The Lesson Approach

So here’s a sample of what I’m working on right now. I’ve had Online Language Help as a hobby for a quite a while. I’m trying to redesign it to be more based around discrete lessons. I’ve had the system for the lessons done for about a month now, but this weekend finally released updated lessons. Check out the new Basic Spanish Lessons.


Getting Back Into Blogging Again

It’s been over a year since I posted on this blog last. Since then I’ve graduated with my Master’s in Human Computer Interaction Design. Also I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina and did a short stint as the lead interaction designer for EliteHealth down here.

I miss going to school quite a bit. Academia was basically my life for so long. Even when I wasn’t in school, I was still in the atmosphere. Maybe someday I will go back when I mature more for a PhD. In the meantime, Online Language Help has again become my obsession as I try to make it make me a living.

Flash Webcams

I’m currently taking Digital Art with Leslie Sharpe. For the first assignment, I created an environmentalist satire of a discount electronics store. Our second assignment is to work with Flash as an artistic medium.

While working with Emotive Or Not, I developed a small fascination with web cams. Seeing nothing barring the situation, I choose to continue with that fascination for the second assignment. Below are my two studies for this project. 

Ready Set Go - Flash Webcam Motion Detection Dance Music Toy

Ready Set Go - Flash Webcam Motion Detection Dance Music Toy

Ready Set Go 2 - Flash Webcam Art Piece

Ready Set Go 2 - Flash Webcam Art Piece

Traveling Clothes – Never Stop: A Rolling Stone

Never Stop: A Rolling Stone

Never Stop: A Rolling Stone is a jacket designed for the traveling youth by Rahel Ritchie. It features an inflatable hood so you can sleep comfortably with your head rested almost anywhere.

I’m very disappointed this hoodie isn’t actually for sale.

[ via LikeCool ]

John Whitney’s Arabesque (1975)

Found out about this video from class today.  I thought it was pretty awesome. Hope you enjoy it too.

New Facebook Apps

I find Facebook apps as annoying as you. I promise. A couple weeks ago however, Sean Connolly asked me to work with him on creating a “25 Things About Me” app based on the popular chain letter (which I also find annoying). It’s been an interesting experience, and actually inspired me to create one on my own.

25 ThingsOur app is called 25 Things About Us. We try to take the whole phenomenon a couple steps further by allowing the user create new lists about other things, as well as view community lists. We have a couple other ideas too, that you might see on their in the next couple weeks involving further community features. My role on this project has mainly been design, but I did some of the early programming and CSS. Zhuofeng Li has been the main programmer, and also acted as designer. Sean Connolly is the main designer.

Emotive Or Not The other app I’ve been working on, Emotive Or Not, is from an earlier design collaboration between Connolly, myself, and our classmate Kshitiz Anand. We wanted to experiment with affective and ludic design, and the Facebook app is our third prototype. Here are our first and second prototypes. Also, I have an earlier post I made about Prototype #1.

The Limits of Good Design in Software Production (or Dreamweaver CS4 still sucks)

My first job was as an hourly doing LAMP development for my undergrad university. I remember very clearly my fellow developers complaining about how our users were idiots. When things went wrong, the normal course of action was to blame the user.

Fast forward four years and now I’m on the cusp of holding a masters in HCI/d. We are trained to never blame the user. Even when the user is doing something grievously unintended with the digital artifact, it’s “emergent behavior” – and if even that user is getting frustrated, we blame the design. HCI/d is a humble discipline, always ready to take responsibility.

Having been now on both sides of the spectrum – from the blame-the-user developer to the blame-the-design – I would like to propose a new group of people to blame our digital troubles on: developers. Yes, those hapless geeks who just do what their told when given design specs. 

But, why would I be so mean?

Well, let’s looks at the latest version of Dreamweaver, CS4. Below is an animated GIF detailing the troubles I’ve been having with it this morning.


So I will be in a web browser window (not uncommon for someone working with Dreamweaver) and use expose to get over to Dreamweaver. In the first frame you can clearly see that Twitter is still showing through where the Dreamweaver tab menu should be.

So, I click again, and still no dice. The tab menu does appear, along with two(!) menu bars, but my code disappears. I guess you’re paying extra for the second menu bar considering how expensive CS4 is.

And, finally, on the third(!) click I get what I actually want. Now repeat this a thousand times, and that’s how annoying it is.

But who can we blame? Maybe it is my fault for using Dreamweaver,  but Adobe certainly wants a user base, so we can’t generalize that to the blaming the user.

It’s not the fault of the designers. The tab navigation and tool bar there aren’t great works of revolutionary design, but they’re not bad. I understand them easily enough and they do what they look like their going to do.

So, in this case the only person really left to blame is the developer. Adobe charges enough for their products that you’d think they’d be able to hire some decent code writers, but apparently not.

The larger point I want to make is that while UX is  great buzzword right now – and one I’m happy about, considering I’m in HCI/d – designers can only do so much. Developers actually have to follow through well on any design, or else the whole experience with that digital artifact will continue to suck, just like with Dreamweaver CS4.