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Topic: Interaction Design

  • 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.

  • Design Patterns: Faceted Navigation

    by Jeffery Callender, Peter Morville · Issue 304 ·

    Faceted navigation may be the most significant search innovation of the past decade. It features an integrated, incremental search and browse experience that lets users begin with a classic keyword search and then scan a list of results. It also serves up a custom map that provides insights into the content and its organization and offers a variety of useful next steps. In keeping with the principles of progressive disclosure and incremental construction, it lets users formulate the equivalent of a sophisticated Boolean query by taking a series of small, simple steps. Learn how it works, why it has become ubiquitous in e-commerce, and why it’s not for every site.

  • Flash and Standards: The Cold War of the Web

    by Dan Mall · Issue 302 ·

    You’ve probably heard that Apple recently announced the iPad. The absence of Flash Player on the device seems to have awakened the HTML5 vs. Flash debate. Apparently, it’s the final nail in the coffin for Flash. Either that, or the HTML5 community is overhyping its still nascent markup language update. The arguments run wide, strong, and legitimate on both sides. Yet both sides might also be wrong. Designer/developer Dan Mall is equally adept at web standards and Flash; what matters, he says, isn't technology, but people.

  • Accent Folding for Auto-Complete

    by Carlos Bueno · Issue 301 ·

    Another generation of technology has passed and Unicode support is almost everywhere. The next step is to write software that is not just "internationalized" but truly multilingual. In this article we will skip through a bit of history and theory, then illustrate a neat hack called accent-folding. Accent-folding has its limitations but it can help make some important yet overlooked user interactions work better.

  • Can You Say That in English? Explaining UX Research to Clients

    by David Sherwin · Issue 295 ·

    It's hard for clients to understand the true value of user experience research. As much as you'd like to tell your clients to go read The Elements of User Experience and call you back when they're done, that won't cut it in a professional services environment. David Sherwin creates a cheat sheet to help you pitch UX research using plain, client-friendly language that focuses on the business value of each exercise.

  • Inline Validation in Web Forms

    by Luke Wroblewski · Issue 291 ·

    Web forms don’t have to be irritating, and your inline validation choices don't have to be based on wild guesses. In his examination of inline form validation options, Luke Wroblewski offers that rarest of beasts: actual data about which things make people smile and which make them want to stab your website with a fork.

  • Visual Decision Making

    by Patrick Lynch · Issue 286 ·

    If it takes only 50 milliseconds for users to form an aesthetic opinion of your site’s credibility and trustworthiness, are designers who create visually compelling sites simply wasting time and treasure on graphic indulgences? Patrick Lynch doesn't think so.

  • Taking the Guesswork Out of Design

    by Daniel Ritzenthaler · Issue 283 ·

    Clients, like other humans, often fear what they don't understand. Daniel Ritzenthaler explains how sound goal-setting, documentation, and communication strategies can bridge the gap between a designer's intuition and a client's need for proof.

  • The Elegance of Imperfection

    by David Sherwin · Issue 280 ·

    Asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, modesty, intimacy, and the suggestion of a natural process: these attributes of elegant design may seem relevant only to a project's aesthetics. But the most successful web designs reflect these considerations at every stage, from idea to finished product. Bring heart to the experiences you create by infusing them with intelligence that transcends aesthetics and reflects the imperfection of the natural world.

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