It’s that time of the month again folks, Social Media Breakfast. This morning dozens of Social Media enthusiasts gathered once again at The Great Canadian Theatre Company for networking and learning over coffee and muffins. Delicious muffins might I add, thanks to Cara Rowlands. This morning’s Social Media Breakfast featured San Francisco based Martin Gomez where he works as a Creative Director for Sparkart. Gomez also teaches Design for Interactive Media and Business of Graphic Design in the Graphic Design program at Ottawa’s Algonquin College.

This morning Gomez spoke to a packed house about “Designing for Humans”. He began my giving a little history on himself, which included many laughs – not an easy task at 8:00 a.m. Here are my key takeaways from Martin’s talk about users and design.

Convention

Gomez explains that often times the best way to do something is the way it’s always been done. Users are creatures of habit – they will almost mindlessly complete tasks with little thought, so don’t confuse them by unnecessarily changing the design of your product. Gomez gives the example of a Ferrari. Very few of us have ever driven a Ferrari, but if we were given the keys and told to get in and drive, we would enter the car through the front left door with the keys naturally in our right hand – because to us, that is the way we have always done it. Don’t try to innovate if innovation isn’t necessary. If you can’t make users ignore the old way of thinking, you are wasting your time.

User Centered Design

When designing a product, keep the user in mind. Ask yourself, “How is somebody going to use this thing? What can go wrong?” As users, we take many great design features for granted. Most of us only notice design flaws instead of the features that can make a product great.

Simplicity

Less options mean less thinking – which in turn leads to more enjoyment by the user. Gomez gives the example of an over complicated remote control. As a user, I want to be able to change the channel, volume, etc. without having to look away from the TV and stare at the remote. Simple is good. “Most remotes ask a lot from the user” Gomez states “when all I want to do is watch C.S.I.”

On the contrary, Gomez gives an example of classic interface design that was implemented to actually complicate usability – the QWERTY keyboard. It was designed to make users type slower in order to not jam type-writers. Well, it looks like we’ve adapted to this design. Imagine you bought a laptop today and all of the keys were in alphabetical order? No thanks.

Innovation

Never force innovation – and don’t claim you are doing it unless you actually are. The new “innovative” design must be so intuitive that the user immediately forgets about the convention. Example A) the iPod. When it was first launched is looked like a “bar of soap” (according to Gomez). But it’s functionality and intimate user experience made everyone forget about every other MP3 player on the market.

Satisficing

Satisficing is the satisfaction that a user gets from solution that is just adequate enough. Often times users won’t look for the optimal solution, but one that merely suffices. Users do this all the time on websites. They arrive and their eyes (and the mouse) perform the ‘F’ formation – they scan the top of the site, and as they go down their eyes cease to wander all the way to the right. This is where we often satisfice on a website – we find an option that is adequate.

With design, specifically web design, it is all about lowering stress – make something that looks difficult or stressful very easy. It’s like walking across a plank of wood on flat ground as opposed to that same wood between two pillars. Eliminate the stress, make it easier to do.

Gomez explains three simple things that the user wants:

  1. Don’t waste my time
  2. Don’t make me think
  3. Show me what to do

You have a very limited time to get your message across, so if you ignore the three items above, you will lose the customer – and they will go somewhere else.

In closing, Gomez stresses “Don’t reinvent the wheel unless you are sure that you’ve got a better wheel.”

 

 

Thanks to everyone who came as well as the organizers for making this another very successful Social Media Breakfast. Stay tuned for the next Social Media Breakfast Ottawa, in early July!

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