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Providing Predictable Targets
It doesn't matter how fast people are with a mouse or with their fingers, if they can't find the target, they're going to be kind of slow it hitting it. Hiding targets by either moving them around or even making them invisible has become a trend, and it needs to stop. Here's how you can ensure your users have predictable targets every time...

The Third User, or Exactly Why Apple Keeps Doing Foolish Things
The User Experience (UX) community stands on the sidelines, mouths agape, watching as Apple does one seemingly foolish thing after another, such as hiding vital controls like the scroll bar, yet Apple's sales continue to climb even as usability suffers. Apple is doing this to support a user the UX community seldom even considers, but to the detriment of all their other users. This is how can Apple achieve their same end without making usability suffer & how the rest of us can increase our success by supporting that third user...

The Apple iWatch
The Apple iWatch will fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem. It will facilitate and coordinate not only the activities of all the other computers and devices we use, but a wide array of devices to come. Like other breakthrough Apple products, it's value will be underestimated at launch, then grow to have a profound impact on our lives and Apple's fortunes...


  • Browse or Search: Which One Deserves to Go? When Reader Craig Saunders threw down the gauntlet, I was is forced to decide. That was the easy part. Supporting that decision with a new design was a bit more challenging. How'd I do?...


  • Top 10 Reasons the New Google News Sucks In 2002, the original Google News team worked out exactly how aggregated news should be presented. Millions of people fell in love with the clean, clear, efficient design. It was a classic. Then, a new group just had to change it...

  • Apple & the Dark Cloud of Censorship Apple has always seen itself and has always been a force for good. Now, its own success threatens that. Apple's clumsy attempts at censorship has put the company in a box. Here's at least one graceful way out...

  • Mac & the iPad, History Repeats Itself Steve Jobs has a tried-and-true formula for producing exciting, innovative products that open up new markets. He not only used it for producing the iPhone and iPad, he was already using it back in the early 1980s with the invention of the Macintosh computer. Here's his secret...


  • How to Achieve Painless Registration If your goal it to drive away new visitors and eliminate profits, registration is the way to go. However, though most of us try our best to avoid it already, sometimes we can't. Here are some tricks to eliminate registration entirely and, when that won't work, to make it seem so desirable and reduce it to such a simple process that people will actually register.

  • Restoring Spring to the iPhone/iPod Touch Springboard The Springboard (Desktop) on the iPhone is great if you have perhaps 30 apps. It begins to show signs of distress at 60, and it absolutely tops out at 180. This does not compare favorably with the 85,000+ apps already released for the iPhone. People's phones are filled up, and they are ceasing to buy. That's bad news for all. Here's Tog's solution...

  • Bento Schmento Bento is FileMaker's attempt to fix the interface of Apple's core applications. Talk about the tail wagging the dog! True enough, it's a beautiful tail, but it's only serving to make the aging dog look just that much more mangy. Time for a radical change...

  • Inclusive Design, Part 1 For years, we've had a small, dedicated group of accessibility specialists working in isolation to develop targeted solutions exclusively for people with profound disabilities. That effort is now giving way to inclusive design, an approach that makes life better not only for those with profound disabilities, but for everyone.

    Part 1 looks at some surprising facts on disability you might find personally disturbing.

  • Inclusive Design, Part 2 In Part 1, I tried to convinced you to do inclusive design. Now, here's how to do it, or at least how to get started, along with some case studies of projects both successful and unsuccessful. These case studies help illuminate pitfalls to avoid and will also give you some good material to help sell your companies on embracing this new, profitable way to approach accessibility.

  • Apple's Flatland Aesthetic, Part 1: The Mac. Apple has abandoned hierarchical structures presumably to make life easier for new users, but new users don't stay new for long. The upshot is that, paradoxically, experienced users find Apple products increasingly difficult to use. This month's Part 1 gives several examples of where this aesthetic is damaging the productivity of Macintosh software.

  • Apple's Flatland Aesthetic, Part 2: The iPhone, iPod Touch, and Apple TV In Part 2, I look at how Flatland is harming the usability of the iPhone and iPod Touch, as well as the AppleTV. One difference here is that Apple is not only harming themselves, they are also harming their developers' ability to make money by sharply limiting the number of Apps users can and will download from the iPhone/iPod Touch's killer app, the App Store.

    This article is not just about Apple; it's about your company, too. Every new revision you face requires a fresh look at who your users have become. Are you keeping up with them? It's important, because your users are also your most vital sales force.

  • 1st Generation Kindle vs. iPhone/iPod Touch. Human/Machine Interaction & User Experience usually track each other, but not in the case of the first-generation Kindle and the iPhone/iPod Touch, a situation that is quite instructive.


  • Manufacturer Sites That Sell. The web offered manufacturers a great way to connect directly with their consumers, offering sales support at a time that retail sales professionalism was in retreat. How the good ones took advantage of the opportunity, how the bad squandered it, and what we all can learn from them.

  • The iPhone User Experience: A First Touch. The iPhone is a triumph, but there's still room for improvement in the user experience . Here's where Apple needs to start.

  • Slashing Subjective Time. We can greatly reduce a website user's sense of time-to-completion by eliminating "bordom points" and other user-time wasters.

  • The iPhone User Experience: A First Look. Apple has unveiled what they claim is a revolutionary cell phone. Why it is; why it isn't, and where Apple needs to go from here.


  • The Scott Adams Meltdown: Anatomy of a Disaster. "Dilbert's" creator, Scott Adams, published 500 comments on his blog, then got rid of his draft. His 500 published comments disappeared with it. Here's what happened and what went wrong in the design process.


  • The Bug Hall of Fame. See a full-color photo of the first documented bug and more in this rogue's gallery of the most notorious bugs in history.


  • Panic is far more pervasive than we assume. Your users or test subjects may exhibit unrecognized symptoms of panic, affecting the usability of your software and the results of your testing.

    Panic! How it Works and What To Do About It. Read chilling vignettes of real-life panic. Then, learn how to detect panic and, more importantly, learn how to prevent it.

    Anatomy of a Panic: A Case Study. How "The Worst Interface Ever" (see next below) set off a slow-motion chain of panic-driven events that almost killed a whole bunch of people.

  • The Worst Interface Ever. Available now, a cute little switch to test your mental acumen. Mount it under your car's hood, where it can't be seen. Remember to flip it at just the right moment several times a week. Miss one single time and—blat!—lose a $5000 engine/transmission! What fun! Only $1500, at a dealer near you...


  • When Good Design => Bad Product
    The prototypes looked great and tested well. The programmers did their usual competent job of implementation. The result was a disaster. What went wrong? Someone forgot the last, critical step. (more)

  • D'ohlt #1: Think Globally, Act Globally
    Wherein we discover that, while the interaction designer was making the garden timer really easy to program, the engineers had made it even easier to lose the program. D'oh! (more)

  • D'ohLT #2: Security D'ohLTs
    No computer specialty is as populated by D'ohLTs as is security. From the day their professors begin a course of D'ohLTish instruction, through the day they manage to reveal the most intimate details of your financial or medical records to casual passersby, to the day their ham-handed efforts get you shot, D'ohLTism rules the day. (more)

  • Why We Get No Respect, and What We Can Do About It
    It's time interface designers, or whatever we're calling ourselves, get respect. After 25 years of whining about it, I've finally realized we have only ourselves to blame. Take control. If you look at nothing else of mine this year, please read this, act on it, and pass it on. (more)

    Multiple Mistakes Drown Interface
    A reader reports that the interface to GE's electronically controlled dishwasher is less than heavenly. Here's where GE failed, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes. (more)


  • Core Decisions
    Many products are doomed to interaction failure before the design has even begun. Learn just how far your responsibilites as a designer extend.

  • Airline Security
    Must the "usability" of the air transport system be further degraded in order to provide the kind of security necessary to prevent another incident as occured on September 11th? The answer is an emphatic "no!"
  • Call Center: Profit or Loss?
    Many companies view their call center as an unfortunate cost of doing business, there to keep customers who can't seem to use their websites off their backs. Call Centers can save companies millions if they are only used right. This issue, we look at the Lexus call center, being used wrongly, and Sun Microsystems, doing it right.
  • 2001

    • Good Lawyers, Bad Products
      Lawyers may know their way around a courtroom, but they have no business designing products. Too often, in their zealous pursuit of zero liability, they end up damaging products, alienating customers, destroying companies, and killing people. It's up to you to stop them.

    • Good Grips: Ability before Branding
      Good Grips are those plush kitchen tools that make life so much easier. Originally conceived to help people with arthritis, they were developed to improve everyone's comfort in the kitchen. They were also designed to be marketed, but not with the heavy hand currently applied by those spouting the branding buzzword.

    • How to Write a Report Without Getting Lynched
      You put forth your best effort to explain to the stupid sods exactly how and where they screwed up, then they have the temerity to not appreciate your fine efforts. Here's how to write a report that will cause change, instead of uproar.

    • Is the Internet Really Collapsing?
      The sky is falling.  It has been falling for about a year now, and it feels like it won’t stop falling until every business associated with the Internet is dead, dead, dead.  What is happening now happens with every new explosion of technology. When the sky has finished falling, it will leave behind an industry with far fewer, but much healthier players. And then things will get better than they ever were.
    • Replay TV
      You’ve all heard of TiVo. Sure you have. TiVo is the hard-disk video recorder that automatically records all of your favorite shows. Then there’s ReplayTV, the other leading brand.  Late last fall, ReplayTV crossed over a line that should never have been crossed, one that threatened the future of consumer products.

    • Top 9 Reasons the Apple Dock Still Sucks
      The Dock, though actually ported from NeXT, is seen by many as a clumsy attempt to copy the Windows task bar, but to make it look "cooler," at the expense of usability. Here are the most obvious flaws in their result. (Updated in January, 2004)

    • The Butterfly Ballot: Anatomy of a Disaster
      Palm Beach's voter ballot changed the course of United States history. This month's article, building on a short piece I wrote shortly after the November election, traces all the various mistakes and events that led to this latest human-machine interaction melt-down. Among the surprises? The same thing happened to the Republicans in Palm Beach four years ago. Among the lessons to be learned? The same thing could happen to you in your own company.

    • Arm-Wrestling the Photoshop Police
      Adobe is shipping a 6.0 upgrade to Photoshop that, for many Mac users, proves unusable. We learned back in the 1980s that when you rake your legitimate users over the coals in the hopes of catching the occasional thief, you end up with a lot of really raked off users. Apparently, someone at Adobe has forgotten.




    Additional Papers

    • Magic & Software Design
      Published as "Principles, Techniques, and Ethics of Stage Magic and Their Application to Human Interface Design," in the Proceedings of INTERCHI 1993

    • Video Prototyping
      Published in the Proceedings of CHI 1994

    The Bughouse, 2005

    Reader Mail

    Interesting design quandries posed by users and their solutions


    • Nielsen Norman Group
      The premiere computer-human interaction consulting group offering a variety of services from design reviews to complete design and testing services.
      • Conferences & Tutorials
        Nielsen Norman Group offers a series of conferences each year featuring leading world experts in the fields of software design and usability testing. Check for availability of tutorials presented by Tog.


    • Starfire
      Tog's project at Sun Microsystems's project drew together the talents of more than 100 engineers, designers, futurists, and filmakers in an effort to both predict and guide the future of computing. The output of this effort was threefold:

      • Starfire, the Movie, showing a day in the life of a knowledge worker in the year 2004.
      • Starfire, the Book, better known as Tog on Software Design, which not only covers the film in intimate detail, but lays out several more equally thought-provoking scenarios, even if they were not enshrined in celluloid.
      • Starfire, the Paper, published in the CHI Proceedings, outlining the rules we followed in attempting to build a scientifically "legitimate" video prototype, as opposed to simply confabulating a fanciful, but non-implementable, vision.

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