Two Spaces Don’t Make Text More Readable

Great article here, and a super guide to how *not* to do design research:

Ap­par­ently de­fy­ing Bet­teridge’s Law, the study claims to show that two spaces af­ter a pe­riod are eas­ier to read than one. On its face, this also seems to con­tra­dict my long­stand­ing ad­vice to put only one space be­tween sen­tences.

Con­fi­den­tial to two-space re­searchers: you might con­sider mak­ing your pa­per avail­able for free, as it may be the last time that a topic of your re­search over­laps with a wide­spread in­ter­net obsession. Be­cause the study costs $39.95 for a PDF, I’m cer­tain the so­cial-me­dia skep­tics rush­ing to claim vic­tory for two-spac­ing have nei­ther bought it nor read it. But I did both.

True, the re­searchers found that putting two spaces af­ter a pe­riod de­liv­ered a “small” but “sta­tis­ti­cally … de­tectable” im­prove­ment in read­ing speed—about 3%—but cu­ri­ously, only for those read­ers who al­ready type with two spaces. For ha­bit­ual one-spac­ers, there was no ben­e­fit at all.

Incidentally, if you’re not familiar with the whole of Butterick’s Practical Typography, I heartily recommend it to you.


Design Systems

There’s a lot of goodness in this article on designing ‘programmes’ or systems, so I won’t try to extract a single part. It’s very relevant to the final stage of a Masters programme too: The kind of work that results in “new knowledge” often results also in some kind of system. It’s the difference between a single solution to a known problem, and a set of design rules or principles that can be reapplied to future, unknown, problems. 


Sculpting Time

I think all of the UX students this year have referenced UI animation in one way or another. It’s such an important part of modern UI design, and it’s very easy to mess it up—mostly by going too far. This article provides some useful guidance and warnings.

The year is 2018, interface design tools are finally incorporating animation, but many are missing the mark. They’re naively bolting on animation, instead of giving users handles to control animation timing. Consequently, there’s now a landscape of software tools promoting mushy animation.

There’s a wealth of knowledge embedded in classical animation. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.


The importance of guidelines in interface design

As a designer who grew up on the Mac and Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, you can bet I believe in sticking—wherever you can—to the guidelines. They still leave room for innovation, and they stop you worrying about the stuff that’s already been worked out.

This is a very basic rule which goes out a long way. Always follow the design guidelines provided by operating system or the device manufacturer. The reason is that these guidelines themselves are based on basic principles of consistency and simplicity. Be it Google’s Material Design, Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines or any other design system defined by the brand or the company, all of them uphold these principles.


Bright Colors in UI Design: Benefits and Drawbacks

You know how I usually hate articles about colour? This is a fairly sensible one.

Vibrant colors and gradients are now seen in user interfaces of different digital products: from the playful and entertaining ones to business apps and websites. However, there are still lots of discussions about the impact bright colors have on user experience. The article provides an insight into strengths and weaknesses of colorful UI.


Animated Transitions in Mobile Apps

We’ve talked recently about micro-interactions and the animations that support them. It’s espescially important to think about why something is animated, not just how. This article by Nick Babich has some useful examples of animation that supports specific intentions in the interface.

Animation is a big part of user experience. When it comes to transitions in mobile apps, there are a lot of things you can communicate very subtly with animation. Send the message, open Settings, check the box, navigate to another page — these are all moments of change. Animating a transition is an excellent way to reinforce the user’s action. In this article, we’ll review the common cases when functional animation can complement the visual design and support interactions.

The 7 Questions You’ll Be Asked at a UX Design Interview

I might not ask all of these, but they’re a pretty good start.

Landing a job is hard work. While it’s impossible to know (beforehand) the answer to every question that an interviewer asks you, there are a few common questions that you can prepare for. Nailing the answers to these won’t guarantee you a job, but they will improve your chances of success. Just remember to tailor them to each individual interview based on the job description and company.

How We Write Design Proposals

Web design veteran Jeffrey Zeldman writes about how his company approaches client proposals:

AS THE HEAD of a newish design studio, I spend a fair amount of time writing proposals. And here’s how I like to do it. I do it like a conversation, and that’s how we start: with phone calls and emails to one or two key decision makers, followed by a research period of about two to three weeks. And when I say research, what I’m really talking about — besides the usual competitive analysis, analytics, and testing — is even more conversations, but this time with a wider net of stakeholders and customers.

Read the whole thing here:

As part of the professional practice work it’s worth giving some thought to how you go from identifying a possible client to actually defining the job you’re trying to accomplish. As I’ve said before, it’s best not to expect (or ask for) a brief. If you’re given one (because that’s what people think they need to give designers), I recommend thinking of it as a set of initial thoughts that the client’s sharing with you. It’s almost never an accurate description of what the problem really is.

Designing For Visually Impaired Users.

This is a great article which describes how screen readers for the blind see your web pages and apps. Should you be thinking about this as part of your professional practice? Expert designers need to consider all users, not just able-bodied ones.

Now, let’s re-imagine the scene and this time when you open the door, the room is completely dark. No light is present and you can see absolutely nothing at first glance. You have been given a small flashlight though and when you switch it on, the light allows you to see a small area at a time. The area you can see is a small circle about 2 feet in diameter and nothing outside that circle is illuminated.

How would you now observe the contents of the room?

Using the Network as a Design Tool

 I’ve got a lot more thoughts on this, and I’ll be working them up to share with the whole class soon enough. In the meantime I’d like to try them out on here, with a UX/UI focus.

In a tutorial yesterday I was working with Andy Chu to help establish a strategy for both finding a live brief, and for developing and informing the brief through network research, micro-projects/experiments, and evaluation.

This is often a much more solid strategy than looking for a ready-made brief: It’s more likely to mean that you’re really involved in developing the brief, that it’s something you feel invested in, and that you’re able to develop the skills that you need as an expert-level designer.

Andy has started making good steps in developing his professional network, attending a few professional events over the last week: a Birmingham Innovation Centre presentation, a UX MeetUp group, and a Maker Monday—all free events, and some with free food ;-) We reckon he’s made about 10 reasonable professional contacts, and at least one or two of them are interesting starting points for briefs.

None of these are real briefs yet—they’re mostly just ideas, but they provide a starting point for development.

Here’s an example: One of the people Andy met has a plan to develop an app/service to connect medical professionals and patients. Andy had some initial thoughts on the kinds of situations where this makes more sense (long-tern care patients for example).

With something like this it’s important not to rush to a brief, but to spend some time looking at the broad ‘market’. Think about the different Live Network categories—course team, researchers, practitioners, companies, and customers—and how each of those can give you more information on the market/problem you’re looking to explore and address.

About thirty minutes’ work yesterday afternoon established a bunch of useful connections:  A User Research PhD student who’s part of the UX MeetUp group, an established UK company creating healthcare apps that let patients see a doctor on their phone, a job description for UX product designers in healthcare that describes clearly the process they use in creating solutions, a regional website that lists new solutions/ideas for the healthcare market (along with clear requirements and links to the people involved), and some obvious university connections in the Health faculty that could become “clients” or advisors on a live brief. This could easily become a ‘team’ to help Andy create and develop a brief for the healthcare market.

Of course, Andy might decide that he doesn’t want to specialise in the healthcare area, but that’s ok. It’s much better to start work and later try something different than to sit around waiting for the ‘perfect’ brief. Any brief that lets us develop our professional skills is a good brief, and the more real we can make it, the better.. 

Gravit Designer

As you know, I’m interesting in design software from smaller companies. I’ve only just discovered this, but it looks very capable, with lots of useful features and integrations. 

Any of you used it already? At the moment the iOS/Android versions aren’t available, but it works surprisingly well in Safari on iPad. Try it out and share your thoughts.

An Idea

Since I’m now spending a little less time in the classroom, and a lot more time working on cross-faculty Innovation projects, I thought it was time I try out a few more strategies for keeping in touch. I want to formalise some studio time to bring together the UX/UI Masters students in particular, but it’s proving pretty difficult to get everyone together at the same time. I’ll keep trying, but it’s clear I also need a space to post longer things than Twitter allows, without the formality and closed audience of an email. I’m happy for anyone interested in design to read this stuff, particularly if they’re trying to do it better (as I am).

So, if you’re one of the MA UX/UI group, welcome. If you’re not, welcome also.

And I’m even going to leave Comments turned on, until something persuades me otherwise.