design

Wrong direction

In Milan, like in many other cities, public transport tickets have a magnetic strip on the side that is used to check their validity by means of electronic readers. Even now, some years after the introduction of the new tickets, a lot of people still insert their tickets in the readers in the wrong direction, and can’t pass the turnstiles until they get it right. The technical reason for that is the magnetic strip placed on one side of each ticket so that it can be read by a machine, but it’s a poor design choice forcing people to pay attention to a puny detail such as this.

Better not to forget it: Nielsen on users

Here’s an insightful excerpt from Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, September 21, 2009: Users don’t care about design for its own sake; they just want to get things done and get out. Normal people don’t love sitting at their computers. They’d rather watch football, walk the dog — just about anything else. Using a computer probably rates above taking out the trash, though.

The importance of packaging

Your experience with some products starts as soon as start you tearing the shrink wrap around them. This is what happened to me last week. I just bought a MacBook and I had been second guessing my choice since I pressed the “Submit” button on the order form. A few days later, when I received the package from Apple, I was quite curious to see if my new laptop was worth all the money I paid for it.

Maps for public transport users

Even if modern trains are getting more and more friendly to passengers, many of them are still terribly lacking if we consider this aspect, at least in Italy. As I’m writing this post I’m travelling through Tuscany on the railway. I’m not familiar with the landmarks, the train doesn’t announce its stops and it’s dark outside, making it impossible to read the names of the stations until it’s too late to jump off.

A new use for margins

While I still read books on my way to work, I recently started reading online articles and blog posts using my phone as well. This morning, while I was reading a column on Alertbox on iPhone, I noticed with pleasure a small detail: the left and right margins of the page have more than a merely aesthetic purpose. As anyone who ever used an iPhone will certainly know, you usually slide your thumb along one side of the screen to scroll the page you’re reading.

Pagination directions

Although pagination is a widely diffused pattern, some times it can still be a bit confusing, when it comes to blogs. Most blogs (and many news sites) have a couple of links at the bottom of the page, newer and older posts or articles. Of course, there are two opposite ways to arrange those links: put the newer link on the left and the older one on the right, or just the opposite.

Itsme: is the desktop metaphor really over?

Last week a friend of mine, knowing my increasing interest in interaction design, forwarded me the poster of a talk held in University of Milano-Bicocca about a new project named itsme. Since I always welcome any excuse to visit my alma mater and one of the speakers has been my professor during my studies, I took half a day off work and went to attend the seminar, filled with curiosity.

Augmenting cityscape

I had the inspiration for the subject of this post this summer, while having a walk in Milan with a friend. As we passed in front of the XIV century Sforza Castle (italian: Castello Sforzesco), we noticed it was lit by coloured lights, which gave it a quite peculiar aspect.Castello Sforzesco by night. Photo by –Nick– on Flickr. The most notable aspect, however, is that the colour of the light can change over time (this is what is called dynamic lighting): the following time I was in the square in front of the Castle, it was lit by purple light.

Why Mac menus are on the top

Disclaimer: despite the title, this is not a post about fast food. 🙂 I always wondered why Apple decided to place their menu bar on top on the screen, rather than inside the window it belongs to. I couldn’t find any good reason for that choice until last week, when I spoke with a couple of colleagues. It turned that not only there is a reason, but it’s also quite clever!

Business cards v. 2

I used to consider business cards pretty much of a nuisance. Collecting tiny pieces of paper just to copy the same data to a mobile phone or contact manager didn’t seem to be practical to me. But recently I had to change my mind: sometimes you are in a rush and have to quickly exchange contact information. Writing down the information is definitely not an option; typing it into your phone, PDA, laptop is often not practical and exchanging data via bluetooth works 1 time out of 5 (try it on the iPhone 😛 ).