If It Can’t Say Anything Nice, Gmail Says It Anyway

Nevermind what you thought about your friends — Gmail might know better.

I think I know where my relationships stand — whether they’re with close, everyday friends, online friends, work friends, childhood friends — I can sum them up in a few sentences. (In fact, I have complex taxonomies for thinking about them, but that’s for another post.) And even though these relationships seem fairly uncomplicated, there are nuances that aren’t discussed out loud; details that go unsaid. And sometimes, important details get missed entirely as I speed through my day.

But it appears that Gmail might be able to help avoid, or at least inform, these overlooked details. Gmail can be used to prescribe the nature of relationships. (more…)

Full of Class: An Interview with Joseph Williams

Before we knew web design, before we knew what we did was called information architecture, we wrote. We sat patiently through grammar class, learning when the participle dangled and the sentence ran on. As we got older, we were handed down paperbacks gilded with lessons and rules about how to write. Guidelines from Strunk & White guided our high school prose.

But if we braved on, we may have encountered a different kind of grammatical attitude. Grammar rules dropped away; Strunk & White became idle on the bookshelf, and we were left to our own devices. (more…)

Nothing to Write Home About

I’m not a photographer, but somehow I find myself carrying at least two cameras at any given time: an iPhone camera and either a point & shoot or, more recently, a digital SLR. The latter two are intentional tools—I carry them with the intention of recording something (or hoping something photoworthy will happen). But the iPhone camera is unintentional—its presence is purely circumstantial.

But more and more, I find myself reaching for the iPhone instead of a proper camera. It’s not that the iPhone camera is smaller, more impressive, or even more fun to use. Upon a quick examination of my photos, it seems that it’s not about the camera at all—the contents of my photos themselves are changing. (more…)

From Facebook to Family

Earlier this year, just like approximately 30 million others, I received my first Facebook invitation. Not a particularly memorable moment for me, it went unnoticed. And since, I’ve been much a Facebook satisficer, not doing the inviting, not creating the groups, but just sort of playing along.

But now that’s all changed. Facebook found my family. (more…)

Second Chance for a Last Impression

Forget what you’ve heard about first impressions; it’s the last impressions that count. Last impressions — whether they’re with customer service, an online shopping experience, or a blind date — are the ones we remember. They’re the ones that keep us coming back. But there’s one kind of final impression that people seem to forget.

The closing line of email — that line that you write before you type your name — has been all but forgotten. Go take a look at your inbox: you might be astonished at how little attention people pay to the closing lines when writing email. This underrated rhetorical device is so frequently disregarded that many people have the gall to use an automatic closing line attached to their email signature file. (more…)

Judge a Book by its Cover (and its Interior Too)

Sure it’s true. Books — real books in print — have been around for, well, quite a while. But as a new publisher of user experience books (and staunch researchers), we want to ensure that the books we design are as usable as possible.

We’re looking to apply some usability research strategies to test both print and digital editions of our first book, Indi Young’s Mental Models. To do this, we need your help. (more…)

The Rise of Cutting Corners

Just about 15 years ago, during college days in Pennsylvania, I found the secret place. It was a signless storefront off campus where they sold one thing: notes from college courses. Not just any course notes, but wonderfully meticulous notes taken by responsible students in class. Notes were transcribed, cleaned up, and sold for a reasonable amount.

The official explanation for the business was to provide equal opportunity for students who had to miss a class. But it was no secret: everyone knew. This store was in the business of selling free passes. (more…)

Older Is Wiser: An Interview with Alex Wright

I’m really excited about the upcoming IDEA conference in New York City. Not only is its lineup of speakers the very people I’ve been looking to for inspiration recently, but it’s being put on by the Information Architecture Institute.

OK. It’s true. I’m on the advisory board of the IAI, but I’m still thrilled to see an event sponsored by an IA-related organization reaching outside the typical boundaries of what’s considered to be “information architecture.” (more…)

As Transparent As Typography

I’m not a writer. In fact, I take pride in the negative part of that sentence because what I am—what I love to be—is an editor. Editors and writers, while in the trenches with words together, really comprise two pretty different mindsets.

I’ve been editing for a while, but it wasn’t until I read Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style (thanks to Dan and Jason at An Event Apart) that I realized one of my most important jobs as editor: the editor, like fine-tuned typography, must be transparent. (more…)

Because Long Takes Too Long

Constraints are good. For anyone who’s taken a summer vacation, you know that having more free time doesn’t necessarily make things easier. It doesn’t make things more accomplishable. It doesn’t make you more efficient.

This summer, my cohort Khoi Vinh and I, have been happy to put more constraints on our free time by adding another project to our rosters. I’m proud to announce that A Brief Message, that very project, launched earlier tonight. (more…)