Tag Archives: design

Universal Design Problems

Credit: Amy Nguyen

A great slide came across twitter the other day, which rang really true after having a heated conversation with someone at the OpenStack PTG. They were convinced certain API behavior would not be confusing because the users would have carefully read all the API documentation and understood a set of caveats buried in there. They were also astonished by the idea that people (including those in the room) write software against APIs by skimming, smashing bits into a thing, getting one successful response, and shipping it.

The theme of the slide is really Empathy. You have to have empathy for your users. They know much less about your software then you do. And they have a different lived experience so even the way they would approach whatever you put out there might be radically different from what you expected.

The Design Benefits of Sunken Conversation Pits - Core77

In addition to the tripping hazard, this one features a roaring fire waiting at the bottom, as well as a heavy piece of metal suspended directly overhead. I'm not saying there will definitely be an accident, but if there is, you will definitely post it on Vine.

Source: The Design Benefits of Sunken Conversation Pits - Core77

One of my favorite articles on design this year was this incredibly snarky look at conversation pits: a really bizarre fad in upscale homes from the 50s through the 70s.

Python Design Patterns

A friend pointed me to this talk by Brandon Rhodes on python design patterns from PyOhio a couple of years ago.

The talk asks an interesting question: why aren't design patterns seen and talked about in the Python community. He walks through the patterns in Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software one by one, and points out some that are features of the language, some that are used in the standard library, and some that are really applicable. All with some nice small code examples.

The thing that got me thinking though was a comment he makes both at the beginning and end of the talk. The reason you don't see these patterns in Python is because Python developers tend not to write the kind of software where they are needed. They focus on small tools that connect other components, or live within a framework.

I'm a newcomer to the community, been doing Python full time for only a few years on OpenStack. So I can't be sure whether or not it's true. However, I know there are times when I'm surprised by things that I would have expected to be solved already in the language, or incompatibilities that didn't need to be there in the python 2 to 3 transition, and wonder if these come from this community not having a ton of experience with software at large code base size, as well as long duration code bases, and the kinds of deprecation and upgrade guarantees needed there.

Clean Up Your Mess - A Guide to Visual Design for Everyone

If you're like most people, you feel like a baby when it comes to visual design. You sometimes have a vague sense of what you want, but can't articulate it or make it come about. All you can do is point and cry. This guide will help you communicate with conscious skill. It will show you how to create designs that are easy to understand and attractive.Beyond giving you practical tools, I hope this guide inspires you. One of my favorite quotes is, "I open my eyes and I see paradise." What a great gift vision is! What an incredible way to connect to the world around us and to each other. My hope is that this guide will allow you to communicate with more creativity and more control – and that you'll want to learn more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Clean Up Your Mess - A Guide to Visual Design for Everyone

A great design primer. If you learn nothing else from it don't ever center justify text will immediately make everything you do better. Center justification is for people that can't commit. Go hard left or hard right justification and take a stand.

A memory desk

Memory Desk

This Memory Desk is a tool to record all the small items you write down once, but intend to forget tomorrow.

I've come to realize that I'm somewhat obsessed with how we remember the past. This is the latest installment in that series and a more serious attempt at furniture making. There are a hundreds of little things that we don't try to remember every year or even every week. Does the sum of all these tiny parts produce a new narrative on our lives?

1,100 yards of paper will record the lists, the phones numbers you call once, the pixel size of that box on that website, the street name of that business, and the long division you try to remember.

via ANALOG MEMORY DESK - Kirsten Camara.

Extremely cool idea. If I had a place to put one of these, I'd definitely do it. Blueprints available under a creative commons license, so you can build your own.

Smart Home Woes

Gizmodo has a great piece on cheap home automation gone terribly mediocre. It's actually really interesting to realize how often we as humans need to relearn the idea of resiliency, durability, usability and in systems. Home automation is neat, and I've enjoyed playing with parts in it. But if your normal workflow requires a smart phone, you are taking a step backwards. Sadly, most of the solutions out there today head down that path.

A much better approach would be to put smarts directly into existing electrical structures (wall plates, switches), and ensure that all of them had physical manual override. Some of the zwave wall switches out there do that, to the best of my knowledge no one has done that with plugs.

I think a lot of the folks working on these solutions probably need to read The Design of Everyday Things. I promise if you read that, you'll never look at a phone or a wall switch the same way again.

 

Refrigerator Design Challenges

I've been going on a tear this week and converting most of the lighting in our house to LED lighting (I am going to write this up in detail later). There are a lot of reasons to change out bulbs to LEDs, and I'm going to talk about one of them here.

GE Stock Lightbulb

This is the stock light bulb in our GE refrigerator. While a little hard to see, it is stamped with 120V60W on the base. It's an incandescent bulb and sits only a few inches off the top shelf. For reference, the easy bake ovens used a 100W incandescent.

We had noticed that dairy never survived on the top shelf. Eventually we noticed that was because within seconds of the door opening, we've got an oven on our top shelf. This is not really what you want inside a refrigerator.

This has now been replaced with a 7.5W led appliance bulb (effectively one of these, though a different brand I bought in home depot). For reference, I burnt myself removing the old bulb even though the door had only been opened for 15 seconds (that's how fast it gets really hot). With the new bulb there is barely a discernible temperature difference between the top shelf vs. the rest of the fridge.

I do wonder if anyone at GE actually contemplated this issue before the product shipped, or if lighting thermals are the kind of thing that falls through the cracks.

If you have a website, read this book

If you have a website, or have any creative input into a website, this is a book that is a must read. When people come to your website, they are looking for something. And the number one lesson is don't make them think, make it obvious.

Through repeated examples, Krug will show you sites that look nice, but that completely confuse their users, and how he would correct them. You will immediately want to redo your site navigation after reading this. And you'll have a much cleaner overall look once you are done.

Buy this book, read it, and make your little corner of the inter webs a better place.