“Even adjusting the volume of the radio is difficult.”

A recent article from Consumer Reports reminds me of an IxDA meetup from back in 2010. It was hosted by IDEO at their then brand new Chicago studio, brilliantly timed with the announcement that week of MyFord Touch.

The design team talked about the process they went through, including hacking together a real car’s steering wheel, their center stack prototype, and a PS3 running Gran Turismo. They showed some novel concepts for navigation which didn’t rely on game controller-like direction-pads or tons of buttons on the steering wheel, while stressing how deliberate and important the physical buttons and knobs were in their center stack design.

And then they played a clip of Ford's PR rep giving a demo of MyFord Touch. (I tried and failed to find the exact video on YouTube.) The PR rep stressed multiple times how important it was to have d-pads on the steering wheel and a big touchscreen because they felt they were intuitive to their customers. (Remember, this is before the launch of the iPad.) The IDEO folks made no comment after showing the video.

Now if the designers were at all like me, they’d be proud of their work no doubt, and happy to show it off, which they did. However, it doesn't seem a stretch to imagine they'd be pretty bothered by the piecemeal approach Ford took to implementing their advice. Here we are years later thinking just perhaps Ford should’ve listened.

Empathy: Where does yours come from & how do you use it?

empathy: noun. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.*

I recently came across a piece on empathy by Chad Fowler. Chad's point is how the most successful people are highly empathetic. I agree with this, and I do tend I think of myself as an empathetic person. Specifically, I think empathy is an essential for those who create experiences with technology. Fortunately, it's a skill you can practice and learn.

Sympathy is sometimes confused with empathy, which is the ability of parties to relate due to mutual experience. Sympathy lacks the requirement of having this shared experience. For instance, I never in my life have broken a bone, but I can sympathize, offering comfort to someone who has. I actually find it easier however to empathize with others, putting myself in their shoes to feel their pain by projecting unto them my own experiences as reference.

That feeling when something new half-works

I'm a power user and I know it. When I find a new product or service useful enough to spend time digging into, I won't stop digging until I've submitted several bug reports and feature requests to its creator. Even then, I usually don't stop there.

I've had Google Glass since the beginning of January, so about 5 or 6 weeks as of this writing. I'm currently taking an intentional break from it while my new frames are off at the lab to have my prescription put in, so I'm using this time to think back on my digging. For how polished it is and how much buzz the wearables category is generating lately, much has been written of how Glass is still a very novel, raw concept. My use corroborates this, and I keep a running list of *almost* every idea, bug, and "nice-to-have" I come across. That simple task--keeping a list--is so common to all peoples and technologies, yet it's one of the most complicated challenges we encounter in this connected, multi-device world.

Windows Phone 7: Fun With Interaction Design

If you haven't heard, Microsoft recently released their latest smartphone OS, Windows Phone 7. The blogs are already saying it's a great OS but is obviously late to the party. Google has a big head start, but Android mostly copies the iPhone as far as interaction design is concerned.

The biggest departure from the iPhone is what Microsoft is calling panoramic navigation. The idea is expanded from the UI of their Zune media players. The affordance, which I thought was ugly at first, is to display cropped text on the page that appears to spill over off the screen. Seeing it in action though, I'm pretty impressed with what some app developers have come up with already.

(Edited 2016: Unfortunately, the screenshots of these apps have been lost to time. Here's a list of the apps I referenced.)

  • Netflix
  • AP News
  • CTA Bus Tracker
  • Zune Music Player

I have to say that after seeing these demos, I'm kind of excited to see what design patterns we interaction designers can come up with for this new platform. Essentially, the UI is designed to get out of the way so you can use it quickly and get on with your life. And Microsoft's ad for this illustrates that point quite aptly (pun totally intentional):


Are the Kindle vs. Nook, iPhone vs. Droid debates even necessary?

It's desktop vs. mobile and history is repeating itself.

I've always been the type of person who sees advances in technology as inevitable, so I tend to embrace them as they emerge, much earlier than others I know. Given that, it's no surprise that I have and love my Kindle and iPhone. I've even gone as far as going on trips without my laptop, only bringing the Kindle+iPhone pair along. And I cannot begin to express how liberating that felt.

HIMSS on Usability

This paper by HIMSS sums up the obvious, but it’s great reading it as written by such an authoritative organization.

Some choice quotes from the first two pages:

  • A key reason, aside from initial costs and lost productivity during EMR implementation, is lack of efficiency and usability of EMRs currently available.
  • Achieving the healthcare reform goals of broad EMR adoption and “meaningful use” will require that efficiency and usability be effectively addressed at a fundamental level.
  • Usability is often mistakenly equated with user satisfaction, which is an oversimplification.
  • We submit that usability is one of the major factors—possibly the most important factor—hindering widespread adoption of EMRs.
  • Effective training and implementation methods affect user adoption rates as well, but training is both harder and more costly, and implementation is more complex and difficult when usability is lacking.

Originally downloaded from himss.org at:


(2016 Upate: Unfortunately that link no longer works, and I don't have a copy saved anywhere.)

How Amazon Could Improve Sharing Blog Posts on the Kindle

One of my favorite features of the my new Kindle e-book reader is how great it makes reading blogs. The combination of my Kindle and iPhone means I barely need to use my laptop to perform everday tasks like reading and email/IM/search/Twitter/Facebook, respectively.

What I miss about reading blogs on my laptop though is how easy it is to share links to an article with my friends. I could just copy the URL, maybe trim it with a URL shortening service, then post it to Twitter or Facebook, or email it. It was also easy to copy snippets of the article to include in posts/email.

In a perfect world, each Kindle blog post would have sharing links for the popular services. For example, the end of each post would have links for "Save to Delicious" and "Digg This." It would also ideally include a short URL like http://kind.le/a7dj873 so that I could easily post something like this to Twitter or Facebook using my phone: "Just read article from TechCrunch on the Hubble Space Telescope on my Kindle, check it out: http://kind.le/a7dj873"

I sent this idea along to Amazon via their kindle-feedback@amazon.com address.

Oh, and I typed this on my iPhone, thanks in part to the Mail app's new landscape keyboard.

My First Experience With Twitter

I've always found it markedly unsurprising how huge Twitter has become. Personally, I'm a geek, was a geek before it was "cool" to be one, and have a tenancy to stumble upon (no pun intended) tech trends before others. My friends famously made fun of me for being an advocate (of Bluetooth*) circa 2001. Lately I've befuddled people by becoming enamored with my Kindle and insisting on mirroring my everyday computer screen on my living room TV.

For the last few months now, people who know this about have been asking me how long I've known about Twitter. Today I finally dug up an answer, along with my first blog post about Twitter. It's ironic reading this now, for a number of reasons, most significantly because instant messaging services are now mobile-enabled to a level with the iPhone's push notification service that makes possible what I had envisioned at least 4 to 5 years ago.

Now answer the question about my first experience with Twitter, I present my first Tweet along with the blog post I wrote shortly thereafter.

My First Tweet: March 22, 2007 @ 2:45am
williamw83: Sleeping 

Set It and Forget It

Update 2016: I'm flabbergasted at how long-winded my writing was just 8 years ago...

Lately, I've been using a few web service-based tools to automate my life. This has been done out of pure necessity due to the sheer volume of everything going on in my life at the moment. Between my day job as a technical analyst, being a grad student, getting enough work under my belt to establish myself as a professional web developer, and meanwhile working on developing a side project, quite frankly, I have little spare time. In order to maximize what time I do have, I need to keep everything else in lock-step order.

While these are tools that I use to organize my personal and professional lives, it makes me wonder why more tools similar to these are not available for medical professionals. I suspect the problem is the usual culprit: the traditional enterprise software business model. I live for the day when we see the demise of the model of selling software to corporate IT departments and charging absorbent implementation and maintenance fees. Such sales require manipulation of all levels of an organization from almost all departments within that organization. Why not sell the software straight to the user?