Another ignorant blog about user experience in real life and digital adland

All You Need Is i

Is there such a thing as UX of a newspaper? There wasn’t as such till now.

Few days ago a new newspaper has been launched. It is called ‘i’. Quite uncreative, I know. But it has the big idea behind it and apparently an amazing strategy, we’ll see its that better soon. At the moment all those trimmings and perhaps even a cherry on top of it makes it surprisingly exciting, see for yourself:

i is specifically targeted at readers and lapsed readers of quality newspapers, and those of all ages who want a comprehensive digest of the news. i will combine intelligence with brevity, and depth with speed of reading, providing an essential daily briefing.

Being a target audience for this new ‘invention’ I went to buy it and see if it actually does what it claims to. I hardy buy newspapers these days although I do read loads. Anyway. It stroke me while I was reading it that they want to attract people that are dealing with interactive interfaces on daily basis. Then the modern paper should combine not only witty writing but also some of the UX best practices. I do not mean clicking on things etc. because this is not the case. I mean flow and functional quality of information, page designs(iconography, visual language etc.). Web is already full of inspiration and I hoped creators have done their homework.
I was wrong. Very wrong. My excitement wilted with page 2 when two things happened. First was discovering that my fingers are black. I was naïve to think that nobody does it any more. It is XXI century for God’s sake. Even the free pulp invested some money in proper technology. Second was a bit more complex because full page of very short stories made me feel like I want to click and read more… Yes, click on a printed text. Why? Because those snippets were badly written for the purpose. On the web, it is mandatory to make one to click on a headline. In a newspaper that claims to be a serious player this writing was way too good because there was no ‘read more’ option. This was the end of good stuff, the rest was a sad disaster. Days old news, scratching the surface, cheap jokes and it all looks simply like just another newspaper. Actually like the LondonPaper judging by the font. I even had this thought that some old pricks that still have no idea what’s the difference between blog and email is, have decided to create a new product based on their old false and arrogant strategy. They’ve hired their mates, spent all the Russian cash they had  and now they’re thinking where to run to. I couldn’t find any info on the editors, only that it is the Independent that is shitting on their own brand with this piece of mediocre writing.

We are creating a newspaper for the 21st century, designed for people with a thirst for information and entertainment in the limited time that they have available’

First prize for the best waste of space goes to the weather column which does not have any information apart from an image and number of a page where you may find this information! Bit like good old web: “to contact us please scroll down and click on this rotating 3D crap in a bottom of our page”. That’s not all! Once you get there, to page 40 you’ll see the most amazing piece of design ever. Full  page weather forecast. Yes. Full page. Huge map and plenty of large numbers around the map, not on it. That’s the first impression. My first thought was – this is a forecast for the whole week, quite large numbers indicate importance of this piece of information. Actually someone fucked up hierarchy of information and after a long while I have realized that it is not what I think it is simply because 13 does not follow 15. It turned up to be… temperature in cities that were mentioned in such a small type that I found it hard to believe someone actually approved this page. It was pretty hard to figure out London’s forecast. Access to information reminded me of those elevators for wheelchairs that are too narrow to fit a wheelchair into it. One more thing confirmed myself in the belief that some old blind idiots were behind this dirty prank. It was a weather forecast for… the day before. I am not making it up. In a bottom of page 40 there’s an information telling us what was the weather like day before! WTF!
The rest of the paper wasn’t that funny, just traditional newspaper elements: crossword, comic strip etc. Where was the newspaper UX design? Only in my mind. Growing pretty fast. Idea of utilizing web interface for print was in my head for very long time but this paper was a perfect opportunity to establish a new standard for contemporary news writing and reading. Because the old model is based purely on writing and it does care about the reader in third or fourth place when it comes to kerning, pagination etc. By reading I mean taking in consideration not only the ‘user’ but also user’s behavior and requirements. That old school design needs to grow up and expand. There are many new kids on the block.

Widgets – where is their place in the newspaper? I am sure there is place for them. They just need to be translated into a format that would make sense.

Colour-coding? It does exist on a level that is more than disappointing, some colours on top of every page but not on page umbers or corners. Quick access is what the i is claiming too. If I am interested only in world news I want to be able to jump quickly there without going through the whole paper. On the web I click, how do I do it in print? I skip pages because design allows me to. What about safe tearing off content I won’t read at all but someone else would be interested in it?

Clear call to action? Actually CTAs in general do not exist in paper world as functional elements that relate to navigation through the newspaper. All right, ‘read more’ and ‘go to the page…’ have always been there, but when we’re talking about short pieces of info those ones are irrelevant. And telling people to visit the website for ‘more’ is like telling someone to go fuck himself.

On the other hand: how to write a headline that the reader wouldn’t want to click on to read more and  will be full looking forward to eat another snippet? How to use margins in informative way not only to ease the ‘navigation’ but also to deliver content(vide weather joke described above). Actually how to make a newspaper functional again? How to make useful ‘text scanning’? This is actually a bit too much for the writers today but there’s certainly a light at the end of tunnel.

Many of those questions can be answered after a quick consultation with UX designer that does have enough experience in digital as well as some print background.  Yes, like myself. But that’s hardly the point. The real point is that it took me less than 40 mins to review this paper while on the train. It would took another hour to scribble and communicate all basic changes that could be beneficial and perhaps to save the paper because it is going nowhere. Unless they want to steal some of the The Sun readers who have recently learned new words such as blog, twitter and email. But that’s hardly worth 20p for them. And the lack of famous page 3 does make it even less attractive. I do not mind paying someone to do the job for me, job of filtering, condensing and serving in functional way all the content I can find on the web for free. But now I’d rather read the Standard which unfortunately has recently lowered the bar and left my league. It is not the content that is important at the moment and I cannot judge the quality of it in the i, but I have all the  rights to raze it to the ground if it is claiming to actually work on my territory. Especially if it is not working and the i was born with horrible defects that now will hurt until it dies or someone heals it.

UX wars

I’ve just been researching games, or playing them. Well. The same old… war. Focused on branded content I stumbled upon the most obvious… Clone Wars on and I have to admit that this particular disappointment overgrows any previous ones. Somehow Star Wars has one of the poorest brand and user experiences ever. Maybe it is because they have raped themselves so many times that it doesn’t look like an act of brutality any more. It is rather a masochistic wank, that finishes, in most unanticipated moment, on the end user(customer for those dinos in adland).

star wars UX wars

I don’t think there is much to say apart from the fact that to this section, pictured above, there are some  pretty dumb forms leading. And then, with aching fingertips, once you think you can play a game… it asks you to install it and restart the browser? Not to mention double checking that you agreed to T&Cs and asking you to say yes twice! Next time maybe an interactive form that you have to shout at loud enough would tick the box once and for all.

That gives actually one good idea for a live UX experiment: pop in to my place for a tea. Any time you wanna pour more tea to your cup you’d have to go outside(in winted would be even more fun, getting dressed etc.), come back, clean up the cup and then top it up. How does it sound? Like 100k experience? Or like being fucked?

RE:Strained bear

Microsoft launched recently an ad for Windows Live Photo Gallery with Yosemite Bear. His recording of a double rainbow became quite popular reaching over 12mln views since January. The recording itself bears tremendous amount of emotions, which is quite nicely put  in one of the video’s comment:

His inner peace is what every being on earth strives for. Joy obtained simply by viewing a natural phenomenon that isn’t man-made. Learn to appreciate the little things in life and see with unabashed bliss… we should all be so lucky to be so happy… it’d be a better world.


It would be, indeed. But is quite different.

Read the rest of this entry »

Star Worst

Screen shot 2010 01 21 at 15.48.36 Star Worst

Logged in with Facebook Connect and… not much, actually haven’t seen the point till saw it 2nd time and still it was plain silly. And then, suddenly and obviously at the same time: “replay the experience“! I loved it.  Not the experience because that was a cheap joke, overused tactics to get something famous(how long it’s been? 30 years!)and then rape it. I do now want to write about whores of adland nor about piggy-backing strategies in backwards creative industry. I want to just say that if one could replay an experience I would be selling my balls for it. Although the whole thing, being like a big replay, the end of it got me thinking of the word “experience”. I remember few years ago when I was using it to address issues with the lack of user/customer in communication. Just couple of people would listen and not many would care since that was the client’s wish to make it selfish and “on brand”.

This Adidas Star Wars campaign reminds me of  those days when web was used as a huge speaker that brands would use to announce… well actually I mean mostly wank in public. It was great status quo for those with large budgets and speakers. They were deciding what happens on a web and how it is pronounced. Today they have to pay a man back in his own coin. It may look like social media heaved the brands back into their place. Coca-Cola drops campaign sites in favour of social media. Many understood recently that one has to be the speaker as well as a mic in order to make oneself reliable and likable(salable in other words). And now it looks like power of the speaker shifts very rapidly. User is in a centre… well actually that is the political term for something that seldom happens. Giving the user/customer too much freedom would mean that they can choose and they can be less predictable.  They would wonder around having dangerous thoughts and it is easier to hit something static. Controlling them is the key and moving into social media does seem on the surface like the brands want to say: “we’re here to help”. It actually means that being there, having a piece of it, brands are be able to be closer in order to influence, peek and control behaviors.

Facebook may be saved, like all trends on the web I thought it will be replaced with something similar. This model so far works and, I think, presence of major brands will put Facebook’s head in a noose. Will make it dependent. Any decrease in user count on Facebook would mean decrease in profit through access to users. Worst case scenario: brands won’t keep the balance, masses would got bored and migrate elsewhere. Best case scenario:  people got so much dependent on the platform that they wouldn’t be able to communicate otherwise, brands will get a chance to rape them all one by one.  None of it is going to happen, fortunately. Something else is going to happen and it is  going to be another great day and we won’t be able to replay that experience. Would a lemon like to be repeatedly squeezed?

What ELSE?

UI fully focused on one thumb navigation. That sort of UX seems very impressive. One can access everything on a mobile phone using just one thumb. My first thought: amazing, functional and good looking UI. Well actually I changed my mind pretty quick. Certain tasks do not require such a quick access, they may seem to be a bit difficult to perform in a long term. Using just a thumb for longer periods of time may be tiresome. Navigating calendar looks very good, quick access, easy scrolling… accessing gallery on the other hand looks bit overcomplicated. I felt like designers forced the thumb navigation just for sake of making it one-finger-UI.
I bet they’ve tested it and I wonder how would real life test it and is it going to be a next gen touch screen user experience?



Patterns and grids were supposed to make design(digital I mean) a bit easier and, thank God, they did to certain point. I remember times before 960, when I’d use canonical grid mixed with golden ratio and some human perception knowledge I got while studying art.There was Jakob with his ugly idea of usability. Well, idea was great but the presentation had some traumatic results on some. Then of course there was always a story to be told which someone called journey and then added a user to that whole new experience. And the UX has been born.

Recently I saw this nice and sad link browsersize. Sad because so many people can’t see the donate button. Nice because it says that not much has changed in last decade. Well actually in last millenium. We’ve been always doing certain things the way we do, and some uneducated plonkers thought they’d reinvented the wheel with usability(I mean all those wankers that follow blindly rules of grid systems and false kindergarten science). There are still blank spots on the map of our behavior with regards to our journeys and decision making process but hey, for some it is still not very obvious that people(with christian background) read left to right and that it affects composition(positive and negative).

Browsersize is a great…hmm let’s call it tool. (On many occasions, I did have to pull out F shape print outs as in the last resort and be told to back off because the web ‘is changing’ so this may be one more useful weapon for those still crusading  dark-ages).But that’s not what I am really on about. What I am on is the obvious implication of the above observation. It only confirms what we’ve known for centuries. So it is time to start seeing what’s under those rules because grid designs aren’t the final solution neither are pixel-perfect Mac OS X rip offs. So I always love to see when one gores the 960. I am getting bored with that slick, colorful barf that defines what is good digital design.  I wonder what is usual dwell time on those sites? Some may know the answer and if it is more then 30sec it means someone forgot it has opened in a back. Proper user experiences aren’t that rare but that usually requires whole new grid to work with. 4 dimensional one.

Most of current grids require 2D thinking, plus eventually some twists. Where shiny stuff is just a nice package for mind blowing emptiness. Designing user’s time on a page and the depth of the journey defines 2 more dimensions that many designers completely ignore glorifying ‘let’s just scratch the surface’ culture. No I won’t give examples, show pie-charts nor flood blogosphere with ‘visual aids’. It is all about thinking which is something that cannot be found on a web or thought through tutorials. It is something that requires a bit of courage to look deeper.

Travelling with UX

Picture 3 Travelling with UX

There are always reasons behind that, but whatever you tell me this is one very bad user experience I am having. By the way TFL does similar job too. Timeouts are so short that if one has kettle on or is just thinking about which train is actually working this winter, it is impossible not to throw few explicit thoughts at the screen. I wonder what was the copywriter thinking when was told to write:

“Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience.”

For God’s sake, like if it wasn’t man-made or the timeout was cause by bad weather Of course it ignited my thinking process and as a result I’ve visited their contact section and… surprise. No maze of FAQ and hidden doors with 0845 numbers. Simple contact form, but hey. Go back to the top. There is a catch.

“We handle over 360,000 customer enquiries every day and quality of information is always our top priority. Nevertheless, things occasionally go wrong.”

See the number? Well, I could be wrong but there may be simple answer to that. If they cause inconvienence and with no shame write that just below the sorry bit:

“If you are still having problems, please check your network settings or contact your systems administrator.”

Then no wonder that thousands of frustrated users, madly hitting back button, cry for help using that very well accessible form.

I cry with them. Sitting on a train waiting for a conductor who is 20mins late…

Sausage and mash will follow

cocnkey atm

cockney atm

See whole user journey and that sounds like no joke to me


Nearness from timo on Vimeo.

One of the essential properties of Near Field Communication is nearness, but this is set against one of the paradoxes of touch-based interaction where, in fact, nothing needs to touch.


Older posts

Some are gone for ever, some are in polish… hence this is considered to be a new version of my online pulp.