Author Archives: Ashley Towers

How to write an alert box

Alert boxes are a user interface element that pops up to alert the user of some critical piece of information. This post explains how to write them.
Lets start off by getting something out of the way. Don’t use alert boxes. They are jarring, often steal focus, interrupt the flow of what a user is doing [...]

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Aesthetic Usability Effect

The aesthetic usability effect is where a user will perceive an attractive product as easier to use than an ugly one. It doesn’t actually matter if they are easier to use or not they are perceived as such so users will make subconscious concessions and overlook many difficulties. The seminal work on this principle is [...]

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Reducing Damage Through Usability

I spent my weekend installing a new central heating system. When I unpacked one of the radiators (the largest one at 1.2m x 0.5m ) it was damaged. Most of the radiators had the odd dent in the grills but could easily bent back in to shape. This one however had been in the wars [...]

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Call to Action vs Mental Models

After reading John Gruber’s post An Ode to DiskWarrior, SuperDuper, and Dropbox over at Daring Fireball, I decided to give Dropbox a go.
So I went over to their site for a look:

Nice and clean looking. I watched the video and was sold – sign me up! But, this is where the trouble started. The service [...]

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Why We Test

The 2 buttons in the above picture are for a toilet flush. One button does a big flush using lots of water; the other does a smaller flush using less. Using a small flush when that’s all that is needed avoids wasting water and that’s a good thing.
As you can see the 2 buttons are [...]

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Five Hat Racks

The Five Hat Racks was first developed by Richard Saul Wurman in his book Information Anxiety. It’s a bizarre name, but makes sense: the hats are information…. hat racks organise hats…. and there are 5 ways to do it. Fine, call it what you like – at least it’s memorable! In a nutshell, there are [...]

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Leading the Eyes

Every good magician knows how to lead an audience’s eyes with their gestures. This allows them to make the audience look in one direction, and whilst their gaze is averted, the magician is free to perform a sleight of hand or develop his illusion.
This same effect can be used in design. Here in the UK, [...]

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iLife and the Untitled Document Syndrome

There’s a fantastic article over at Daring Fireball about the friction of saving an ‘Untitled Document’ – It’s so true! Well worth a read.
I completely agree with his observations about the iLife suite. Both iTunes and iPhoto abstract away the location of their actual files from the user. Recent switchers to the Mac have a [...]

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7 Ways to Annoy Your Users

Your users will probably mess things up. Some are just down right stupid. Don’t trust anything they say, it is probably a mistake. The best way to deal with this sort problem is to ask them lots of questions, even when it’s obvious they meant to do what they just did. Are you sure you [...]

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The Importance of Conventions

Conventions are important. They emerge as the ‘way things are done’. As such, when we see a control on a device, we apply our previous knowledge of similar systems and make assumptions about what will happen when the control is activated. The more experience you have in a particular field, the more conventions you know. [...]

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