Social Media: The Good, The Bad

A:”Do you have a Facebook account?”

B:”Nope.”

A:”WHAT???!!!”

Today, social media has taken social interaction to a whole new level. Such is its reach that it seems abnormal if someone is not using or involved in it. But is social media really sugar, spice, and everything nice?

The power of social media cannot be ignored. Marketers have used social media succesfully to promote their products and maintain good customer relationships. It enables us to enhance interaction with our friends as well; we can share photos, videos, anything interesting etc. We are constantly updated about our friends too, almost real-time: where they are exactly, who they are hanging out with, what they are eating, how they are feeling, who they are ranting about, how “it’s complicated”… all from a screen. How convenient. How irritating (sometimes).

Social media seems to have diluted the meaning of friendship. Someone’s your “Friend” upon a click of a button. But how many of these “Friends” are actually our friend? Sometimes, it can already be hard to gauge people’s feelings from face-to-face interaction; what about through social media, where all one see are words and emoticons which might not mean anything afterall. Maybe your “Friend” is replying just for the sake of doing so. We will not know, will we?

Then there is the question of ethics and responsibility. Hidden behind our own screens, people seem to become more careless, or brave, in what they say, for instance, the many racist remarks made through social media. Let’s not even start on cyber-stalking…hmmm…

Indeed, social media is an excellent tool in many ways, but as good as it can get, social media does have its fair share of shortcomings. Sharing through social media knows no bounds. Just remember to think twice, pay more attention and be more careful when utilizing it.

Fitts’ Law: Appreciating Size, Space and Speed.

GAME ON!?!?

 

Playstation would have been a failure if its controller was like THAT. Period.

Fitts’ Law, in interaction design, describes the time taken to point at a target based on the size of and the distance to the object. It is governed by the following law:

 

T = k log2 (D/S + 1.0)

where

T = time to move the pointer to a target

D = distance between the pointer and the target

S = size of the target

k is a constant of approx. 200ms/bit
 

Essentially, the aim of using Fitts’ Law is to help designers determine the location and size of buttons, as well as the spacing between them so as to enhance user experience. This is an especially important point to note in cases with limited space, for example mobile devices. A trade-off always exists among the size of the object, the distance between the objects, and the speed and accuracy of getting to that object; the following video sums this up (embedding disabled, kindly click on the link):

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kly2QA1bFc8

 

The importance of Fitts’ Law should not be ignored, and even more so when the time to physically locate an object is critical to the task at hand – pressing the “shoot” button to score the championship-winning goal in the final minute of a soccer match in FIFA 13 after a mazy dribble through the opponent’s entire team. Now that’s critical!

And back to my Playstation…

Reading, Speaking, Listening

People can interact with systems in different ways, when it comes to software it’s mainly reading, speaking or listening. Deciding how users will interact with a software has implications depending on the purpose of the software and the targeted demographic of users.

Reading:

Reading is the most common way for people to interact with software. Reading is generally more advantageous compared to being spoken to. People typically read information faster than if the same information is spoken to them. Text also allows the user to re-read if they have doubts about the information.

However, there are implications to be take note of when designing a system based around user reading. As some people might have difficulty reading, zooming in functions should be available for people who might find text too small. Dyslexics would also have difficulty reading text, hence other forms of interaction like listening might be taken into account if design needs to be catered to them.

Most web browsers have zooming capabilities.

Speaking:

Having users speaking to software has recently became more popular with smartphone applications like Apple’s Siri. However there are still issues with voice recognition not being accurate especially when users speak with different accents. Hence some implications are that speech based menus should be kept to a minimum, in terms of number of spoken options and length of commands. People generally find it hard to follow and remember menus with too many spoken options. A long voice command with multiple words also increases the possibility that some words might be inaccurately recognized by the software, resulting in a failed command.

Listening:

Listening requires less cognitive effort than reading in general. Hence children usually prefer being read stories instead of reading it themselves. Hence software that targets children as their demographic typically interacts with these users by speaking to them. Spoken text is also useful in software that teaches new languages to people. Implications to design with text spoken to users include having the text spoken slowly to allow users to fully understand what is being spoken to them. Intonation needs to be accentuated in artificially synthesized speech, as users might find them harder to understand than human voices.

Language Learning Software that aids users by speaking to them

Presenting this week!

Our group will be doing a presentation on Scenarios during lecture this week, stay tuned!

More questions?

In some way or another, we would have encountered the need to fill out questionnaires. Regardless if it is to help a friend of yours who’s attempting to do market research on their project or some stranger that you bump into while strolling down the streets for a short survey as they would usually imply or providing feedback for a module/restaurant/service.

Not In A Million Chance! (Bad Examples)

Let us consider some of the distressing questionnaires.

Some scenarios:

  • 30 questions + all of them open-ended questions
  • 40 questions + close-ended but populated with 10 choices each + long sentences for each choice

To avoid:

  • long sentences
  • lengthy questionnaires coupled with boring questions
  • insensitive questions

Tipping Of The Hat🙂 (Good Examples)

Let’s now partake in the fine tasty grapes.

  • elicit a positive engagement from the respondent
  • accurate responses
  • sustained interest

Takeaways:

  • Be concise
  • Always have the respondent in mind

All right, you can go and fill out those questionnaires now.

Classical elements of web design

Web designs are such a quintessential part of the internet that as users, we do not give much thought about it. Take for example the Google search engine (pictured above) that we have grown so accustomed to.  It has a concise, simple and minimal design, providing information on what we have inquire about with clear signs and short descriptions of the site we are about to click on. However, there are sporadic lapses where we raged and be absolutely confounded by a new website that violates the classical elements of a web design which can both be daunting and traumatising to the user.

Lingscars (a site that provides cars for hire)

WARNING: POSSIBLE MOMENTARY BLINDNESS and NAUSEA (from the ‘graphic’ nature)


The website floods the user with not only a sea of information, but also with jarring colours, inconsistent fonts choices coupled with confusing navigation links. This has quite a disconcerting effect on the user and simply warrant a quick and swift exit of the site by the user.

In direct juxtaposition is the news site, Guardian.

The site has demonstrated a good web design in spite of having to display and containing a plethora of information. It provides guidance with an organized page that enables the reader to navigate smoothly throughout the site even though the home page is constantly updated with the latest news. There are a few key elements of web design that is employed by the site:

  • Navigation (segregation of the various content in different categories e.g. top bar with World, Politics, Media, etc…)
  • Typography (consistent font choices and size coupled with the choice of colour for the fonts)
  • Spacing (adequate between each news stories with good padding)
  • Consistency (coherent between pages)
  • Usability (providing short excerpts of the newstories

In short, the classical elements of web design should always have the user in mind providing an ease of use and to be aesthetically pleasant.

erroneous error messages.

Image

Ehhh?!?! :O

If only all error messages were more helpful. Unfortunately, some point in time somewhere, we come across error messages that trigger The Hulk hidden within us. Be it trying to decipher what did you miss out on an online application form, why the website is not working, why you are unable to execute certain commands, why the programme cannot be compiled, why the programme cannot be compiled, WHY THE PROGRAMME CANNOT BE COMPILED???… Apologies, nightmares from coding classes still linger… Well, the list just goes on and on.

Upon encountering an error, what we really need is a solution. We need useful help. Many times, error messages raise more questions than providing us with any leads to an answer, especially technical ones like:

Image

How about one that does not make any sense:

Image

We eat the humble pie and click “OK” without knowing what went wrong or what is the next step to take (did I hear the developers snigger…)

The Ideal Error Message

An error message should not make us feel like “it is the end”. Useful feedback provided by an error message to prompt the next step to take would be greatly appreciated. It should aid us in solving the problem. Such feedbacks can come in the form of increased visibility:

Image

Or provide us with a help tab or a link to solutions online:

Image

The bottom line is not to leave the user blank and frustrated. In a nutshell, a good error message should possess the following:

  1. Catch the user’s attention!!!
  2. Clear visibility (in pointing out the error)
  3. Explain what went wrong and why
  4. Understood by anyone (avoid technical jargons)
  5. Provide leads to solving the problem (help/link button)

That said, erroneous error messages continue to be part and parcel of our lives; they are almost inevitable. Be surprised!😉

The Internet As the Mythological Creature – the Dragon.

The Internet is often likened to an ‘information highway’, or the ‘eye to the world’, or the other common metaphors you can find just by searching on Google. Well, Steven Covey once said “live out of your imagination, not your history”. Thus, let me propose a slightly unconventional metaphor for the Internet – a dragon. Allow me to elaborate.

As the myths and legends go, the dragon is a fury creature, a magestic beast with unlimited powers. The dragon is feared by the common people and sometimes made use of by the wise or the evil. The legendary beast influenced the lives of great civilisations like China and ancient Greece (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragons_in_Greek_mythology, http://www.moonfestival.org/legends/dragon.htm). We liken this to the Internet – a digital juggernaut possessing the power to unearth unlimited amounts of information, affect the global economy and shape culture.

Firstly, statistics show that the Internet is now the most commmonly used tool to search for information (http://smallbusinessshift.com/news/2011-yellow-pages-vs-online-usage/). The convenience offered by the Internet overwhemingly overshadows the benefits of traditional media. Because of this, the Internet has tranformed into a digital juggernaut with the power to provide unlimited information to people worldwide. However, this has also turned the Internet into a ‘monster’ to some people, while others are trying to take advantage of its abilities and powers. Common people are afraid of privacy issues to do with search engines as well as social media sites. Instead of helping them, people are burdened with issues of spam and the unnecessary revealing of personal information – one of my friend failed to get a job due to some compromising photos that was posted on social networking site Facebook. The dragon has haunted and terrorised him. However, people on the other side of the spectrum are the ‘wise’ or ‘evil’ ones as I have mentioned. They are the ones that know how to make use of the Internet, or the dragon which we now call it. They commercialise the dragon, dissect it and sell it to the people. This commercialisation has become so mammoth such that the global economy is directly dependent on the dragon. Apple, Facebook and Google, three technological companies that deal with the dragon in one way or another that rocketed to become three of a dozen most important and highest networth companies in the world attest to this. Also, a second of the dragon’s absence, or, in other words, the Internet being down for a second could mean hundreds of millions of money being lost by financial companies in the world. What other creature as magestic as the dragon could be this destructive and influencial? What other creature is more apt in conceptualising the Internet?

As I briefly mentioned at the start of this commentary, the Internet is akin to the dragon in the shaping of cultures. People now depend on the Internet immensely like how our Chinese ancestors depended on the dragon to predict the weather, the seas and their ruler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_dragon). We refer to this phenomenon as a new culture called cyberculture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberculture). The rise of the Internet greatly contributed to cyberculture as it provided the platform for humans to do a plethora of things much more conveniently. For example, this post right now would belong in a diary 12 to 15 years ago. Many more people now socialise through the Internet (http://www.internetworldstats.com/facebook.htm) as compared to the conventional way of meeting people in the streets. Also, business meetings have given way to online conferences and people do their banking through the Internet instead of at the banks. Even popular culture is immensely influenced by the Internet. K-pop, or Korean popular culture boomed when music videos of the songs of Korean idol groups were made available on the Internet, particularly Youtube. A very current example would be the music video of “Gangnam Style” by Korean rapper Psy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0). By now who have not heard of it and heard or seen the many parodies of it? We are lucky (or unlucky to some) to be living in this era where we are witnessing first-hand these changes in our culture and way of life. Thus, as first-hand witnesses, we should agree that the Internet as a dragon is apt in the way it shaped or influenced culture.

We know this commentary has loopholes in the liking of the Internet as a dragon, but once again, Steven Covey once said “live out of your imagination, not your history”, so pardon us and allow us indulge in our imagination.🙂

Examples of Good and Bad Design

Welcome to Team 12’s first post! In last week’s lecture, the discussion topic was on the issue of interface design. In the discussion it is mentioned that interface design need not only refer to digital user interface design but also “hardware” designs that people interacted with in their daily lives.

Notable examples of interesting designs given in the lecture include a staircase wired up to work like a piano with each step playing different notes and a trash bin wired up to play a comical “falling” sound when someone drops a piece of trash into the bin. These two designs encouraged people to use the stairs instead of the escalator and throwing trash into the bin instead of littering in the park by making the process more fun for people.

Hence it is only natural that our post for this week further explore examples of good and bad design.

 

source: http://www.epicfail.com/2012/07/25/door-handle-fail/

This first example illustrates poor design. The keyhole to the door lock is placed underneath the door handle, which makes it practically impossible for the key to be inserted into the lock, much less turned after that. This makes the door lock unusable from this side of the door.

The intended use of this door might be to only allow the lock to be accessed on the reverse side, that side may have the handle positioned differently allowing the lock to be used. However, in the event of an emergency of having someone locked out/in, the option of unlocking from the facing side is not available.

This problem could be alleviated by repositioning the handle on the door.

 

source: http://www.yankodesign.com/2012/07/26/open-the-damn-door/

This second example illustrates good design. The keyhole of the door is shaped in a concave with glow in the dark material surrounding the lock. This enables easy location of the lock in poor lighting conditions. The glow in the dark material shows the user where the lock is located and the concave shape help guide the user by feel as to where exactly to insert his key.

This design would be excellent on the outside of doors at places where there might be low lighting at night, or at places where lighting has to be kept intentionally dim, for example, cinemas, auditoriums or museums.