Sunday, January 24, 2010

Best user interface certification

I see a lot of questions from user interface designers about the "best" certification for designers. Truth is, there isn't a highly regarded certification for UI designers. I know that a private company, Human Factors International, grants a "certified usability analyst" credential, but it looks to me like an entry-level certification. It doesn't account for experience or the ability to actually design a user interface, which is documented in a portfolio.

A better certification for designers is the PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. One of the knocks I hear against a lot of designers is that they don't know how to work projects. Studying for and passing the PMP test addresses that concern.

It's important for designers to understand how to navigate projects in order to deliver their service effectively. I worked a company that offered free PMP training and paid for its people to take the certification test. The company understood the importance of having all of its people know how to operate in projects. Unfortunately, my supervisor at the time didn't understand. "You can't take that training, it doesn't have anything to do with your job," I was told. I took the test some years later, and wished that I had done it earlier.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Media Equation applied to sex toys

This story is so annoying I hardly know where to start talking about it. Apparently an entrepeneur has decided that adding voice response to a life-size sex doll will encourage customers to emotionally bond with his product (and thus allow his company to charge a premium price). This is the worst application I've ever seen of some already pretty questionable research, e.g., The Media Equation and the like. And I thought Aiko was creepy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guerrilla usability on the LA freeway

"Guerrilla usability methods" refers to cheap, lightweight usability techniques that can be used to quickly improve the design of a user interface without drawing too much attention to themselves (and therefore don't get shut down). This article, about an L.A. artist's effort to fix a confusing highway sign on an L.A. freeway, takes guerrilla usability to an absolute extreme. I'm in awe.

And I really like Good magazine, the non-technical design publication for people who love design. I get the print version, because the magazine even feels good in one's hands. I've blogged Good before. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A business model based on technological escalation

I've been thinking about technological escalation, or a situation in which two agents in conflict improve their own technology in order to win. Think about police radar and radar detection units employed by drivers, or caller ID used by homeowners and ID blocking used by telemarketers. I read about an admissions officer at an Ivy League college who started her own consulting practice for teenagers (actually, their parents) who want inside information on admission criteria for Ivy League schools. You get the picture.

Some people seem to build their entire business model around supplying the latest and greatest technology to both sides of the conflict, e.g., black hat hackers who change into white hats when trying to get security consulting gigs with e-commerce companies.

I've been wondering whether technological escalation could be developed as an explicit business model. That is, you could look for conflict situations and ethically develop a series of products that sells to both sides. As long as you keep developing products that help one side or the other get an advantage, you're in business. More formally, you create a market that is modeled by the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, and make sure that Nash equilibrium doesn't occur for very long.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beware of falling iguanas

This story about hibernating iguanas falling from trees is my favorite story of the year (so far). There's even a video. I used to live in South Florida, and some of the stories I tell on the place people just don't believe. I really have seen a lot of iguanas during my last couple of trips back there, so this doesn't surprise me at all. Tip: don't throw frozen iguanas in the back of your station wagon, because they'll wake up and jump on your back.

My last blog entry about Florida had something to do with finding an alligator in the kitchen, if I recall correctly.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Consistency <> Copying

I told someone recently that I was working on a project to improve consistency among some web-based applications. Their response was, paraphrased, "It's boring when everything looks the same." And that's true, it is boring when everything looks the same. And even harmful, if the things that "look the same" behave in different ways or mean different things. Useful consistency comes from an agreed-upon set of rules for presentation and what that presentation means. If the layout of two pages are the same, it's done for a explicit reason. If the layouts are different, that's for an explicit reason.

I think I need to find another word besides "consistency," since nearly everyone I talk to understands it to mean "look the same."