Breaking the Constraints

On August 7, 2014, UX designers and developers around the world cheered to the news that Microsoft would officially drop support for older versions of Internet Explorer, effective January 2016. Yet by and large, the outcry was less “hooray for Microsoft!” and more “why didn’t they do this sooner?” The answer is “because people still use IE,” and yet people still use IE because it’s supported, and it’s supported because people use it. It’s a vicious cycle. Two years ago, Nicholas Zakas wrote an article for Smashing Magazine entitled “It’s Time to Stop Blaming Internet Explorer,” in which he said: It’s not actually old browsers that are holding back the web, it’s old ways of thinking about the Web that are holding back the Web. He went on to explain that constraints will always exist, be they older browsers, business requirements, or user needs, and it’s the UX designer’s job to focus on what can be done rather than how to rid the world of the constraint. It’s an intriguing idea. We do work within constraints on every project, and many of them will never wane no matter how much we complain about them, but some constraints can be cracked, or at least altered, if we know where to begin. We’re often told to ask for serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage (or coffee) to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. By understanding where constraints originate and why users react to a given constraint the way they do, we can gain the wisdom we need to identify whether each constraint...

An Interview with the Future

Flying cars, phones that fit in a pocket, robot vacuums… it’s clear we live in the future. Perhaps more futuristic than any other technology is the web, and the many quickly evolving sites and applications that connect us to infinite information and to one another. This is the future that Matt Griffin is exploring in his new documentary, “What Comes Next is the Future.” Peering into the future is a task most often attempted by psychics and fortune tellers. Yet the clues to what comes next are all around us: in the decisions we make, and in the technology we build. This is what Matt Griffin, founder of Bearded, is relying on to tell the story of the web, and the “titanic shift in the web landscape that mobile devices have initiated.” In order to tell this story, Matt’s calling on us — the people who make the web. He’s interviewed designers, strategists and developers who have impacted the creation of the web as we know it over the past 25 years to tell their stories. We recently had the opportunity to ask Matt about his story — why he’s making this documentary, and how it’s going to impact us as user experience professionals. We’re excited to share with you all that he had to say about the past, present, and future of the mobile web. In What Comes Next is the Future, you interview dozens of people who have impacted web design over the years. What attributes did you consider as you selected contributors? We’re in the midst of big, important changes. The explosion of web- and internet-connected...

An Icon is Worth 1,000 Words

A picture is worth one thousand words. This aphorism means even more when we apply it to icons: save, open, and print are just a few of the many actions we associate with a simply sketched image. The “hamburger” menu icon is newer to the icon family, and yet it is now nearly as ubiquitous as its namesake food. Yet when UX designer James Foster conducted a series of A/B tests, he found it suffered in clarity compared to the simple word “menu.” James Foster began A/B testing to satisfy his curiosity: would the full hamburger test better than the simple “three lines” menu icon? It did. He then compared the full hamburger to the word “menu” surrounded by a border, and that tested even better – 12.9% better. The test led him to the conclusion that the hamburger icon is not as universally understood as a square button—like box with the name of the item. For those of us with less time on our hands, we can’t spend days running A/B tests on every icon and word combination. Even if we could, the tests alone might not provide a clear answer; plenty of designers and developers have struggled over whether icons or text are “better” with no clear decision. This article will do the heavy lifting for us, compiling research on when icons are the better choice, and when the written word will best suit our needs. Icons for space constraints The primary reason a designer might choose icons rather than text is simple: icons take up less space. This has risen to the top of the priority...

WYSIWYG Round Up

The conversation surrounding what content management systems and their accompanying WYSIWYG editors do, could do, and should do is a complex one, with myriad potential solutions. This week, Marli Mesibov brings us up to speed on the arguments for - and against - the next generation of WYSIWYG. The post WYSIWYG Round Up appeared first on UX...

What’s in a Story?

Storytelling is an old tool, one that's provided context and captured our interest for hundreds of years. This week Marli Mesibov, a content strategist who specializes in storytelling, explains why it works so well, and how we can use it to improve our company's strategy. The post What’s in a Story? appeared first on UX...