Looking at dominant metaphors in different design disciplines I’m in some way involved in, it’s obvious to me that most are spatial (no surprises there). Here’s some thoughts on how I think this is (or should be) changing. Information architecture tends to approach sites as information spaces (although the web 2.0 hype has brought us a few ‘new’ ones, on which more later.) I do a lot of IA work. I have done quite a bit of game design (and am re-entering that field as a teacher now.) Some of the designers in that field I admire the most (such as Molyneux and Wright) approach games from a more or less spatial standpoint too (and not a narrative perspective, like the vast majority do). I think it was Molyneux who said games are a series of interesting choices. Wright tends to call games ‘possibility spaces’, where a player can explore a number of different solutions to a problem, more than one of which can be viable.
I don’t think I’m going anywhere in particular here, but when looking at IA again, as I just said, the field is currently coming to terms with new ways of looking at the web and web sites; the web as a network, web as platform, the web of data, and so on. Some of these might benefit from a more procedural, i.e. game design-like, stance. I seem to remember Jesse James Garrett giving quite some attention to what he calls ‘algorithmic architecture’ (using Amazon as an example) where the IA is actually creating something akin to a possibility space for the user to explore.
Perhaps when we see more cross-pollination between game design and information architecture and interaction design for the web, we’ll end up with more and more sites that are not only more like desktop applications (the promise of RIA’s) but also more like games. Wouldn’t that be fun and interesting?
Due to a screwed up WordPress upgrade from 2.1 to 2.1.1 this blog is now slightly borked. Most notably, the custom theme I so painstakingly created is lost, as well as all the images in the posts that were not included via Flickr. I’ll see if I can rescue some stuff from old backups. Until then, you’ll have to do with the default theme (most of you won’t notice considering that you’re reading the blog in your feed reader anyway).
That’ll teach me to do an upgrade while ill…
Nozbe is a web app that allows you to organise your to-do’s Getting Things Done style. This morning I spent a little while giving it a spin. I decided to sit down and enter a bunch of actions I have in my Hipster PDA (a Moleskine Memo Pockets and a bunch of blanc index cards) into Nozbe. First impressions:
- Nozbe is a cool concept. I have really been waiting for a multidimensional productivity web app. They got this part right! (Projects and contexts are included.)
- I like the book excerpts that explain the different GTD concepts such as projects, contexts and actions.
- I’d really only consider using Nozbe if it’d include a mobile variant (otherwise my actions are only accessible when I’m online behind a computer).
- Nozbe forces you to enter each action in a project up front. This is, I think, a misreading of Allen’s ‘gospel’ and increases the cognitive load when quickly entering an action. I’d have actions be forcibly linked to a context but give the user the option to add it to a project. (I worked around this by creating a ‘No Project’ project and adding actions to it before reorganising.
- Contexts are fixed, which is a shame. Please, please, please let me create my own contexts, tagging-style. So I can have actions linked to multiple contexts (which again reduces cognitive load).
- Don’t show the duration menu by default when entering an action, keep it clean. I’ll add durations when I want to, but don’t force me to.
Productivity apps are hard to get right because everyone has such a personal workflow. A good app takes that into account and offers many ways to do the same things. So again, Nozbe guys: the app is a good start, congratulations on the good effort! However it could benefit from some more user-centred thinking and design. Try to get a feel for the context of your users and tweak the interface accordingly!