Saturday, January 25, 2014

Infant Bath Tubs: A Study in Usability

See this?  You don't want warning labels to look like this.  Here's what's wrong:
  1. It's not scannable.  You want important information to be as easy to scan as possible; otherwise, people might not read it.
  2. It doesn't convey much meaning.  The capitalized words don't say much of anything—"drowned," "always," and "never."  The user is thinking, "Yes, yes—there are things I should always and never do, but those things are hard to read!"  Which brings me to my third point:
  3. It's not readable.  The important information should be in large font, so there's no question the user can read it.
There are ways to fix this, of course.  The company could use illustrations of people using the tub the way it's supposed to be used, or they could use illustrations of people using the tub the wrong way and put an "X" on top.  OR the company could just easily rearrange the words, increase the fonts, and take out the first sentence.  Like this:

WARNING—Drowning Hazard
·         Keep infant within adult’s reach.
·         Keep the drain open in the adult bath tub or sink.
·         Never lift this product with infant in it.
·         Never place this product in water in an adult bath tub or sink.

See?  That's pretty much what user experience researchers and designers do.  That's what I wanna do.  For a job.  Right now.

Thing I'm thankful for: babies taking naps!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I read an article today about some of the connections between Martin Luther King, Jr and Latter-day Saints.  While I consider some of the connections tenuous at best, it's still worth the read—mostly for this quote:
When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that … [God] is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.

Martin Luther King spoke these words in a sermon at Temple Israel in Hollywood in 1965.  They are so powerful to me, especially now, when I feel sort of lost in life.

I wish I could have heard just one of his speeches.  I have no doubt that he was one of the greatest—if not the greatest—speakers the world has ever known.  Take a look at some of his words:

Or here, watch him speak:

Thing I'm thankful for: Skype

Friday, January 17, 2014

Celebrity Interviews: My Thoughts

I have a lot of things on my mind, but I don't want to talk about those things just yet.  Instead I want to focus on something serious, for a change: the interview with Mark Ruffalo in Men's Journal last June.  That's right -- I said last June.  As in, "June 2013."  But really, what do you read in an unkempt mechanic shop other than out-of-date magazines that are directed at an audience of the male persuasion?

I like Mark Ruffalo alright.  It was his picture on the cover, in fact, that interested me in that particular issue in the first place.  He seems like a pretty chill, fun-loving, and optimistic guy.  He also loves his wife and kids, and that's always a big plus in my book.  But here's the thing:  More often than not, journalists paint these pictures of famous actors and actresses as if they're totally normal and "just like us."  They also seem to say, "So-and-so gets it.  He gets life.  No, he gets Life."

Following, are some of the things that Men's Journal Josh Eels supposedly thinks are marks of Ruffalo's normalcy and down-to-earthedness:
  1. He owns 47 acres of land in the idyllic New York countryside.
  2. For a long time, he and his wife -- in addition to the homestead in New York -- owned a house in the Hollywood Hills, where houses cost an average of 1.3 million dollars.
  3. He sends his kids to private schools in Manhattan.
  4. He says that in Hollywood, people tell the truth and things make sense.  But wait -- you don't have to take my word for it:
    He wanted to settle down and take a nice steady job with the family business, and his mom wanted him to go back to South Central L.A. and live on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and follow his dream. For a while he toiled away, braving the asbestos and the silica flakes. But, in the meantime, he was also going on business meetings with his dad, where he'd watch him gladhand with the businessmen responsible for making bids.

    "What I learned was, this whole American bidding-for-jobs thing is a con," Ruffalo says. "Whatever we want to think about American business – work hard, tell the truth, have morality – it's a myth. There's a lot of graft. They're paying off inspectors. Every day, you're asked to compromise your integrity in some way. And I didn't like it."

    Ruffalo stuck it out for a while longer, until finally, fed up with the lying, cheating, and backstabbing that constituted the Middle American painting business, he returned to Hollywood, where, he says, people told the truth, and things made sense.

Uh, what?  Okay, okay -- obviously I don't know the ins-and-outs of the Middle American painting business, and I don't know the ins-and-outs of Hollywood . . .  But really?  Hollywood is a beacon of morality in America?

I think I'm jumping all over the place in this post, but I guess what I'm trying to say is A) I don't think Mark Ruffalo is quite right about Hollywood's truth-telling, 2) When did Hollywood stars become "just like us," and D) Why do journalists so often write with a worshipful tone?  Or a "look-how-far-he's-come" tone?  They may as well call such articles "Ode to [This Famous Person I Met Up With For Lunch]."  I don't expect anyone to disparage actors and actresses in a published article, but can't journalists write about how someone got to where they are now?  Can they ask them difficult questions?  Or in the case of Mark Ruffalo, Eels could've said, "Aw, Middle America can't be that bad.  Are there things you miss at all?"

I do realize that journalists have to condense several hours of conversation onto a few pages, but I guess I just wish they would be a little more honest, a little more thoughtful.

Thing I'm thankful for: prayers

Monday, January 13, 2014

A City Built on Rock and Roll

Even at the tender age of four, my musical taste was chiefly rooted in rock and roll.  It was 1985, and Starship's single We Built This City reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard in November of that year.  Although I didn't know how to express my love for the song, I remember getting excited whenever it played on the radio.

The song itself is good, but I mostly like the refrain:  We built this city on rock and roll!  It's brilliant! How could a city built on rock and roll not be awesome?  I mean, there are plenty of things a city could be built on -- a standard set of morals or an ethic of hard work, kindness and trust, or a common goal of ending social inequality.  But if it was built on rock and roll . . .  That would be wonderful!  Everyone would be happily rockin' out all the time!

That's how I think of Austin.  It's a city built on rock and roll.  A place where people wear worn-out jeans and Converse to hole-in-the-wall venues and just chill to good music.  One day during my first March in Texas, I was wearing a Strokes t-shirt, and nearly everyone I passed on the sidewalks of campus gave me a happy wave and said, "The Strokes!  You know, they're playing at the free show at South By!"  "I know!" I said, and they would usually respond, "See ya there!"

There's just something about music-lovers -- particularly rock and roll music-lovers -- that makes me feel happy and connected to the world.  I know not everyone feels the same, but a lot of people in Austin seem to, and I like that.  I like this city built on rock and roll.  I like that I can find a great concert any day of the week, and I like that two of the biggest and most well-known music festivals take place here every year.*  It's my kind of city.  I love it.  I hate to leave it.

*South by Southwest and Austin City Limits!

Thing I'm thankful for: friends.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Lindt Chocolate Balls

As I packed my bags to leave Georgia, I told my sister, "I can't fit everything in!  So I'm getting rid of most of this Christmas candy . . .  Jeremy got me these, but he doesn't know I don't really like caramel."


That voice wasn't my sister's!  Summer and I were both startled -- Jeremy was lying on the couch next to us, but we both thought he was asleep!  Apparently, he was completely conscious!  So he had heard me say it.  He heard me disparage a small part of his Christmas gift to me.  We all laughed, of course, but I felt bad.  I sheepishly tried to regain some footing, and Summer said, "You really should try them, Sara; they're so good!"

So I unwrapped one and took a bite.  Just as I thought: not good.

"What do you think?" Summer asked, as she and Jeremy both looked at me expectantly.

"Eh.  It's alright," I lied.

Here's the thing:  I don't like Lindt chocolate balls.  I thought I just didn't like the caramel ones, but I don't like any of them.  Ever.  I saved a few from my Christmas stocking to try later, but after eating them tonight, I've gotta say -- they're not my favorite chocolates.  Maybe it's the amount of wax Lindt must have to use to get the round shape just right . . .  Maybe it's the crazy difference in texture -- it's almost startling the way the center of the ball is so soft . . .  I think it's too soft!  I dunno . . .  Something about Lindt balls is completely unappealing to me.  I tried to like them because everyone else seems to, but I don't.  I just don't.

Thing I'm thankful for: Dove dark chocolate with almonds.  It's the best cheap chocolate on the market.  Hands down, bar none -- the best.  Get me that for Christmas, willya!  ;)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

It's 2014!

Agh!  I've been so bad about blogging lately . . .  I haven't blogged at all this year!  ;)

My Aunt Cindy said she thinks this is going to be a banner year for me; I hope she's right.  Here are some of the things I'd like to accomplish:
  1. Get a professional UX job.
That's it.  That's all.  That's not much to ask, right?

Here's the thing:  When you tell people you just graduated from a master's program, somehow they mentally leave off the "from a master's program" and hear, "I just graduated."  And then it sounds like you don't have any clue how to fit into a professional work environment.  Or how to work with a team of varied personalities and talents.  It's key to know the "master's program" part.  I mean, I ain't no recent college grad.  Not by a long shot.

But this brings up just one of the problems with America's higher educational system.  That is, in recent years, it seems to be the trend to attend graduate school straight out of college.  A lot of people have no idea what they want to do, so they just pick something they're good at or semi-interested in and get more schooling in that area.  So I think a lot of employers think of graduate school graduates the same way they thought about college graduates twenty years ago.  That is, they think they need more experience.

That may be true, but what about those of us who went to graduate school as part of a slight career change?  What about those of us who worked for several years in between college and grad school?  Don't we get some sort of break???

Wah, wah, wah.  Woe is me.  I lead a completely unfortunate life.


Thing I'm thankful for: a warm bed to sleep in.  It's amazing how much that never gets old, and I don't take it for granted.  It may be the greatest blessing in life, come to think of it.