Weekend Links

Boredom in Design

Jon Bell has an interesting article about designers who design for themselves instead of their users. It's tempting to think of ourselves as artists. But that's just not good enough. Wikipedia says:

Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.

People don't just want to be have their senses and emotions appealed to by the things we design. They also (and perhaps mainly) want to get stuff done. It's all to easy to let our own exuberance about our products get in the way of thinking about how people will actually use them.

Being boring is often the right thing to do.


Max Steenbergen has two neat articles about dashboard user interfaces: Dashboard UI's: an introduction and Navigating around a dashboard UI.


The most recent version of Instapaper Pro supports reading using pagination. Marco Arment explains how he chose the "page change tap zones".1

The ReadWriteWeb Facebook Login Incident

A lot of good articles have been written about this. Neven Mrgan has an explanation of what actually happened. He also has two follow-ups, Things people try to log into and I liked the old Facebook login better.

Dmitry Fadeyev tells us to focus on goals, not actions.

Jono DiCarlo writes that people don't know how to read URLs. Keith Lang has some more about this. It's not particularly surprising, really. Even explaining to people how to figure out what site they're currently on is surprisingly difficult.

URLs are confusing

The takeaway here is that people don't care about all of this technical stuff. Implementation details are meaningless. People just want to get things done. It's our job to make sure that they actually can. If we can't, we're the stupid ones.


I'm not going to write much about the iPad until I have actually used one. In the meantime, here are some good articles about it:

Related to this, Macworld has an article on Apple's shareholder meeting. Macworld reports that a shareholder asked Apple about "a simple programming language on the iPad". Strangely, Steve Jobs is quoted as saying "Something like HyperCard on the iPad? Yes, but someone would have to create it". I'm not sure where the misunderstanding is, but clearly, if somebody built something like HyperCard for the iPad, Apple would not approve it. Apple's App Store rules do not allow apps which interpret code. One example for such a rejection is BasicMatrix, a BASIC interpreter for the iPhone2.

In my opinion, this restriction makes the iPad problematic for usage in schools. Basic programming courses are an important part of a proper education. Programming helps kids understand how computers work, it helps them to understand logic, and it's also incredibly empowering. What's more, being able to write Excel macros or simple AppleScripts is a useful skill3, regardless of what these kids eventually end up doing with their lives. Schools won't be able to use iPads for such a course unless Apple changes this rule.

Finally, Apple's rule also means that apps like Mathematica would probably not be allowed on the iPad.

How Gaming is Invading Reality

Interesting presentation by Jesse Schell, Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of entertainment and technology.

Swiss German

There's a great article about Swiss German over at Thinking coral. Just in case you're interested in that kind of thing.

And Finally

For some unfathomable reason, I have been interviewed by How To Get Focused, a productivity site. I want to make it clear that I did not write the byline above the interview. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t find it both flattering and hilarious.

  1. He has since changed his mind↩︎

  2. Although there are exceptions. A reader points out that SpaceTime allows users to write applications. There's also Frotz, a Z-Machine interpreter. So Apple will allow some applications which execute code into the app store, and disallow others. Without knowing whether an app will be allowed, however, it will make little sense to actually create it for most developers. ↩︎

  3. Note that I'm not saying that schools should teach the Excel macro language or AppleScript, but that learning basic programming will help kids learn other languages like the Excel macro language or AppleScript on their own. ↩︎

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designed for use cover

But wait, there's more!

Want to read more like this? Buy my book's second edition! Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web is now available DRM-free directly from The Pragmatic Programmers. Or you can get it on Amazon, where it's also available in Chinese and Japanese.