“A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”
Martin LeBlanc, Iconfinder
“Don’t waste time reinventing common UI patterns or paradigms unless they are at least 2x better, or you have some critical brand reason to do so.”
At Kiva we’ve been watching our mobile traffic grow year over year to the point where our most recent numbers show us 9% of visitors are viewing our site on a smartphone. Seeing this trend, our development team has been itching to improve the mobile experience on Kiva for a long time, and with our most recent release, we’re excited to let you know we’ve taken the first step towards a mobile optimized site.
“The thing to remember is that UI design is like selling a restaurant, where you can’t just serve up good food in order to run a restaurant. You have to create an environment around the food that gets people in the mood to enjoy a really great meal: presenting the food really nicely, picking the right plates, the lighting on the table, the music that is playing. When you put all that together, it creates a much nicer experience than if you just were to serve up some good food.”
A former top Apple designer
Kudos to the Wikimedia foundation for focusing on the development of a new editor for Wikipedia. During my time at Wikia I stressed the need for a simple editing experience in order to diversify its users and increase contributions. Wikipedia has become the central repository for information in the digital age but it suffers from a small and insular user base among its editors. Today, most contributions to Wikipedia are from white middle-aged males with a college degree, living in a developed country and with a strong technical understanding. This skews both the type of articles that appear on Wikipedia and the perspective which they are written from. The challenge they face is how to expand the demographics of those writing and editing entries. They need to attract more people in developing countries, more woman, and users who are less technically savvy in order to become a true digital encyclopedia representing the the world’s collective knowledge.
Identifying a user’s primary interaction with your website is essential to understanding where to focus a development team’s limited resources. At Google, the search box and corresponding results are so important that the company tests every interaction no matter how minor. During my time at Wikia I continually advocated for the company to focus similar attention on the Rich Text Editor (and source mode) which is used to write, edit, and add images to every article in every wiki. So I’m excited to see that my redesign of the editor has finally made it’s way out of development and onto the site. While this was the last project I worked on at Wikia I always felt it would make the largest impact on the user base.
With our latest project Farmanac, an iPhone app for fruits and vegetables, 2 Out of Three dove headfirst into app development. We spent days reading through Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) and mocking up navigational models and screen flows. For the initial release of Farmanac we kept the feature set and navigation simple by using a basic list view which leads to a detail screen for specific items. But we’ve got a number of features we plan on implementing in subsequent versions that will require a more complex navigational model – which probably means introducing a tab bar. Luckily for us, Petter Silfver recently shared his thoughts concerning the do’s and don’ts of tab bar design in an article titled The iPhone Tab Bar, Lessons From Reality.
Wikia Labs, a new feature introduced by Wikia last week, was one of the most exciting features I designed during my time with the company. If you’re familiar with Gmail Labs you’ll understand how it works. Users (specifically admins) on Wikia can turn features on and off – the set consists of Top Ten Lists, Gallery Exhibitions, and Article Comments. This new ability gives administrators a greater level of control over their own wiki. Additional it provides a limited environment for Wikia to launch new features and gather feedback from users. For Wikia’s devoted user base, change can often be scary and invoke a backlash from the most passionate users comfortable with infrastructure currently in place. Wikia Labs serves as a bridge to acclimate users to new tools and gather feedback to ensure the the company is delivering features that are needed and wanted by the community.
For years Tiger Woods Golf has been the measuring stick to which all sports video games are compared. For 2007 we gave the user interface a new look and feel and enhanced a number of features. A highlight for me in working on Tiger Woods 2007 was the chance to design the gameface user interface which allows players to control facial and body features for their custom characters using the analog sticks on the game systems controllers. This enhancement adds a new level of efficiency within the user interface allowing players to quickly adjust the look of their player.
There are very few projects with the history and pedigree of James Bond – and this was Sean Connery’s James Bond. Artistically the User Interface From Russia with Love had to look like it was from the early 60’s but still have the high production values and modern look of a twenty first century video game. This hybrid look was achieved by integrating classic footage from the original movie along with a retro graphic design for the user interface. In a very short timeframe (11 months) Sean Connery was successfully brought to life in a modern video game.