough. While the ranks of folks who think they’re the former is exponentially higher than the folks who think they’re the latter. As an industry where the two sides are so co-dependent on each other, that either group would think of the other’s role as trivial is beyond ridiculous.

This separation can be particularly tragic when the “get client approval” step falls between design and engineering.

In the most absurd case, I’ve worked on projects where one person acts as both designer and engineer, designs without the engineering in mind, and comes to regret the box they’ve put themselves in.

Push button ignition

This weekend I rented a car that had a push button starter. The first time I heard about push button starters, I thought they were some kind of gimmick, but after driving a car with one for a few days I figured out which problem they were designed to solve.

Back in the day, you had your car key. (Or if you drove a General Motors car, you had at least two car keys. One for the doors and one for the ignition. How dumb is that?) Eventually, though, pretty much every car came with both a key and a key fob used to turn off the car alarm, unlock the doors, and so forth. The push button starter was created to remove one item from your pocket. Since you can’t get rid of the fob, car makers have started getting rid of the ignition key. As long as you have the fob, you can start the car with a button push.

There are two additional advantages to this system beyond eliminating key chain clutter. The first is that you can put your keys back in your pocket as soon as you’ve unlocked the doors. Being a creature of habit, I never remembered to do so and wound up driving with my keys in the cup holder all weekend, but I’m sure I’d adjust before too long if I owned such a car. The other advantage is that the system makes it nearly impossible to lock your keys in the car. Since there’s no key in the ignition, you won’t leave your keys there, and if you use the key fob to lock the doors, it’s guaranteed you’ll have your keys with you when you’re walking away from the car. That’s a nice benefit for the absent-minded.

It’s always interesting to discover that there’s a reasonable rationale for something you originally regarded as a novelty feature.

Links for March 27

  • Scott Rosenberg: Give us each day our daily campaign call. The Presidential campaigns hold daily conference calls with reporters to try to manage the news cycle. Dave Winer is working to post the audio of those calls so we can all listen in. Great project.
  • Bzip2 mini-HOWTO: Using bzip with grep. Extremely useful shell script if your log rotation software compresses your logs using Bzip2.
  • Scott Jennings: Design Progression in World of Warcraft, An Illustrated Guide. Analysis of an interesting game design challenge. Building content for games is lots of work, so you want it to see lots of use. The hardcore players play mainly so they can achieve things most people can’t. How do you keep the hardcore players happy and still make the content accessible so more players get to enjoy it?

Links from March 19th

Flags as infographics

FP Passport links to an project by Brazilian artist Icaro Doria in which he uses flags as infographics simply by applying a legend to the colors. The United States flag made me chuckle, but some of the African flags hit me right in the gut, the way few other infographics have. If you’re a designer of any kind, don’t skip this link.

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