Reflection on Presentation1

Our team didn’t get the chance to present, but I still feel I learned a lot about collaboration since the last two classes. I used to think that team project is kinda of time-consuming, since you have to coordinate between multiple people, and everybody has different schedule and everybody is busy. I vaguely know that team projects are supposed to make students better collaborators and communicators, but I didn’t really feel much difference deep in my heart. Now I realize that I was so goal-oriented, and that kinda blocked me from enjoying the process. I was always in such a hurry and panic to get everything finished. Now I realize you can never get everything finished, or get everything perfect, the more important thing is to learn from each other and to learn together.

I recently read a lot about social constructivism in learning, simply put, knowledge and meaning is socially constructed. So I started to mindfully pay attention to what I learned from others and what we together constructed during the collaboration. For example, Anusha and I made the presentation on text and typography. Although we didn’t get to present eventually, I realize I wouldn’t even know what is typography, and what’s the difference between text and typography if we didn’t have the talk before last class. I just felt so much better even we finished that part the last minute before class. Anusha, thank you for making me feel so much better ūüôā

Don’t panic. Everything will be fine. Just use a mindfully appreciation to your collaborators, and talk with them to see what you can learn together, and be nice, and make friends with them. You will benefit from talking to each other about the key concepts more than dividing all the work and do them completely alone, though that maybe more efficient under special time when everybody is super super busy.

Vacuum Cleaner vs. Dust Absorbing Machine

A vacuum cleaner would be a good example for our last CGT512 class, where we talked about the implemented (system) model, represented model, and the users’ mental model.

This time, I’m thinking about the name, not the interface. Here is what Wikipedia says,¬†“A¬†vacuum cleaner¬†is a device that uses an air pump¬†to create a partial vacuum¬†to suck¬†up dust¬†and dirt.” The interesting thing about the name “vacuum cleaner” is that it is actually reflecting the implemented model of the machine, though it is not reflecting the implemented model accurately–it is “partial vacuum” that immediately get refilled with new air together with dust not absolute real “vacuum”. However, users would associate the meaning of the word “vacuum” with their mental model and the represented model about the machine, that is, absorbing dust.

From an educational perspective, I’ve read that in¬†psychics¬†education, it is difficult to teach students the concept of a real vacuum with no air which has nothing to do with absorbing dust and dirt, because they’ve previously associated the meaning of “vacuum” with absorbing dust. In Chinese, we do not call a vacuum cleaner a “vacuum cleaner”, we just call it a dust absorbing machine. Also, we do not call vacuum “vacuum”, ¬†we just call “real empty”.

Wondering what are the rules for naming product, it seems to involve branding and making it sounds cool, rather than easier to understand?

Reading Reflection: Rapid UX Evaluation Methods

The UX book Chapter 13 discusses about rapid UX evaluation methods including walkthroughs, UX inspection, heuristic evaluation, Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE), and quasi-empirical UX evaluation, and how to conduct these methods.

This is a really practical chapter! As the authors mentioned, these rapid methods or so-called “discount” evaluation methods are regarded as “damaged¬†merchandise”¬†when measured by a the scientific-oriented yardstick, but they are really cost-effective and can be successful (at least better than nothing) in practice. I somehow got the impression on the academic critiques on these “discount” methods from a previous class, so it was eye-opening for me when I first started to read this chapter. I couldn’t believe a text-book would contain and encourage so practical methods. Perhaps I read too many old boring dogmatic text-books before. (Thanks to Dr.V for choosing this text book! Except that I really don’t like the smoothy/slippery¬†papers used by this book. It reflects light unevenly, which makes my eyes very very uncomfortable, and the feeling of writing notes on the paper is not pleasant, and also so much more expensive!)

UX is really an engineering process rather than a scientific one– “goals are engineering goals, not scientific goals (p.498)”. ¬†Good UX design calls for practice, experience, and/or intuition, and co-discovery with others. The standards for “good” also depend on various usage contexts.

RAA1: Visual Difficulties to Enhance Engagement and Learning

Hullman, J., Adar, E., & Shah, P. (2011). Benefitting InfoVis with Visual Difficulties. Visualization and Computer Graphics, IEEE Transactions on, 17(12), 2213‚Äď2222.
Purpose of the Research: 
To provide a counterpoint to efficiency-based design theory with guidelines that describe how visual difficulties can be introduced to benefit comprehension and recall.
This is an essay-style paper. The method uses is to synthesize empirical results from cross-disciplinary research on visual information representations.
Main Findings:
The dominant visual design and evaluation guidelines are based on the cognitive efficiency model, which refraining from using distracting visual elements, irrelevant information, leveraging labeling, and graphical formats that reduce cognitive processing by the users. However, empirical studies from various sub-fields of psychology and education support that desirable visual difficulties may induce active processing and engagement of the users thus enhance deep reflection and long term recall. Visualization effectiveness is better characterized as a trade-off between efficient processing and desirable visual difficulties to stimulate learning. 
One analogy to the authors’ argument I can think of is watching movies vs. reading books. Just like one folk mentioned in class about the Harry Potter movies vs. books, watching movie is effortless, the users do not need to actively construct the details in their minds. However, according to the logic of the authors’ argument, reading books make the readers work, think, and thus more engaged in learning. Leaving space for the users to think and reflect is one thing, another thing is that it maybe okay to add some distracting or seemingly irrelevant information to just attract the users’ interests so they could be more engaged. A large part of this paper is actually talking about¬†engagement, rather than visual difficulties, but the authors use the contradictory and eye-catching phrase ¬†“visual difficulties” in the title. This paper reminds us that we have almost passed the stage of designing only for efficiency, supporting for reflection and learning need to be taken into¬†consideration.

Reading Reflection: About Face Chap.2

Two of my major take-aways from the Cooper chapter are as follows:

1. Engineers are mathematical or programming nerds, and users should be ignorant

This chapter discusses the differences among an implementation model, a represented model, and the users’ mental model. It¬†essentially¬†argues that the users should be shielded from the real mechanism of how the system really works. While agreeing with this principle for designing UI, one thought keeps bothering me is that when the authors talk about how engineers program software system, they use a tone as if engineers are some special mathematical or programming creatures rather than the same human beings as the users. This may be acceptable in some sense, but as an engineering education major, I know how difficult to teach engineering students the correct conceptual models of electricity flow. Lots of effort have been put into this area of research in engineering education.¬†In the best case senario of user interface design, all children in the future will grow up as users, and will establish some kind of incorrect mental models that will give engineering educators huge difficulties. What I’m trying to say here is that a user is not always a user, and an engineer is not always an engineer. People play multiple roles in life. Only designing for one role may not be adequate. Maybe I’m thinking things narrowly, I keep feeling the confusion between making things natural (which is effortless) and helping people learn (which calls for effort). I expect this confusion can be resolved as I progress in the class.

2. Mechanical-age representations vs. the Information-age representations

It is truly the case that we are often constraint by previous knowledge or experience. As the authors mentioned, nobody would conceive the telephone as a device for personal communication when it was first invented. Thinking about my own research, I sense some usefulness of social media analytics in education, and I wish I could be a visionary to clearly articulate this usefulness with why and how. However, I think maybe some feed back from relevant others could be more helpful for me to articulate the why and how, rather than think out of my own head. Or maybe I can just position my research questions as the why and how.

There is another thought I have about the mechanical-age and the information-age representations.  A risk could rise when the designers try to utilize the information-age representations. The designer might start to explore a lot of fancy functions which are not intuitive to the users at all. These functions could force the users to adapt to the new ways unnaturally. There seems a lot of ambiguities in terms of new and better ways vs. old and natural ways.

Microsoft Academic is Making the “Co-author Path” Button Wrong

Below is a typical author profile on Microsoft Academic Search–an academic search engine that provides more visual analysis rather than merely lists the publications as that in Google Schoolar. I’ve heard from another fellow that a strong feature of Microsoft Academic Search is that it has a cool design of collaboration networks of each author. So I went there and checked it out. I just couldn’t find the proper place to click to get to the author’s collaboration network graphs! After my colleague pointed to me, I still felt it’s conter-intuitive somehow. Was it jus me? Can you find easily at the left column, a place to click to directly get to the author’s network graph?

Okay, it is here! It is indicated using a red circle below, where if you click, you will get to the authors’ collaboration network graph and some other graphs. I felt awful at the beginning that it is designed so big in order to catch the users’ attention, why I couldn’t see it? Was there any problems of my eyes that I simply omitted it?

After learning about the Gestalt principles and other design knowledge, now I know some reasons. First of all, this icon doesn’t have the affordance of clickability as written in one of Dr.V’s blog posts. It doesn’t look like something that I can click. It doesn’t have convexity like a button. It just looks like a logo there. Second, it is being designed big in order to catch the users’ attention, but this violates the Gestalt’s law of smallness in figure-ground organization. Not all big things are in the spotlight! All other items above and below it are smaller than it, so we would treat the other smaller items as the figure and feel this like the background. Third, beside smallness, this design also violates the Gestalt principles of contrast in figure-ground organization. All the items above and below it have the same design, but this one is different. Being different is supposed to make this icon stands out, but why not? Because the color schema of this icon is very similar to the overall background and is much lighter than the color used in the items above and below it. My eyes feel it may be part of the background that I do not need to care. If the designer wants to make this icon stand out, the color schema need to provide more contrast. Finally, it violates the Gestalt principles of similarity and continuity in grouping. The “co-authors path” actually is somehow related to the group of “Co-authors”, but right now the design makes it doesn’t belong to either the group above it nor the group below it. What’s worse, the color schema is very similar to the line graph on it’s right. My eyes feel it’s an extended part of the line graph on the right. So it somehow gets grouped with the line graph on the right. Overall, my eyes and brain feel this is a non-clickable logo that is either part of the line graph on the right or part of the background that I do not need to care.

I also found that the text inside of this icon changes among “co-author path”, “co-author graph”, “citation graph”, and “genealogy graph” kinda randomly each time I refresh the page. I understand this happens because there are several different types of graphs being offered, but that it takes the user to refresh the page each time to find this out is a bit disturbing. If the changing of text inside of this icon must be used, I would suggest to make the text flash automatically, which also brings in motion that can make this icon more eye-catching.

Good thing is that, this interface does offer another way to get to the graphs. The user can click the orange title “Co-authors(n)” and get to the co-authors page, and then click “View Co-author Graphs”. This is not as direct, but right now seems more intuitive than the logo-like icon/button thing.

What do you think?

Salsa Dance Logo

I’m attending the salsa dance club this semester! I just really like the design of the logo of this club. It is a nice demonstration of Gestalt Law of¬†continuity¬†(the girl’s hair), contrast, and closure. The flow of the hair reminds the audience the rythme of the dance.

Although not related to “visual” perception, the slogan uses a pun of the meaning of “salsa”. This connects the dance with the audience’s previous knowledge about “salsa” as a dip for¬†tortilla¬†chips with a sense of humor. In my opinion, this catches the users’ attention and also help construct the path from working memory to long time memory by utilizing the users’ previous knowledge.