Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

My credit card provider, ICICI, redesigned its credit card statement recently. Typically, you find that redesigns make you unhappy because what was familair is not and what is unfamiliar is (usually) hard to find. Not so with this redesign, which is why I am giving ICICI some blog love.

The image below shows the main part of the statement with the numbers white-ed or grayed out, so you don’t focus on those parts.

Credit Card Statement Redesign

If you notice, the statement summary box and the your total amount due box are in a different colour and they stand out right away. Also, the Your Total Amount Due box is bigger than the rest, so you don’t have to search the statement to figure out the two most important things – how much you owe and when you need to pay.

It’s a nice way to present information and to highlight the most important information for the customer (and possibly the credit card company).

I find this statement far easier to read than their previous one, which wasn’t bad but required some scanning to figure out the relevant information. I can think of a couple of statements, that I currently receive, that could do with a similar redesign.

Well done ICICI for keeping the customer in mind.

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Easy-to-swallow pills (tablets)

In all the years that I’ve spent ingesting pills / tablets / capsules, I can’t recall coming across one that has been easy to swallow. Sure, the capsules are easier in that they’re smoother and won’t scratch your throat, but they’re not that much better than tablets. Yes, the alternative is a syrup type of concoction but they don’t have those for all medicines.

Some of the tablets (images here) are hard to swallow and that’s one reason that you need tricks like these.

I have heard about some companies making pills that are sugar-coated that children find easier to swallow because of the non-bitter taste but that’s one component, taste, and not texture. (I guess it doesn’t help that some people’s, particularly children’s, gag reflexes seem to be in overdrive at the prospect of taking a tablet.)

One way that companies seem to work around this is to make chewable tablets. I still remember the Vitamin C tablets we would sometimes get as children, they were like eating a sour-sweet candy.

It doesn’t answer the bigger question of how to make tablets easier to swallow and whether people have put their minds to solving this problem. I feel that the right combination of shape, texture, and taste can result in a winning solution. I wonder what would happen if we asked a firm like Ideo to design a pill. I’ll bet they’d come up with something good.

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There was a time, not too long ago, when a simple Enter would allow me to “Save” a delicious bookmark. Now, when I hit Enter, delicious converts my tag to lowercase (or something).

Hit another Enter and it takes me to a new input box (feature) called “Send”, which allows me to send my bookmarks to people. I just want to save my bookmark and have it appear on my blog.

I’d worked it out so I needed minimal mouse clicks to save a bookmark. Now, I either need to use the mouse or have to press the Tab button several times and figure out when the focus is on the Save button.

Maybe delicious wanted to get in on the Twitter bandwagon or maybe a lot of users asked for this feature, but I am not happy about these changes. The changes make it harder for me to save a bookmark.

In general, it makes you wonder why people feel the need to tinker with software and add additional bells and whistles, aka features, especially when things are working well. Keep adding features and you get unnecessary complexity.

Obviously you can’t keep things simple for everything but we seem to err on the side of complexity more than simplicity. Try spreading the simplicity love by indulging in some K.I.S.S.ing.

P.S. Those folks over at 37 Signals seem to revel in keeping things simple.

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I’m a right-clicker. There, I said it. I like to right-click on links and open them in different tabs or windows in my browser, without leaving the page that I am currently browsing. For example, let’s say I’m reading something and want to open a link without interrupting my reading: right-click.

On some web pages though, this isn’t straight-forward because of the J in AJAX — JavaScript. When you right-click on a link that is using JavaScript, you’ll end up with a blank page with the URL of the page looking something like javascript: ….

One workaround for this is that you hover over a link and look in the browser’s status bar to see if the link is an http one or a JavaScript one. That’s tedious because, if you’re like me, you won’t remember to do this every single time you click a link.

Another workaround is that you can (regular) click a link and then use the browser’s Back button, which in some cases won’t work because a designer will decide to redirect you back to the same page.

Both workarounds aren’t optimal. So, what is a poor user to do? Maybe ask designers of web pages to let users know whether a specific link can be right-clicked or not. Different colour possibly? Or when a user hovers over a link, indicate that the link cannot be right-clicked. Just do something, anything.

With more websites going “Web 2.0”, you do encounter a lot more JavaScript than before, so I don’t think this problem is going to go away. What do you think should be done?

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There is no doubting that drop-down boxes are useful. However, when drop-down boxes provide only a single option, (and this can happen for different reasons) the need to select that option seems cumbersome. By definition, there should be at least two options when you pull-down a drop-down box. So, when a user is faced with a single option, it does seem pointless to ask the user to “select” that option. There is nothing to select.

There is a simple solution: automate the selection when the drop-down box has only one option. I don’t know how hard it would be to program but I can’t imagine that counting the number of options available in a drop-down and then doing a certain action if there’s only one option would be difficult. (Smart developer-person correct me if I am wrong.)

I’m writing about this because I’ve come across single option drop-down boxes a few times recently. I understand that this “state” (single option) can happen because of a particular choice made previously (in the user interface) or a combination of choices. What I’m hoping for is that someone will obviate the need for that extra pull-down and selection, essentially two actions.

What do you think: am I asking for too much?

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What is good design?

Even if you are not a designer, you should read Good design in ten commandments just for the beautiful layout and photos of designs by Dieter Rams.

Back in the early 1980s, Dieter Rams was becoming increasingly concerned by the state of the world around him – “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” Aware that he was a significant contributor to that world, he asked himself an important question: is my design good design?

As good design cannot be measured in a finite way he set about expressing the ten most important criteria for what he considered was good design. Subsequently they have become known as the ‘Ten commandments’

My favourites were Good design makes a product useful and Good design helps a product to be understood. (via Kottke.org)

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Dunk your splash page is a post explaining why you should not use Flash for your introduction pages.

I think it’s time we revisit an outdated practice—the dreaded splash page. You know, that Flash introduction page that displays before you can actually enter the site.

You probably remember these popping up on websites years ago by companies wanting to show off their design creds. Then people started talking about how annoying they were. Well, they’ve vanished from a lot of sites, and for good reason—they’re a real killer for user experience. But they’ve been popping up here and there, lately, and they put a real damper on an experience with a site.

I never wait for the flash introductions to load. I always, always look for the Skip intro button and navigate the hell away from that page. It’s so annoying that designers (or their clients) decide to put up these pages in the first place.

Read Dunk your splash page. (Helmet tip Matthew Stibbe)

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