Design: Good v. Bad

September 30, 2010 9:41 pm

I read The Design of Everyday Things awhile ago. Since then I've noticed basic design principles that are either good enough or bad enough to draw notice. Sometimes it's only in contrast with a better (or worse) design that you realize how bad (or good) a design is.

I came across a particularly illustrative example of this while we were rearranging our books after having purchased another bookcase. Occasionally when you buy a set of books they'll come in a thin cardboard box. This is the cardboard box that a set of J.R.R. Tolkien books was packaged in:

Notice how it's built like many simple boxes with a flap that tucks in. You don't think anything of it until the moment you attempt to slide a book in on that side. The cover hits the flap and you risk damaging the cover if you try to force it.

This is the design of the box that all of the 3-packs of books from the Wheel of Time series came in:
Specifically designed to have no flaps that might interfere with sliding a book back into place!

Since a lot of my work involves user interface design I try to pay attention to functional designs and pick out what is good or bad about them.

It turns out that it's really hard to create good interfaces, which is why I try to appreciate them when I find them. It can be painful to watch users interact with some of the interfaces we put together at work. As a team we bend over backwards to make things as simple as possible—then you watch someone still completely fail to interact with the system successfully without coaching. It's hard, but we're really figuring things out and have been getting a lot of praise for our most recent designs.

If you're in the application development world and you've never really watched an "average" person use a computer, you need to do it. You'll have your mind blown by how kooky their actions are. It never occurred to me that some people will always drag-and-drop to copy/paste text. They do it because it's faster than right-clicking and selecting copy and then right-clicking and selecting paste. But they've never learned that ctrl-c / ctrl-v is far more convenient. We made some people really happy when we made sure to account for this drag-and-drop behavior in our application. It wasn't hard to do, we just never imagined it would be useful!

I had been looking forward to this for months.

11:09 am

My cub scouts* and I went on a tour of our local library yesterday, and it was the coolest thing I've done with them yet!

Front of Library 1
The youth librarian, Gary, told us some neat background and history of the library, and we got to ask cool questions, like would there be enough space on the shelves if everybody turned in their books, and what is worth more, the building or the books? Oh, and I learned that although the Dewey Decimal System is for nonfiction books, fairy tales are cataloged in it, which made me exceedingly happy. He took us around the youth section of the library (which is quite large) and pointed out all the different areas. We got to see the dragon, which is their automated book return. And then he set the boys on a scavenger hunt to find books from various areas. It was way fun!

*It's possible that I haven't mentioned this calling yet on this blog. I was called to work with the cub scouts way back in, like, March or something. I am a co-den leader (with two other wonderful women, thank goodness!) for the wolves in our stake, which is the 8-year-old boys. I like them because it's their first year and they're still young and enthusiastic about everything. It was super overwhelming at first because I have no idea how to work with 8-year-old boys, but I've eased my way into it and it's not so bad now. We even have a fair bit of fun, though they have tons more energy than I do!

I still got called "Miss" this week; take THAT, 30!

September 26, 2010 3:53 pm

Last Monday was my birthday. I am now 30 years old, which is just silly.

I requested a cheesecake this year, so Kyle made that for me on Saturday. We had dinner and celebratory times Sunday night with some friends, Sarah and Barry and their wee baby Emma. And, of course, ate the cheesecake. It was so tasty!

tiny tiny2

Monday was a wonderful birthday. I received tons of birthday wishes throughout the day via Facebook and chat, which was super nice. I got my hair cut, and that scalp massage was a great birthday treat. And we got to have more cheesecake with our lunch!

After Kyle got home from work, we went mini-golfing at Boomers and I WON! We're still not quite sure how it happened. But that's what the numbers said! And there were a couple of holes that I beat him on, so it almost makes sense? YAY! Next was dinner, for which we went to Olive Garden. We haven't been there since we moved to CA, since there isn't one super close by. But Tracy's not that far away, so we decided to go. And the food was very good. Though Kyle didn't realize until after his arrived that it was an appetizer. (I was about to call him a "foolish boy," but he just handed me a slice of fresh-baked bread, so I suppose I shall forbear.)

Then we came home and I got to open the cards and presents I'd received. (Actually, I opened some before we left, but that's neither here nor there.) I was gifted with several movies and books and cards and other things, including an apron (that we can only hope will bestow an ability to cook on the wearer). All in all, it was a wonderful day—I felt that a lot of people cared about me, which is always a very good feeling.

Traveling is so fun

September 21, 2010 12:17 pm

We're on our way to Utah. I get to recruit at BYU again and with the addition of a plane ticket for Jess we get to have a brief partial vacation for very little cost to us.

At the moment we're sitting in the airport. Today I had the privilege of refusing to go through the back-scatter machine and instead receive an unceremonious pat down. What a waste of time and money. I wish everyone would refuse to use the back-scatter machines so that they would be forced to get rid of them (or make them mandatory, which is probably more likely I suppose).

The pat down was as much of a joke for security as any other process currently in place. As far as I can tell it's simply designed to be more awkward than the back-scatter machines so that people will just put up with the machines. It's a normal pat down (actually I'm fairly certain I've received more thorough pat downs going in to concerts) with the addition of touching the bottoms of your feet and swabbing your hands with chemical detector swabs.

It certainly wouldn't be remotely difficult to conceal something past the pat down I received. When will sanity and cost-benefit studies again be used to guide our decisions as a country?


September 17, 2010 10:40 am

Kyle and I finished off the last of our wedding M&M's on Wednesday. We've just kept refilling the smallest of our kitchen canisters and eating them. (I suppose now we'll have to put in rice or something equally boring. Less tasty.)

You can see in the picture that some of them said "June 23, 2009," but some also said "Kyle & Jess." We had them special ordered to give away at the receptions, and Kyle's mom and sisters put them into those super cute tins and tied the ribbons on them (which I bet was way fun). There were TONS, 'cuz we originally ordered 15 pounds (5 pounds cream, 5 pounds blue, and 5 pounds mixed with the printing on them (because it is ridiculously and outrageously more expensive than just getting a custom color!)). But then they sent us the wrong color of blue, so by the time they sent us another bag of blue, we had 20 pounds of Om-Noms! We just mixed them all together and it was grand. But there was a lot.

And Tianna just told me she may still have some. We're thinking about ordering more each year on our anniversary. They're just such fun!