Photo of local morning glories by Ms. Jen with her Nokia N8 camera phone.
Tues 07.12.11 – Today was a good day that started with a lovely and fun UX interview with Thomas Mann on Skype video. We had a good chat about mobile devices and travel. I love talking with good sharp, designers as their minds can leap from place to place and connections can be made. Thanks to Thomas!
And then Jeremy linked to Brian’s conversation over at Google Plus about owning one’s own stuff versus engagement in the here and now on whatever is the big right now online service.
I have been a proponent on this blog and in person of owning your own stuff on the internet for years, even during the boom years of 2005-2008 when everyone thought that the services and Web 2.0 would take care of everything and your data would persist no matter what. I had several memorable conversations in that time period with a few prominent tech folk about how we can’t trust a company or online service with our data as we don’t know when they will lose funding or lose interest or be sold off to folks who will turn off the service and what we will do about our data when this happens.
As the business cycle waxes and wanes, as companies furl and unfurl, I want to own my photos, my text, and my data. Not only do I want to store my data where it can be seen by the world, but where I pay the bill and can freely upload, download, and back up with ease. For me that has meant paying rent on server space and a domain name since 1999 and having duplication / triplication of backup both to a physical hard drive and a cloud service on top of my server space that this blog lives on, in addition to all the spaces and services that I participate in online.
This blog is my studio, gallery and reception space, as well my living room of which you are all invited to. I may visit many places online and some of them may be second homes, like Twitter, but this space is where my heart lives.
Where does your online heart and home reside? Do you have full, partial or no control over your online home? Do you care?
What happens if you don’t want to own your own self-hosted blog, will more projects like Jaisen Mathai’s OpenPhoto crop up that will allow all of us to share our data to online services but also have all of it backed up to our own accounts at Dropbox or Amazon S3?
Recently Ryan Carson lobbed the digital equivalent to a molotov cocktail in to the User Experience bloggers corner and did folks come out swinging!
To get a bit of perspective, let’s start with a few salvos from The Great UX Mini-Debate of 2009:
Pabini Gabriel-Petit on Specialists Versus Generalists: A False Dichotomy?
Dan Saffer on A Fool and a Liar
Jeremy Keith on I don’t care about UX
Jeremy starts with a quote from Mark Boulton’s twitter stream:
“Since when did good web design suddenly get called ‘UX’? Everywhere I look now, good UI design is called ‘UX’, good type = ‘UX’, Colour? UX.”
I find Mark’s tweet to be a good place to jump off from, as I have spent the last two years scratching my head in wonder how the formerly mostly academic and large company/agency discipline of HCI/user-psychology/UX had morphed into a the job title du jour for web designers. My bafflement continued when at a party last year a prominent user experience designer introduced me to others as a mobile user experience designer. I was a bit flabbergasted, as while I am very interested in Mobile UX and I wrote my master’s thesis on how creative professionals use their mobile phones, I am very reluctant to use the title Mobile UX designer.
My preferred job title is Professional Art Weirdo, but that doesn’t go far in terms of business and professional contacts, although I do get a laugh from folks who know me when I use that title. In the course of my now decade plus career of actual practice in web design & development, as well as mobile design & now mobile app devloper, user researcher, systems designer, occasional information architect, small business strategist, plus social media bits and whatever other hat seemed fun to wear at the time when a client needed a task to be completed.
While I am most confident using the title ‘web designer’ as it encompasses the broad range of tasks that one does in the course of a freelance consultant career, I have found there to be pressure over the last two years to declare a specialty or even a sub-specialty in one’s job title – be it on LinkedIn, Twitter, one’s resume/CV, or on a business card. In the last two years to use the title ‘web designer’ is seen as either naive or one is just a small time, small business hack, even if one has mad generalist skills and a deep specialist skill set or two.
I have also spent much time lately revamping my resume/CV and portfolio in preparation for a job search, as I have decided that I would much prefer to work on a team at a company or agency than by myself as a freelance consultant. Companies and agencies or their recruiters/HR specialists want definition out their applicants or at least the appearance thereof. How does one define a decade long freelance career to folks who see a lot of resumes from specialists or bullshitters. I am not interested in misrepresenting myself.
Thus, my interest in the Great UX Debate of 2010. Go read the various links and let me know what you think:
Ryan Carson’s defense of his tweet: ‘UX Professional’ isn’t a Real Job
Andy Budd takes the first swing in Why I think Ryan Carson doesn’t believe in UX Professionals, and why I do
Mark Boulton gives a little history on the Debate in On defining UX
Cennydd Bowles finds a molotov cocktail to throw back in The pollution of UX
Scott Berkun asks ‘UX professional’ isn’t a real job? and simplifies the debate
Oliver Reichenstein in iA breaks the debate back down and reassembles it in
Can Experience be Designed?
I will conclude with Scott Berkun’s second to last paragraph:
I’m fond of simply calling myself a writer. There should be a verb in your job. Usability engineers are really analysts or consultants. Designers of all flavors are, surprise, designers. Information architects are planners. If they are expected to be leaders beyond their specialization, then add the word lead. And on it could go. one word, preferably a verb, and we’re done. The pretense is fancier titles better convey the role, but I think that’s the real bullshit. Simpler titles, based on a verb, would be way more useful for clients or co-workers in figuring out what you can do for them.
And if push comes to shove, I will use the verb designer to describe myself, as well as the verb developer.
Sun 07.11.10 – Ever since I wrote my master’s thesis on how Creative Professionals used their Mobile Phones, I remain very curious how folks are using their phones. The tech and mobile blogs and blogosphere very much reward bloggers for writing on either the newest/latest/greatest or on the most detailed, esoteric atomic bits about the latest and greatest, all the while most of the folks around us seem to be muddling along with the mobile or cell phone that they bought from their wireless carrier for cheap.
When folks in my daily life find out that I love to take photos with my mobile phone and then moblog them to this blog, I frequently find the person I am talking to puts themselves down, discounts their own technology skills and knowledge, then confesses that they don’t know how to get the photos they take with their phone off the phone.
A year ago, I decided that it would be fun to start a video blog that would, magazine style, ask a wide variety of folks the same five questions about their phones, plus a few sub-questions are asked in each interview, plus whatever other bits folks want to talk about their mobile phones:
1) Who are you, what phone do you have, where did you get it, and do you have a data plan?
2) What do you like about your mobile / cell phone?
3) What have you taught yourself to do on your mobile?
4) What don’t you like about your mobile?
5) Either What do you wish you knew how to do on your mobile or what do you wish your phone did differently?
This idea has evolved and as of this evening, I formally announce the launch of Mobilefor.Us: Cell Phones for the Rest of Us.
Mobilefor.Us will be an online space that will seek to inform, share, and disseminate knowledge and confidence in using one’s mobile phone regardless if you have the free phone from your carrier with no data plan or if you have the latest & greatest mobile with unlimited data or somewhere in between.
Please come join us at Mobilefor.Us.
Forgive me for last night’s storytelling rant/praise about Over the Air updating of one’s mobile / smartphone. But one point that I would like to pick out from the story’s threading is that of ease of use for the customer.
Many in the mobile and computer technology space complain about how users do not update their computers, mobiles or software thus making it more complex, difficult, and at times more expensive for creators, designers, and developers to provide great experiences (giving the the stink eye to IE6). But we can’t complain if we are part of the problem in making updating difficult or more complex than it needs to be.
Apple has solved the problem of updating by making syncing between one’s iPhone/iPod/iPad as close to automatic as possible when you dock or plug it into your computer. But it creates another problem in that one need’s to have access to a computer to update or sync one’s Apple mobile products and it can also create problems if you don’t want a full sync or update. I have heard quite a few friends complain about both, either not having a regular computer or by syncing unique data on the mobile is wiped out by the sync. Apple makes it very easy but they have control over how the update happens.
Google’s Android has solved the problem by making all their updates to any Android phone happen over the air. As I detailed out last night, Android puts a little notice up in the top tool bar that updates are available, the user can then click on the tool bar and a drop down menu will give one the alerts as to which software and/or firmware has updates available. Google makes updating very easy and gives the user the control on when and how much they want to update.
My complaint of the last four years about Nokia’s Symbian S60 devices and updating is that the updating can only occur when one has the mobile phone attached by USB cable to a Windows PC/laptop. If one does not have access to a PC or one does not wish to find a PC to update one’s mobile, then one goes without. Once one gets a PC of which to conduct the update on, it becomes a multiple step update process that usually includes updating the Nokia Updater software and then updating the phone. Most of the time this takes at least 3-5 times longer than an Apple or Android update. Unnecessary kit, steps, and time just to update.
What was so exciting to me and praiseworthy yesterday was that the Nokia N900 with the Maemo linux-based OS uses the Android model of OTA (Over the Air) updates. The user clicks on the alert in the top tool bar, one chooses the updates that one wants to have updated, and as long as one has data connection it will update. As stated last night, this whole process for a major firmware update took less than 10 minutes. It was truly efficient.
From the user experience perspective, we as creators, designers, and developers cannot assume what the user will have for ‘kit’ or a computer to update with and what access to connection they will have. Thus I suggest the following for updating of software and firmware on mobile phones and computers:
1) Let the device that needs to be updated be the only device involved. If a mobile, don’t force the user to find a computer to conduct the update.
2) Make the available updates be readily noticeable to the user on the front or home screen of the device.
3) Allow whatever connection is most convenient for the user to do the updating. If wifi, then let the wifi do the job. If data connection through a mobile carrier, then let the sim chip do the job. Don’t force it to be through the mobile carrier as some folks have very spotty 2G& 3G connections. Don’t let the user fear that a spotty connection will brick the device. Conversely, if it doesn’t work for the user to do the update only through a mobile connection, then give them steps to get around this.
4) Allow the user to choose how little or how much they want to update. If a major firmware update, then say so in plain language, not the internal language of your company or specialty.
By taking these four steps we can encourage users to update and make the update painless. Painless updates that just work make for a good user experience, excitement for new features or bug fixes, and in the end for brand affection and loyalty.
The ability to update one’s mobile phone / device is an excellent service that a handset manufacturer or operating system can offer a customer as it not only extends the life of the mobile but it also expands and builds on the array of services and software available on the mobile.
One of the big enticements for me to consistently choose Nokia mobile phones over other manufacturers has been the high quality cameras, the great hardware, and the software/OS updates that are available for your mobile even a year or two after purchase.
Only one not so small, not so wee problem…
Up until the last year, all of the updates have only been available for Nokia customers with access to a PC / Microsoft Windows based computers, as one would have to use a Windows machine to update the Nokia in question.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if you are a Nokia Nseries owner in the US, you are possibly not a PC owner. If you prefer to buy hard to find, high end, well designed hardware, then you have been mostly buying Apple for years and used to paying extra premium for great devices. If you are a Nokia Nseries owner in the US, you may be a creative surrounded by other creatives with Macs, not PCs. And on top of all of that, the PC owners around you might be the sort who don’t own or ever run anti-virus and so you wouldn’t want to hook your precious, expensive Noka up to their virii-addled PCs even for an update that will take 45 minutes to set up.
On top of hunting down a PC to update one’s Nokia, there is the added irritation that every time one wants to update on a borrowed or ancient PC, the Nokia Updater software on the PC wants to be updated itself. And given that the lame computer in question is a Windows machine it means a lengthy download, a restart of the machine, plug your Nokia back in via USB cable and START ALL OVER AGAIN. SO ANNOYING.
Can I type it again? SO ANNOYING.
30-45 minutes to just get one f*ing update. UGH.
I have gotten some requests from a few web designers and developers on what are the best approaches for mobile forms.
But you argue, “Jen, I am designing for smart phones with good webkit/gecko browsers, so I don’t need to worry.”
Yes, you do, as you can’t guarantee on the mobile web what phone, be it smart or feature phone, what browser, and what screen size will come to visit your mobile or web site and may want to fill out a contact form or purchase something.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Luke W, the king of forms, on mobile forms:
Web Form Innovations on Mobile Devices
Better Mobile Form Design
Forms On Mobile Devices: Modern Solutions
Linda Bustos at Get Elastic on Mobile Commerce Usability: Forms and Checkout
Chris Mills in ThinkVitamin on Coding for the mobile web
WestCiv’s Complete CSS Guide, The Mobile Profile
If you like the Details & Standards and a different point of view from Luke W, don’t miss:
Luca Passini’s Global Authoring Practices for the Mobile Web, under point 3.2 Usability Luca argues that one should Beware of HTML style forms and has a different approach to Managing User Input.
Finally, the W3C recommendation on Mobile User Input
Back in April, Cindy Li & I spoke at the UX Summit on Mobile UX (aka Mobile User Experience), a subject very near & dear to me. Cindy took the first bit of the slides and concentrated on her experience in mobile app design as well as mobile web, I took the second part of the slides and focused on the principles of Mobile UX and the concepts that we need to be thinking about as we start design a mobile app or mobile web site/app.
It was surprisingly fun to sit at Cindy’s and have us both get to speak into her MacBook Pro and have the magic of Adobe Connect (or something like it) project our slides, our video and the chat area of the attendees from all over the world on one computer screen. By seeing the chat as we spoke, we were able to answer questions as they were asked or reasonably soon thereafter. Later on Twitter, we received quite a few thank yous.
Now in return, Cindy & I present to you all our slides on Mobile UX. Enjoy. And thank you!
Yes, I have a few blog posts about the Ethics of Leaks, the just announced delicious Nokia N8, and my thoughts on Resources for Developing Mobile Apps, but these three blog posts may have to wait for the weekend, as I have been a bit buried in work.
In the meantime, may I direct you to a few good | interesting links:
52 Weeks of UX on Simplicity isn’t that Simple:
“John Maeda’s First Law of Simplicity states: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. Refinement that is thoughtful, calculated, and whenever possible and appropriate, based on data is one of the fundamental tools of any designer.”
Jan Chipchase, the master of many travels and more than a few international relocations gives some of his tried & true tips on 10 Tips for International Relocation, of which I find #8 to be my experience as it was darned difficult to get a bank account set up in Ireland when I lived there in 2005-2006:
“8. Maintain at least one bank account in the country you’re leaving, because frankly its a bitch to open accounts when you’re ‘abroad’ and at some point you. will. need. it. The exception to the its-a-bitch-to-open rule are the premium banking services offered by the larger banks geared up to service international clients – allowing you to set up an account prior to departure and pick up your new, local cards on arrival. (I use and am reasonably happy with HSBC Premier)”
And speaking of travel, the NY Times’ Travel Section on Joys of the Window Seat, a visual feast of photos in a fun, but hard to scroll interface.