Category Archives: content

  1. Quora: Will Smart TV user experience be different? Do we know the answer yet?

    Read Quote of Shiva Kumar’s answer to Smart TV UX Design: How would user experience design for smart TV be different or similar as designing for mobile and PC? on Quora

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  2. A masterclass from the man himself: David Kelley on Jobs and design thinking

    All startup creative firms want to grow up and be an IDEO. This enviably creative design studio has firmly embedded itself in the innovative strain of successful brands. David Kelley was the man at the helm of this movement. Here he talks about his friend Steve Jobs and design thinking as a concept.

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  3. Not an Idiot Box no more: Is there a new television idiom lurking?

    Since the eighties poop tubes have been relentlessly filling our living rooms with mindless banter. Most often we change channels in search of a beacon of intelligence and hope in vain. We had no choice either. Apparently now we do. This talk woke me up to how primordial the television system is and the change around the corner. Watch!

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  4. Let the Games Begin! The glare and the clash of Olympic impressions

    The Olympics are supposed be a carnival, I know – ‘Triumph of Human Spirit’ and what have you. And truly, the spirit and the excitement have been high and contagious this time round. The carnival carousel has been turning smooth and well-oiled thus far.

    So I make a side trip to their official website – www.london2012.com. First off, you have that London 2012 logo, which reminds you of a falling rocks warning (and mildly reminiscent of Thing, the stone-clad superhero from the Fantastic Four). The web design tries to carry this visual metaphor of the angular forms into it. Visually, It’s colorful and carnival-ish, bright and gay (gay as in celebratory) but the forms look so sharp you could cut your eye-fingers just looking at them. So you wonder about this overt celebration of masculinity – what happened to grace, rhythm and elegance, those reportedly feminine qualities!? The whole experience seems driven by testosterone without any estrogen to bring about a balance.

    The carnival

    Anyway, the carnival goes on – and it’s more akin to a village Markt – the page literally Teeming with stuff. If there is a sense of organization, it seems to lose out in the breathless cacophony of a hundred things screaming for attention. For a bit of respite, scroll down the page – where things get a bit calmer and white space finds a hesitant voice.

    The site, by its own admission, tries to cater to all – the ‘normal’, the visually impaired, the dyslexics and the non-English speakers. ‘For all Humanity’, cries out the Olympic spirit. But you can’t escape the feeling that these noble and worthwhile sentiments have found only a partial translation in terms of sites structure, page organization and elemental focus.

    Style sheet for dyslexics

    Right at the top, an icon call’s itself the ‘dyslexic style sheet’ and when you switch to it, all those loud-mouthed colors quieten down into a muted beige palette. This brings the text and links into sharper contrast – fair enough – but dyslexic friendly? I am not so sure. I get the feeling that dyslexics are perhaps better served by increasing the font size, increasing the character tracking and making everything else more subdued. But that too would be a compromise – they would probability find a less crowded, more organized page with higher figure-ground contrast more fit to their needs.

    The tool

    And lastly, those much celebrated international sports symbols come to the rescue of non-English speaking audiences – like the way finders they are supposed to be. Although, what exactly these non-English speakers lose out in experience by not knowing the language, only they can tell in their native tongues. Not to crib too much, but here too the colors are high-strung. I am sure those who designed the site carefully chose to place bright pinks and active blues next to each other and gleefully watched their cockfight. They are obviously intended to jar and clash in their high chromatic screams. May be the designers thought it’s an apt metaphor for the competitive spirit of the Olympics. But I don’t have to like it, and I don’t.

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  5. Interactive print is here: Is this the convergence we have been waiting for?

    Apparatus has been proud to use legacy design practices in the digital realm. We have been involved in great projects that span across print and digital too. We found a new tool that can make this ‘walk across’ better. I personally am looking forward to use this, in context, for a project.

    With a tool like this brands can interlink their print marcomm to their online presence easily, online stores can create offline catalogs with specific promotions, corporates can lead their engagements to contextually correct media assets, publishers can segue readers into richer content and more. I believe this is just a beginning – an aesthetically pleasing QR code. But there are going to be more soon.

    And we will be there waiting for it.

    You can know more about Layar here.

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  6. A Brief History of Internet and people like us: The machine is using the users

    I found this inspiring video on evolution of web technology and user interactions. I thought it was important to share this with you all.

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  7. History of browsers: How have we been getting to the Internet all this while?

    I got into designing for web in early 1998 and since then there has been a flurry of browsers. We have used them to interact or consume information on the Internet. Some of them died an early death. A few survived and a few late entrants have proved stellar.

    Browse more infographics.

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  8. Discovery lost: What ails (most) Indian ecommerce startups?

    Apparatus team have been working on a few online store projects. Most of these are at a prelaunch stage and that makes it easy for user experience design teams to partake in product definition and extend further into product design.

    However there are a few who have been in business and need a substantial design overhaul. These ecommerce properties ail from a few maladies that needs attention.

    Discovery that matches user intent leads to conversion
    Users who approach online stores come with a definite intent to find a suitable product. The user experience should be designed for users with specific needs and users who want to explore and discover. The design should set a strong context for them to arrive at a product or move about and find.

    Fixes versus refurbishment
    These stores are ongoing businesses backed by investor firms. They cannot suspend operations for an overhaul. We understand this. But the management typically sees the solution as a series of small fixes that will lead to betterment. It will not. The synthesis of web analytics and user research should lead to larger incremental phases of change that can better the brand experience in a short period of time. Bite the bullet!

    Knowing the domain does not make you a UX expert
    It is a great additive that can be learned. Good design is about creating cohesive, compelling and usable experiences through framework, structure and content. It involves information design, graphic design and meticulous production. You need help. Hire us!

    Curated content emotes and converts
    Do the thing that offline stores do as ‘we suggest’. Do collections that are thematic and write about them. Do collections that go well together and publish them as trends or what people like. Help users choose if they are exploring through supportive house-styled images of products and well written textual content. Add on contextual user generated content and create digestible nuggets of content to consume. And lead all these to appropriate stock keep units.

    To know more about these write to me. If you want to get this done call Apparatus. Have a good day!

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  9. Relevance of Relevance

    Scratch any designer worth his (her) professional salt, and you will find the chief deity of his profession, the User. This User – the ubiquitous and the all pervasive phenomenon who is ‘virajman’ in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple of design – demands, drives and possesses the design practitioner and his priestcraft.

    The User also defines the sacred liturgy of the design profession – user, user profile, usage, use cases, usability, usefulness, user-centricity, user advocacy, user context, user relevance…

    Just pick the last one, Relevance. It’s something of a sacred notion – after all, you want every schema and artifact you analyze and produce as a designer to be Relevant to the User. And of course Relevance is not a thing, it’s relationship term, a kind of a kinship term, it’s not a thing that exists by itself.  Is the downgrading of the US debt rating to AA+ less or more relevant than Kate Middleton’s rumored anorexia? Throw a User (consumer of information) into the mix and only then can you talk about Relevance.

    But does this principle of Relevance have no down side to it? Alas, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Eli Pariser’s book ‘Filter Bubble – What The Internet Is Hiding From You’ explores the search and personalization algorithms used by the Internet Big Boys (Yahoos!, Googles, and Facebooks of the world) that filter information and give you what is Relevant to You (based on your personal history and past searches). This, argues Pariser, creates the phenomenon of a closed bubble arising out of the relevance paradox where the more you find some things relevant, the more you are served similar things – effectively cutting you off from alternate perspectives, ideas, opinions, practices or world views. If effect, by serving you with dishes drawn from the menu you like over and over, you are prevented from experiencing new cuisines and tastes that might (potentially) enlarge your palette and make you a better connoisseur.

    Is there an alternative? Would you always want to be served with what you know you like, or would you, once in a while, want the waiter to suggest you ‘something different’?

    Some of these Internet Big Boys have a system where the personalization algorithms can be overridden by humans (waiters!) who decide a link to a story is important enough to be served to you even if the algorithm thinks that it ‘ranks low in relevance going by user’s history’. But, of course, in this case, it is a human deciding what choices to give you. Either way, your curry is rated, ranked, curated and served hot!

    The larger question is, is this such a unique phenomenon wrought by exploding information technologies OR is this a more normal and natural paradox, a part of what we are and how we function in the world? The fact is, most things we see, do or experience – are done by choice. (I am not talking about acts of nature and coincidence here). You read a book, you watch a movie, you eat a meal, you share a photo, you discuss a topic – all out of the choices you make, from an innate sense of what is meaningful and interesting to you. This obviously precludes your inner experience from the book you haven’t read, the movie you haven’t seen or the topic you haven’t discussed. Thats’s a fact of life. Every choice you make is a tradeoff between it and the choices you haven’t made.

    But it does not mean you cannot peek outside the filter bubble, outside the algorithm, when you really want to. That too is a choice, and sometimes, it can be a stronger force than Relevance.

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  10. Writing for the Web: Engaging textual content for online assets

    Users on the web are task-oriented. They have an objective in mind. It’s your job to point them to the information they seek, as effortlessly as possible. Unlike writing for other mediums, the challenge for any web writer is to keep things brief and anticipate the reader’s requirements.

    If your site is an informative one, anecdotes and long introductions will not be effective. Let go of everything you learned in English class. Here’s a set of quick and fast rules to follow to ensure that your writing is efficient and effective:

    Keep It Simple
    The most important advice you can take when writing content for the web is to keep it short and simple. Visitors to your site will not read every word. So your content should have the most relevant information upfront and other information should be easy to locate.

    Make Content Easily Accessible
    Web readers are impatient. They don’t read. They scan. They look at headings and subheadings, quickly searching for the information they want. It takes for the average web surfer three to five seconds to decide if they are going to read a web page, or just click away. That’s the time frame you have to grab attention. Use it wisely.

    Succinct paragraphs and easily digestible chunks of text are important.
    Use lists, descriptive headlines and sub-headlines to help point your users to the most important content.

    Use bulleted lists to break up blocks or text.
    Provide overviews, especially if the topic is a complex one. It can help the reader decide if this is the information they are looking for.

    Write Front-Loaded Paragraphs
    Start a paragraph with your conclusion. Visitors to your site want information quickly. You shouldn’t make them wade through unnecessary information to get to the point. You can then follow the paragraph with the rest of the details.

    Use Active Voice
    Younger users generally have a shorter attention span than older users, so getting to the point immediately is important. Using an active voice will ensure your content is clear and direct. You risk sounding dry and bureaucratic when writing in a passive voice.

    Have A Goal
    Before you begin, ensure that you know your audience. Who you are talking to? What do you want to say and how you want them to respond? Do you want them to contact you? Or sign up for a service? Lead the user to the next action point.

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