How not to accidentally start a war

A very interesting article from the online magazine the Verge regarding the company that created and supplies the software alert system that was responsible for the near disastrous incoming BM warning issued to residents and visitors in Hawaii earlier this week.

When considering how our brains function, or don’t, during extreme conditions (an incoming missile being one of them), it’s rather unfathomable that there is no visual differentiation or confirmation between a “test” message and a “real” message.

The company has confirmed that, if creating a message from scratch, there are eight steps involved; if creating from a template: three steps. So users technically can’t just click a button and issue an alert – there are at least three steps. (I personally can’t imagine being able to keep my sh*t together to get through three steps, but then again, what we imagine we’ll do in an emergency situation is often not the case.)

What surprises me is that there is NO FINAL CONFIRMATION messaging when sending out a “live” message. As in, “Are you really sure you want to send an entire state into panic?” Or, “Are you really sure you want to start a war?” Maybe even a second one (a final final confirmation message) just in case cognitively the person isn’t thinking clearly, possibly adding bells, whistles and starbursts.  (Studies show the same thing happens to pilots in crash scenarios. The brain can only handle so much at once.)

Word of the day: Confirmation.

Are you sure you want to start a war? Really sure? This action cannot be undone.

Were did nearly 2 years go?

For those who look at time stamps and time in-between posts, you undoubtedly notice that there are few posts in 2016 and 2017–maybe four or five total.

It’s not that I’ve forgotten to write,  or become bored with writing, or fell off the planet.

Sometimes you make plans and then life gets in the way.

Well, I think I’m back.

Directional signage, anyone?

Recently, when exiting the parking garage, I noticed some signage updates to the new payment system installed by the garage. Since I’m a monthly card holder, I just have to flash my card and the gate automatically opens. Based on the labels and dialog windows, my guess is that the process for paying to get out of the garage is not intuitive.

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Solar power genius

Take a good look at the photo below and tell me how absolutely genius this set up is.

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Genius

For starters, the smaller item on the far right with the slick rounded top is an electronic parking meter. You put in money or a credit card, select how much time you want to pay for, and it spits out a little piece of paper you stick on your dashboard.

Note that the parking meter has a solar panel on top of it, presumably to keep it powered or partially powered.

Now take notice of the larger “thing” to the left of the electronic parking meter. This is signage informing the would-be parker about parking rates, instructions on how to pay for  parking, and undoubtedly some language that says something about the parking company takes no responsibility for lost, damaged or stolen stuff.  Aka, fine print.

The designers of said signage thoughtfully included an awning over the signage, presumably to shelter is reading the instructions from the rain (this is Seattle, after all.) The awning manages to stretch over the a portion if not all of the solar panel on top of the parking meter. Again, I’m sure, to keep the Seattle downpour off of whomever while the parking people get their money.

Both of the signage and electronic parking meter are situated somewhat under a very large tree, the branches of which create a leafy canopy.

Now, I get that solar power has come a LONG way, but this is genius.

A brief time-out: Norman Doors

I have no IDEA why I’ve been thinking about “Norman Doors” lately; it may have been while watching an older episode from Modern Family where Claire gives herself a shiner while being boss for the day at her dad’s closet company.

Most in the UX community are familiar with the phenomenon, but for those unaware it’s relative simple. A “Norman Door” is simply a door that one simply cannot determine exactly if it is meant to be pushed open or pulled open. (The title is named after the well-known Donald Norman.)  Conflicting handle design (vertical or horizontal) and signage (“Push” or “Pull”) may often be at odds with one another.

I found a nifty little blog post with great examples of Norman Doors at 703 Creative.

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Photo credit: 703 Creative

The post has some great examples that will generally leave you head scratching, but hopefully wary next time you approach the entrance to your local shopping mall.

Redesigning the Apple Watch UI

Luke W (a.k.a. Luke Wrobleski) gives us a brief and informative breakdown of the Apple Watch UI and interaction model, with recommendations for improvement. I really like his take on the suggested model of use: notifications, glances, apps.

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Illustration: Luke Wrobleski

Not an owner of an Apple Watch, yet, I can appreciate how iPhone owners (myself included) would look for a similar interaction model to access information. It only makes sense, right?

Read the full article here.

Designing with color blindness – a color blind designer perspective

Aaron Tenbuuren, a color blind designer, offers perspective on how we can consider color blindness when designing, as he writes in his recent post,  “Designing For (And With) Color Blindness.”

I didn’t realize (or maybe I forgot the number) that one in ten individuals are color blind. While a relatively small portion of the population, they are still users of apps, sites, experiences. Multiply that number and it leads to a large percentage of potential users/visitors/customers who find using your site or app difficult and/or not worth the effort.

I’ll find nice photographs that have great color palettes, pieces of furniture, paintings, anything. These already established and proven pieces are a great source of color influence.

I appreciate Aaron’s inspiration for color palettes – particularly since it exists in the physical world, outside the online one. Even more so when you consider how he experiences color. Not an absence of (which I previously associated color blindness with), but difficulty in labeling or telling one color from another.

I once had a color blind, color photography instructor in school. We would constantly ask him (to the point of annoyance, I’m certain), to identify colors in our photos, or in the subject matter we were photographing. He’d get it right 100% of the time, which just blew me away. And his photographs were equally as stunning.

There is something to learn from a different approach seeing and experiencing color. Perhaps Aaron and my instructor understand color better then individuals with normal sight do.

It’s an… Icon? A check box? Open/close mechanic? Navigation element? All of thee above? Please let this be broken.

I am a huge fan of (Ann Taylor) LOFT. The price point (everything eventually goes on sale within a week or two), quality, and style suite my budget and fashion sense just fine. I have a LOFT card to earn points towards more clothing, and I submit payments online.

The LOFT recently updated the account center where you manage your payments, balance, account activity, etc, because when I logged in today it announced the new account center “is even better.”

Yes, most of it’s cleaner and more suitable for multi-device and screen accessibility. But for whatever reason, there are square shapes showing up for almost everything, except text. And I mean everything.

The use of the square is so widespread I can’t be certain if something is broken, or whomever just got carried away. It’s a static visual, it’s part of the navigation menu, it’s part of the interactive features and selection mechanics in the UI. I’m really hoping something is wrong with their image server.

The worst part is that it just broke nearly every mental model I have when it comes to a square. Square = check box. Click/tap = select/unselect. I thought I was losing my mind. I kept tapping on my iPad expecting a check to appear.

Post Log-in Experience:
After the log-in screen I was presented with an overlay introducing the new account center. Initially, I wasn’t paying attention to the use of the square shape in this window. Not until I went to check the box “Don’t show me this again.” (See below).

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Instead of a “check” in the box (or square), I got a square–in the box (or square). Is it broken or is this intentional? Good Lord, I hope this is broken.
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Home Page and Menu:
LOFT_Home_1It just keeps getting worse. There are squares everywhere, and the intended use or purpose is a mystery to me. In the menu to the left of the page, the square is not used to visually demonstrate the “on state” (like filled in). Instead, a pink, vertical line is the indicator.

The three smaller gray squares in the upper right hand corner are navigation elements to the My Profile section, Message Center, and Help and Customer Care. I didn’t even know where I was going to end up until the page loaded. There is no label on hover state or otherwise.

When I click on the square next to the label “Recent Activity” it just rotates and reveals inline my recent account activity.

And at the top of the screen I don’t even know what the white squares in the pink circles are supposed to be.

Make a Payment:
The shot below is from my tablet, which is where I initially encountered this experience. Each time I tapped on the square, I kept waiting for the check mark. I must have tapped on “Other amount” half-a-dozen times before it occurred to me that the change in background color (light gray to dark gray) was the visual indicator for “selected.” Holy crap, is this intentional?

Not to mention, in the Select Checking Account and Select Payment Date columns, there are selections with TWO squares. What on earth are they meant to represent?

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The Aftermath:
I managed to make my payment. (I logged back in this morning to double check). But the scenario raises several questions.

The first question, obviously: is the use of the squares for all static and interactive UI assets intentional? I mean, was there a cognitive decision to use the shape to represent nearly everything?

Question number two: how many UI icons and assets are really necessary? A squint test on this page reminds me of a shooting gallery with lots of targets.

Final question, did this get a scrub and Q/A before it went live?

I really, really, REALLY hope something is temporarily wrong, because overall it’s an improvement to the previous experience.