Google I/O 2014 – Material Design, a metaphor

Gogle I/O 2014 Material Design

Design, as we know it, has evolved over centuries. The design that we experiences in everyday life, be it industrial design or art or engineering has had an evolution that matured it to the current form and experience. Software is a much recent phenomenon, going by the age of the sector itself. Design in software technology has just about recently started to see fundamental principles and philosophies being applied. Apple did skeuomorphism, Microsoft did tiles and Google was furiously iterating with its users to design its software better. Till now, they never clearly defined a philosophy that governed their design. It had always been guidelines for designers and developers to help develop on their platform.

At 2014 I/O, Google introduced what is already been seen on their web applications and mobile OS as their new design philosophy. Material design. Have a look at the video playlist below to understand what Google plans to do with this design philosophy and how it got inspired and what vision it sees brought forth with a philosophy that’s materialistic, metaphorically speaking.

Does Skeuomorphic Design Matter? | UX Magazine

Skeuomorphs and Affordances

Since the introduction of iOS 7, the blogosphere has been alive with debate on Apple’s departure from skeuomorphism—the yellow lined legal pad of Notes, the leather bound folio of Calendar. We are now deeply mired in a flat vs. skeuomorphic debate that reduces skeuomorphism to coddling kitsch and equates flat design with high-modernism. Both sides have missed the point.

Skeuomorphs in design aren’t useless decoration, but contextual clues. Like design metaphor they are the visual equivalent of figurative language—enabling designers to quickly tap into shared cultural understandings and convey complex meanings in a straightforward way. They work as a new kind of affordance, one that communicates not function but identity.

READ MORE: Does Skeuomorphic Design Matter? | UX Magazine.

How to get graphic designers excited about your wireframes

How to get designers excited about your wireframes

How to get designers excited about your wireframes

As a usability or user experience architect one is very passionate about their output, and why not. You have spent long hours banging your head trying to understand requirements, getting stakeholders excited and convincing your model to the business. When it comes to getting your design implemented, that’s when you have a visual designer at hand who is brought in to develop your vision into reality.

Then there are others who involve user experience designers in this process and have then get involved at a certain stage of development so as to have them limber up to the main event of creating the user interface. I am not drawing any conclusions here but I do have an opinion that a designer is a designer. And if he is designing a website or an application, he is good at his game. To create fantastic visual interpretation of the user interface. Graphic designers have a special significance in a creative team because they have the tendency to think out of the box. I like that attribute to be associated and be an asset in a product development team.

Let me start by underlining the importance of good graphic designers –

  • They thrive on challenges
  • They always think out of the box
  • They are not limited by conformity
  • They know their game, and goal is to create the wow factor with attention to detailing
  • Always listening, always curious

A good designer would always be a good learner. If you trace all the design evolution till date in software and web, designers have been always been there tinkering with the latest in technology and business and software solutions. They have always been working hand in hand with core teams and absorbing skills that complimented their own core skills. So, when it comes to user experience, I see no different situation.

Here are some points one which I follow when involving a designer in a project. I have created this list based on my personal experience with them as a user experience professional.

  • Give them an orientation about them about the software or product. Allow them to absorb and understand the product. They will feel a lot more engaged with their work.
  • Identify and share challenges with them. Engage them by taking critical inputs or solutions from them. They will feel as an important part of the team.
  • Engage them early, even if their work is not yet taken off in the project time line. It gives them some breathing space to creatively limber and be prepared with ideas and thoughts that they can bring in on a tight schedule.
  • If your disagree with their designs, do not criticize them. Instead challenge their solution by giving your counter argument on why it would not work. No one appreciates negative criticism but everyone respects and accepts rational debates.
  • Sometimes you need to cut a slack and focus on the critical issues. Designers tend to get bogged down by creative issues that you might not find critical. Instead of telling them to hurry things up, your should assist them plan design tasks based on criticality.
  • Balance your appreciation with criticism. Excess of both are not good for our product. You need to know when to balance things by adding the right amount. This is applicable even when things are going in the extreme ends (good or bad i,e).
  • Even if its not their concern, it sometimes feels good to share some insights with them to address certain issues. And vica versa, you should take inputs from them and if possible consider its application, and perhaps apply them. Its no rocket science that most of the times, if not always, experience teaches is more than books do.
  • Given them responsibilities and watch them become responsible. I am yet to see a designer who has not taken his responsibility seriously. They may not be good at taking big ones but when set in small sets, they tend to do wonders.
  • Acknowledge their contribution to the larger group in your organisation. They will appreciate it and also take pride in their work.

I guess the last point holds true for all of us too, doesn’t it?

[Image copyright: logolitic.com]

Do I need to have a responsive UI for my website?

Responsive Design

Being responsive assists you become dependable to your customers.

I intend to throw some light on responsive design and the though process that should go behind developing a responsive website. I hope it will allow the business stakeholders make a informed decision.

Responsive design allows a website to intelligently morph its UI to acomodate itself on the screen of the device the user would access it from. There is a lot more happening other than a mere rearrangement of the layout to facilitate the screen size.

Take a look at yellowpages.co.in which is a very good example of a well applied responsive design to a website. If you are loading this website in a desktop browser, try and reduce the size of the browser window and see what happens. Well … that folks, is a responsive design.

Benefits of a responsive design
Here are some of the highlights of the benefits of a good responsive design.

  • You have to design and maintain a single website to cater to all possible device access.
  • The overall cost of development and maintenance is low.
  • In all probability, you would have optimized the site, not only for performance but also for content display and interactions.

Risks of a badly integrated responsive design
There are several risks associated with responsive design. Its not applicable for all websites. Not in the traditional sense. Here are some risks that you should be aware of.

  • For data and script heavy sites, there can be performance drops on small screen devices
  • The design breaks or is not compatible with certain browser types. This would result in a bad experience to the end user.
  • Maintaining the website becomes hell with limited or no documentation or process in place.
  • User drop rates can affect your business

No business would want their customers to be driven away. While responsive design may provide benefits for the business. They get negated when the customers or users experience a bad website interaction.

An hybrid solution – Server Side Optimization
Responsive design has its benefits which cannot be ignored. one should distinctly identify family of devices that can experience almost similar experiences and cater to these distinct groups in a responsive manner. Server side scripts can manage response to the page requests depending on the source device. Depening on which device family these requests come from, specific UI can be pushed to that device. This ensures that your site will optimally peform on the device/browser and the responsiveness of the page scripts at the client side will ensure that the experience will get managed locally.