Thursday, February 21, 2013

Java thinks I want the Ask Toolbar, and I have 12 pixels to avoid it

Today, my computer prompted me to update Java. I agreed, and then the above popup appeared on my screen. They "recommend" that I install the FREE Ask browser add-on. These add-ons are most often such a bad experience. To make things worse, for most people, they are almost impossible to remove once installed. This also feels like an anachronism.  We are living in a time where everything is changing. Intel is exiting the motherboard business to focus on the “next unit of computing.” That is huge. A disruptive wave of change is happening.
Another thing that makes this feel like something from the late 90s is the interface design. Today, interfaces are so much more touchable and large because in many instances they literally are. Look at the below screen grab from
The "Join" button is absolutely huge by earlier-than-2010 standards. To stop the installation of the annoying toolbar in the Java screen, I have to get my mouse over a 12x12 pixel checkbox. Does Java work on Microsoft Surface? Will I have to touch this to deselect it? Look at the two UI components next to each other:

It will be interesting to watch the evolution of visual design in the next couple years as the hardware evolves.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

R.I.P. John Karlin, Human Factors Pioneer

On the same day as the blizzard called "Nemo" blankets the Northeast, a story about the life of a User Experience pioneer was published in the NY Times. John Karlin worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey for 32 years, and in that time helped to develop products that the masses could easily use. He is responsible for the touch tone phone design and he put the white dots inside the rotary phone to increase usability after the labels were placed on the outside. The story that jumps out at me was the UX guerrilla tactic he utilized when there was a question about shortening the phone cord. While the debate was going on, he surreptitiously removed an inch of cord from co-workers' phones every three days. They didn't realize it until a foot had been removed, ending the debate, the long meetings and arguments with everyone with a strong voice and opinion. What a great example of Lean UX.

He is also credited with creating the very first Human Factors Department in a U.S. company. UX Professionals owe him a bit of thanks. He died on January 28th at the age of 94. Rest in peace.

Here is the full story:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jargon is Evidence of a Disruptive Wave of Innovation

As I read through the titles of the first page of stories on, I noticed something interesting. There are a tremendous amount of new companies and products out there. 13 of the stories had jargonesque names in them that kind of sound silly if you say them all in a row. I can imagine them being sung in a karaoke bar to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire":

  • NanoSatisfi
  • Yammer
  • Goldbely 
  • Uber
  • Zite
  • EveryBlock
  • Happier
  • Redfin
  • Redbeacon
  • MyTime
  • Telly
  • LibreOffice
  • Trademarkia
If you check the home page from TechCrunch in 2011, you see stories about, Google, HTC, SalesForce, GoDaddy, Apple and Groupon. There are only a few buzzword-ly named companies listed, like Animoto and Audioboo.

I think this illustrates how quickly things are changing out there in the digisphere, with startups popping up so quickly you can't keep up with the latest uber-telly-moto-boo-whatevs. Let's check out the tech homepages in 2015 to see where the startup dust has settled. See you then!