Mac OSX Help Menu – The way help should be

Using the help feature on Mac OSX applications is a thing of beauty. It’s inspired me to write a post because it saves me time and helps me learn the application better. When I search for a feature and it’s in the menu bar, the menu location is automatically expanded and displayed. This does two extremely helpful things for me:

  1. Shows me where to find it – helps train me on using the application by showing me instead of having to read and follow a bunch of text instructions with screenshots (if I’m lucky)
  2. Allows me to run the command immediately – no need to navigate through the menu following the instructions, I just hit ‘enter’ and it’s done!

This is application help designed perfectly for humans.

mac_help_awesomeness

Beautiful wood table design at Nandos Gatwick

Whilst waiting for our flight from Gatwick to Seville, we stopped at Nandos in the South Terminal for lunch. We were sat at a beautiful wood table that had a lovely circular grain through length of the table and a white stripe at the edge. It was a gorgeous goldeny, red colour that really took my eye.

Red wood table at nandos 2

I’ve been trying to identify the type of wood to satisfy my curiosity as well as add to the collection of wood and tree knowledge in my head. My best guess is rosewood but it could also be walnut or others.

During my search for wood, I came across some great resources for wood which could be useful in the future:

  1. Google search by image – click on the camera icon to link to or upload and image. Google will search for matches
  2. The wood database – clever use of Pinterest for cataloguing different woods
  3. Wood periodic table – great reference for wood typesPeriodic table of wood
  4. Pieces of wood has a good collection of wood by example

 

Another great piece of design at Nandos was the egg shaped, wood phone charger on each table. A fun and practical addition to the table and also very convenient for an airport (Toby took full advantage of this).

Nandos egg phone charger

Hidden Helper: Garmin Nuvi’s Junction View

During our week’s holiday in Spain, we had a new guide with the Garmin Nuvi 3597 GPS replacing our old but trusty GPS from 2009. I found the Junction View the most helpful feature of the new version but it wasn’t immediately visible. As I was driving, the hidden helper popped open and helped solve the classic question of navigating: “what lane should I be in?”. Overall, very useful for the driver with a clear view of the road and even the road sign you should look out for.

Easy pizza customising with Oregano online

Emma found this one when ordering from Oregano pizza online. it’s quite a simple but cool feature for ordering a pizza.

I’ve attempted to capture it in an animated gif (first one I’ve made). After choosing a pizza, the toppings on that pizza are checked automatically. This makes it very easy to see what’s included on the pizza and then customise to your liking, checking or I unchecking toppings as you wish.

oregano-pizza-choosing_v2

This approach of designing for customisation and alterations makes it very easy to get the exact pizza you want. I think Oregano knew that people liked to make changes to pizza toppings and added this as a primary scenario.

BusCheckers’ skeumorphic design is very intuitive

I took the bus last week to basketball practice and while I was walking to the stop I wondered when the next bus was. I had a quick scan of the App Store and found BusChecker. I found it incredibly easy and intuitive to use.

Things I liked

  • Skeumorphic design made it intuitive to read e.g. digitally represented a physical bus stop sign
  • Buses that stop there are all listed on the sign
  • See bus arrival times in grid below which mimics the sign at an actual bus stop
  • Touch a bus number to filter arrival times for just that bus

Overall, very simple and easy to use. I’ll be using it again!

‘Rising Chair’ by Robert van Embricqs at the Geffrye Museum, London

Emma and I went to the Geffrye museum near Shoreditch over the weekend and saw a great exhibit on “useful and beautiful contemporary objects for the home.” There was one chair in particular that caught our attention, the Rising Chair by Robert van Embricqs. We both loved the way it folded up flat for storage and then expanded out into a pretty comfortable and very nice looking wooden chair.

See the rising chair in action on YouTube

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Simplicity of Paris’ #5 Metro Train Map

When we were in Paris last week, it was nice to see such a simple and usable map onboard the #5 metro line. It tells you exactly what you need to know and gives good visibility and feedback to the user:

  1. The next stop blinks – in this case it’s “Richard-Lenoir”
  2. Illuminated dots indicate stations coming up
  3. Stations visited are disabled
  4. Closed stations are also disabled like “Oberkampf”
  5. Underneath,  a Circular “M” indicates which Metro lines you can change to or “RER” for other train services

Simple and effective.

More feedback while on the Tube

Although the London tube map is easy to read, it had something to learn in terms of feedback to the user. On the Paris Metro, I found the “blinking light” indicating the next stop an especially useful feature.

Feedback is about sending back information about what action has been done and what has been accomplished, allowing the person to continue with the activity. 

From Don Normans’ Design Principles

 

Affordance of Woodside Library’s Card Scanner

Affordance

At a very simple level, to afford means to give a clue (Norman, 1988). When the affordances of a physical object are perceptually obvious it is easy to know how to interact with it.

Don Normans’ Design Principles

The library card scanner in the San Mateo County Library in Woodside, CA where my parents have moved to, is a good example of Don Normans design principle of Affordance. It guides the user on how to operate the scanner by showing an image of the library card and exactly where to hold it so it scans.

Great idea!

Jamba Juices’ fast and simple rewards program signup

When I was visiting my parents in San Francisco last month, I was impressed by the signup process for Jamba Juices’ rewards program. It is by far the simplest and fastest rewards “card” I’ve ever signed for.

Let me rewind for a minute and first describe my qualms with rewards cards.

Problems with rewards cards

1. Rewards cards are painful to signup for

Carrying around the cards themselves is painful as they bulk up my wallet, the magnetic strip wears out (especially for the Shell drivers club card) but those pale in comparison to remembering to signup for the card when I get home. The last thing that pops into my head is “I need to complete my rewards card application.” Even if I do remember, the signup process is often so long that I avoid doing it.

2. It’s easy to forget cards

Forgetting my card is similarly annoying to forgetting to signup for it in the first place. Except, now I’ve got past the first hurdle of signing up and more annoyed that I didn’t bring the bloody thing with me. There’s not much the shop will do except to remind me to keep my receipt and bring it in next time, which I often get at Boots. That’s very unlikely to happen…

3. I have too many cards

When I do remember to add my card to the ever growing collection in my wallet, I’m often faced with being given even more cards. A good example of this at at Sainsburys with my Nectar card. They give me “temporary cards” in the form of paper vouchers which I need to bring with me the next time I shop. Not only is that annoying for me when I forget to bring a £5.27 off my next shop voucher but it’s also very wasteful. I throw away 90% of the paper vouchers I’m given by Sainsburys. Why not digitise these? Then I won’t have to carry the bulk in my wallet or risk forgetting them!

So, that brings me back to Jamba Juice.

Jamba Juices’ Fast and Simple Rewards “Card”

Jamba juice solved all these problems by digitising their rewards card. It’s an amazingly simple process:

  1. Enter your phone number in the shop
  2. Activate your account online
  3. Get $3 off your next smoothie and earn points going forward

Jamba Juice rewards signup

I was surprised at how fast this was to do, I was expecting another physical card I needed to carry around and activate when I got home. There is an activation step but I’m motivated to complete it because I get $3 off your next smoothie.

With a fast and simple system, there are always tradeoffs and risks:

  1. Remembering you phone number – with smartphones, there’s no need to memorise your phone number anymore
  2. Errors and Typos – what if you accidentally mistype and use someone else’s phone number? There’s no way of knowing
  3. Hassle of changing numbers – if you switch your phone number, you need to remember to call customer support and move your account

The tradeoffs could definitely happen and should be accounted for in the design but for me, the simplicity and usability of Jamba’s rewards system outweighs the risks. I’ve signed up and will use it every time I’m back in California enjoying my favourite smoothie, The Orange Berry Blitz.