What web application design can learn from the harpsichord [and] Easier said than done: one critic’s painful transition to interface design



George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC 2010-02-09



What web application design can learn from the harpsichord [and] Easier said than done: one critic’s painful transition to interface design

What Web Application Design Can Learn from the Harpsichord, Elaine Wherry, Meebo

Baroque harpsichordists excelled at taking simple melodies and creating elaborate, beautiful pieces of music. But in their desire to push the boundaries of experimentation, these keyboard virtuosi eventually ornamented the music beyond the limits of good taste, making the composer's original melody unrecognizable. Listen to enough Baroque music, and you'll ultimately decide, "This is ridiculous. I never want to hear another harpsichord!"

Something similar happens in Web design. With new technology comes a natural desire to experiment, challenging fundamental design rules to push the limits of web applications. As designers explore just how far they can go, there inevitably comes a breaking point, where you think, "This is ridiculous. I never want to see another rounded corner!"

In both cases, the lesson learned is that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Web application interaction design brings a wealth of creative freedom and makes it increasingly important to identify the functional rationale for UI choices rather than gut reactions like "this is the way users are accustomed to it" or "this just looks better." Elaine will discuss how to approach web application design when, instead of one dominant voice, there's a multitude of web product and design philosophies.

Easier Said Than Done: One Critic's Painful Transition to Interface Design, Jeff Green, EA

"Why the heck didn't anyone on the design team just put the freakin' health bar at the top of the screen?! It's so obvious!" Ah, the life of a professional critic: So easy to pick things apart from a distance. But what happens when the critic decides to hop the fence and see what it's like from the other side? Not so easy now, is it, smart guy?

Faced with the mundane, day-to-day realities of the game design process, the former critic/budding designer now gets to see how everything from budget constraints to bad traffic to fevered or bruised egos can cause delays, stalemates, and an endless variety of headaches along the way to a finished product.

In this presentation, Jeff will discuss the painful lessons learned in transitioning from idealistic press person to hands-on game designer. Along the way, he'll demonstrate how the learning sometimes went both ways. Having a press guy on the team often forced a discussion of end-user and press reaction to any given design feature — something that, often, strangely, gets lost in the midst the office politics, emotions, and day-to-day grind.


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