Jordan Moore of Smashing Magazine wrote a nice piece on Responsible Considerations For Responsive Web Design, discussing upcoming additions to CSS Media Queries including: pointer sensitivity (touch / cursor), environmental light levels and bandwidth.
He touched on the idea of adjusting page design to time of day; reducing contrast in the evening when the page is more likely to be viewed in dim light or providing a night theme (see bobulate.com), whilst acknowledging the importance of not making assumptions about the context of viewing based on just one factor. The luminosity media query could measure ambient light and make better assumptions about context of use than just time alone, but the idea of time in relation to site usability and branding.
Some sites such as newspapers, blogs and the like would benefit from this: you can imagine reading in bed or on the sofa and how this would enhance the experience. Other sites need to either preserve a consistent brand at all times of day, or would otherwise benefit from projecting a single mood linked closely to a time of day, even if it’s not the same as your current environment. Shops may wish to appear open 24/7 and casinos would want to give the impression of evening at all times of the day.
When visiting a site on the other side of the world, should you expect to see it in daytime when it is your day, or showing the time of day where they are? For businesses that are only open during daylight hours it may be beneficial to appear closed for business when there’s no-one in the office. This is the feeling given by sagmeisterwalsh.com which shows a live feed of their office; looking busy during the day and deserted at night.
Some notes from the Interaction Design Redux series of presentations put on last night by the IxDA summarising the Interaction13 conference in Toronto.
After Responsive Design
Johnathan Rez talked about the idea of adaptive design where – rather than just layout adapting to page size, as with responsive design – content adapts to users and the context of use. Information architecture then goes from a top down approach, where users have to drill down through menus to find what they are looking for, to more intelligently filtered content that learns user preferences and guides them through suitable content.
Flexible interactions anticipate change and familiarise their self with the user as the interface learns. An adaptive interface then provides immediacy and intimacy.
The importance of the difference between something that is modified by the user and that which responds to altered contexts.
Death of User Centred Design
Startups in particular are dropping the emphasis on up-front design research in favour of launching code, measuring feedback and iterating. This isn’t to say that UCD doesn’t have its place in designing well considered products, but other methods can also be used effectively and when time and budget are a consideration, it can be more effective. In agencies, where a product is handed over in its complete form and the option to iterate using live data isn’t an option, UCD is still king.
Constant or dramatic changes to a product can cause alienation of users – something that seems to happen to Facebook a lot with their emphasis on pushing code. Changes that risk breaking existing mental models should be treated more carefully, being validated before implementation.
Lean startups are good at having intimate conversations with their users and creating deeper empathy through small-scale research.
Focus makes startups special: define one problem and do it well. This focus might shift as a product evolves.
Designers at startups are required to be multi-skilled, taking on UX, IxD and development roles.
Applications like Foursquare have great interfaces because they manage to convey a consistent tone of voice through iconography and micro-copy – very important given the small space of the mobile screen.
Community managers are important in listening to customer feedback and requirements, and being product evangelists.
Davide Casali mentioned the idea of Minimum Viable Intervention – delivering the product with the minimum of infrastructure. The term was used in relation to SMS-based solutions for teaching over schemes like the One Laptop Per Child, which requires considerable infrastructure. This is true of any service though, with the act of downloading apps acting as a barrier to entry. Web apps or content that interacts with existing services like Google Now can provide more immediate access.