From Mapping to Spatial Interpretation

I recently read A conversation with Ken Jennings and Jesse James Garret.  @UXMagazine about Ken Jennings’ book Mapheads which was published in 2014. They discuss the relationship of maps and design. It reminded me of my early love for maps and the fascination I’ve had with them over time. As quoted from Ken Jennings “…elegance of the map as a solution to a visual problem ‘How do I convey information about the world?’ This is at the core of the UX designers goals.

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Every summer, my family would hit the open road for a vacation that normally included a lot of driving in our Ford Fairmont wagon, stops at seemingly random roadside historical markers and trips to baseball stadiums that were supposedly “on our way” to our final destination.

I lay in the “way back” section of the car, pouring over the intended route while imagining, alternate ways to get where we were going. Reviewing the various map symbols, topography and exchanges almost became another outlet for daydreaming and envision the possible excitement that lay ahead in the journey. It also caused me to think about how I would represent the 5420wisklandmarks as we passed them by and I saw exactly what they looked like. I recognized this desire to store and think about information in a spatial way. Ken Jennings shares his thoughts about it by saying. “That spatial way of storing information is apparently deeply hardwired into how our brain wants to learn things.”

This reminded me of the the quote from UX Researcher Ben Scheidermen  who states “The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures

fitbitWe see this value being manifest in our products everywhere now. Real-time data in relation to geography and time exposing the state of the environment around us giving us the ability to maximize the experience we live in. Examples include a rise in Data Visualization products like Domo and systems that expose real time data like wearable devices, home automation and  electric connected cars.

Ironically it was all there before. We just didn’t have the ability to expose it in the moment. And now we can tap in to that “deeply hardwired” way of storing information.

just-ui-to-conversational-uiAs Conversational UI, AI and ML become more of a reality understanding how to design great experiences has become more and more about the choices made about what to include and what to strip away.

How does this change the work done as an Experience Designer? It doesn’t. It really just makes it all that  more important. There are now endless opportunities for feedback and interaction with people and our products. As I was once told by a former executive, “It looks like your job is going to get a little harder now.”

I would suggest however that now, more than ever a firm understanding of the core principles of usability are needed to combat the never ending battle against scope creep and adding features because you can, never stopping to wonder if you should.


Other great topics addressed in the A conversation with Ken Jennings and Jesse James Garret.  @UXMagazine 

  • Importance of how visualization of a map influences people’s perception about the concept of topic.
  • Cartographer’s building on top of each other’s work.
  • Marriage of Maps and Mobile devices
  • Importance of geotagging
  • Maps as a metaphor for conceptual journey’s

Looking for some design principles resources?

Try these sites (designprinciplesftw.com), (uxhow)

Can you Hack it?

 

I just spent a weekend engaging with students and hackers at the LA Hacks,Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 7.15.25 AM.png hackathon on the campus of UCLA. It was both and exciting and humbling event. Watching people bang out working product in 36 hour stretch of time. They had about 90 teams giving it the ole college try.  I was also impressed that the sophistication at which the teams thought about what they were trying to do.

Have you ever done one?

Words that make all the difference

Player Created Content: Resurrecting and old discussion. It’s been said that gamification is dead. Is it true? It’s pretty apparent that just making a leader board or giving nicely designed badges to your users is not going to engage them in meaningful ways. But I believe the principles of behavioral psychology behind this research is still very valid. The question is what is the carrot and what is the stick? Check out this blast from the past video from Amy Jo Kim.

Olympic UX Fail

Normally I don’t like to focus on the negative, but a UX Fail of this nature was surprising. For a site that so many people will be using.

I got this error when I was booking passage to the Vancouver Olympic Events at Whistler. Important to note was that unless you had proof of accommodations at Whistler you could not drive up on your own. They required that you take some sort of public transportation and strongly recommended using the Olympic Bus Network. So when I received this “Purchase Error” several times without instruction on how to fix it, I was very concerned. After calling the Olympic Bus Network several times only to get a recording, I resorted to email as the next quickest option. An email was returned to me stating that there was probably a mismatch on my CC number or Event Code. Now don’t you think that would have been very simple to code in there? As much as I loved my Vancouver Olympic Experience, I have to give this one a big fail.

It’s not about new ideas, it’s about getting new ideas made….

In my recent position I’ve been reintroduced to the world of heavy documentation. There’s something to be said about a methodical and precise approach to building quality products, but I tend to get impatient with the urgency to get products to market. The idea of design has become much more than just making plans for something great. I cite the quote below:

It’s not about  ideas, it’s about making ideas happen” (http://the99percent.com/)

I think about this statement a lot. Certainly the in web design world this is very pertinent. In other worlds it’s not as immediate but still relevant. Think about the entomology of the term Architect. It literally means someone who creates plans to be used in making something. In my case “Information.”My desk is across the hall from actual architects for some of the most extravagant hotels and resorts in the world. In speaking with them I get excited to realize we have much more in common than just our titles.  The process is indeed a close parallel. Though web apps are much more forgiving even if we have a zero bug policy. Neither one of us are actually putting the code together or laying the bricks. But the real difference is in how the ideas get made. Which is why Information Architecture is losing it’s foothold. The skills to build the object are closer in nature and much easier to acquire than buildings. All it takes is an RSS feed from KillerStartups.com to realize that the knowledge of how to build products is being implemented at a blistering pace. Hence the catch all phrase Interaction Designer.

(A great foray into another post: Observations on Designers)