Good/Bad Design 9: AmazonLocal

If you don’t know what AmazonLocal is, the easiest way to describe it would probably be to relate it to services like Groupon or LivingSocial. Basically, you can sign up to get notifications on deals in your area, and “save up to 75% on local restaurants, spas, entertainment, and more.”

I sometimes get these emails, although I’m not sure why because I don’t ever recall signing up for it. I didn’t bother unsubscribing though; I usually just ignore and delete them. What I found interesting was that apparently Amazon noticed! One day I received this in an email:

AmazonLocal Notification

I’m pretty sure my eyebrows rose upon reading this. They’ll stop sending me emails on their own accord? That’s the first I’ve seen a company do so.

Anyway, perhaps this is a better example of good public relations than design, but the fact that AmazonLocal was realizing that their emails didn’t interest me and acted accordingly made me want to applaud them a bit. Definitely increased my user experience due to their attention to my needs and wants. Nice.


Interesting Blog 3:


I don’t know if anyone from class has yet to mention this blog, but I wanted to bring attention to the online journal on Yes, it is from the design firm of Alan Cooper himself!

While several of the posts seem less relevant to design, such as an entry on their Dodgeball Tournament, others are inspiring and provide great insights to what it is like to work for a design firm. (Or at least for Cooper.)

I absolutely love the use of photos in their posts; they really help provide the imagery of all that is Cooper and design. For example, take a look at “Good design is only half the story”, where you can briefly see how designers and non-designers can come together in a collaborative process.

I also recommend looking at the post, “What marketing executives should know about user experience”. It’s one of their longer ones, but really hits some key points as to what user experience design can do for a company.

Interesting Blog 2: Attack of Design

Attack of Design

Attack of Design is written by Sacha Greif, a 25 year old user interface designer from France.

His posts are very insightful and offer great design tips with relatable examples, including some of the work he’s done. Looking briefly at some of his posts, he offers a lot of food for thought, and I would encourage you to take a look. Also, follow Sacha Greif on Twitter. 🙂

Thoughts 2: Accessibility Is Not A Checklist

“The principle behind all design is human dignity.”
~ Richard Buchanan, Keynote presentation at Interaction ’11

After last week’s presentations in class, I’d like to share a great video to supplement Quincy and my presentation on Accessibility:

Learn more about Jimmy Chandler:

In this video, Jimmy Chandler discusses accessibility problems and solutions in a fun and interesting way. He brings up concepts we’ve discussed in class, but also provides 10 quick tips on how to improve your product’s accessibility. Chandler even suggests a solution for the mean-error-message issue on forms that the class discussed last week. He really does put things into perspective, and his talk is pretty inspiring while still being entertaining, so I would be sure to check it out.

Personally, I find accessibility very important. My interest stems from my grandmother living with my family for most of my life, and I really can’t imagine her not being able to do something. She’s the most talkative and friendly person I’ve ever met; everyone (including guests) at the new health care center she stays at knows her by name. She’s also the reason I wanted to focus my thesis on the elderly.

Good/Bad Design 2: Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans. Two chains: one for the light, the other for the fan. I’m pretty sure at one time or another, we’ve all wondered, “Which chain do I pull?” The fact that we have to think about it demonstrates it’s poor design.

When designing controls, the controls should differentiate from one another in some way. Not only should they look different, but they should reflect their function. As we just learned from Cooper (2007), designers should design to represent the mental model or vision of the user. There may only be two controls, but it doesn’t mean that product designers should just assume that users will remember the function of each. Perhaps one should end with a light and the other with a fan, to reflect their uses.

Thoughts 1

Last week in class, we talked about main ideas from our readings and tried to make sense of all the terms thrown at us such as usability, user experience design, and so on. Many of the terms I have already come across before, but discussion did prove to organize them in a better way.

When told to group the terms ourselves, I tried to look at all the terms we had and group them in some way or another before putting it into any sort of hierarchy. I noticed that we had a lot of principles listed such as visibility, mapping, feedback, etc. We also had specific metrics that could be measured, and different types of design listed that could be seen as different approaches. But left were other items such as user research and personas, that really seem to be part of the design process than anything else.

Before we grouped items together, I had thought that “usability” was the over arching topic. I figured that all these design approaches, metrics, principles were about making a product easy to learn and easy to use. But after grouping, usability ended up being a part of user-centered design (along with other items), which ended up being under design as a whole. My partner and I almost took the entire hirarchy as a process, where UxD was a small branch of design, that led to usability testing, where the final product was a user interface/product. I’m sure there are many other ways to look at it but here is the web my partner and I concocted:

UxD Web

I thought Dr. V really explained it best:
– Goal-directed design is an approach: it is a philosophy and way of viewing the world.
– Design is a process, a recipe. It has certain steps you take.
– User-centered design has a set of principles.

Good/Bad Design 1

So I was playing on my Xbox 360 the other day, when I got a notification that I unlocked one of the achievements for the game. Realizing this, I pressed the center Guide button on my controller to bring up a list of the achievements for the game, including the one I just received, to read more about it.

The reason this is good design is because the system is anticipating the user’s goal. You see, the Guide button has several functions. The main one being that when pressed, it brings up a generic menu with options. However, if pressed soon after a notification is received (whether it is a new message from a friend, or an invitation to play a game), the system will bring up information related to that notification. So, if I get a message from a friend and press the Guide button in time, the Xbox will bring up the message for me to read instead of the menu. This keeps the user from having to take an extra step to complete their goal, because the system is already taking the user to their intended destination.

Great thinking on Microsoft’s part, in my opinion. Sony’s PS3 doesn’t do this, after all. And although a simple function, this benefit really does enhance the user experience for the system.

Achievement Unlocked

Congratulations! You unlocked an achievement!

Interesting Blog 1: Pleasure and Pain

Take a look at Pleasure and Pain by Whitney Hess at

Whitney Hess a freelance user experience designer based in New York and has worked for several notable companies/products such as American Express, New York Times, Allstate, Claritin, Tropicana, Boxee, and more. Pleasure and Pain is her personal UX blog that includes examples of good and bad experiences on the Web and real world. She also has a list of other UX websites that she has many written articles for in the past.

I think this is a great reference because it is from an informal perspective of someone in the UX industry. Her posts are fun and easy to follow and provide interesting yet valuable information. For example, she has a post about the UX Design Process for the Boxee Beta that has information on usability testing, personas, and even interview questions that should prove beneficial.