Designing the Obvious, the Moment, Not Thinking and how bad design can make you physically ill



I had a violent adverse reaction to the design vomit that is soshiok.sg
  • massive visual overload

  • poorly aliased graphics used instead of heading text

  • shockingly low-res advertising images (at least DBS have had the initial ads used on launch replaced)

  • "social networking features" that pervert the term, like submit a recipe that is an email link!!

  • Deserves a Daily Sucker award and should probably be renamed to soseow.sg

I could go on, but it just makes me choke. Best medicine: jump to hungrygowhere, who got there first and have done a vastly better job on the web site.

The other essential part of my recovery was to go back and luxuriate in the clarity of thought epitomised by Robert Hoekman's two books on design:

These are two books I think every web designer and, yes, every developer should read. Or have on a bookshelf in easy reach.

Designing the Moment is the one I find myself returning to. It takes a case study/cookbook approach and nuts out many of the issues in contemporary UI design. It's not an encyclopedia or complete reference - you will need to go elsewhere for that. But it does get you in the groove (in a "teach a man to fish.." kind of way). Even if my immediate design challenge is not directly addressed, it is great for getting in the right frame of mind for cutting through all the confusion and honing in on my core issues and purpose. It also contains the single best argument for using "sign in" rather than "login", and some great discussion of form alignment considerations.

Designing the Obvious is the first book, and contains the full discussion of Hoekman's philosophy of the obvious. You could probably get a web design job on the basis of studying this book alone! My only slight qualm is that while it presented a methodology and process for requirements analysis for example, it doesn't really give you a glimpse of other established practices and advice on how to harmonize in a larger and more diverse team situation.

This may sound like sacrilege, but I find these books even better than Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think. Krug's book is great in its own right, but I feel that Hoekman has taken the art one step further. I'm sure he would agree with Isaac Newton:
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants..

But there's no doubt Don't Make Me Think has some great advice. Some of my favourites:
  • Don't use a mission statement as a Welcome blurb (aargh!!)

  • Usability testing on a budget. Spend one morning a month with a few testers. Debrief immediately over lunch. Act.

  • Mad magazine parody of the NYT tagline:
    All the News That Fits, We Print..