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Topic: Interaction Design

  • The Flirty Medium

    by Derek Powazek ·

    Our brave new digital world allows us the freedom to flirt safely, but that’s both good and bad. In this special Valentine’s Day edition of Fertile Medium, we explore online flirting from two different perspectives.

  • Your Website has Two Faces

    by Lyle Mullican · Issue 369 ·

    Your website must serve human and robot masters. An interface that reflects too much of a system’s internals will confuse human users; but if data doesn’t conform to a specific structure, it’s likely to confuse the machines that need to use it. How can your designs serve these very different masters? Jon Postel's Robustness Principle, although usually applied to low-level protocols like TCP, offers a clue to designing experiences that meet human and machine needs with equal grace. Lyle Mullican explains.

  • Environmental Design with the Device API

    by Tim Wright · Issue 369 ·

    Real-world factors like low batteries and weak signal strength can turn even the most expertly crafted digital experience into a frustrating clustercuss. These factors are beyond your control, and, until recently, there was nothing you could do about them. Now there just may be. Tim Wright explains how to begin improving your users’ experiences under constantly shifting (and sometimes quite dreadful) conditions, via environmental design thinking and the Device API.

  • Looking Beyond User-Centered Design

    by Cennydd Bowles ·

    User-centered design has served the digital community well. So well, in fact, that I'm worried its dominance may actually be limiting our field. The terms “user experience design” (UX) and “user-centered design” (UCD) are often used interchangeably. But there's an important distinction.

  • The Infinite Grid

    by Chris Armstrong · Issue 363 ·

    Grid systems are a key component of graphic design, but they’ve always been designed for canvases with fixed dimensions. Until now. Today you’re designing for a medium that has no fixed dimensions, a medium that can and will shape-shift to better suit its environment—a medium capable of displaying a single layout on a smartphone, a billboard in Times Square, and everything in between. You’re designing for an infinite canvas—and for that, you need an infinite grid system. Discover techniques and guidelines that can help bring structure to your content whatever the screen size.

  • Mo’ Pixels Mo’ Problems

    by Dave Rupert · Issue 362 ·

    Mobile devices are shipping with higher and higher PPI, and desktops and laptops are following the trend as well. There’s no avoiding it: High-pixel-density, or “Retina,” displays are now becoming mainstream—and, as you’d expect, our websites are beginning to look a little fuzzy in their backlit glory. But before we go off in the knee-jerk direction of supersizing all our sites, we must identify the problems ahead and figure out the most responsible way forward—keeping our users in mind first and foremost.

  • Everything in its Right Pace

    by Hannah Donovan · Issue 358 ·

    The real-time web started as something we did because we could. Technological advancements like more efficient ways to retrieve large amounts of data, the cloud, and the little computers we now carry around in our pockets made it just a really sexy problem to solve. Successful experiments turned into trends, and those trends are now becoming unquestioned convention. But does the always-on, pull-to-refresh design of Twitter and Facebook make sense your product? Hannah Donovan explores whether real time is the right choice—and how we can instead consider pace.

  • Responsive Images: How they Almost Worked and What We Need

    by Mat Marquis · Issue 343 ·

    With a mobile-first responsive design approach, if any part of the process breaks down, your user can still receive a representative image and avoid an unnecessarily large request on a device that may have limited bandwidth. But with several newer browsers implementing an "image prefetching" feature that allows images to be fetched before parsing the document's body, some of the web's brightest developers are abandoning responsive images in favor of user agent detection, at least as a temporary solution. For us standardistas, UA detection leaves a bad taste in the mouth. More importantly, as the number and kinds of devices continue to grow, UA detection will quickly become untenable—just as browser detection did back in the bad old days before web standards. What's really needed, argues Mat Marquis, is a new markup element that works the way the HTML5 video element works. Sound crazy? So crazy it just might work.

  • A Pixel Identity Crisis

    by Scott Kellum · Issue 342 ·

    The pixel has long been the atomic particle of screen based design: a knowable, concrete unit of measurement. But layouts based on the hardware pixel are fast becoming an endangered species. Even the introduction of a new, W3C standard reference pixel, although it promises stability in the long-term, can't help us navigate the current chaos. Consider the two "standard" pixel definitions and 500 "standard" viewports your user's Android device may support. To create designs that transcend platform differences, the promise of the web and standards, you must normalize pixels across devices. Scott Kellum shows how math and media queries can keep you sane and help you design consistently across platforms.

  • Expanding Text Areas Made Elegant

    by Neil Jenkins · Issue 338 ·

    An expanding text area is a multi-line text input field that expands in height to fit its contents. Commonly found in both desktop and mobile applications, such as the SMS composition field on the iPhone, it’s a good choice when you don’t know how much text the user will write and you want to keep the layout compact; as such, it’s especially useful on interfaces targeted at smartphones. Yet despite the ubiquity of this control, there’s no way to create it using only HTML and CSS, and most JavaScript solutions have suffered from guesswork, inaccuracy, or a lack of elegance "¦ until now.

  • Dark Patterns: Deception vs. Honesty in UI Design

    by Harry Brignull · Issue 338 ·

    Deception is entwined with life on this planet. Insects deceive, animals deceive, and of course, we human beings use deception to manipulate, control, and profit from each other. It’s no surprise, then, that deception appears in web user interfaces; what is surprising is how little we talk about it. All the guidelines, principles, and methods ethical designers employ to design usable websites can be subverted to benefit business owners at the expense of users. Study the dark side so you can take a stand against unethical web design practices and banish them from your work.

  • Organizing Mobile

    by Luke Wroblewski · Issue 337 ·

    When organizing content and actions on mobile, solid information architecture principles like clear labeling, balanced breadth and depth, and appropriate mental models remain important. But the organization of mobile web experiences must also align with how people use their mobile devices and why; emphasize content over navigation; provide relevant options for exploration and pivoting; maintain clarity and focus; and align with mobile behaviors. In this exclusive excerpt from his new book, Mobile First!, Luke Wroblewski explains how to do all that.

  • Designing Fun

    by Debra Levin Gelman · Issue 332 ·

    How do you define fun on the web? Fun means different things to different people. Debra Levin Gelman says that to create fun, we need to allow users to create, play, and explore. Learn how to help your client define fun, rank its importance on their site, and user test it to create a delightful experience, regardless of whether you're designing for suits and ties or the sandbox crowd.

  • Designing Web Registration Processes for Kids

    by Debra Levin Gelman · Issue 323 ·

    Designing websites for kids is a fascinating, challenging, rewarding, and exasperating experience: You’re trying to create a digital experience for people who lack the cognitive capacity to understand abstraction; to establish brand loyalty with people who are influenced almost exclusively by their peers; and to communicate subjective value propositions to people who can only see things in black-and-white. Fortunately, it’s possible to create a successful registration process for these folks with an understanding of how their brains work. Debra Levin Gelman explores how to design effective registration forms for kids based on their context, technical skills, and cognitive capabilities.

  • Smartphone Browser Landscape

    by Peter-Paul Koch · Issue 320 ·

    Users expect websites to work on their mobile phones. In two to three years, mobile support will become standard for any site. Web developers must add mobile web development to their skill set or risk losing clients. How do you make websites mobile compatible? The simple answer is to test on all mobile devices and fix any problems you encounter. But with at least ten operating systems and fifteen browsers out there, it is impossible to do that. Nor can we test only in iPhone and Android and expect to serve our market. PPK surveys the mobile web market, as well as phone platforms and their browsers, and shows how to set up a mobile test bed that works.

  • Understanding CSS3 Transitions

    by Dan Cederholm · Issue 318 ·

    From advanced selectors to generated content to the triumphant return of web fonts, and from gradients, shadows, and rounded corners to full-blown animations, CSS3 is a universe of creative possibilities. No one can better guide you through these galaxies than world-renowned designer, author, and CSS superstar Dan Cederholm of SimpleBits and Dribbble fame. We are delighted to present an excerpt from his new book (and the second publication from A Book Apart), CSS3 For Web Designers.

  • Testing Accordion Forms

    by Luke Wroblewski · Issue 314 ·

    Web forms let people complete important tasks on your site; web form design details can have a big impact on how successful, efficient, and happy with the process they are—especially details like form length. Enter accordion forms, which dynamically hide and reveal sections of related questions as people complete the form, allowing them to focus on what matters and finish quickly. How do your smallest design decisions affect completion speed? Which design choices make these innovative forms feel familiar and easy? Which choices make them feel foreign and complex, leading people to make errors?

  • Good Help is Hard to Find

    by Lyle Mullican · Issue 312 ·

    Help content gets no respect. For one thing, it is content, and our horse-before-cart industry is only now beginning to seriously tackle content strategy. For another, we assume that our site is so usable, nobody will ever need the help content anyway. Typically, no one is in charge of the help content and no strategy exists to keep it up to date. On most sites, help content is hard to find, poorly written, blames the user, and turns a mildly frustrating experience into a lousy one. It's time to rethink how we approach this part of our site. Done well, help content offers tremendous potential to earn customer loyalty. By learning to plan for and create useful help content, we can turn frustrated users into our company's biggest fans.

  • Quick and Dirty Remote User Testing

    by Nate Bolt · Issue 306 ·

    User research doesn’t have to be expensive and time-consuming. With online applications, you can test your designs, wireframes, and prototypes over the phone and your computer with ease and aplomb. Nate Bolt shows the way.

  • Responsive Web Design

    by Ethan Marcotte · Issue 306 ·

    Designers have coveted print for its precision layouts, lamenting the varying user contexts on the web that compromise their designs. Ethan Marcotte advocates we shift our design thinking to appropriate these constraints: using fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries, he shows us how to embrace the “ebb and flow of things” with responsive web design.

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