UX

The Silver Hamburger

Hamburger menus have a bad habit of putting entire pages of an app out of sight and out of mind.
 

If you have used a smart phone, you have seen and used the infamous Hamburger Menu. This is the icon composed of three stacked horizontal lines, and usually means "there's stuff under here". This surely came about from experience designers that needed to fit a lot of pages and data on a mobile app and ran out of space to put it. This brings up a problem regarding the volume of information and pages that should be presented to users in order to not cause information overload or hide information and options. Another problem with the hamburger menu is that it is an 'un-icon', in other words it does not give specific context to where you going in the app, or represent what you will find when you get there (that's why icons exist). This 'un-icon' status has caused it to be used as a catch-all for navigation pages, settings, account details, and anything else you can think of. A "Silver Hamburger" for anything you want to get into an app, but won't fit anywhere else.

 

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If an app has a lot of pages or is a responsive website, a hamburger menu can make sense, but there are some cases where it is completely unnecessary and hides important content, especially in a native application. Hamburger menus have a bad habit of putting entire pages of an app out of sight and out of mind. Users have to remember what's behind the hamburger curtain. Let's take the Level Money app for example. I have used Level Money for a few years now, and love it. It's definitely the most useful money management app I've found and used over a long period of time (including Mint). One reason I love Level is its simplicity, there are only 5 main pages in the entire app, but for some reason there's also a hamburger menu with redundant navigation links. With just a couple of minutes in Photoshop, I was able to expose all page navigation, remove the hamburger menu, include a settings icon in the upper right corner, not lose any functionality, and not change a single page.

If you're still not convinced, head on over to Luke Wroblewski's website for more examples of this design adjustment in action. 

 

What iPhones, Andy Warhol, and Coca-Cola Have in Common

A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.
— Andy Warhol
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The idea behind the richest consumers buying the same things as the poorest is the essence of Andy Warhol's art. Art had always been something owned by the wealthy, but when Warhol began to mass produce fine art, he created something that completely went against the traditions of the art world. Andy Warhol said, "What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke. Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking."

This is great in theory, but what makes us associate a Coke with the president, or Apple products with being creative as opposed to Dell? Many would say that advertising plays a big role, but even still we are very aware of the deceptive nature of advertising and yet can be seduced by brands. Much of it may have to do with the imagery that surrounds that product. Products can sometimes gain a certain amount of non-tangible properties that people automatically associate with them. A certain brand may seem to make you thinner, or a type of knife can somehow make you feel confident in your survival skills. 

The truth is that we can be just as creative on a Mac as we can a Dell. If I buy one knife over another it is probably not going to make me better at surviving, but if I buy a Gerber knife, and learn how to skin a deer with that knife, I am going to automatically associate this experience of rugged accomplishment with Gerber. This can literally force us to manipulate our own experiences without realizing it. If I picked up another knife, and I know that the knife is not Gerber, I will actually have a worse experience with the knife because I have already made a decision that the knife is of lesser value. This theory works the same across all products, services, food, and even people. 

It is scientifically proven that Coke tastes better than RC, so long as you know that it is Coke. There are endless studies surrounding expensive wines and how connoisseurs cannot guess between a $5,000 bottle and a $50 bottle. However if the same connoisseurs know which bottle is which, the $5,000 bottle actually tastes better in real life. 

With this knowledge it can be hard to try and decipher what is objectively better, or what is better because of the brand. I like to think that I will be able to admit when a Microsoft product is finally better than an Apple product, but now I am not so sure.

So if you are trying to create a brand, product, company, food, or even name your child, remember that the associations that come along with that, actually affect how people feel towards it. There is nothing RC can do at this point to make people believe that it really tastes better than Coke, and there is nothing anyone can do to prove that Jiro and his dreams don't actually make the best sushi in the world. Our own experiences of pleasure are just that, our own, and no one can tell us differently. To dive deeper into why we love what we do listen to this episode of The TED Radio Hour. 

The Success of Micro-Democracy

From amazon ratings, to the facebook like button, micro-democracy has had a profound affect on how we experience the internet.
 

The internet is an incomprehensibly massive entity that is made up of people that come from every different walk of life. This huge variety of people provides an equally huge pool of knowledge that can be gathered. There is one pool in particular that comes to mind, and this pool is of course Reddit, and it's fitting motto, "The front page of the internet." 

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Reddit's amazing success does not just come from the sheer amount of knowledge, however, I believe it is equally attributed to the democratic system Reddit has put in place. This system is based upon the iconic 'up-vote' and 'down-vote' actions that can be taken upon any post, anywhere on the site. The idea is simple, the more up-votes, the higher the post appears on the site, and vice-versa. This is a very effective way of automatically organizing the content of the site for the best, most interesting posts, curated by humans, for humans.

This might not seem like a huge innovation, but this model doesn't just make reading blogs bearable, it has been adopted into virtually every system on the internet. From amazon ratings, to the facebook like button, micro-democracy has had a profound affect on how we experience the internet, which products we buy, movies we see, music we listen to, or information we trust, without an algorithm. 

This system has given us a way to effectively sort through all of garbage in order to find the diamond in the rough. Whether you're trying to learn how to code, build a car engine, buy that perfect television, or just looking for the funniest cat picture, we can do it all instantly. Now you can find out that the soldering iron you want breaks after a month, before you buy it and we have the vast amount of humans pooling their knowledge to thank.

 

Welcome

The best designers identify and solve potential problems before they ever reach the person using the product.
 

Hello and welcome to my design blog. Here I hope to share some thoughts and experiences related to everything from industrial design, user experience, interaction design, or just experiences in my life from which I learn to become a better designer. Relating to problems of others, or even analyzing the annoyances of our own help the best designers identify and solve potential problems before they ever reach the person using the product, whether that product be a toothbrush, a car, or an app.

If we can solve as many of these problems as possible and still maintain a minimalist, no frills approach to design, we can improve our experiences with materials and objects around us while minimizing the time spent with them. The less time spent with the extraneous things around us, the more time we have to experience life without being tied to a screen.