Archives for April 2015

April 23, 2015 - No Comments!

What the Apple Watch taught us

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The Apple Watch’s 1.5-inch screen is larger than a U.S. quarter (.9 in) and smaller than the average human thumb (2.6 in). More expensive models of the Watch come in at 1.7 inches, but that’s still tiny when you compare it to the iPhone 6’s 4.7-inch display.

Needless to say, designing for the Apple Watch is completely new terrain, but it’s an opportunity we couldn’t resist. Infor Ming.le™, our business collaboration platform, is the kind of app that just begs to be on the Apple Watch. Infor Ming.le for mobile and desktop is all about keeping workers informed and making it really easy for them to take action. The Apple Watch—which is essentially an extension of the person who is wearing it—super charges Infor Ming.le’s immediacy and fluidity and, therefore, the wearer’s workflow. But like every great opportunity, designing for the Watch came with its own unique obstacles.

Here’s what we learned from the challenges.

1. Don’t try to squash a mobile app into the Watch

The Apple Watch is essentially a window into the most pressing activity that’s happening on the user’s phone. Only urgent updates and the most micro interactions make sense on the Watch. Everything else is just clutter. I believe that Twitter, for example, is going down the wrong route. The Apple Watch isn’t designed to read tweets. It doesn’t come with a web browser, so users won’t be able to click through to see linked content. Some people might want to write a tweet on the Watch, but once the novelty wears away, what’s the point?

You need to decide early on how your Apple Watch app can help the user, and not overload him or her with information. A lot of the design that goes into a Watch app happens in the background—how the app processes content, how it’s filtering certain pieces in and filtering others out, how it’s delivering only the most up-to-date, relevant, and crucial information.

The biggest advantage, and disadvantage, of the Apple Watch is that it’s immediate. There’s no way to miss a message, but there’s also no way to avoid one. The user can always mute his phone or put it in his pocket, but the Watch is always there, tapping his wrist.

When concepting the Watch version of Infor Ming.le—an application that deals with a lot of data on desktop and mobile—we knew it was important only to show things that are either changing or becoming more important than the rest of the information. Urgent matters that demand action in real time (such as a broken machine or a customer complaint) make the most sense. Less pressing issues (such as a message about the office holiday party) have no place on the Watch.

2. Learn to work within UI constraints

Apple provides designers with just two types of UI layouts for the Watch: Page-based screens (which scroll down) and gallery-based screens (which scroll right). To put that in perspective, iPhone app designers don’t need to use any of the UI components that Apple provides—you can draw whatever you want. The possibilities reach as far as your imagination can go. But we’ve come a long way since the first iPhone, which didn’t even offer native apps by third-party developers.

The Apple Watch forces designers to keep things simple—and that’s great. Initially for Infor Ming.le, we wanted to include super cool interactive charts. But because of Apple’s constraints, we had to take a far more direct approach that, in the end, we believe will be far more beneficial to the user.

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3. Think of the application in three distinct modes: The main app, glance, and notifications

Main app
Main apps on the Apple Watch should be very micro with limited interaction. You want to design something that people can use within five to ten seconds. One of the best examples is Uber: Press a button and it orders a cab. That’s it. For the main Infor Ming.le app, we decided to show stats. When the user launches it, he’ll get an overview of what’s happening—how many notifications are waiting and how many alerts have escalated since the last time he checked in.

Glance
Glances are quick updates that aren’t actionable, such as the latest weather or breaking news on CNN. We figured out early on that just because Apple gave us this option, Infor Ming.le shouldn’t have a glance mode since we only want to deliver information that demands action.

Notifications
Notifications are actionable updates, such as a text message. This is where Infor Ming.le’s Apple Watch app really takes form. Take, for example, a construction foreman. He spends most of his day helping his crew, managing real estate moguls, and running from point a to point b to point q. His phone is always on mute and he spends approximately 15% of his shift in front of a computer. His voicemail and email inboxes are bursting at the seams and his crew wishes they could implant a GPS in him.

Let’s say a pipe breaks. Or a fire erupts. Really, a million things can, and do, go wrong on a construction site. Right now, the crew can hope to track down the foreman but if they can’t find him in time, they’ll just need to deal with it themselves. With Infor Ming.le’s Watch app, he can instantly know when disaster strikes and respond to his crew with next steps by speaking into the Watch. This immediacy will prove invaluable for the foreman and his counterparts in every industry: sales, manufacturing, public safety, healthcare. And the best part is—we’re only at version one.

Check it out!

April 9, 2015 - No Comments!

Journey mapping: The road to Information Architecture

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If any H&L team geeks out about their work, it’s our IA/UX team. Systems, wireframes, user flows, rapid prototyping, research, research, and more research—they love it all. Who are these super (awesome) nerds and how did they get here? Read on. Feel their passion. Enjoy the journey.

Jeremy Hutchins, Senior Information Architect
My first job was working for an environmental graphic design studio. If you don’t know, environmental graphics are all about signage. Not just the aesthetics of signs, but also where they’re placed and their legibility. We designed signs for the New York subway system, hotels, resorts, and shopping malls. I loved working on something that was so functional. How many times have you been on a subway platform and couldn’t figure out which train was going uptown and which one downtown?

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Information Architecture is all about helping users figure out where they are and where they want to go, in a virtual landscape. Websites were originally designed under the misconception that users always entered from the homepage. It didn’t take long to figure out that users often landed deep within a site, usually from Google search results—as if they were dropped into a room within a building, with no exit sign or contextual information. Where am I? Why am I here? How do I get out?

Mary Curren, User Testing & Research Engineer
I was a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library for a few years before I learned about UX research. At their core, librarianship and UX research are very similar. You have to be naturally curious and appreciate the information discovery process. While taking classes in Information Architecture, HCI, and UX design, I found that the discovery phase of my projects—and the way in which research informs the design process—was where I geeked out the most. After countless reference interviews with library patrons, it came as no surprise that the role I saw for myself within UX was engaging with the end users.

Kevin Pelrine, Senior Information Architect
I originally went to graduate school because I thought I wanted to be an academic librarian or museum archivist. Then I met Professor David Walczyk and took his Information Architecture classes. He taught IA from a media ecology perspective, emphasizing systems thinking and critical theory. Our team project was to redesign a website start to finish over the course of a semester. We met with our client, conducted user interviews, slogged through content inventories, created site maps and wireframes—we did everything. It was a grueling but rewarding experience. The collaborative IA process was much more exciting and fast paced than, say, my cataloguing class. And it was thrilling to influence how a website would be used.

During my final project, someone on my team asked, “You really want to do this for a living? This is my nightmare! I went to library school to get an easy job.” But I loved the design process. I found my brain working in so many interesting new ways. Information Architecture wasn’t just a practical skill that I knew would eventually land me a job—it was now my passion.

Kate Merlie, Information Architect
I studied history and French literature in college and got my master’s in Library and Information Science. I had ample opportunities to perform research and analyze information on a theoretical level. I found myself, however, wanting to produce something concrete that also left room for creativity. So during grad school, I shifted my focus from academia to user experience. As an information architect, I discovered a happy medium that combines all of these elements. My work allows me to design experiences that are firmly rooted in the careful analysis of research and user testing, and that challenge makes me excited to come to work every day. I definitely still nerd out reading books about the history of French colonialism, but I love how IA ties together my seemingly disparate interests in research, analysis, and design.

Karen VanHouten, Principal Information Architect and SoHo Xi Product Manager
The original plan? To be a professor. After getting a BA in English and Philosophy and then an MA in English, I took some time off to figure out whether I wanted to focus on literature or linguistics (hmmm, I think there might have been a little right brain/left brain conflict going on even back then). That’s when I got a temp job at a tech company, in the marketing department, and the whole professor plan got thrown out the window.

From there a headhunter contacted me about a technical writing position. I hadn’t even heard of technical writing—but somehow I got the job and wrote help systems, user manuals, and online training programs. After jumping around a bit, I landed at Provia (warehouse management software). I soon realized the software would be so much easier to document if it had been designed according to the user’s workflow instead of the database structure (I didn’t know it at the time, but I had “discovered” user-centered design). I started talking to developers, learning HTML and .css, and getting more involved in the UI/UX side. In 2006, when Infor acquired Provia, I permanently shifted into UI/UX. Over the next few years, I developed corporate UX standards and created visual style guides. When Hook & Loop was born in 2012, I became one of the first team members on the Product Experience team.

The thing I most enjoy about my job is research around current trends, best practices, and most important, our actual user needs. Documenting that information and helping train and educate the Infor product teams—research, documentation, and teaching—is not too far off from a career in academics after all! Not to mention, this job is a great blend of creativity and analytical thinking, which always keeps things interesting.

April 1, 2015 - No Comments!

The Artists of Hook & Loop

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Newsprint. Cardboard. Walls. Skateboards. An arm.

These are just some of the surfaces that Hook & Loop staffers transform from everyday items into intriguing works of art. Sure, they are software developers and designers who write code and craft engaging user interfaces by day. But these Hook & Loop folks are also talented artists who wield paintbrushes, pencils, and even glue to manifest other forms of their creative self-expression. So we thought we’d share glimpses of their work in this series, “The Artists of Hook & Loop.”

Read on and check back for a new featured artist every week.

Alicia, Designer

When did you realize you could create art?
When I was in pre-school I did a lot of scribbling and playing around with art supplies. The bus driver always complained that I would bring home huge stacks of paper, but that didn’t stop me. Whether they were drawings, cutouts, or folded pieces, I knew that I had an interest in arts and crafts.

What’s your go-to tool? The one you can’t live without?
Paper of course! You can’t start anything without a single sheet of paper. Even without a writing instrument, there’s a lot you can do with paper. You have the option to explore the size, shape, weight, and color to create something aesthetic.

Why do you work mostly with paper?
I consider paper my main element or “base.” I’ve always been interested in geometry, shapes, and 3D design. I realized that you could control the area and volume by just folding it. With that in mind, I wanted to stick with something simple that didn’t require anything messy.

Why do you create art?
I guess it’s considered my kind of therapy. There’s no right or wrong answer to it and you can be as abstract as you want it to be. Overall, it’s like a form of showing your personal feelings in a visual way.

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Sam C., Designer

When did you realize you could create art?
When I was younger I attended an art class called The Village Artist. We made pinch pig sculptures. I ended up working with the Village Artist until I was 15 years old and then moved to a school in Huntington. It was grueling! Four days a week after school for four hours, but I loved going.

What’s your go-to tool? The one you can’t live without?
When I paint, my favorite thing to use is yellow ochre. I like to make a light wash and then draw out my painting using yellow ochre.

How do you know when a work is finished?
I don’t know if I’m ever able to tell when something is finished. I’d have to say a general rule is, if what I’m doing is making it worse, I’m done.

Why do you paint?
Now that I always work on a computer I really enjoy being able to get my hands dirty.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
I’ve had some close people in my life pass away and I used painting as a way to express some of what I was feeling. It created something tangible that I can look at and remember the person in the painting.

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Tiago, Associate Creative Director

When did you realize you could create art?
My parents wanted me to be a doctor and gave me all of their medical books by the time I turned five. Instead of reading them I started to draw the body’s nervous system and skeletons. I haven’t stopped since.

What medium do you enjoy working with the most?
I’m actually a frustrated musician. I would love to play drums but I’m too lazy for it. That’s why all of my recent projects involve sound and music.

How do you know when a work is finished?
Everything you do is autobiographical, so the novel never ends…

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Inna, Quality Control Coordinator

What medium do you enjoy working with most?
I love working with stone and stainless steel wire because they’re small enough to carry with me. I can mold and shape the wire to my liking. I guess I’m a sculptor deep down.

How do you know when a work is finished?
I know something is finished when it’s perfect! When it looks beautiful in my eyes.

Why do you create purses, belts, and jewelry?
I love to see my art worn by someone else. I feel confirmation that what I create is actually amazing because someone chose to wear it over all of the other beautiful things this world offers.

I do prefer to create very large art pieces and installations but accessories allow me more flexibility when I travel and move around.

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Jeremy H., Senior Information Architect

When did you realize you could create art?
When I was ten years old, I used to make magazines with collages of images from other magazines like "Time" and "Newsweek." I sold them at school for a quarter each.

What’s your go-to tool? The one you can’t live without?
Right now, a pencil and paper. But also Pilot Precise V5 Fine pens (black). I also use Photoshop quite a bit.

Why do you draw?
Because if I don’t, I quickly become a very unhappy person who is miserable to live with.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Canoeing through the Gowanus Canal to Governor’s Island. It inspired me because it never occurred to me that here in New York you can just get into a boat by yourself and go to an island.

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Peter G., Creative Director Video

Why do you make films?
Because I was too tall to be a fighter pilot. I was 6’ 4” when I arrived for my first Air Force recruitment meeting. The recruiter said, “you can’t grow anymore.” That summer I grew two inches and all my dreams fell away. So I went to my high school guidance counselor and said I want to make movies. He got me into a magnet art school to take college level courses.

What inspired you to direct a film for The Sonnet Project?
I’ve always been a big fan of Shakespeare. The rules of this project were that you picked the sonnet you wanted to do, explained why you wanted to do it, and submitted your directing reel. Sonnet 85 is all about love, not through words but through action and devotion. I’m really drawn to the idea of unseen beauty. There are things that are amazing around us every day that we don’t pay attention to, but there’s beauty in them.

Sonnet 85 - 125th St. Trestle, Manhattan from NY Shakespeare Exchange on Vimeo.

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Jason, Associate Designer

When did you start creating art?
I’ve been creating art ever since I was a small tike. My mom literally has baby books with my artwork in them.

How do you know when a work is finished?
Work is never finished in an artist’s mind really, but I would say once I finally lay down all my inks is when I have a sense of completion.

Why do you draw?
It’s an escape, an endless world where anything is possible.

Read Jason’s post about how comic books can inspire web design.

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Melissa, Designer

What’s your go-to tool? The one you can’t live without?
Pencil, it all starts with a pencil.

How do you know when a work is finished?
Honestly, I never feel like things are finished. When I have to go to print, that is when it is finished, because I can’t finesse anymore.

Tell us about a real-life situation that inspired you.
My high school art teacher told me I would never be an artist. She made me want to prove her wrong. I have proven her wrong, and will continue to do so. I may not be the typical type of artist, but I create art every day, and what is better than that?

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Victoria, Associate Designer

What inspired this series of illustrations?
In middle school I began drawing people in stylish outfits, and I gave them matching screen names (AOL was rising in popularity at the time). So this idea isn’t really new to me—fashion and people have fascinated me from the get-go.

What medium do you enjoy working with most?
I like working traditionally with paper and pencil the most. This technique comes the most naturally to me. However, it’s nice to change it up and paint sometimes. I also want to learn more about creating digital artwork.

Why do you draw?
I enjoy coming home from work and being able to create something with my hands. It’s therapeutic for me to get into a “drawing zone” where I am very focused on just the pencil and the paper—and nothing else.

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Danielle, Associate Designer

When did you realize you could create art?
I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember, drawing since I could hold a pencil.

What’s your go-to tool?
A paintbrush—it’s second nature to me. Painting for me is an emotion. If I couldn’t express my self through painting, I wouldn’t be me.

What medium do you enjoy working with most?
Watercolor allows me to be spontaneous and expressive. When I need to splash paint around I can, but when I need to be controlled the water is the barrier. It’s the perfect balance. Also, I love color so it allows me to play with rich pigments.

How do you know when a work is finished?
Nothing is ever “finished,” but when I can say I’m satisfied with it and wouldn’t be ashamed to show it off, it’s done. Artists are our own worst enemies so when I can say I’m happy with something for the moment, I move on.

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Sophia, Creative Coordinator

What’s your go-to tool?
PVA glue, or my glue gun. I love texture, and it works to give the painting a varnished look too. My favorite way to paint is in mixed media, so the glue holds it all together … if you’ll excuse the pun!

How do you know when a work is finished?
Usually when my hands start hurting, and I can’t tell the original color of the t-shirt I was wearing, then I need to stop myself.

What medium do you enjoy working with most?
Absolutely anything—the more mediums the merrier! I often use old books or pieces of textiles to create prints or to layer up a background. Anything runny and gloopy, like acrylic paint, really makes an impression. And the endless color possibilities are far too tempting.

How did you learn to paint?
When we were kids, and my mother wanted to get rid of us for a couple of hours, she would put buckets of poster paint in the garden and lean a big canvas against the garden fence, and let us paint to our hearts content. My sister and I would spend hours like this, and one of our “masterpieces” is still up on my dad’s office wall.

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Ted, Manager of Software Development 

When did you start creating art?
I’m still not sure I CAN create art. I mean, I make stuff, and if people think it’s art, that’s kind of groovy.

What medium do you enjoy working with most?
Paper and ink, mostly markers. With no undo option, every line has to be right, which helps me focus and get into a zone…

How do you know when a work is finished?
I’m not sure, because sometimes I go back and add more to a piece. Though usually it’s done when I can’t think of anything else to do to it … or on it.

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