A Look Into Decisions Behind Design

Source: Wikimedia Commons

We’ve talked about the mouse and how pointing devices impact the way we use computers, but who knows what our devices will look like in the future.

As touch and mobile devices become more common, and hardware producers race to create the latest tool, the form of our devices is expected to shift greatly as time moves forward.

Dr. Herndon pointed out in the first Mobile News Lab meeting this week that 2019 is a threshold– the year mobile device sales surpassed television sales. Meaning that, more than ever, we need to find the most effective ways to bring readers to reliable media platforms amid the tornado that is the spread of information online.

Unfortunately, the human-computer interaction professor I planned to talk to pushed our meeting time to next Tuesday, but that allowed me to spend more time trying to understand more about why some of the mile-long scrolly-telling stories are built the way that they are.

One story on Open, a Medium page by the New York Times, was about its homepage redesign. Something I found particularly interesting in this story was the following:

“We’ve invested heavily in making our mobile apps expressive and visually dynamic, but our desktop website has lagged behind, powered by a siloed and aging set of tools.”

It seems like the NYT is designing for the exact shift that Dr. Herndon mentioned in mobile news lab, which is encouraging. And it’s especially good to know that the New York Times didn’t get too bogged down in the exploration of one avenue to totally forget its homepage.

The first post in this series details the week long design thinking bootcamp some of their engineers and product managers did through the media startup accelerator, Matter.

From the post, it seems like this bootcamp in 2016 inspired the New York Times to be more proactive when it comes to pioneering good digital design, and practicing design thinking.

“We already use many of these techniques on the Beta team, but the Matter bootcamp reinforced the need to use them even more widely and consistently,” Alex Ording wrote in the post.

After this my mind wandered back to the future of devices, and eventually back to why Apple hasn’t launched a touchscreen Mac. In a 2018 Wired article, Craig Federighi says it’s because there isn’t much use in having a touch screen on the Mac.

“We really feel that the ergonomics of using a Mac are that your hands are rested on a surface, and that lifting your arm up to poke a screen is a pretty fatiguing thing to do,” he said in the article.

Which, honestly, makes perfect sense to me. I get tired just gliding my right hand between the keys and the track pad, much less having to lift my whole arm to navigate the screen. (Should I get into the carpal tunnel? Probably not…)

This Business Insider article goes into all of the other things that make touch screen laptops harder to use. One point from the article was that “the design of touch apps and desktop apps will always clash.” And this Dummies article reinforces that same idea.

All of this together helped me formulate questions for the human-computer interaction professor I’m going to be talking to:

  • What are some guidelines in human-computer interactions when it comes to conveying information efficiently?
  • How do– or how should— interfaces engage with users?
  • What makes an interface unique and memorable versus something more alien and arduous?
  • What place, if any, does novelty have in human-computer interaction?

I also came up with some initial questions for news designers:

  • What are your guiding principles when designing news?
  • Are the designs you create based on research or are you trying new things and seeing what sticks?
  • What does a typical beta test look like?
  • How long do these pages take to build? How many people at a time work on them?

Next week, I\’ll be interviewing one or two professors and (hopefully) talking to someone from the New York Times. I hope to have these interviews finished and in the first report next Friday.


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