Writing

Introducing the Ministry of Justice design system

A design system unites product teams around a common visual language. It reduces design and technical debt, accelerates the design and development process, and builds bridges between teams working in concert to bring products to life. —Maxime Rabot


Building a register of public-facing services at the Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice is made up of over 30 agencies and public bodies. From Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman. The department delivers a wide range of justice-related information services to complex and widely used public services such as ‘Get a divorce’, ‘Apply for probate’ or ‘Apply for legal aid’.


What would augment reality?

The technology industry is buzzing about Augmented Reality (AR) applications and hardware. In a series of illustrations titled “what would augment reality?” Luke Wroblewski attempts to answer “what value would exceed the pain of charging and wearing augmented reality headsets each day?” and “Are there enough compelling use cases to make AR a daily necessity?”.


User experience design and research interview questions

During my time on both sides of the interview table, I’ve asked and received a wide range of design and research related questions. For each interview, I’ve tried to compile the questions asked. In planning interviews, I’ve also researched and collated questions others have asked. Here are a few of them.


Prototyping towards a better user experience

Designing websites has traditionally been an expensive and laboured experience. Many hours have been spent pouring over information architecture, deliberating interactions, elaborating upon wireframes and creating pixel-perfect Photoshop and Illustrator compositions, only for those design artefacts to be archived neatly away, on a server, never to be seen again.


Taxonomy of emotions

Products and services can evoke a wide range of emotions, both negative and positive. Considering these emotions in the design process is an important step in understanding behavioural impact.


Plutchik’s wheel of emotion

Pyschologist Robert Plutchik developed one of the most popular classifications of emotion called Plutchik’s wheel of emotion.


Creative thinking hacks

Back in 2007, Scott Berkun wrote a really interesting essay on Creative Thinking Hacks. In the article he suggested “all of us possess everything necessary to be more creative. The problem is we’ve been trained away from our creative instincts by schools, parents, movies, workplaces” and now the unerring distraction of the World Wide Web.


Apple’s 27 guidelines for mobile user experience design

People appreciate mobile apps that feel as though they were designed expressly for the device. For example, when an app fits well on the device screen and responds to the gestures that people know, it provides much of the experience people are looking for. And, although people might not be aware of human interface design principles, such as direct manipulation or consistency, they can tell when apps follow them and when they don’t.


Disney’s 12 basic principles of animation

The Twelve Basic Principles of Animation is a set of principles of animation introduced by the Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their 1981 book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.


Lund’s expert ratings of usability maxims

Published in the Ergonomics in Design journal in 1997, Arnold Lund collected and created this list of 34 rules-of-thumb (given below in order of priority) that were found particularly useful during the design process by colleagues working in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design field.


Donald Norman’s 3 dimensions of emotional design

Emotional Design is both the title of a book by Donald Norman and of the concept it represents. The main issue discussed is that emotions have a crucial role in the human ability to understand the world, and how they learn new things.


IBM’s design principles

Software can be designed to simplify tasks and to create a positive overall experience for users. Thoroughly understanding the goals of users and stakeholders and designing software with those goals in mind are the best approaches to successfully delivering products that will delight customers.


You’re being gamed

You, like many people, aren’t stupid, but it’s an unfortunate fact of life that you can be fooled. Since the dawn of time, the best salespeople, rightly or wrongly, have been known to exploit vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the human mind to their own gain.


11 laws and principles to use in design

Design elements, laws and principles, garnered over centuries of observation, describe fundamental ideas about the practice of good visual design that are assumed to be the basis of all intentional visual design strategies. These elements form the ‘vocabulary’ of the design, while the laws and principles constitute the broader structural aspects of its composition.


10 principles of inclusive web design

Inclusive design is well established in architecture and industrial design and the principles that apply to these disciplines are equally relevant on the web. It’s people that your website engages with, not technologies, so a user-centred approach is fundamental.


Game Dynamics, or Gamification to you and me

In behavioural economics, gamification is the use of game dynamics for non-game applications, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviours in connection with the applications.


43 things customers think are fun

We’ve all played games as children. Today, millions of people ‘lose’ themselves in massively multiplayer games (MMPG) like World of Warcraft, strategy games like League of Legends and social media games like FarmVille. Games satisfy our need to interact, compete, and exercise our imagination. And they’re fun.


Top-down and bottom-up processing in sensation and perception

There are two general processes involved in sensation and perception. Bottom-up processing refers to processing sensory information as it is coming in. In other words, if I flash a random picture on the screen, your eyes detect the features, your brain pieces it together, and you perceive the image. What you see is based only on the sensory information coming in. Bottom-up refers to how we construct the image from the smallest sensory information pieces. Top-down processing, on the other hand, refers to perception driven by cognition. Your brain applies what it knows and what it expects to perceive and fills in the blanks.


Robert Cialdini’s 6 Universal Types of Influence

The human mind is an intriguing thing, capable of the most complex thought processes and ideas. Yet the brain is on automatic pilot for many situations. That allows the conscious mind to focus on other tasks. One potential drawback is that it is possible take advantage of our conscious inattention.


How to make Design Thinking part of the innovation drill

The myth of creative genius is resilient. We believe that great ideas pop fully formed out of brilliant minds, in feats of imagination well beyond the abilities of mere mortals. But Design Thinking is neither a sudden breakthrough nor the lightning strike of genius; it is the result of hard work augmented by a creative human-centred discovery process, followed by iterative cycles of prototyping, testing, and refinement.


A Design Thinker’s personality profile

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need weird shoes or a black turtleneck to be a design thinker. Nor are design thinkers necessarily created only by design schools, even though most professionals have had some kind of design training. Many people outside professional design have a natural aptitude for design thinking, which the right development and experiences can unlock.


Design Principles – The Philosophy of UX

The visual principles of harmony, unity, contrast, emphasis, variety, balance, proportion, pattern and direction (and others) are widely recognised and practiced, even when they aren’t formally articulated. But creating a good design doesn’t automatically mean creating a good experience. In order for us to cultivate positive experiences for our users, we need to establish a set of guiding principles for experience design.


Gestalt principles of perception

Gestalt psychology is a theory of mind and brain positing that the operational principle of the brain is holistic, parallel, and analogue, with self-organising tendencies.


The dimensions of a good experience

Good designs are useful, usable and desirable. But what is a good experience? While crafting the experience of her own startup, Foodspotting, Alexa Andrzejewski found answers in urban design. Asking the same question about urban experiences, Kevin Lynch, author of Good City Form, extracted a set of dimensions for evaluating experiences. By applying these principles to interactive experiences, you can identify what kind of experience you’re creating for users: Is it adaptable? Does it tell a story? Are there signs of life? You’ll leave with a set of guidelines that, unlike traditional heuristics, will enable you to evaluate the experiential qualities of your designs.


Hansen’s user engineering principles for interactive systems

The ‘feel’ of an interactive system can be compared to the impressions generated by a piece of music. Both can only be experienced over a period of time. With either, the user must abstract the structure of the system from a sequence of details. Each may have a quality of ‘naturalness’ because successive actions follow a logically self-consistent pattern. A good composer can write a new pattern which will seem, after a few listenings, to be so natural the observer wonders why it was never done before.


Shneirderman’s 8 Golden Rules of Interface Design

To improve the usability of an application it is important to have a well designed interface. Shneiderman’s (1998) “Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design” are a guide to good interaction design.


Memory for goals – An activation-based model

When people plan, react to emergencies or other interruptions or make mental notes to do things in the future, an important process involved is the cognitive management of goals.


The Human Action Cycle by Don Norman

The human action cycle, also known as the Seven Stages of Action, is a psychological model which describes the steps humans take when they interact with computer systems. The model can be used to help evaluate the efficiency of a user interface (UI). Understanding the cycle requires understanding the user interface design principles of affordance, feedback, visibility and tolerance.


An Introduction to the Semantic Web

The Semantic Web is a web of data. There is lots of data we all use every day, and most of it is not part of the web. I can see my bank statements on the web, and my photographs, and I can see my appointments in a calendar. But can I see my photos in a calendar to see what I was doing when I took them and on a map so I know where I took them? Can I see bank statement lines in a calendar? The answer, right now, is no.


Google’s 5 privacy principles

In honour of International Data Privacy Day today, 28th January 2010, Google has published their own guidelines on privacy.


Dieter Rams’ 10 Rules of Good Design

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design. Many of Rams’ designs—coffee makers, calculators, radios, audio/visual equipment, consumer appliances and office products—have found a permanent home at many museums over the world, including MoMA in New York.


Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics

These are ten general principles for user interface design suggested by Jakob Nielsen. They are called heuristics because they are more in the nature of rules of thumb than specific usability guidelines.


IDEO’s Human-Centred Design Toolkit

Human-Centred Design (HCD) is a process used for decades to create new solutions for companies and organisations. HCD can help you enhance the lives of people. This process has been specially-adapted for organisations like that work with people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. HCD will help you hear people’s needs in new ways, create innovative solutions to meet these needs, and deliver solutions with financial sustainability in mind.


Google’s Philosophy – Ten Things

One of Google’s mantras is to never settle for the best. The perfect search engine, says Google co-founder Larry Page, would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want. Given the state of search technology today, that’s a far-reaching vision requiring research, development and innovation to realise. Google is committed to blazing that trail. Though acknowledged as the world’s leading search technology company, Google’s goal is to provide a much higher level of service to all those who seek information, whether they’re at a desk in Boston, driving through Bonn, or strolling in Bangkok.


My work philosophy

Okay, so many of the points below aren’t purely my philosophy, but ideas and principles I have picked up along the way throughout my career. Some relate to the UNIX philosophy, or even the Zen of Python, but wherever they’re from, they can be applied to many other domains.


Online social networks: Everywhere, yet nowhere

In the late 1990s, a large multi-national technology corporation, hoping to become a major force in online advertising, bought a small start-up in a sector that was believed to be the next big thing. That corporation was Microsoft and the start-up was Hotmail. Hotmail and Microsoft established web-based email as a must-have application for personal use. The addition of Hotmail to the Microsoft inventory promised to increase the companies online revenues that were being dominated by Yahoo!, Google and AOL amongst a host of others.


Open standards: Break down those walls

On the Web, a walled garden is an environment that controls the user’s access to Web content and services. In effect, the walled garden directs the user’s navigation within particular areas, to allow access to a selection of material, or prevent access to other material.


Approximate conversion from points to pixels

Here’s a chart that converts points to pixels (and ems and %) where the base size is 16px. It’s an approximation, which will depend on font, browser and OS, but it’s a good starting point.


Leader or manager?

A while ago a colleague of mine asked me the question “Do you consider yourself to be a leader or a manager?” Initially, I responded that I thought myself to be a manager as an essential aspect of my role is managing expectations, ideas and developments of a number of services. However, a debate ensued as my colleague believed me to be more a leader than a manager, and now I am not so sure which one I am!


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