Archive for September, 2009

Log 4b: Interface in Real Life

Posted in Uncategorized on September 30, 2009 by kbrodinterface


It is safe to say that anyone with Internet Access has paid a visit to the website Wikipedia. The company, The Wikimedia Foundation, has just recieved a grant of $89,000 with the objective of making ta new user interface to assist inexperience contributors to making a contribution to the website.

I took a screenshot of the editing screen for the featured article of the day (Texas A&M University).


Upon first look, I agree with the sources in the article. This is not exactly intuitive. If someone had a vast knowledge on World War II and wanted to edit the article, there is reason to believe they wouldn’t have the same vast knowledge in coding. Some of the buttons are familiar: Bold and Italicize.  However, while I know the affordane of those buttons, how would they work within this jumbled coding? Wikimedia admits that their contributors are all at leats moderately proficient in coding, which excludes a good number of people who wouldn’t be able to contribute.

I think that this is a good idea. This page currently needs mapping and visibility. As I look at this with now coding experience, I have no idea where my first step would be. Any natural mapping are non-existent. I wouldn’t be making slips, I would be making calculated mistakes based on thought processes and guessed. The type would be showing up, but I wold get no real feedback to if I was doing this correctly or not. This interface was designed by someone who didn’t keep the user-central design in mind. In fact, they alienated a majority of potential contributors because they are not tech-savvy enough for this.I hope that the new interface designers that are coming in are better at opening the gates for more users.

Log 4a: Reading analysis.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 30, 2009 by kbrodinterface

Work being analyzed: the last three chapters of Norman’s DOET.

Upon reading the last three chapters, I got an idea of how the book was supposed to teach us. We were supposed to suffer through and learn all the trials and tribulations of technology these days and then use the knowledge of the frustrations of the everyday user to make our designs easier and more comprehensive. As designers, we need to be fully aware of the affordances and object has, comon mistakes people make, and how to make any object comprehensive and user-friendly.

Chapter 5 gave a detailed description of the errors people make all the time. Most of them fall under the categories of slips. Norman defines slips as an “automatic behavior problem” that occurs when someone intends to do one thing and does another. Norman categorizes these slips as follows:
– Capture Errors: When two actions with similar beginnings, one of them will overtake the other.
– Description Errors: When two objects are physically alike, you may use the intended action on the wrong object.
– Data-Driven Errors: recalling the wrong piece of data.
– Associate Activation Errors: Event activates a similar but wrong response.
– Loss of Activation Errors: Forgetting to do something, or part of something.
– Mode Errors: When objects have multiple modes and we do something in the wrong mode.

Reading these errors, made my laugh. Some of these exaples are funny and a lot of them are the same kind of mistakes I have previously made.. Everyone has. I never once associated these kind of everyday mistakes to design. But it is important to realize that mistakes will happen no matter what. It is our job as the designers to make sure that the errors are easily recognized and fixed, as well as making a lot of them preventable. I’ve deleted, saved over or messed up enough projects in my lifetime to know that it is a lot more convenient to have less of those happen. Just the other day, I was working on a project and saved it. I had to do another copy, so I left the same window up and figured I would hit the Save As button to make a duplicate Illustrator Document. As it turns out, I hit the Save button instead. Without it asking if I was sure I wanted to do this, I lost the first copy and had to do that once more. I just saw “save” and made a description error. Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased. Like a good friend, technology should make us aware and stop us if we are about to make a huge mistake. it is the designer’s responsibility to make technology into our reliable friend.

We can’t make mistakes disappear, but what we can do to quell the amount of errors are the following (as written by Norman):
1. Understand what causes errors so we can minimize them.
2. Make it possible to undo actions.
3. Make it easier to see when we made mistakes, as well as make them easy to fix.

With these ideas, we are making life easier for us. Feedback on our actions and errors need to be obvious. The red and green lines on Microsoft Word are incredibly helpful in determining whether I have made an error in spelling and grammar. As a graphic design student, I would absolutely die if “Command + Z” didn’t exist. It is the easiest way to undo an action that I have seen in a while. Just a minute ago, I used my Tide to Go stick. The feedback was the chocolate stain appearing on my shirt, and the Tide stick acted as my undo button. The stain is gone.

Mistakes happen all the time, and good design is a key part in making it all better again.

Chapter 6 continued to talk more about designing for the user. Designers in the world will always be in high demand in the workplace, it seems. Design is a long lasting process. With each object that is designed, mistakes are alays found and it is our job to constantly be editing these mistakes and making them as close to perfection as humanly possible.

This chapter also taught me a key thing about y furture career choice as a graphic designer. A designer can make something aesthetically pleasing. A really good designer knows how to balance aesthetics with usability. The two need to be balanced because if one dominates, then problems are to arise. Those glass doors that Norman’s friend couldn’t figure out how to open? Well, they were made with a priority for aesthetics. If the usuability factor were justa s high, he would have no problem opening those doors.

While this limits how super pretty somethingg can be made, it’s a necessary evil. Norman notes that sometimes designers focus their attention on the wrong part of an object while a vital part gets ignored. Sometimes they will keep adding more and more features until an object becomes impossible to use. Sometimes, they make it more complex because it looks cool.

These are the temptations that everybody faces. However, we have to learn not to fall into that trap beause then we won’t get anywhere.

Chapter 7 talked about discussed what Norman called user-centered design. User-centered design is the belief that items should be designed with the user’s needs and interests in mind, and therefore should be user-friendly.

He went over many of the temems previously discussed in the book. For example, Norman listed what design should do for the user:
1. It should be easy to see the affordances at a moment’s glance.
2. Everything should be visible: the conceptual model, the alternative actions, and the results.
3. Make it easy to evaluate the current state of the system.
4. Follow natural mappings between intentions and required actions.

It couldn’t be stressed enogh in this book how important visibility is. It needed to give the affordances, to allow the user to see visual mappings, to recieve feedback, so that we can see that we are using an object correctly.

Another big issue was simplification. While complex objects look cool, no one will know how to use them. Norman also listed principles for making difficult tasks easier.
1. Use both knowledge in your head and knowledge in the world.
2. simplify the structure of tasks.
3. make things visible.
4. get the mappings right.
5. exploit the power of constraints
6. design for error.

The final chapter has given us a summary, and a hope that Norman has given us the correct philosophy in maing us better designers. I think he has succeeded. I persoanlly look at things different for their affordances and their constraints. My glass can hold water. But it can only hold up to the brim before it spills over. My purse can only hold so much before the zipper breaks and the seams split. Everything is intended to be designed for the users benefit, and I see that a lot clearer now.

Source: Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things.

Log 3c: Show and Tell

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 by kbrodinterface

Show and tell link:

Summary: Chrysler’s new concept car, the 200C, has no buttons on it’s interior. Every control is by use of a touch-screen. The dashboard and everything is inspired by the steps taken to make the iPhone.



Log 3b: Interface in Real Life

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 by kbrodinterface

To get ready for the day, one place everyone needs to go is the bathroom. Each thing in there has affordances and constraints.

First the doorknob. How do I get in?

First the doorknob. How do I get in?

First, the doorknob is a physical constraint. You can grab it and you can turn it. you can’t just push it or pull it. My internal memory also serves in how to use this doorknob to twist and push the door open.

In order to start getting ready, one needs to be able to see. Case in point, the light switch.

In order to start getting ready, one needs to be able to see. Case in point, the light switch.

This is a simple switch. It affords you light, but it an only move inteo directions. One will only turn the light on, one will only turn the light on. There is nothing additional in there to confuse us.

Brushing my teeth.

Brushing my teeth.

The physical constraint of my toothbrush makes me aware that I should hold it by the handle, not the bristles. While individual perception can allow for other affordances, I know from internal memory and external knowledge  that this is for brushing teeth. he visible hint is the size of the brush head.
All of this seems natural, but really it’s just effective interface design.

Log 3a: Reading Analysis

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 by kbrodinterface

Work being analyzed: Chapter 3 and 4 of The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman.

Chapter 3:

Chapter 3 is about using what we already know in our heads with the knowledge presented to us in the environment to perform a task.

Norman calls this using precise behavior from imprecise knowledge (55). While from memory you might not know the order of all the keys on a keyboard or the exact detailing of a penny, you still know how to type and how to spend a penny because the external knowledge helps fill in the missing information. Memory doesn’t need to be prcise though, as people can remember enough to distinguigh what needs to be so (58). The more you retain, the less you need to learn from the external sources, the more skilled and efficient you become.

He also discusses the two kinds of knowledge people have to use in order to function.
One of them is declarative knowledge, or their knowledge “of.” This the the knowledge of facts and rules. This type is easy to write down and teach.
The other is procedural knowledge, or their knowledge “how.” This is the kind of knowledge that allows people to do things such as play an instrument. This is harder to write down and teach. It is easier to demonstrate and learn by practice. (Norman 57-58)

It is the designer’s job to provide clues to serve in the memory of how to use all of these things.  They make sure the the environment provides enough clues to make the job easy. These external constraints can reduce the number of options on an item, making the amount of things to remember significantly smaller (Norman 60).

Norman also discusses the two kinds of memory.
1. Short Term Memory (STM): memory of the present; it can be retrieved with no effort, but you can’t hold a lot of information; it is valuable in everyday tasks, but easily forgotten in you get distracted (66).
2. Long Term Memory (LTM): memory of the past; it takes time to put away and to recall. It is an interpretation of what happened, and there isn’t a limit on how much and be in your memory (67).

Your memory is your internal knowledge and it comes in three categories:
1. Memory for Arbitrary things
2. Memory for Meaningful Relationships
3. Memory through explanation.(Norman 67)

All of these serve in the way people approach things and how they go about using an item.

The external knowledge supplied from one’s environment has drawbacks, the biggest being the “out of sight, out of mind” scenario. The two ways to combat that are reminders and natural mappings. Whether one needs to be reminded by a calendar, another person calling, or just willing themselves to keep it in their head bring back the knowledge of what and how it must be done. Natural mappings take away any ambiguity and eliminates the need for a memory. (Norman 72-78). The latter can be helped through effective design. It can create a better partnership between internal and external memory to make and object as easy to use as possible.

Norman closes the chapter by saying that with each item to approach, it is common that one may lean on external knowledge more than internal memory to make something work and vice versa. With that, comes tradeoffs. You get the pros of one way but have to deal with the restraints of the other (Norman 79).

It is up to the user to analyze which route they should take, but good design allows the decision and the actions to appear seamless and the item easy to use.


Chapter four deals with the user knowing what to do with each item they come across.

Actions can start out simple enough, but if one is using something that is more complicated, problems can arise when there is more than one possibility, for example, multiple buttons on a VCR. While approaching a new object, people initially try to seek instruction or use knowledge from previous objects with similarities to the current one. However, what needs to be used are affordances and constraints together to figure out what an object can do (Norman 81-82).

There are four different kinds of constraints:
1. Physical Constraints: You can tell what you can or can’t do just by looking at it. It is more effective if they are easier to see and interpret. That way, you know not to do something before any failed attempts are made (Norman 84).
2. Semantic Constraints: This is reliance on the situation to tell someone what to do. It is one’s previous knowledge of the situation and the world that tells the user what and what not to do (Norman 85).
3. Cultural Constraints: These are based on cultural concepts that are seen in daily life. They are represent by what Norman calls schemas, or rules and guidlines for interpretation and proper behaviors (85-86).
4. Logical Constraints: They are helped out by natural mappings. No physical or cultural principles are at work; it is the relationship between an object’s layout and their effects (Norman 86).

What a designer must do is use the above constraints and affordances in their design. These should make the design simpler and in turn, eliminate any encounters with errors. Should any arise, the design is a failure (Norman 87).

Besides affordances and constraints, a designer must also focus on:
1. Visibility: The relevants parts should be easily seen.
2. Feedback: each action should be given an effect, something to let the user know something has been done. It could be a light, a new display image, and sometimes, sound and be used for visibility and feedback.
(Norman 99-101).

If crucial parts are hidden, and nothing happens when an action is performed, the user will be left questioning if what they’ve done is right. As a designer, it it your job to answer questions and solves problems, no to create new ones. For each new capability that comes to fruition, new displays and new answers should be given to the user. Technology is confusing enough as it is, without a failed design making it worse.

Source: Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 1988.

Log 2B: Interface In Real Life

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2009 by kbrodinterface

As a college student, I sometime pack things I think I’m going to use and I never do.

For example, my tiny Black and Decker Iron.

There it is! My iron. Isn't it cute?

There it is! My iron. Isn't it cute?

Now, is there a reason I never use it? Or am I going to have to start immediately.

I look it over for a bit, then I’m confused.

Two knobs. Uh-oh.

Two knobs. Uh-oh.

I’m used to seeing one knob on an iron, always leaving it on cotton and hoping for the best. Two of them? I’m guessing the larger one is the one for choosing fabric.

It has numbers. Am I right about this being for fabric type?

It has numbers. Am I right about this being for fabric type?

This is the bottom of the iron, matching the numbers to the fabric. That's one knob solved.

This is the bottom of the iron, matching the numbers to the fabric. That's one knob solved.

The other knob.

The other knob.

This other knob looks like it would be for steam levels, since the cloud is depicted on it. However, the other dial had the same steam symbols. So do they both control the steam levels? What if I only set one button and not the other? How much steam would be used? Does the steam come from two different places or are they controlled together? I would hate to use this and ruin any of my clothes. And I would probably never use it again for I wouldn’t want to ruin anything. I would blame myself and the item, but knowing what I do know, the design is not as clear as it should be to make this work.  The visibility is there, but it’s confusing. One of the symbols needed to be different or on neither of the knobs.

Log 2A: Reading Analysis

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2009 by kbrodinterface

Work Being Analyzed: Chapter 2 of The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman.

This chapter focused on the psychology of everyday actions.

When using an object for a desired effect or affordance, there are multitude of feelings a user could have, when most of it really just boils down to poor design.

1. Self-Blame: If the task at hand looks like it should be simple and the user makes an error, their immediate reaction is to say that it is their fault, not the design. (Norman 34-35). Norman says that if a error is possible, then it will happen, and it is the designer’s job to minmize the chance for errors as much as possible (36).

2. Naive Physics: Everyday misconceptions are made. What seems right is really wrong and what’s right seems a lot more confusing than it should be. Aristotle had come up with ideas of “Naive Physics,” which since have been deemed incorrect, but it follows the same path of thought that most people would use. That’s why using what seems to be common sense can cause error as users try to use certain objects (Norman 36-38).

3. Explanatory Creatures: Norman calls people explanatory creatures, as they need to know what things are, how they work, why they work. If an object’s design gives no definitive hint as to how it works, the user will use their own mental models to imagine the process to getting the result (Norman 38-39).

4. Incorrect Blame: Depending on the situation and complexity of the object, instead of blaming one’s self, people will blame something unrelated to the damaged item, mostly based on coincidence. For example, someone’s computer terminal burned out. At the same time they were on an online library catalog. Both items are unrelated, but because of the timing, the blame was put of the website. People usually don’t have enough information to find what the real problem is, but in their need to find a cause of this problem, what they percieve is at fault is at fault, no matter if it is corrrect or not (Norman 39-42).

5. Learned and Taught Helplessness: Learned Helplessness is what happens when a user tries to use a product and something causes them to fail, resulting in them believing that the task can’t be done, at least not by the user (Norman 42). Taught Helplessness happens when the design can essentialy set one up for failure (Norman 42).

In this chapter, Norman also brings up the 7-step action process, which applies to everything people do.

Step 1. Form the goal, or what you would like to have done.

Step 2: Form the intention, or the specific statement on what is to be done to achieve that goal.

Step 3: Specifying the action. (What do you have to do to get this done?)

Step 4: Executing the action.

Step 5: Perceiving the state of the world. (What happened?)

Step 6: Interpreting the state of the world, or making sense of it.

Step 7: Evaluating the outcome. (Is this what you wanted to happen?)

(Norman 45-48)

Good design of interfaces is important to quell the feelings of confusion, blame, and helplessness that many feel when a bad design prevents the person from using an item correctly and easily. The seven steps listed above act as a design aid. Are those steps able to occur without error? If it can, then the design is good, if it can’t, the design needs ore work, otherwise certain technologies will be useless and some will want to just give up trying because of the negative feelings associated with the failure. It is the designer’s responsibility to keep the psychology of the users, the steps of a user’s actions and the elements of good design mention in chapter one (visibility, conceptual models, mapping and feedback) to make and sell items that can be used without a problem.

Source: Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 1988.