Design Methods #43 – Mental Model Diagrams

Jan 13 2017 Published by Neil Gains under design

From "How to Design Mental Models That Create a Superior User Experience by Leanne Byrom

Mental Model Diagrams rely on the fact that people behave in ways that are consistent with core beliefs they hold to help visualise the causes of their behaviours and develop solutions that meet their needs. Mental Model Diagrams are detailed summaries of the behaviours, beliefs and emotions that relate to specific tasks undertaken by that person and in turn to specific design features (in the bottom half of the example above). Such diagrams help designers to focus on product development strategies that reflect the reality of how people feel, think and act in relation to specific jobs in their lives. Read more »

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Flexibility-Usability Tradeoff (Principles of Design #73)

Nov 11 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

All designers have to balance the need for flexibility with the need for usability, because as one increases the other inevitably decreases. Or in c common parlance, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Systems that are designed to be more flexible have more functions than more specialised designs but are inevitably less functional as a consequence. Read more »

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On Thinking and Not Thinking

Sep 30 2016 Published by Neil Gains under book review

Proclaimed as “The All New” Don’t Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff’s classic book has been substantially rewritten and updated to reflect contemporary issues in political debate and recent electoral history. The original book was a must read for anyone interested in behavioural science, communication (or politics) and the important lessons from the first book remain, updated and expanded in this even better and more valuable book. Read more »

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Principles of Design #71 – Accessibility

Jul 11 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

It is common sense that objects and environments would be designed to be usable by as many people as possible without any modification. Except that common sense is never as common as it should be. For example, Kim Walker and Dick Stroud point out in Marketing to the Ageing Consumer, that far too few businesses really consider the needs and constraints of those users beyond 20-30 year olds with perfect sensory, physical and mental abilities. Read more »

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Principles of Design #70 – Iteration

Apr 26 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

The principle of iteration is central to design thinking. Just as evolution allows complex structures to develop over time in nature, iteration is at the core of good design, building on simple foundations to develop more complex designs. This is achieved by progressively exploring, testing and refining a design over time, often with very fast cycles of iteration. Iteration is often broken into two phases: design iteration and development iteration. Read more »

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Design Methods #36 – Cultural Probes

Mar 02 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Cultural probes are the name designers give to exercises, activities and provocations given to participants in a study to provide inspiration and understanding about their lives, thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and the cultural and social context that informs them. In market research, such activities might be associated with longitudinal studies and with pre-work (homework) and follow-up work done in connection with more formal interviews and participant discussions.  Read more »

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Principles of Design #68 – Uniform Connectedness

Jan 06 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Uniform connectedness is the principle that elements that are connected by uniform visual properties, the most common being colour, are seen as more related than other elements that do not share a visual property. This is a recent addition to the Gestalt principles of psychology, based on the perception of elements with uniform visual properties as a single group or chunk of information. A single matrix composed of dots is seen as columns where common regions, lines or colours connect the dots vertically, whereas it is send as rows when the common regions, lines or colours connect them horizontally. Read more »

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Principles of Design #66 – Similarity

Nov 23 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

It is a key principle of design that elements that are similar are perceived by users to be more closely related than elements that are dissimilar. This principle comes from Gestalt psychology, and while often seeming obvious is important to the way that users interact with objects, helping them simplify and structure the world. A simple matrix with alternative rows of dots and squares, this becomes a set of rows only with the similar elements grouped into holistic lines. In the same way, even complex displays is interpreted as having different areas and groupings depending on the colour, shape or size of different elements and to what degree they appear similar. Read more »

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Review of Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind

Sep 29 2015 Published by Neil Gains under book review

Of all the books I have read on the sense of touch, the best short introduction is Touch: The science of hand, heart and mind by David Linden. Only published earlier this year, a paperback version will be available at the beginning of 2016. This is clear and comprehensive overview of the role of touch in human lives, it’s relationship to emotion and social relationships and its interaction with the other senses. Read more »

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Principles of Design #64 – Visibility

Jul 05 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

A basic principle of designing systems is that usability is greatly improved when there are easy to see feedback systems which show how to use the system along with its current status. This enables users to clearly see current status, possible future actions and the likely consequences of such actions. A very simple example is the common use of red lights to indicate when a system is receiving power. Other examples would be the illumination of certain parts of a system to indicate that they are available for use or the use of sound and touch to provide feedback when actions have been completed (for example, the clicking of a mouse, or the “whoosh” when something is placed in your computer trash can). Read more »

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