Posts about ‘language’

Icons and instructional graphics are a language. Without knowing enough about the grammar to communicate properly, the message won’t get across. Part of the goal of the designer is to reduce the number of types of interactions the user must learn. To do this, the designer looks across the complete set of interactions in order to develop a small set that can handle all of them.

A Picture Is Worth…

Many of the medical-technology companies I work for ask us to develop interfaces that use no text–icons only. It’s one of my least favorite conversation with a client. We sit in front of a very long list of product features; I envision a very simple menu system, organized to let the user easily find what he needs; the client says, “of course, we want to sell this in Europe and Asia, so everything has to be icon-driven. My heart sinks.

Mapping The Conversation

A tool that I end up using on nearly every project is the “Conversation Map.” I wrote a while ago about treating product interactions as conversations, and this is one of the simple-yet-key ways I use to make sure the interaction make sense and follows the conversational rules we all expect.

Here’s a simple example: what does the interaction between a vending machine and a customer look like? I put together a quick conversation map…

What It Takes

Characterizing what goes into a purchase decision is, I’m guessing, the most important thing a company can do. Why does anyone buy anything? There are lots of ways to talk about it, but the one I’m enjoying these days, I call the “Love It / Solve It” chart.

The idea is this: In order for me to buy a product, it must both solve my problem, to some extent, and I must love it, to some extent. Exactly how much a product must solve and how much I must love before I’ll by are related to each other along some curve. If a product is above and to-the-right of the curve, as the star is, I’ll by. Below the curve, and no dice.

A couple of times in the last week I’ve noticed a new product: Scott “Xtreme” Rags. They’re so new they’re not even on the Scott website, as far as I can tell. But I saw them at Home Depot last weekend, and when I peeked into a store undergoing renovation a few days later. It’s a product that seems aimed at the contractor market, and I think it’s a strange mash-up. It’s a product simultaneously of the lowest and the highest value.


A fair amount of the work I do involves the design of “user interface.” I don’t know who coined that term, but it’s interesting. I’m sure it was a software engineer, who divided his or her work into “writing the code that actually does stuff” and “writing the code that lets the user interface with the code that actually does stuff.” It’s a term with product-orientation–if we were consumer oriented, we’d call it the “product interface.”

Ring, Ring

No, this phone is not really red, and yes, the quotes are superfluous. But, in this case, it’s all fine. It’s not a red phone but it is a “RED PHONE.”

Welcome, Dummies!

This site uses WordPress as its blogging engine. I like it because it works really well, and it’s customizable. If you have a little technical knowledge, you can add plug-ins to extend the functionality of your site. If you have a lot, you can tweak the code and add any feature you can dream up and code. But what if you’re a dummy? Or, rather, a Dummy? In that case, you can read WordPress for Dummies, which is the #1 book on blogging at Amazon and has been for a few months.

Simple, but Alive

Steinway pianos are still made completely by hand. The result is less product than living object that speaks directly to the artists that plays it. What can we take from that relationship as we design less specialized products and services?

Shoveling It

We had a snowstorm in New England yesterday, which wasn’t a big deal unless you were driving in the same direction as everyone else. Before the storm, I checked to make sure I had all the essentials, and realized that my snow shovel was broken. So I went to the store and bought a new one, which led me to ponder the value of a manufacturer’s warranty. Bear with me.

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