The Meaning of UX Design

Oliver Reichenstein posted an interesting article on user experience design. It makes the assertion that a user’s experience cannot be determined, but shaped at best (an argument more pointedly expressed in this earlier piece).

It also addresses the question of what constitutes user experience design. Unfortunately it didn’t help much with my own qualms about the definition of user experience design as a discipline, as the article seemingly muddles various disciplines like interaction design, web design and, of course, user experience design.

The more i keep reading about user experience design, the more i get this uneasy feeling that the term itself and the concept it represents have been stretched and warped to a point where they can encompass any kind of design activities and goals whatsoever. It seems to have swallowed graphic design, interface design, interaction design, game design, industrial design, product design and web design as a whole, with a dash of marketing, architecture, psychology, anthropology, sociology, software engineering and cognitive science thrown in for good measure. I’m getting wary of using the term because i’m less and less sure of what it’s supposed to mean aside from some vague, grandiose notion of a hollistic design discipline and it thus seems impossible to me to convey anything meaningful or accurate by using it. In that sense i increasingly subscribe to the tautological definition of UX, which renders the term meaningless:

The design of a product-voluntarily or involuntarily-defines the interaction between human and artefact. Interaction leads to experience. From this point of view, all design is experience design. Used like this, the term “user experience design” doesn’t mean anything.

Every user interface designer needs to be a UX designer. Every web designer needs to be a UX designer. Every industrial designer needs to be a UX designer. Every graphic designer needs to be a UX designer. Every architect needs to be a UX designer. The list could go on. If you design something that people engage or interact with, you need to be a UX designer, because otherwise you are probably not very good at your job.

Infinite Scrolling and Scrollbars

Jeremy Keith:

The reason that I don’t like infinite scrolling is that I actually use the scrollbar to scroll. That is, I move my cursor over the scrollbar, click and drag. Infinite scrolling makes this unworkable: the scrollbar under my cursor jumps around as new content is loaded.

So infinite scrolling destroys the purpose of scrollbars as visual indicators of page length and it interferes with their utility as an indicator of scrolling position within a page and their usability as navigational tools. Which begs the question, are there any characteristics of scrollbars that infinite scrolling doesn’t negatively impact? Are there any characteristics of scrollbars that it improves? And how would you redesign the scrollbar to properly support infinite scrolling?

All of our engineers are designers and our designers are engineers. When you separate the two, you get the designers doing things for marketing purposes rather than functional reasons.

James Dyson, in a New Yorker article which i can’t access because it’s stuck behind a paywall. Thus, nicked from here.

iPhone compass dance

Today i saw a stranger do the iPhone compass calibration dance in public for the first time. His technique was very distinct from mine. I wonder if this will become a familiar sight in the streets. If i didn’t have an iPhone, i probably wouldn’t have noticed.

ū—: A Distraction-Free Writing Environment

Productivity guru Merlin Mann introduces ū—, a new, distraction-free writing environment:

[...] ū— is the first app to remove every conceivable distraction from the drafting process – including cruft like paragraphs, lines, and words. This is why ū— only displays the bottom half of one letter at a time. Talk about focus.

I wonder if this just accidentally coincides with iA’s announcement of Writer

The Future of the Book.

The Future of the Book, as imagined by IDEO, looks very shiny but doesn’t seem very practical:

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

The Nelson concept tries to help people properly assess a text by providing context and multiple perspectives. However, this doesn’t really solve the challenges of trust and authority in a world of cheap content distribution and evaporating barriers to entry. Just because the reader is provided with commentary, contrary opinions or statistical data doesn’t mean that he’ll have the time or want to critically assess the accuracy and correctness of a given text.
The Coupland concept seems completely pointless to me. There are some decent, if stale ideas in there, but the inscrutable decision to awkwardly tack this onto the social environment of the workspace ruins the whole concept.
The Alice concept, however, i rather like, even if it’s more akin to a videogame or interactive fiction than an actual book. (via)