At the studio, coffee brewing in the french press, El Guincho on the stereo. Last week I felt overwhelmed, this week I just feel allergic. Literally. I have a head full of antihistamines, hope they kick in soon.
One thing I decided to do about the overwhelming bit is block out more time in my calendar for work. Not saying how much, but I already had some time blocked for a while now, and I have doubled that. It just won’t do to have hardly any time to do actual design. I guess I’ll just need to to talk to fewer people. If you do not push back, it is easy to lose all your time to meet-ups. People are reckless in the ease with which they impose on other’s time. Myself included.1
We played a card game last night at the studio. An insight I’ve had after reviewing the past period with my interns. To become better designers, we need to make a lot of games, this is true.2 But it also helps to play games, many games, of any kind. So we’ll set apart an hour or so each week and we’ll play a game that someone brings in. I kicked it off with Dominion, which is interesting for the way it has built upon trading-card-game deck-building mechanics, like Magic the Gathering. In stead of it being something that happens before a game it takes place in parallel to the game.
What else is of note? Ah yes. I attended Design by Fire 2010 on Wednesday. It is still the best conference on interaction design in the Netherlands. And I really appreciate the fact that the organizers continue to take risks with who they put on stage. Too often do I feel like being part or at least spectator of some clique at events, with all speakers knowing each other and coming from more or less the same “school of thought”. Not so with Design by Fire. Highlights included David McCandless, Andrei Herasimchuk, m’colleague Ianus and of course Bill Buxton.
The latter also reminded me of some useful frames of thought for next Tuesday, when I will need to spend around half an hour talking about the future of games, from a design perspective, at an invitation-only think-tank like session organized by STT.3 The organizers asked me to set an ambition time frame, but as you may know I have a very hard time imagining any future beyond say, the next year or two. (And sometimes I also have trouble being hopeful about it.) But as Mr. Buxton points out, ideas need a gestation period of around 20 years before they are ready for primetime, so I am planning to look back some ten years, see what occupied the games world back then, and use that as a jumping off point for whatever I’ll be talking about. Let’s get started on that now.
Mule Design had an interesting post on this. Part of the problem is people, but part also software, according to them. Imagine a calendar you subtract time from in stead of add to. [↩]
So far, Ianus, Alexander and I have announced three of the four people who’ll be speaking at the first Dutch This happened. They are Fabian of Ronimo Games, Philine of Supernana and Dirk of IR labs The final addition to this wonderful line-up is Werner Jainek of Cultured Code, the developers of Things, a task management application for Mac OS X as well as the iPhone and iPod Touch.
When I first got in touch with the guys at Cultured Code, I asked who of the four principals was responsible for interaction design. I was surprised to hear that a large part of the interaction design is a collaborative effort. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom in design circles: You’re not supposed to design by committee. Yet no-one can deny Things’ interaction design is solid, focused and cohesive.
Werner and his associates collaborate through vigorous sketching. Sometimes they produce many mock-ups to iron out apparently simple bits of the application. A prime example being this recurring tasks dialog. Just look at all the alternatives they explored. Their attention to detail is admirable. Also, take a look at the photos they posted when they announced Things touch. I’m sure that, if you’re a designer, you can’t help but love carefully examining the details of such work in progress.
Werner tells me he’s been busy scanning lots of sketches to share at This happened – Utrecht #1. I can’t wait to hear his stories about how the design of both the desktop and mobile app have happened.
Werner completes our line-up. Which you can see in full at thishappened.nl. There, you’ll also be able to register for the event starting this Monday (20 October). I hope to see you on 3 November, it promises to be a lovely filled with the stories behind interaction design.
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!