Archive for the ‘Usability’ Category

As a UI/UX designer for the iPhone and iPad, I pretty much live and breathe iOS interfaces. Recently I was reading Matt Rix’s Blog, and I read his post on game makeovers and I had a few thoughts.

I’m going to offer my skills as a designer to those small iOS developers out there, but more on that in a bit, first my thoughts on Matt’s blog post…

His example is a game called MicroSquares, but I have no doubt that a good percentage of games in the App Store fall prey to the same issues. The fact is, Matt is a rarity when it comes to programmers. He understands the importance of UI and the skills to develop a good UI, but also the skills to implement it. Most developers only have the inkling of what makes a good UI.


How dumb are you?

Posted: August 29, 2009 in General, Usability

I have this thing about packaging. Packaging can be an afterthought, and it’s rare that a company really engineers their packaging (Apple is a rarity here). I think poor packaging can be forgiven up to a point. Sure, there’s an expense involved in reengineering a package if there’s a problem, so it’s rare that a company is going to spend the time and energy to rework it.

Here’s the thing. Your package is your first impression. If it’s hard to get your product out of the package (or even worse, if you ruin the product), then you’re hurting your brand imaging. Packaging is advertising.


It’s interesting that mail applications tend to treat junk mail as a binary classification. Either a message is spam or it’s not. In my life I would say that there is a gray area of… “junky” mail. You know the kind of thing, the constant influx of emails from all those retailers that you’ve ordered from before, or newsletters that you’ve signed up for.

For the longest time, I’ve just marked junky mail as junk mail and it’s all gone away. The issue is that it’s not really junk mail, every so often there’s a nugget of value there. It really isn’t the same as the constant influx of offers to sell me a watch (or make my p3n1s bigger). The problem is that there isn’t a convenient way to manage this junky mail.


I’m first going to offer a bit of a disclaimer here. A wedding is an event that it’s in bad taste to complain about. One might consider this posting a complaint about the weddings I’ve been to in the past. It isn’t. I think our wedding went off without a hitch, not because we’re smarter, or we had experience, but mostly we just made some lucky decisions. I would not say that I’ve ever been to a bad wedding or reception, but some have been better than others. Every wedding has it’s own unique memories that are created.

That said, I am someone who deconstructs things and tries to distill things to the components deciding what works and what doesn’t. I invite anyone that was at our wedding to tell us your honest opinion of mistakes or missteps (I am actually very curious to know what problems people had). I fully acknowledge that I am jaded thinking that my wedding was the best I’ve been to.

That said, here are my thoughts on how to have a great wedding reception…

The most successful receptions I’ve been to feel relaxed and celebratory. The reception has to feel like there isn’t a time-line, and can not feel rushed. Receptions require a few important things to be a success:
1) A great DJ
2) A great bar
3) Plenty of time to have fun

Obviously you also need fun people, but I’m going to assume you already have plenty of them coming. Given that, there are 10 fairly simple rules that you should follow to make your reception a success.

1. Don’t be late.
This is really directed more at the bride than anyone else since she’s usually the one who defines when the ceremony starts. Even though I say don’t be late, don’t even plan on being late. If you ask your guests to arrive at 5, don’t plan the start of your ceremony at 5:30.

Starting a ceremony five or ten minutes late isn’t a big deal, but when you get over thirty minutes it impacts your entire wedding in a negative way. Every minute that you’re late means that everything else is late (dinner, cocktails, etc), and it all comes off the back-end, when you want to be dancing and celebrating with your friends. Also consider if you’re having an outdoor wedding, that your guest are sitting in the sun with bugs and heat, waiting. Not a good way to start things off for everyone that shows up on time.

2. Don’t hamstring your DJ
It is vital to have your dance floor be a happening place. A good DJ knows what he/she needs to play to get people out there and dancing. It’s ok to tell the DJ you don’t want certain things played (no Chicken Dance for instance). It’s also good to choose a few songs that you think are important, but don’t define a whole set-list. “Brickhouse” and “YMCA” may not be on your playlist, but 99% of your guests know the songs and will probably get up to dance for them. Keep in mind that your DJ will only be able to play 12-15 songs an hour. You may think that your DJ will be playing 50 or 60 songs, but it’s unlikely. If you’re lucky you’ll get three hours of dancing, it will probably be less which means that your DJ is only going to end up playing 30-35 songs total for dancing. Choose 5 songs that you’d like him to play and let your DJ figure out the rest.

3. Either don’t get married at your reception location, or make sure you buy extra time if you do.
Consider that, even if you have a short ceremony, your cocktail time/photos won’t start until at least an hour until after the ceremony starts. That’s one hour less of celebrating with your friends and family if you get married at your reception location. I would say that even the standard 6 hours that most reception locations give you is too short for just cocktails and reception, cutting into that 6 hours with your ceremony means less celebrating with your friends and family.

4. Don’t get married too early in the day.
Not a single reception that I’ve attended that happens early in the day has the feel of a later reception. Maybe it’s a biological thing, but when the sun goes down the party starts up. Plan accordingly. This is especially troublesome for Catholic couples, but you are better off getting married early and waiting a few hours for the reception (send the guests on a scavenger hunt or something else to occupy them until later in the evening).

5. Don’t get married too late in the day.
It may seem like you have a lot of time on your wedding day, but it’s hard to fit everything into six hours. Every hour you can add to that schedule will be valuable time you will be thankful for on that day. Do the math, if your reception is over at midnight, it will start at 6 or earlier. Plan accordingly.

6. Skip the things that don’t matter to you.
There are plenty of things that aren’t required that chew up time (and sometimes money) that you may not really need. Do you really need a receiving line? Bouquet toss? Cake Cutting?

7. Choose a reception location that is within walking distance to a hotel.
The name of the game here is removing obstacles to having fun. If people are worried about driving to their accommodations they should be worried about how late it’s getting and how much they’re drinking. Remove those issues and they’ll keep drinking and partying until they can’t. If your reception is IN a hotel you’re in great shape. Getting a party bus or shuttle sounds like a good idea, but by doing so you are trying to define your guest’s schedule and many will decide to drive instead.

8. Make arrangements to have the party go somewhere else if there are still those who want to celebrate when it’s over.
As the bride and groom, you’re probably going to be ready to party until 1 or 2am. If you’ve done your planning right, a may of your friends and family may be ready to continue the party. A pub or small bar with a live band works well. A room in the hotel is not a good after-party location (unless it’s a room set up by the hotel).

9. Don’t rush your planning.
If you’ve given yourself less than 9 months to plan your wedding you’re doing yourself an injustice. It can be done, and has been done, but the industry doesn’t like to run on that time table. You are left with a lot less of the “A” team when it comes to reception and ceremony locations as you’ll find many are booked up a year or more in advance. This means that you need to act quickly to snap up a location even if it’s not perfect for you.

10. A good bar is more important than an open bar (although a good, open bar is king)
For my money I’d rather pay for a good drink than not have a good selection of drinks. This is completely dependent on your guests, but unless your friends are collage age frat boys, the drinks are important. One or two brands of beer is unacceptable, I would consider four beer brands a minimum (and not all cheap domestic beers). The bar should be well-stocked with a variety of alcohol. If the bar has less than 20 bottles of booze it is not well stocked. In general a well stocked bar should at a minimum have several liqueurs, amaretto, brandy, 2 kinds of gin, 2 kinds of rum, a few schnapps, 3 types of scotch, 2 types of tequila, 3 types of vodka + flavored vodkas, 2 types of whiskey, plus other items like triple sec, vermouth, sambuca, creme de menthe, and the list goes on… The bar should also be willing to serve shots and shooters to your guests.

11. It’s the end of the movie that counts
Not so much a rule, but something you should consider is that even if the cocktail hour is bad, and dinner is bad, as long as the drinks are flowing and your DJ fills the dance floor your reception is going to be a success. So, as I said at the beginning there are three vital elements to a successful reception: The DJ, The Drinks, and The Time.

So what’s the best plan?

  • Even a 30 minute ceremony will eat away an hour of your schedule.
  • Photos will take another hour and a half or two.
  • Events before dinner will take a half an hour.
  • Dinner will take at least an hour and probably more.
  • Events like cake cutting and dances will take another 45 minutes.
  • So, without any travel time, the “stuff” takes about 5 hours.

A good party needs 2 1/2 to 3 hours of dancing, which means a total of 8 hours from beginning to end.

If your reception ends at midnight your ceremony should start at 4PM. This means dinner is served at about 7PM and dancing starts about 9PM.