Posts Tagged ‘linowski’

Exploring UI Scaling

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I’ve been thinking about ways to communicate how a user interface scales over time as the amount of information it needs to support varies. For example, sometimes the UI has to support multiple cases ranging from no results, to just a few results, to thousands of results. A good interface designer would probably think this through and come up with a UI that fulfills all of the relevant cases. For this, I began exploring a couple of visual language ideas to help myself and others who would like to tackle UI scaling. Here are some open and experimental thoughts:

A) Scale Marks. These are just floating reminder notes alongside a screen with a range of information that ought to be supported. Sometimes it’s easy to forget (or not know) how much data a UI really needs to support and these could be used as small self-targeted tests of sorts.

B) Scale Sets. This is a grouping of all the multiple UI states for those times when we actually want to draw out all of the relevant state ranges.

C) Spatial Scales. When there is more information, perhaps we might wish to communicate a maximum size of an element (max width / max height).

These are just a couple of thoughts which some day I might bring into the next release of the ISN. If you have other ideas, please share. :) Hope it’s useful.

Credits: Jakub Linowski

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

Grand Narratives & Play Points

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

We can experience tiny operational interactions and we can experience grand narratives. Perhaps there is room for both of these when we think through and visualize experience, flows and time. Here is a quick idea to support these in an electronic sketch. A thicker line is basically used to denote the bigger story which is more linear, whereas the smaller interactions such as onlicks, hovers and drags are represented in a thiner style. The grand narratives also have starting points denoted by “play points”. These could be used to help guide readers to the important beginnings in a sea of little boxes. Just thinking (uhmm… I mean drawing) out loud. What do you think?

Credits: Jakub Linowski

Usability Test Snapshots

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Usability testing is a pretty standard practice and I assume most of us here have done or might do a few of these evaluations in their design careers. Last month, I had the chance to spend some time with end users on a software project and I thought of sharing some of the documentation which resulted from the activity.

Right after doing such a test, we’re often faced with the challenge on how to capture and convey some of the interesting findings to others on the team or even ourselves. Some people try video, while others overlay the identified problems on top of screen captured images. In this round of testing I was aiming for something slightly different. Essentially, I wanted to a capture the core notes per each user on a single piece of 8.5×11 paper (perhaps in a persona like fashion?). Each page would have starting points of what the user has initially done with the use of red text, followed by dark grey notes as the actions unfolded. The findings were then tagged accordingly as: ideas (light bulb symbol), confusions (question mark) or positive remarks (happy face). Further more, the sample also makes use of subtle informal sketches through out the page to help convey the issues somewhat visually.

Perhaps to someone who lacks context of the project or products being tested, a deliverable such as this might not be adequate enough at conveying the issues. On the other hand, for those who have participated in the test as observers, the following usability test snapshot might act as an inspiration piece for the design work ahead.

Please post as a comment (or submit) ideas of your own on how to best convey, remember or prioritize findings from design research.

Credits: Jakub Linowski

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

Interactive Sketching Notation 0.1

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

After being inspired by people’s UI sketches for almost a year now, only naturally, my own approach to drawn user interactions with pen and paper began emerging. This personal compilation of the various techniques which I find relevant, is being published as the so called Interactive Sketching Notation. The general idea behind this notation is the desire to visualize user interface states as well as user actions in a clear and rapid manner. This of course, as the version number implies, is an emerging visual language for sketching interactions which I hope to continue to evolve and improve well into the future. Thanks again to all those who made this possible and please let me know if you find it helpful or have any recommendations. If this inspires your own approach to sketching, I would also love to see some samples of how people use this. .

Download the PDF directly.

Credits: Jakub Linowski


Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Here is an idea for representing narrative or user actions inside a wireframe. As an alternative to flows I wanted to showcase what the user is doing right in the context of the interface. For this, a simple clickable hand symbol was used with a wireframe reference inside of it. This was meant as to suggest that a click causes a new wireframe to appear. The value of such an approach to flows, can be that the readers of this documentation do not have to flip through pages to refer to flows to understand what the user is doing. Flows can be said to diverge away from the concreteness of a wireframe into abstraction. Here, instead, the flow of user activity is coming closer in on the interface.

Credits: Jakub Linowski

Selfishly Freeform Sketching

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Selfish. That’s right. Sketching for an audience of none other than oneself I’ve noticed to be really elevating and empowering. Ideas are represented as messy chicken scratches along side each other which no one but the original designer understands. Ideas are not bounded with a border and are very close to being without any structure. In this way, ideas are also offloaded onto a piece of paper more rapidly as they are formed in the mind. At least I find, that not having to worry about the communicative value of these infant ideas results in more speedy exploration. For myself, sketching in this manner is also a way of embracing uncertainty which gives more opportunity for questions to rise. Looking back through some of my own work, I’ve noticed that often with these messy selfish sketches I sometimes record such emergent uncertainties. Each time a question pops up in my mind, I draw it as question mark inside of circle right on the page. These new considerations are later tackled in future revisions or more refined sketches such as visible here.

Visible through this example, perhaps the importance of communication in sketching is emphasized. At times, yes, it is important to share and communicate your ideas with others. That’s where structure and clarity comes in to aid. At other times however, it is also important to set proper conditions to allow communication to happen between just you and yourself. That’s where more free form and unstructured representations such as these might be more useful. I’d say that making room in a design process for sketches which can communicate in these two distinct ways, is equally important.

Credits: Jakub Linowski

Edge Cornering

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Recently in my sketches I began relying quite heavily on little frames which is one of my favourite techniques. However I also noticed that this approach has a limitation. As a flowing interaction is being sketched out, often I need to zoom in a little bit more on the details to show what I mean more clearly. Little frames are just sometimes too little.

Perhaps influenced by the wonderful isolation and referencing technique of Jonas, I began zooming in on parts of the interface where required. What I have began doing somewhat differently from Jonas’ drawings is an attempt to reference the zoomed in interface pieces more clearly. This is being attempted with the help of thicker black edge lines and corners. Drawing a thicker line around the little frame, and then creating a corner in the same style for the zoomed in piece, I hope helps a bit more in terms of relating the sketch to the edge of the screen. In the end, edge cornering extends the speed of little frames to larger sections of the interface, while still affording to draw only the bits and pieces that are relevant (leaving the obvious out of the picture).

Credits: Jakub Linowski

Cursors As State Indicators

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Cursors can be used inside of wireframes, or detailed visual layouts as in this case, to hint at states. Overlaying them on top of existing elements can give the viewer a stronger understanding of the multi state nature of the interface through the visibility of mouse positioning. In its most basic form a cursor can hint at an element’s onMouseOver state. In this sample I’ve used multiple such cursors on one screen to show multiple states all at once. I would assume it would also be possible to help understand other states as well (drags, resizes, etc) using cursors.

Have a look over at Konigi’s Wireframe Icon Set which now also contains cursor icons.

Credits: Jakub Linowski