User eXperience Design

Today I gave a presentation at User Experience Design Meet
held at Microsoft’s Bangalore Campus

Here are the details in text. Alternatively you can view the whole presentation here.

Design for the Next Generation


Design philosophies need to change, Why?

There is a new device segment coming up

New kind of input methods

Change in the form factors

Use of Procedural Content and Context Free Art

User interface Controls

About Notion Ink

Design Philosophies need to change, why?

There is a new segment of devices coming up. And soon there will be 600 million of them worldwide. They will have different needs and expectations. They will have different resources at their disposal. But there can be not be any sacrifices in the quality of our designs. Cos if we don’t find way of doing it, someone else will. And these “new” users aren’t loyal. (How can they be if they are new?)

The new segment we are talking about is of MIDs, Net books and Internet enabled Mobile phones. When we mean different needs we mean quick access to controls, but with huge amount of encapsulation. They need easier ways to accomplish tasks. Right from file sharing, to entering text (think of a keyboard-less device!).

And for the first time, OS doesn’t matter to them if it does what they want and looks like “what they have seen before”. They want more from OS. “We will cover it in last part”

They have different resources. They are like Scooty (online application). Not Hummers or SUV (Photoshop, matlab, Maya). Think about it. You need to travel 10 mile on a city road. Which will take you faster, at lower cost and easily? Unfortunately the interfaces which we see, and the solutions which are coming up are not helping these Scootys.

But why suddenly a change from Hummers (Pentium dual core with 4MB of cash, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD) to Scooty (Atom or ARM Processor, 512 MB Mobile RAM, 32 GB SSD)? Interesting. But have you heard of KB of RAMS? So, let’s ask a general question; as the system progresses, shouldn’t it become efficient in terms of space as well? Are we deviating from the topic? The main point here is, since the systems are not Hummers; let’s not design applications and interfaces which consume lot of diesel.

The new input systems

Most of the devices in the future will have touch screens. Most of the mobiles already have. It’s a completely different play ground. The accuracy of the user has reduced, which asks for designs which are designed for error corrections. They demand to bigger icons, large pixel space between links, hiding menus which users won’t need access to often, new ways of selecting text and scrolling (unintended clicking a link), content which is “F’ in shape. We are working on newer concepts of text editing. How should the new sliders be designed? Now think about the importance of scroll bars. Are the websites you are designing or the interfaces ready for these kinds of controls?

Change in form factors

What is the size of the screens in the future devices? With the advent of this new segment, the standard size will change to 9inch. Is it enough for the application we have right now? Take example of office 2007. Smaller screens will be preferred as it defines the “True Mobility”. And they will be wide. So, how much space is left to view the content online which is majorly horizontal. Can’t the content be designed in smaller pieces and stitched on a vertical line. Think books! Another major concern is going to be the fonts. Smaller screen doesn’t necessarily mean higher DPP.

User Interface controls.

Let’s design an ideal office. Ideal would mean complete control of everything. So, I should have controls for the Internet connections, phone connections, electricity connections, water pipelines, paint and plasters (just in case), nails and a hammer, stock of Chair wheel-rollers etc. Oh and of course office furniture!

This is how current interfaces look like. We should not be designing systems for geeks who know how to figure out what they want to do. Instead design systems where we have done research understanding what are the major tasks user needs and just give that much. Of course if there is any electricity problem you can go to the ground floor and replace the burnt out fuse.

I have few questions. How often do you use file menu there on the top. And do you really need a title bar? What should the ideal controls available to the users? Does it make sense to design the system for the 1% geeks when the economics depend on those 99% who seeks enablers and not tool box! Think text flow around an image? How complicate is that to understand, that user needs it.

A good application solving such problems is Adobe Buzzword.

Adobe Buzzword

Solution is in the Context Sensitive Designs.

Have you seen the main menu bar every changing in any websites? (Well there are few designs now) Websites remind me of one thing. How many words are there in 1MB of data? How many words are there in 1MB of website? Doesn’t that show you the power of RSS? Can’t RSS updates be mailed to people who wish to know more? Nearly every website which is there on the Internet, the user first has to register. Get a confirmation email in response. Then start using it. How many websites are there in the world? How much time do you think user has for everyone of them? He would only stick to one if it engages him, not asks him to wait.

Let’s change to the other topic.

Use of Procedural Content, Context Free Art

There was a time when 3D video games used to come in Floppy Discs. Floppy Discs (smaller). Few of them incorporated Procedural Animation in them. A procedural animation is a type of computer animation, used to automatically generate animation in real-time to allow for a more diverse series of actions than could otherwise be created using predefined animations.

It is smaller in size. What can we do with this smaller size? How much can one download within 5 secs on Internet? An online 3D game? What about the newer animation for “Motion Typography”? What about the animation in the PPTs we show? How small? Look at this video:

Context Art.

Statuary Warning: It’s so addictive that those who are introduced at least try it once. And then once again.



These are the backgrounds which our eyes like. These are the kinds of tools we need for kids. For those old people who are kids.

Notion !nk

“But we still think the ultra-portable computing market is going to be led by a well-designed, all-purpose gadget that’s good at Web, reading, multimedia, and some games. Bigger than the iPod touch, a bit smaller than the Kindle DX, and not as cramped as a net book. And we haven’t seen that yet.” One of the online business news portal.

Sorry if things seems a bit out of order or confusing. You can go through the whole presentation here.

2 thoughts on “User eXperience Design

  1. Hi,
    I came across your blog thanks to a post on CNN-IBN today. This article is one of the best i’ve read about interfaces. I liked the way you have questioned the need for everything that we see in the interfaces – from the ubiquitous scroll bar to the need for large graphics in the webpage.

    Unfortunately most websites are so sold on graphics and visual content that they have forgotten the basic principles of good design.

    Love what you are doing with the new laptop. Keep it up.

    – Paritosh

  2. Rohan,

    I didn’t expect to be inspired in any way when I sat down casually to browse for tablets online. Yet I’ve now read almost every post on this blog, and I find myself inspired not (just) by a product idea: you have a compelling story in the way you think, approach this challenge, and share it with others.

    I’m also in my mid-twenties, Indian, and similarly driven to explore my ideas. So I am drawn to your story perhaps because of that element of empathy, or perhaps because of a stark lack of synergy with the people in my life. In any case, I wish you the best of luck in pursuing your ideas: the Adam and all those that come after.

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