Friday, May 23, 2014

Here's the quick run-down on Billy Hollis' design course

Billy Hollis' course

 Proliferation of devices with new interfaces, i.e. touch, gesture, voice are changing the expectations of users and we need to adapt to meet those expectations.  Do more, our job is now to make the users job easier.

Learn from real-world examples, both good and bad, this will help with awareness of archetypes that users are familiar with (raised buttons, round buttons, etc).  Gestalt, Fitts Law, Pareto Principle, and Hicks Law.

Exercise your right brain, practice doing design, all you need is pen and paper.  Learning to draw and learning to play music help with this as well.

Keep aware of the limitations and functioning of the human visual system, limited high resolution area and the pre-processing done by our brains on what we see.  Whitespace is critically important, don't crowd the users visual input, the old saying that screen real estate is valuable no longer applies.   This is driven by our evolution and where our species "grew up", on the savannah, and it affects both this functionality and our sense of aesthetics.  Wide open, green field landscapes with water somewhere in the background is almost universally found to be beautiful.  A beautiful design will be considered more usable by the the user, and they will be more willing to forgive a beautiful app than an ugly one.

Don't misuse your tools: Color gradients, animations, fading, these should all be unnoticed by the user, meaning if you use them correctly the user will prefer your design to one that is monotone, and doesn't move naturally, but really won't be able to say why.

Help to reduce the cognitive load placed on the user, don't make them think any more than absolutely necessary.  Keep number of choices to a minimum, make use of progressive disclosure, mapping, design affordances and entry points to help the user use the software.  Also remember that simplicity is a goal, so choose the simplest correct design.

Users vastly outnumber developers, it's worth a lot of effort to save the users even a little bit of time.  However, the user is not always right.  Sometimes what an application needs to be most effective for the business does not match up with what the users like.  Do your best to take their wishes into account as long as that doesn't compromise other success factors. Vocal users will push for more features.  Be careful suggesting features to users, if you suggest it, someone will want it, even if it's not good design.  Simply adding features to please various people risks bad design.  Every feature has a cost, and no design is ever perfect, your goal is to be good enough.

These are guidelines.  Context can change what is important, don't be dogmatic in applying the design principles.  Form follows function - good design will match the users need and tends to have an elegant feel.  When re-desiging apply the MAYA principle, most advanced yet acceptale design.  Trimming around the edges never works out well, if you don't get a certain level of change, and finding the proper level is difficult, then inertia from the old design may cause issues with adoption.

Remember that during periods of transition (which we are definitely in now, and we may never leave again) you have to make the effort to push into new territory or the shelf life of your design may well be too short.

For a more in depth look at the course see these blog posts:

Overall, this is a great introductory video for developers who are looking into improving their knowledge of design.  Applying the Pareto principle, this will probably make you better than 80% (maybe even 90%) of the other developers out there at design.

Next up I'm going to be reviewing the videos and books Billy kindly provides as resources on his web site and in the video.

Thanks Billy, and I look forward to hopefully seeing more from you on UI Design

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