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Interesting times

Posted on by Superdeluxesam

After suffering a severe bout of man-flu for the last couple of days, it seems like I’m perking up again. Which I’m grateful for, as tomorrow is Interesting North, a spin off of the popular Interesting events in London. It’s pretty simple really, a load of speakers are invited to talk on something interesting. That’s it. But that simple format, coupled with a fairly informal atmosphere should make for an inspiring and stimulating day, which any creative type should appreciate. I’m looking forward to having my brain cross wired in an interesting way.

If you happen to be there, please feel free to say hi; one of the main things I’m going for is not just to hear what the speakers have to say, but for the conversations that will no doubt be generated around them. You will find I look remarkably similar to the cartoon.

Hurrah for web fonts

Posted on by Superdeluxesam

Google web font api graph, shamelessly stolen from Google's blog
Google web fonts growth since June this year. Taken from this blog post

There seems to be quite a bit of momentum behind web fonts at the moment, which is as it should be in my opinion. After dealing with the hassle of font-replacement it seems like web typography has taken a massive step forward in the last year or so.
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Getting into typography

Posted on by Superdeluxesam

I’ve had a few requests recently for decent books to learn about typography. So I thought I’d share a few here that I’ve found particularly helpful in developing my knowledge of type.

Thinking With Type


A great book, which also has a great companion website. Distinguished by the clarity and simplicity with which it deals with it’s subject. Typography is a big subject and Lupton does a great job describing the essentials without drowning you in detail.

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Advocacy and agile ux

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In preparation for the talk I’m giving at September’s Northern User Experience meetup, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how user experience practices are accommodated within an agile process. One of the main things that keeps cropping up is the idea of the user experience practitioner as an advocate; for users naturally, but also just for user experience work itself.

Initially, the question of how to fit together ux, much of which developed as part of a waterfall process, into an agile an process seems like a complex one. But I’m increasingly of the opinion that the problem is simple; if the team understands the requirement for user experience design, then the problems with incorporating it into an agile process aught to be tackled by the team when they review process.

That doesn’t make the other issues trivial, but that underlying commitment to user experience is vital. Teams who have that will do what is necessary to make the ux work happen.

Hacks and hackers in Liverpool

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After hearing that Scraperwiki had organised a hack day in Liverpool, in my new-found freedom as a freelancer, I thought I’d pop down and give it a go. I’ve not really done a hack day either, so it was exciting to be throwing myself into the deepend a little. This was a little different from other hack days as the attendees were a mix of journalists and hackers, a nice idea given the growing use of data and visualisations in news stories.
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Take your place in the web

Posted on by Superdeluxesam

System providers estimate that becoming accustomed to a graphical interface should require about eight hours of training. Other experts say the learning time is closer to 20 or 30 hours.

Wilbert O Galitz – The Essential Guide to User Interface Design

If so, where does that leave your common or garden web application or site? Only Facebook, Google and handful of others can command that sort of attention. But for most us, we’ll probably lucky if our users are with us for much more than an hour or so. And that time spread over a long period of months is virtually useless as learning time. What’s more, unless you’re performing some sort of function users consider essential to their lives, you probably don’t want to be seen as a massive time sink.

I think there’s only one way; conventions. Make use of the things people learn elsewhere. It’s not simply preferable, it’s pretty much mandatory, unless you want users to fail utterly.

There are other advantages of course; use of conventions can make some aspects of interface design simpler, as you’re not having to create a completely new design pattern that you have to help your users learn. Although it then necessitates a different kind of skill; that is, identifying which convention is appropriate for the situation you are facing.

This all prompts a further thought in my mind, which is that the web is all just one big application anyway. And we might be much better off if we stood back and saw ourselves as not designing a separate entity, but a small component of something much greater.

Barcamp Brighton – my thoughts

Posted on by Superdeluxesam

Screencasting demo

I’m fresh back from Brighton Barcamp4 and what a time it was.

We were all aware that there were some challenges caused by the last minute venue change, not to mention the usual difficulties of putting on an event on a shoestring budget. But that didn’t detract from my overall feeling that this was a fantastic event, attended by many wonderful people.

If I had to boil it down to one thing that made this Barcamp work so well, it was probably conviviality. The diy nature of the event, coupled with the timescale meant barriers quickly dissolved and conversations began easily and without pretence. There was something quite beautiful about the slow pace of things, with everyone taking the time to converse with each other.

It was a nice contrast to my experiences of high-profile conferences, which struggled against the divisions between speaker and audience, and indeed the divisions between individual attendees.

So, the summary of the summary – great ideas, lovely people. Many thanks to all those who put in considerable effort to make the thing happen, it was very much appreciated. Onwards to Barcamp Manchester.