People use their mobile devices everywhere: on the train, while waiting in line, sitting on the couch. As much as we aim to design our mobile apps and websites for contextual use, testing their usability in context can be challenging.
While getting out in the field for user testing is not always realistic, simulating much of that contextual experience in a lab is possible. One approach to mobile testing is participatory design.
Many people know that Fireworks is a great tool for web design, prototyping and UI design. But what about icon design? Icon design is a very specific skill that overlaps illustration, screen design and, of course, visual design. An icon designer needs to understand lighting, proportions and, most importantly, the context of the icon itself.
The BBC published an interesting article about icon design and skeuomorphism one year ago, titled "What Is Skeuomorphism?" It’s definitely worth reading because it explains why icons often reflect the real world and the thinking behind it.
Similarity and contrast, connection and separation, grouped and ungrouped are all ways to describe the varying sameness and difference between elements. Based on the information they carry, we’ll want some elements to look similar, to indicate that they are related in some way. We’ll also want to show that some elements are different and belong to different groups.
Key to showing both is the visual characteristics of elements and their relationships. If two elements are related in some way, then they should show similar visual characteristics. If the elements are different, then they should look different.
As mobile designers, we have a stark decision to make: do we spend time learning new tools and changing our design processes to create our own transitional interfaces, or are the tools that we've been using good enough? There's an old writing adage that advises writers, whenever possible, to “show, don't tell” when bringing characters to life. The goal is to reveal the story through the character’s experiences instead of the author’s.
When designing mobile products, we share a similar burden. Dammed up inside our heads are creative waterfalls of fresh interactions, transitions, and animations. But how are we supposed to communicate them to our teams, our developers? How do we get them out of our heads? Through a game of charades?
Having addressed the information architecture and the various systems of navigation in the first two articles of this series, the last step is to efficiently simplify the navigation experience — specifically, by carefully designing interaction with the navigation menu.
When designing interaction with any type of navigation menu, we have to consider symbols, target areas, interaction event, layout, levels, functional context. It is possible to design these aspects in different ways. Designers often experiment with new techniques to create a more exciting navigation experience. And looking for new, more engaging solutions is a very good thing.
What is a product manager? What do product managers do all day? Most importantly, why do companies need to hire them? Good questions. Well, the first confusion we have to clear up is what we mean by "product."
In the context of software development, a product is the website, application or online service that users interact with. Depending on the size of the company and its products, a product manager could be responsible for an entire system (such as a mobile app) or part of a system (such as the checkout flow on an e-commerce website across all devices).
The creative process takes a lot of time, and web designers know it. When you factor in feedback from clients, the process takes even longer: numerous emails, revision notes, chats and meetings — that's what it normally takes to find out precisely what the client wants.
Fortunately, today's web provides various solutions to optimize the communication process. The first web services that allow users to report bugs on web pages appeared several years ago. Since then, tools and technologies have emerged to make the process more convenient and user-friendly. Today’s market offers several useful useful products for visual bug-tracking, each with its pros and cons.
To you, modal windows might be a blessing of additional screen real estate, providing a way to deliver contextual information, notifications and other actions relevant to the current screen. On the other hand, modals might feel like a hack that you’ve been forced to commit in order to cram extra content on the screen. These are the extreme ends of the spectrum, and users are caught in the middle. Depending on how a user browses the Internet, modal windows can be downright confusing.
Modals quickly shift visual focus from one part of a website or application to another area of (hopefully related) content. The action is usually not jarring if initiated by the user, but it can be annoying and disorienting if it occurs automatically, as happens with the modal window’s evil cousins, the “nag screen” and the “interstitial.”