I me mine

December 24th, 2010, 68 comentarios

A couple of days ago I got this email from Ticketmaster announcing their new features. On a quick scan, something caught my attention, a couple of words clearly stood out:

Yo, mi, me, conmigo

It seems a bit weird, to say the least, that items under “My favorites” and “Stuff you browsed” belong to the same person, doesn’t it?

Some questions arise:

  • Wich determiner is right, “my” or “your”?
  • Should designers use personal pronouns on their interfaces at all?
  • Do users detect this uncoherence or is it just a designer problem (thus, a non-existent problem)?

Because I’ve had this dilemma for quite a while now, I collected some opinions on the issue. Have you got any more? Your own, maybe? If so, please leave a comment.

My Computer. I’ve always hated this icon — its insulting, infantilizing tone. Even if you change the name, the damage is done: It’s how you’ve been encouraged to think of the system.

Ellen Ullman, 1998

“My” also presents the potential for substantial confusion. Let’s say I’m interacting with a widget-selling site. And I have a personal area on the site, and it’s called, “My Account”. Then the system, when referring to me, must call me “I” and “My,” which is weird, because, well, it’s odd when reflexive possessive adjectives are used and you’re not in control (or should that be, “and I’m not in control”?) Also, if I need to talk to The System for some reason (say, send email to the people who run it), how do I refer to it? Usually it’s “Contact Us”, but if I am “My”, than “Us” would be me as well, so that leaves “You” for The System, so it would be something like “Contact You” and, well, that’s weird, too.

Peter Merholz, 1998

Labeling stuff with “My” imitates the point of view of the user. It is as if the user has printed out labels and stuck them to various objects: My Lunch, My Desk, My Red Stapler. Except the user hasn’t done this; you (the site) did it for them.
Labeling stuff with “Your” instead reinforces the conversational dialogue. It is how another human being might address you when talking about your stuff. Even with MySpace, people say things like “I saw what you put on your MySpace.

Yahoo patterns — Your vs. My

if you succumb to the peculiar temptation of my, you just set yourself up for totally unnecessary inconsistency.

And, should you decide to brand a whole section of your site with “My”, you aren’t really branding the experience at all. You are inviting your users to draw an analogy with something another company did over a decade ago. It’s a missed opportunity, and that sucks.

Erika Hall, 2010

Comprando en con una tarjeta de ING

November 29th, 2010, 251 comentarios

Infinite sadness

Difícilmente superable.

5 minute walk

November 26th, 2010, 33 comentarios

Legible London, via Oyer Corazón.

When I grow up, I want to be a designer at Transport for London.

Re-spinning the web

September 2nd, 2010, 37 comentarios

When trying to come up with a new solution for something that people are already used to, there’s a high risk of getting things wrong. The new thing has to be better that the old, widely adopted one. On top of that, it has to work as well as (if not better than) the old, broadly tested one. Let’s see some right/wrong examples:

Say that you need a drop-down list and you can’t get by on the HTML select element.

Right: Google Translate keeps classic keyboard shortcuts for the list items (that’s me typing POR+ENTER):

Wrong: Zara focuses on aesthetics, but forgets about fucntionality (that’s me failing to select Madrid with the keyboard):

Or… say you want to bring music social networking to the desktop.

Right: Spotify gets the better of both worlds: super fast desktop class performance and persistent back and forward navigation. But above all, it gives everything —artists, songs, users— an URL.

Wrong: Ping, Apple’s just born social network is horribly slow. It displays a “connecting to iTunes” message everytime you click on something, most of its objects are not linkable and the navigation is a mess: suffice to say the Home icon takes you to… the iTunes Store.

How one word can change the whole thing

September 2nd, 2010, Sin comentarios

More on pattern recognition:
I have just activated GMail’s Priority Inbox in my personal account. It is meant to lower the time you spend checking email. Or the times you check email.
Because the default page title has changed from “Inbox” to “Priority Inbox”, I keep thinking I have a conversation open on the GMail tab, and I can’t help clicking on it to return to what would be its “normal” state (“Inbox”.)

Back to sidebars and popups

June 24th, 2010, 5 comentarios

If there was something I was not expecting to happen with the release of the iPad, it was the comeback of screen filling without a reason, non-linear layouts and let’s open a popup for that kind of interaction design.
If there was someone I was not expecting to follow this fashion, it was Google.

Two months ago, I was surprised to see that someone on the GMail team decided that having all your conversations on a sidebar was more important than having a linear, fullscreen view of the current conversation:

They have gone even further: they just released a new Compose window that asumes that, when writing an email, having a visible BCC field is more important than, say, being able to have a look at the whole thread you are replying to.

Now, I know there is a point for this: when designing for an existing platform, one must follow the platform’s UI guidelines. But this is the web, and we all know the GMail team can do better than just follow Apple’s Mail.

I really hope this trend will fad. For instance, Marco Arment is droping the sidebar on his great Instapaper app.

On design patterns

May 27th, 2010, 2 comentarios

Last year I was asked to give a one day long Interaction Design class for a client. One of the topics I brought them was interaction design patterns. In case you are not familiar with the term, let’s quote Wikipedia’s entry for design pattern in software engineering, as its definition works well for us too:

A design pattern is a general reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem.

To illustrate the matter, I showed the attendees some blurred screenshots of broadly used patterns and asked them if they could tell what interaction was behind the pattern:

Ceci n'est pas une search box

Laying out search boxes in a search-boxed shape is a win-win: users will recognize them at a glance and, as a designer, you won’t have to pull your hair out in order to find a good solution.

Pick the right pattern

In his last post, Juan Leal pointed out a real life example of the trade-offs of taking the risk to find new solutions to old problems:


By laying out a simple crossroad in a roundabout shape, what “Ayuntamiento de Madrid” was actually doing was giving drivers a roundabout that they couldn’t round about.

The dark side

But let’s take a look at the other side of design patterns: the other day, I was checking Twitter and saw that someone was not naked that day. I clicked through the link and landed in a page like this, beautifully crafted by our friends at Peercouture:

Because I am already registered, I wanted to login to check what my peers were wearing, and what did I do? I wrote my email and password into the “request an invite” form.

Even though the label properly stated “Your name”, all I saw was a login shaped form, and I went straight to it. To prove my point, Álvaro made the same mistake the day after, and the great team at Simplelogica quickly fixed the form short after that.

De horarios de mano

May 10th, 2010, 2 comentarios

En julio del 97 fui por primera vez a un festival grande, el Dr Music. Cómo mola que sigan teniendo la web colgada, gracias a ello he podido comprobar mi sospecha: ya en el siglo pasado era posible consultar en una tablita quién tocaba en cada escenario, y a qué hora.

horarios del dr music festival 1997

Después fui a unos pocos festivales más que repetían el patrón: una fila por hora, una columna por escenario.

Pero en algún momento del comienzo del siglo XXI la útil parrilla se consideró demodé y empezó a ser imposible enterarse de qué grupo te ibas a perder y cuál ibas a ver fijo tío pero al final tampoco porque estabas con éstos tomando algo. Hoy han salido los horarios del Primavera Sound 2010 y, a pesar de ofrecer tres vistas, tres, no satisface la necesidad principal de los asistentes, entre los cuales menos mal que existe algún ser misterioso que acaba haciéndose una excel que pronto llegará a manos del resto de nosotros.

horarios del primavera sound 2010

De Open Data

May 2nd, 2010, 2 comentarios

Llevaba unos días queriendo publicar un artículo sobre open data y no encontraba tiempo para escribir algo, pero Javier me lo ha puesto fácil con el vídeo que puedes ver al final de este post.

Antes, una breve introducción desde mi conocimiento superficial del asunto:

¿Qué es esto del open data?
Se denomina así al hecho de publicar la información que las instituciones públicas tienen en su poder, de modo que pueda ser consultada por todas las personas, pero también por programas informáticos. Es parte de una forma de hacer política llamada open government.

¿Pero esta información no es pública ya?
Sí y no. Si bien es cierto que uno puede acercarse a un ayuntamiento, biblioteca o senado y hacer ciertas consultas, los procesos son lentos y poco ágiles, y los resultados, parciales y poco útiles.

¿Por qué los datos públicos deberían estar a nuestra disposición?
Da hasta cosa responder esto: porque son nuestros.

¿Para qué quiere la gente los datos?
Hay muchos casos de utilización ciudadana de la información pública, sirvan estos dos de ejemplo:

  • Bookzee es una web que permite consultar el catálogo de las bibliotecas de Nueva York. La hicieron un grupo de conocidos en su tiempo libre para un concurso.
  • FixMyStreet funciona en sentido contrario: permite a los ciudadanos informar a las administraciones de problemas en las vías públicas. Fue desarrollado por MySociety, una especie de ONG pro open government.

Ahá, ¿y en España?
La asociación Pro Bono Público organizó hace un par de semanas AbreDatos, un concurso en el que equipos de cuatro personas trataban de desarrollar, en un fin de semana, aplicaciones utilizando fuentes de datos públicos. Aun sin recursos ni apenas tiempo, salieron cosas tan alucinantes como éstas:

MonQuartier ofrece información sobre el nivel de vida en los barrios de diferentes ciudades españolas.

Los Presus permite consultar los presupuestos de cualquier municipio español.

Y hay muchos más proyectos. Se pueden consultar todos en la página del concurso.

Espera… si se han hecho cosas así, es que ya están publicados los datos, ¿no?
No. Esta gente tuvo que hacer programillas que rastreaban páginas web o documentos pdf y extraían los datos, de modo que pudieran ser útiles. Si mañana cambia una coma de las webs que usaron, se fastidia el asunto.

Ah, pues me has convencido, pero ¿esto va a algún sitio?
Digamos que sí: la Administración Obama publicó su directiva sobre Open Government ( y ya están en marcha las webs que hacen públicos los datos de EE.UU. y Reino Unido.

No me he leído nada, ponme el vídeo
Aquí lo tienes:

Pixel F1 cars

April 26th, 2010, 2 comentarios

Here are the twenty four cars (with drivers inside) racing for 2010 World Championship, pixel crafted by me for this year’s F1 Poorra.

f1 2010 cars pixel icons

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