SxSW Themes Part 2

by March 22, 2006

A few more themes that cut across multiple sessions at SxSW2006 or echoed some of the ideas I’ve recently been working through on Functioning Form.

Our Brains vs. Technology

Dan Gilbert: Our brains have not evolved much but our world has. As a result, our brain is trying to work in a world of things it was not made for so it often makes mistakes when trying to solve problems.

Peter Morville: Technology is advancing so rapidly it makes your head spin. The brain is not changing that fast it needs anchor (roots) in the old.

We are living with an over-abundance of information everywhere we turn. As a result, being able to organize and present information is an increasingly necessary skill.

Design Vision

Apple’s OSX design process utilized no user testing at all due to the secrecy of the project. This was not the way they had designed up to that point but for OSX they relied on senior designers instead of the usability lab.

“I don’t buy the notion that design by individuals or two or three broad-based individuals covering design, engineering, and marketing/business angles is inherently “risky” let alone “unhealthy.” It would be unwise to give the steering wheel to designers that hadn’t previously and successfully undertaken projects of similar scale and scope to what’s being considered. But if the designer or small team has been building experience and success on aggressive and large-scale projects, then giving them a similar or slightly larger responsibility is not inherently or significantly risky whatsoever. And furthermore, I believe a lot more designers are capable of pushing themselves far further than conventional wisdom generally admits. There’s so much self-limiting talk in the design and development fields. Broad declarations such as, “Designers aren’t much good at this or that,” or “While some braniacs from the planet Krell are capable of doing large-scale breakthrough design, most designers aren’t.”

Such beliefs and statements strike me as dismissive and unnecessarily limiting. Fear-based risk aversion is poisonous to Capital D Design, in my view.” –Jim Leftwich, Design Vision Part 4

Self-Healing Social Systems

Craig Newmark pointed out that citizen journalism needs fact checking. Currently there may not be enough happening online to auto-correct self-publishing. Doc Searls noted we are all writing without editors (in blogs) as a result, we are all editors of each other. The value of everyone writing outweighs any errors that may happen as a result

The Power of Mockups

The development of Apple’s OSX was driven by the product design. Steve Jobs compared pixel to pixel from the design team’s Director prototype to the actual OSX build, if everything wasn’t exactly right it had to be done again.

There are few communication techniques available to interface designers that speak with the immediacy and relevance of the mockup. High-fidelity mockups are especially capable of eliciting powerful reactions. It takes only a second—or 50 milliseconds, depending on who you ask—to determine whether a product design appeals to you. We can use this strong emotive reaction to effectively sell a design.

Bringing the Web to the Desktop

As the rich interactions of the Desktop make their way into Web applications, the visual richness of the Web is making its way into the Desktop operating system. A recent example is the application branding in the upper left corner of Microsoft’s new Office user interface.

Though there are few conventions on the Web compared to other media ? books, for example, have familiar tables of contents, indexes, page number, chapters, and so on ? it is still important to properly use the ones that exist: the positioning and presentation of site identifiers, navigation menus, and links. The most common location for a site identifier (in English-speaking Web pages) is in the upper left corner. The majority of Web sites online adopt this convention, and users have come to expect it. Now desktop applications are adopting it.