piXel mind

Is it time for beautiful fonts?

There is nothing wrong with Arial. But as I look around the web in general, I wonder if the time has come for the beautiful fonts, and the layouts that seem to go with them, to make an appearance in Enterprise Applications. Many of the dynamic, stay on page, UI patterns have already found their way into large scale web applications and many enterprise applications. I wonder when (if?) we will see the use of “custom fonts” cascade from websites into the Enterprise.

Notes from the ZURB Sketching Workshop

Here were my take-aways from the BAYCHI Tutorial event: ZURB Sketching and Implementation Workshop. Thanks to : @BAYCHI , Bryan Zmijewski , Jeremy Britton and Jonathan Smiley  from @ZURB for a great session.

These are five ideas, techniques from the workshop that I hope to apply right-away to work underway.

  • As an exercise in exploring the solution or even problem space, take 3 hours of time to sketch out 45 – 60 ideas that the address the goal.
  • When designing sites or apps, start with the tasks, workflows and storyboards. Let the navigation evolve from this.
  • When soliciting feedback in group settings plan on specific questions for specific people. Possibly send these out to them ahead of time.
  • When sketching use a secondary color – for title bars, drop shadows etc.
  • When generating low-fi sketches use the fat sharpies. The fact that it is really hard to write or get into more detailed elements with these pens, forces you to stay at a higher level of abstraction.

In other re-realizations:

  • Claritin is Good
  • I really suck at role-playing exercises and need to let my partner(s) take the lead …

Cadmus-ify that tweet!

When I look at thecadmus.com, I realize that @responses are an under utilized feature.  There are really very few @replies – even  to celebrities and twitter-brities. My take away is that twitter is seen as a place where you talk and you listen, but you don’t talk back as much. This is a little startling (perhaps only to me).

When I look at the Retweets by others tab in twitter, I realize that we, the users of twitter, do retweet a lot.

On the surface twitter supports both of these equally  - @ and RT are links next to each tweet. So why do we retweet? Why don’t we reply to people? Here are some possible reasons:

  • “Its the wrong way to use twitter”. I remember when I joined twitter, I read a Dos and Dont’s page by someone that clearly told me that I should NOT use twitter as a public SMS. It seems like this rule does not apply any more (if ever it did) , but I still feel some residual guilt.
  • What of the people who follow both people in the conversation and are forced to listen in? Sometimes listening to two people talking on twitter can feel like you are listening into a private conversation. Perhaps people avoid twitter-chats to spare the rest of their twitter family from having to listen in?
  • What of my time-line: If I have one great nugget of wisdom and it is hidden under 400@ replies to people, wont the chance visitor to my twitter page miss it ?

Now, the idea that twitter should support threaded conversations usually fills me with dread. Everyone has had the experience where ones facebook status has become an unwitting podium. Twitter in its current form does not allow for this to happen. And this is a good, good thing. In addition, many a time I like the privacy afforded to me by the fact that twitter makes it harder for others to follow a conversation. This is also a good, good thing.

However, sometimes, there are some threads that I wish I could just wave a magic wand at and yell “cadmusify”. This tweet would then be shown in a cadmus like threaded format. It gives me , the tweeter control over which threads I make more easily accessible, it lets me keep my twitter home page clean, and by its very presence it tells me that its “ok” to chat with people  on twitter.

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What I like about 750words.com

I have been looking for a site like this that would let me journal on an ongoing basis. Note taking software somehow never worked. Neither did blogging software. The (longish) note on the 750words.com page goes over exactly the same territory. The product does actually solve for this gap. So the very best thing I like about this site is that it solves a problem for me, it fills a gap that I sensed, it gives me a product that I was looking for.

Now the other thing that  I like about this site is its user interface. It is probably one of the best UIs I have come across in a long long time. Once you sign up, you get – a blank piece of paper. A bold open invitation to start doing exactly what you came here to do. As you type away, you realize that there might be more to this site than just one sheet of paper per day (and lets face it, that in of itself is a great UI). The brilliant thing here is that all of that is hidden away. The people who made the site really trusted you the user to discover all the other good stuff they have for you over time.

I am a delighted user. Thankyou folks at 750words.

Tweet it forward?

Why do I Retweet?

Sometimes, I retweet  to bookmark things I like. Sometimes, I retweet to establish that I am interested in a topic. And sometimes, I retweet  to pass along something I find interesting to people who may not have seen the original tweet. But truth be told, RT is my way of connecting, not to the people who follow me, but to the people whom I follow. My RT says to them, “I like this, I agree with this and I think this is useful.”

Now, retweeting is not the only way I can express myself on twitter. I can favorite the tweet or @reply to the person writing the twitter. However, the best way to complement them, or to thank them seems to be to spread their notions along – as an RT.  I have wondered if we should have ways to say “I agree” , “I bookmark this”, “This is hilarious” etc., but I always come back to this: there is an elegance to having a single currency. A currency that is tied to the very essence of the medium. If I like the message, I help spread it.

Lets take a minute to look at the people who follow me. For the most part they fall into these groups:

  • Real People at my work place (we use twitter as SMS / watering hole for design related topics)
  • Real People who used to be co-workers (so nice to find them at the same watering hole again)
  • Real people I know, who are not designers, but may be interested in design
  • People/Firms/Magazines in design whom I do not know personally
  • Marketeers who are following me because I once said the word possum (say)
  • A ten headed demon (one is plenty)

The people I follow are design people, sources of humor, and a few news sources and news makers. Essentially, twitter is the place I come to read the news and the funny papers, and to hang out with my design-peeps. When I read something they say that I find neat, I high five them by RT ing what they said. Sure, it is likely that people who follow me may find these links interesting, but my main motivation seems to be directed towards the source of information. “Great”, I seem to want to tell them. “Nice Job”. RT.

Retweeting also apparently marks me as not being a leader. This recent finding underscores my intuitive notions about how a time line with many RTs may be perceived.  However, my attitude still remains:   - RT. FTW.

OK. Some other facts about my twitter audience:

  • I have exactly one engineer following me.
  • I have a few heavyweights – famous people, people who are my boss, other people who in my eyes are heavy weights
  • there are some people who follow me, that I know really nothing about.

I wish twitter would give me a UI where it would map my private lists on to a theater seating plan. To help me remember who I am talking to. Now, notice how I tied back to the funny image at the top of the article? Bam!