The Mobile Frontier

Rachel Hinman The Mobile Frontier p40-55

Design for distraction OR addiction

Hinman’s chapter definitely reminds us that there could be various mobile contexts compared to static context. Mobile contexts could be less immersive, could be on-the-go, and could be anywhere and everywhere like the author said. But the author seemed to focus too much on the dynamic side of the mobile context. I agree that many mobile contexts are highly dynamic where we should design for partial attention and interruption. However, mobile could also be in a highly focus context such as at night before sleep, when you talk to an AI counselor on your phone, in this case, design for partial attention may not apply well.

Behavior doesn’t happen in isolation, how to shape our daily experiences requires a deep understanding of users and context. Mobile contexts are different from static contexts as it has a way larger range of different situations. What I really liked in the article is developing empathy for context, understanding the need, then we can isolate the problem and define behaviors in react to context, and finally design the interactions.

The Mobile frontier age 19-27


Since 1968 when Douglas Engelbart developed the first GUI (NLS) in the world, science and technology have made a huge step, but the basic understanding of interfaces has remained at the same level. The idea of a natural user interface is not new and now, as technologies have become more affordable, it’s the opportunity for designers and developers to implement more. While the seamless experience brought by NUI due to the removal of barriers between human and devices creates more joy and fun, there are also some fundamental design principles we should consider more. As Don Norman pointed out (a couple years ago), ‘because gestures are ephemeral, and they do not leave behind any record of their path, there’s less information to help understand why’. As humans, we appreciate this seamlessness, but as designers, without traditional interactions such as buttons and switches, how we can leverage the use of ergonomic to design better interactions is open to exploration.

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The history of UI

from <The Mobile Frontier> by Rachel Hinman

Conceptual Blockbusting

James L. Adams Perceptual Blocks (Chapter two from Conceptual Blockbusting - A guide to better ideas)

This chapter talks several types of common perceptual blocks that people may have which prevent problem-solving and creativity.

Stereotyping: it can be a serious handicap to perceiving new combinations. How to prevent it? How could we reset our mindsets to forget our default assumption? Also, Context is a key element for many memory techniques. Difficulty in isolating the problem: when we’re lost, think about whether there’s enough context for us to figure out the problem. Find a way to isolate the problem. The tendency to delimit the problem area poorly: don’t forget to zoom in and out and think about the problem from different scales/levels. Inability to see the problem from various viewpoints: this also reminds me of ‘you’re not the user’. Do we think from other viewpoints, have we jumped out of the box and thought of the problem in a different angle? Saturation: do we pay enough attention to data/information which is supposed to be captured but easily ignored? Failure to Utilize all sensory inputs: are all sensory channels being used? How should we engage all sensory inputs to support problem-solving?

The chapter intuitively illustrated these perceptual blocks that we all have using examples/illustrations and exercises. It’s an incredible chapter in the way that it reminds us we have these perceptual blocks for problem-solving and creativity that we might always have been ignoring. As designers, we should put an effort and be mindful to avoid these blocks.


How to Storyboard Experiences

It was so fascinating to see how Apple use the videos as the storyboard to convey the idea/concept of ApplePay - it's direct, intuitive and serves as a great medium for communication between the designers and users. Another thing I found storyboard to be powerful is It could also provide the context so that the users could easily picture how to use the designed product within context.

Adaptive vs. Responsive Design

Adaptive vs. Responsive Design

Let the Device Do the Work

Responsive Design, Adaptive Design, and their relationship with Visual Hierarchy

Like the quote says - 'content is like water', water flows perfectly whatever container it's put. A good website design could fit well on different sizes of screens, different mediums, etc, just like water. Adaptive design identifies the device and other features to ensure the appropriate structures communicate correctly with the layout. While responsive design works on the principle of flexibility, one Website that will work seamlessly across any device. However, whether it's responsive design or adaptive design, the structure of the layout or the flexibility is never the end goal. The visual hierarchy is always the key consideration of how to design to display content. Through understanding the context of the use of the devices, displaying the most relevant information and maintaining the visual hierarchy should always be the main goal driving either responsive design or adaptive design.   

Guerrilla Research

The Pros and Cons of Guerrilla Research for Your UX Project

How to Fit UX Research into Any Timeframe

Popular Guerrilla UX Research Methods

Reading these articles, guerrilla research seems a very fast, cheap methods, but it also has many cons. It could be reliable if planned rigorously, while if not, it might be misleading. I haven't done much guerrilla research before actually, but I did have many times of experience on the streets that someone else doing guerrilla research and asked me to answer questions. Recalling those experiences, I would say that often I felt it's might be a fraud or something, and the answers I provided are not always very well thought out. That led me to think how we could phrase the opening of the conversation to build trust and lead people to provide more valuable answers. In the article 'getting started with popular guerrilla UX research methods', It recommended 'running another study to see if you get the same results', which I think is also very important - Be optimistic when conducting guerrilla research, while meantime we should also think a bit from the other side and be a bit skeptical.

Visualize This

Nathan Yau Visualize This

With the growing amount of data available to us today, data visualization is becoming more and more important. However, how to create graphics that really means something? To me, figuring out what do you want to know about the data is very important. Let the questions help us decide where to start exploring - e.g. search for trends, patterns, and differences across space and time. Designing with the purpose, considering the audiences and keeping it readable are the most critical part to tell a clear and interesting story.

Persona Non Grata

Steve Portigal Persona Non Grata

In this article, Steve Portugal made the point that personas could be harmful to design. I tend to agree as persona are arbitrarily created by designers which sometimes are for the purpose of supporting the designer’s argument. To me, it’s more of a form rather than an actual in-depth analysis of the fundamental needs/problems when designing a product or a service. Maybe personas should be used more in the storytelling stage rather than in the earlier analyzing stage.

Effective Information Dashboards

Four Cognitive Design Guidelines for Effective Information Dashboards

I like the article a lot because as emphasized as one of the cognitive design guidelines, the article itself is simple to understand, easy to follow and I didn’t feel much cognitive load while reading. The four design guidelines of data visualization are very well explained. I really like the sentence ‘information dashboards aim to augment human cognitive abilities and aid in decision-making’ - data visualization should be easy and quick to read and grasp the most important information rather than how fancy and complicated the graphics look. Dashboards should minimize cognitive load since we all have limited memory capacity, different designs of dashboards displaying the same information could have quite different readability and as a result, it impacts how effectively the user could grasp the gist.

The Origin Of Personas

Alan Cooper The Origin Of Personas

The article talks about how personas were originally developed by Alan Cooper as a way to empathize with and internalize the mindset of people who would eventually use the software he was designing. It's interesting that from the reading, I learned that as Alan Cooper moved from creating software himself to consulting, he quickly discovered the way to help clients see the world from his perspective, which was informed by a sample set of intended users. While I haven't had enough experiences using a persona as an interaction design tool, I think it's also important to think about the how a user would think while creating personas. Meantime, I'm also very interested in learning/seeing how a professional level use of persona as a tool look like. 

Designing with All the Data

Designing with All the Data from <Data Informed Product Design>

This chapter reminds me of another book <the moment of clarity>, by Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen, which also covers thick data, ethnographic and the case of Lego.

Different from big data, thick data and ethnographic are more about sense-making to me. The process of observing, documenting, and analyzing behaviors plays an important role in the process. The case of how Lego turned around is a good example of how to use sense-making and thick data to analyze human behaviors. By reframing the question from “what toys do kids want?” to “What is the role of play?”, Lego successfully went out of the fog and successfully turned around. 

I think there’s a generic method behind this: if you start by framing your question as a phenomenon, then you dig into how people really are, how they really live and get a thick understand of that. And then you find the patterns of that - And then you frame that as an idea that you can create impact for your product.

The Problem with Doors

The Problem with Doors from <Design of Everyday Things>

I think these days the word 'norman door' has become more and more familiar to the public - thanks to the human-centered design revolution Don Norman sparked.

But, on the other hand, have people thought about why there're so many Norman doors around? It relates me to think one of the chapters in Don Norman's 'the design of everyday things' - which talks about it's not users fault, it's the designers' fault. I think it has to with the fact that people are not critical enough when they encounter those doors, as mentioned in his book. They always feel it's their own faults, rather than the design of the things. People, we design the artificial world for ourselves, and we should be more critical to make things better rather than adapting ourselves to bad designs.


Konrad Bauman Chapter 7 Controls from <User Interface Design for Electronic Appliances>

This chapter talked about many different types of controls. From traditional mechanical switch controls to touchscreen controls. And to design, each type of switches have its own features to be considered. There're so many factors mentioned in the chapter which I haven't thought about before, such as eye-hand coordination, resolution, comfortableness, etc, which are inspiring. I guess these are all reasons for Bauman to write extensively on controls. 

Visual feedback if another key point mentioned. It provided the necessary visual information on button status, which I always think of as an important part of the user experience. Good feedback is subtle and non-distracting, it neither takes too much cognitive load nor too hard to tell. It's been more important these days b/c more and more buttons we encounter are on touchscreens, which has simplers haptic features but requires more visual feedback.

"But how, Donald, tell us how?"

But how, Donald, tell us how?

The authors of this article seemed to diminish the important of affordances, which is a feature inviting users to use a certain product, and point out feedforward and feedback are the two most important criteria. I agree with that when designing a product, usability is totally important and more important, I think the article made a good point about aesthetically appealing is another key feature of a well-designed product. I'm interested in how to balance between aesthetics and usability when there's a conflict between the two.

Tangible Prototyping

Neil Gershenfeld How to Make Almost Anything: The Digital Fabrication Revolution 

Buxton Sketching User Experiences Getting the Design Right and the Right Design

Stories of Methods and Madness - Chapter 31 'Sketch-a-move' gives us a good example of how we could rapidly nail down some of the key features when designing within limited time and resources. Out of curiosity, I watched the original concept video:

Although there are some debates on the concept and it seems a bit dumb at first, I started to realize as I was watching the video the power the concept could actually help to foster creativity and possibility that people wouldn’t expect from a ‘well-defined’ commercial toy car. It opened a space for new and interesting possibilities of explorations, which to me is appealing.

Information Architecture

Information Anxiety by Richard Saul Wurman

Understanding Information Architecture by Peter Morville

We’re living in a data world - all information is ‘data’. The internet produces massive data and it’s overwhelming. Processing information plays an important role in our daily routine to interact with modern life. Wurman’s idea of filtering data into a form which could make things understandable definitely makes sense to me. However, the world is changing so fast and to impose an order over rapidly changing data seems tricky - what’s you have today may not exist tomorrow - the rule you’re creating today may not apply to the data generated tomorrow. So here comes the question: how do IAs handle this conflict between the massive rapidly changing world and the rigid/organized order?

Rob Roy Kelly to an external site.

What impressed me a lot in this mini color course is the way and steps how Rob Kelly instructed - it promotes experiential learning. ‘Craft is critical’ seems to be a very important point in the mini course, the searching process itself to be more important to learning than the end results.

What I appreciate most about the mini course instructions is the emphasis on the relativity of color - color interaction, boundaries, how much to how much, visual mixture -  to me all of this exercises are about the relativity of color, which is fascinating and inspiring. Color does not exist by itself, it’s a perception of how our eyes interpret light of different wavelengths. And since hue and saturation do influence perceived value, we can use this to fudge the colors - for instance, if one color isn’t quite working for the context of a piece, but the value should stay, we could make the offending color a little darker and less saturated or lighter and more saturated, etc. Also, we should not think in terms of visual symbology - the sky isn’t always blue, the grass isn’t always green. Think about what you see and not what you think you should see.


Are Grid Systems Still Relevant in Digital Product Design?

Josef Muller-Brockman

The readings remind me of the Golden Spiral ( (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.), a distinctive feature of which is when a square section is removed, the remainder is another golden rectangle with the same aspect ratio. Square removal can be repeated infinitely. Nowadays, digital devices have so many different sizes, screen resolutions, pixel densities and reading distances, etc. Designers are not able to predict when and how the design will be presented at the point of the design. A key point then for responsive design is flexibility. An ideal grid set-up is more like the golden spiral, flexible, organized and aesthetic when displayed across different devices - that is ‘Grids should be responsive by nature.’


Ellen Lupton Thinking with Type

Ellen Lupton Type on Screen

Typography seems like a very trivia part, but it matters a lot in design. Designer, editor or developer all should think about it - it's a crucial part of the design, but ironically, it is usually not well thought out. We can have a brilliant design on our websites or nice images, but if typography sucks, it'll fail the expression. The visual hierarchy, the grid, the contrast, the whitespace, the font choice and font size etc - all of the typographic elements affect the design on both the micro and macro level.

The way we construct the grid, the fonts we choose, the way we arrange letters- it all gives a certain character to the design. Typography lets us create a certain atmosphere and have a personality. Typography also determines readability - only if your text is readable that your content can be delivered to your goal audience. Treat typography as much as images or illustration b/c it is the essential part of communicating.