Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Mindfulness" VS "Sunk Costs"

At first glance, the idea of meditating to ground yourself in the present, to view things in terms of  'here-and-now', has little to do with design or usability.

But consider that design is about making decisions.

Your ability to make good decisions is affected by the extent to which you feel an obligation to stick with a course of action that you've already invested time and resources in.

This doesn't mean you should change course whenever things get difficult, but consider your motivation when you feel the need to continue on with something that isn't working.  There is a real difference between having reason to believe things will improve and being stubborn because of the investment you've already made.

The previous investment -- the "sunk costs" --  is less valid than your present understanding of the situation.

Momentum and inertia both refer to movement. You want the positive trait of momentum. You don't want the negative trait of inertia.

This post came out of a piece I read from from  UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center:

Can Mindfulness Improve Decision Making?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"When you do it right, it's like you did nothing at all"

I was commenting on a recent training workshop (systems thinking for medical school deans. No, I'm not one), and my point was that the expert running the session had done such a smooth job that it felt like he hadn't taught us anything, but had felt instead as if we'd been talking about ideas we all knew well and were part of our everyday internal dialog.

It struck me that it's the same sensation as when you hear a new song that feels like you've known it forever. Or see a movie, artwork, etc., that already seems like it's yours.

When it's done just that well the audience doesn't have to get comfortable with it, they're already comfortable.

With good design (good teaching, good art) the audience feels like the material has always been a part of their world.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Usability of Usability Infographics

For anything to be usable (not the same as useful, but not unrelated) it has to be fairly easy. Your reception of it should be natural and intuitive. Any barrier to your easy acceptance will slow or stop your interaction with the content.

And (despite years of hearing 'content is king') that means the use case is as important as the nature of the content when making design decisions.

Infographics aim to tell you or teach you or make you think about something in an easy, natural way. You just look at a picture, instead of reading or listening or working through problems or pages.

This is a nice "hundred years of usability" piece from people that know a lot about the subject. I only have one issue with it. It's horizontal.  Which works if you're getting it as a physical poster (and they have a link to purchase one). And I think the physical poster  would be a great addition to office space or a classroom.

Horizontal infographic from

 But to view it onscreen a vertical orientation works better. That goes for any screen -- landscape or portrait, you would still move through it in an up - down path more naturally.  We expect to scroll down, but scrolling sideways is more of an effort.

Here's one (similar style, from the same site) that works better onscreen.  Because it's vertical.

Vertical infographic from

What's my point? 

Usability starts with a use case. If your user is being encouraged to hang something on his wall, that suggests one way to design the product. If the expectation is that they'll view it on a monitor or phone or tablet - that's another.

Content may well be king, but the use case is the power behind the throne.