Context is key

September 22nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

So as y’all probably already know, I started at Pollenizer some weeks ago. This meant transitioning to a Mac as my work computer.
I get the machine, take a deep breath, and scroll down. I mean up. I mean… I don’t even know anymore.

I ranted about it on Twitter, and my helpful Twitter peeps helped me find the settings for it and turn it off. *phew*

But I couldn’t get it out of my head. Why? Why would Apple add that as a feature?
I get that it’s the same action we’re all used to performing on our smart phones. You move your digits in the direction you want stuff on the screen to move in. And it’s intuitive, and perhaps understandable to take that and say, well, why do we use the opposite behaviour on our laptops? All interfaces should be the same! Eureka!

I’ll tell you why not. Context baybeh.
The smart phone is analogous to reading a newspaper lying flat on your breakfast table. As you scan down the paper, you move it up with your hands. So you’re scrolling up to move the media up.

Now, visualise this – Child dek scanning down a list of names engraved on a wall so she can find her grandfather’s name (which the temple put there cos he donated some dough to its building fund). I was a kid and there were many many names cramped in, so I used to put my finger on the wall and move down the list of names.

Something like this image below:

Tanjore temple_inscriptions in Tamil

On this media, you scroll down to ‘move the media up’. And I think that is the context of scrolling on a laptop. Your laptop screen is a wall in this context.

And I think that is why I struggled so badly with trying to work with the new scroll system on the Mac. It was hard to change a learnt behaviour not just because I’m an old dog, but because the context didn’t suit it.

Keep in touch with the real world

October 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

The thing about being ‘tech savvy’, whether as a builder or a heavy user, is that we can get very caught up in how WE use stuff. Which can lead to a very myopic view of product and product design, to state the bleeding obvious.

The good news is that computer/web users are all around us. It’s super simple to keep in touch with how the average person uses virtual stuff. And since I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, I thought I’d share my simple research skillz with ya.

  • Stalk your close ones. Always keep an eye on how your family, friends, people you live with navigate sites. You’ll be amazed at how differently they do a Google search or get to a YouTube clip compared to… well, you. Example: I NEVER go to as a starting point…. people around me on the other hand….
  • If you’re anything like me, you might not have access to as many ungeekified people as you’d like. This is where stealth stalking comes in handy. Hang out at cafes, libraries, airports, anywhere you might encounter a bunch of people tap, tap, tapping away. You can glean a lot by glancing at your neighbour’s screen every now and then. (Not too much – the point isn’t to freak them out)
  • Pay attention to how customer service people behave with their machines. See, gives you something productive to do while in line, instead of resorting to queue-angst tweeting. 😛

There’s a wealth of information out there, and all you need to do is observe. Umm… and then apply obviously. I guarantee you’ll be more aware of the fact that your experience of the web is markedly different from most others’. At the very least, it’ll provide different perspectives. At the best, what you’ve seen will haunt you when you next draw up a user-flow chart or wireframe.

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