Spatial metaphors in IA and game design

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?

links for 2007-02-28

links for 2007-02-27

Leapfroglog slightly screwed

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… 

Update: I’ve man­aged to restore most of what I lost dur­ing the upgrade. If you come across any­thing fun­ny, please let me know. Reg­u­lar blog­ging will con­tin­ue from this point on.

links for 2007-02-23

links for 2007-02-22

links for 2007-02-20

Super short Nozbe review

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. I like the book excerpts that explain the dif­fer­ent GTD con­cepts such as projects, con­texts and actions.
  3. 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).
  4. 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. 
  5. 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).
  6. 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! 

Update: For those who had­n’t noticed, I found this tool via the excel­lent Life­hack­er blog. Nozbe have their own spar­tan blog too.

Anoth­er update: The excel­lent GTD blog Black Belt Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty does an in depth review and comes up with some of the same points as I did plus a whole bunch more.