Posts Tagged ‘activity’

Large Canvas Flows + With References

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I like spacious canvases with non-linear flows, and here is a work sample from a fellow designer which shows just that. If one can move away from the outdated convention that interaction designers create screens, towards what Bill Buxton calls the stuff “in between the screens”, then it doesn’t take long to realize that larger workspaces are the way to go. In this example of a mobile app, Anton used Omnigraffle and some inspiration from UML to pull off a few interesting things which I thought might be worthy of highlighting:

  • Merging of wireframes with flows. As the above artifact mixes readable screens with flows or user actions, the element of time and narrative begins to emerge. Since the flow diagram is inseparable from the wireframe, it also saves the designer from the extra effort of synchronizing multiple documents.
  • Transition references. Although not visible in the sample, the blue circles are actual links to .mov files that show short video demos of the transitions. Wires plus video feels fresh!
  • Screen references. All of the screens have an ID tag, and occasionally actions lead to screen references instead of full screens – a way of reusing and again minimizing duplication efforts. Also each screen links to a folder with source PNG layout files.
  • Action references. Most user actions here also have an ID with a distinct style and can therefore also be referred to.
  • Starting Point. Since the canvas is quite large it has a clear starting point to guide the viewer.
  • Layout structure. In the top right of the canvas, the core structure of the layout along with some popular components are explained.
  • Toggle-able layers. Various information is kept separate on distinct layers and so that it’s possible to toggle it on and off for various audiences.

In comparison to the above, I have to say that the way in which I do my work is very similar by relying on cross document references. This hierarchical documentation structure (where wires cover the widest scope and prototypes the narrowest) allows designers to focus on what’s necessary at a particular level of fidelity. Below is how I reference visual design mockups within wireframes or sketches (with an “Also See” + filename tag). Again, keep in mind that in my case, only certain screens need and/or have references to more detailed assets.

Anyhow, thanks Anton for sharing!

Credits: Anton Volkov (main sample) & Jakub Linowski (second sample)

Mental Notes

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

A copy of Mental Notes just arrived on my desk and it looks like a great little design tool. The mental notes are a stack of 52 cards which can be used in conceptualization phases to help with idea generation. Each card conveys an inspirational thought related to psychology that touches upon such themes as: persuasion, comprehension, memory, attention and comprehension. The set of cards comes very well presented in a leather case with wonderful illustrations (Kevin Cornell) on each card. If you need to sprinkle a bit of randomness and brainstorming into your process, this set could very well be an interesting way to help you achieve just that.

In Stephen’s own words:

The Mental Notes cards were designed to be idea starters and can be used at almost any stage of product development. They’re great for generating new product or feature ideas or finding creative solutions to problems.

While there is no one right way to use these cards (it’s fun to simply learn or review these ideas!), I’ve found the following phrase quite helpful during brainstorming sessions: “How can we use [card] to … [goal]?”

Credits: Stephen P. Anderson

Touch Gesture Reference Guide

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Another great gesture compilation brought to you by Luke Wroblewski and others. The researched document describes how touch gestures are supported on platforms such as: iPhone OS, Windows 7 Phone, Palm webOS, Android, OSX (trackpad), OSX (Magic Mouse), Microsoft Windows 7, Wacom Bamboo, GestureWorks (Flash) and Microsoft Surface. The compiled document also comes summarized as a downloadable PDF as well as more wireframe friendly formats (PDF, EPS, Omnigraffle).

The guide contains: 1) an overview of the core gestures used for most touch commands 2) how to utilize these gestures to support major user actions 3) visual representations of each gesture to use in design documentation and deliverables 4) an outline of how popular software platforms support core touch gestures.

Credits: Craig Villamor, Dan Willis, Luke Wroblewski, and Jennifer Rhim

Cursor Affordances

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Some time ago I’ve started a little quick and dirty Javascript and CSS experiment to help indicate more advanced mouse interactions in a visual way. By more advanced interactions I mean showing that things like double clicks, right clicks, and wheel scrolls could be performed on different UI elements. The left click is still perhaps the central mouse interaction that takes centre stage on the desktop, and I’ve seen users struggle to realize when additional interactions are possible. This I think is largely due to a lack of cues. Hence, these little cursor accordances aim to provide additional contextual symbols that float alongside the cursor. The other thing I wanted to achieve with this was to be able to display multiple cues at the same time (let’s say that both a left and a right click is possible on an element). So the code is super rough but here is a start. Basically numerous CSS classes are attached to HTML elements which then cause proper images to be overlaid near the cursor. Thoughts? Potential open source project?

Credits: Jakub Linowski

GestureWorks – Open Source Gesture Library

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

GestureWorks has released 20 something gesture icons for their Flash and Flex development environment. Although their multitouch library is geared at developers, the icons still look interesting in their own right. A lot of the interactions supported include two handed, as well as multi finger gestures. The downloadable library comes in various formats (PNG, PDF and EPS). Enjoy.

Also, I just created the gestures tag to keep track of all these related posts.

Credits: GestureWorks

Blueprint+ (Service Design Visual)

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The academic group over at Hochschule Luzern (Competence Center) in Switzerland have recently explored a visual representation that captures the interaction of various people across multiple services or touch points. Done in the context of a service design assignment, the Blueprint project portrays the flow of time horizontally and captures multiple actors vertically. More so, the visualization also layers additional data underneath and contains such things as fail lines, emotions and costs, while at the same time leaving more room for additional variables. In some way, the deliverable shares some resemblance to the Experience Maps posted earlier.

As an additional note, Blueprint+ is still a work in progress and will be turned into a toolkit in the future. Stay tuned. :)

Credits: CC Explanations and Services, Hochschule Luzern (Andy Polaine, Roman Aebersold, Robert Bossart and Andrea Mettler)

Experience Maps

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

An interesting depiction of user experience has surfaced the other week over at the nForm blog in the form of an experience map. Gene and his team has come up with a way to represent gaming related experiences of three distinct gamers. In a way then this is a merger between a persona and a time based representation. The other interesting thing about this is the visualization and separation of at least three types of experiences: ongoing, exploratory and influenced. Each type of experience has been shown in a standardized and specific way. Furthermore, the diagram also captures and represents a variety of channels which the personas are utilizing at a given point in time. Overall, it’s always interesting to see when designers attempt to convey such comprehensive and unified high level deliverables.

Credits: Gene Smith of nForm

Use Case Maps

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Speaking with Greg the other day I learned about Use Case Maps. This notation which has been initially the work of Raymond Buhr, has its roots in software engineering and perhaps could be an area to draw inspiration from. Use Case Maps intend to convey sequences of events by showing the paths of users over a backdrop of structured system representations. With these flexible scenario-like visualizations, software engineers ensure that the element of time is considered. As part of the notation, Use Case Maps have starting and stopping points and can also branch out. It seems like Daniel Amyot has contributed to this work as well and has published a decent Quick Tutorial with a reference guide at the end. In a nutshell, here is what Daniel writes about the philosophy of UCM:

The Use Case Map notation aims to link behavior and structure in an explicit and visual way. UCM paths are first-class architectural entities that describe causal relationships between responsibilities, which are bound to underlying organizational structures of abstract components. These paths represent scenarios that intend to bridge the gap between requirements (use cases) and detailed design.

Credits: Raymond A. Buhr & Daniel Amyot

Gesturcons: Touch Pack 1.0

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Ron has recently initiated a project with the intention of creating a visual language for representing gesture based user actions. He shares the belief of “gain[ing] common grounds when discussing interactions” and has just released the Gesturcon Touch Pack under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The zipped file contains EPS, PNG and Illustrator files for your use. His approach supports such interactions as taps, holds, double taps, flicks and is achieved with circular shapes. @vitorious also threw the idea of combining this with my own notation. Hmm, pretty cool.

Credits: Ron George

Tablet + Illustrator: the Case for Electronic Sketching

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

It’s probably nothing new that the sketch has been gaining quite some attention lately as a powerful design tool. Some UI designers have began to precede wireframing and prototyping with free-form pen and paper approaches that afford exploration and support a wider diversity of ideas. For over a year now, in my design process I’ve started doing just the same right after I picked up a set of markers and sketch pads. Looking back, sketching has been wonderful at giving rise to design representations that naturally act as conversation starters and therefore make sketching more so compatible with agile philosophies. However, traditional pen and paper has a few limitations which over the last few months became noticeable. As a reaction to this, I grabbed an Intuos 3 from Wacom, installed Adobe Illustrator and began sketching electronically using a pen and tablet. Finding the new approach superior, I have doubts I’ll ever go back to paper and wanted to share some of the reasons why.


Like it or not, design ideas need to scale over time and good tools provide room for such growth. One thing that I love about Illustrator (which paper lacks of course) is that the art board or workspace can be stretched as needed whenever concepts need the extra room. The flexibility to resize the canvas is a really great feature especially during early ideation when multiple screens need to be shown together to tell a meaningful story. On the same note, another way Illustrator excels is in terms of a scalable fidelity. Whereas early on in a project the amount of detail might be small, over time however, the fidelity of an electronic sketch has the potential to develop. In a vector environment it is super easy to take a small UI sketch, stretch it to a larger size, and inject more detail inside of it.

Ease of Editing

Yes, in the real world we have pencils, erasers and the ability to redraw or correct our sketches to some degree. We can however only correct our paper sketches somewhat before they becomes unreadable. This isn’t the case with anything electronic or digital where cutting, deleting, undoing, redoing, erasing is second nature. A very common scenario is to draw different screens and only learn eventually that it makes sense for the two or three screens to be placed together – something that is very easily done by reorganizing or repositioning on the computer. Another superb thing about Illustrator is the ability to select a line and just redraw it, causing it the take on the new form. This of course can be done an unlimited amount of times in an electronic tool.


Although this might not be the case for everyone out there, I personally find that my hand writing is very hard to read. Unless I spent extra care and time to write legibly, I find that on the computer it is way easier and quicker to type out text that can be read by others.


When I am about to sketch on paper, knowingly that it will be harder to undo, I hold myself back and think twice before the ink or lead leaves a mark. This slow down or inefficiency can be easily overcome in the electronic world with a tablet pen. When I sketch electronically, this worry disappears as I know that I don’t have to generate the right ideas, but instead can easily correct myself if something needs adjusting. This careless quality of electronic sketching brings forth immense value by affording greater exploration to occur more freely.


Illustrator allows to create symbols of artwork very easily which in turn speeds up exploration ever more. Let’s say you have the same screen or component which you want to use a number of times across your work. Dragging the selection into the symbols palette allows you to reuse or instantiate that artwork and still have the ability to edit it in one location with it updating throughout. This is simply a superiority that paper cannot compete with.

The above are the reasons why I moved in the direction of electronic sketching. Perhaps the use of paper can still be justified in collaborative sketching sessions when there are more than one designer at the table and the design activity happens simultaneously in real time. For the remaining times, I find that the electronic sketch offers advantages over paper that are just too good to pass.

Credits: Jakub Linowski