Welcome to this blog! As you may have guessed from the title, this blog is about usability and (my) user interfaces annoyances. Feel free to comment on my ramblings, but please read the About this blog page before you do! It will make your life better, I promise!

User Interface Design 2015 seminar

User Interface Design Seminar 2015

User Interface Design Seminar 2015, April 1st 2015, Den Bosch

Last Wednesday I  went to the User Interface Design 2015 seminar in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. A whole day of lectures (I followed 9!) about user interface design and the importance of UX. Most lectures were quite interesting though promotion of companies and services was certainly an aspect of the presentations as well.

A common theme in a lot of presentations was “lessons learned’, mostly on the importance of embedding user interface design and UX in the entire process of creating a product. Guido Stompff, a Communications Manager and Product Designer from Océ Technologies showed the results of a very thorough study for his PhD thesis. It convincingly answered the question “What do designers contribute to teams and organizations?”. The answer might surprise you: a whole lot more then design! His study (more here: http://designinteams.com/thesis-facilitating-team-cognition-how-designers-mirror-what-teams-do/) showed that a fundamental problem in multidisciplinary teams is the inability of people from the different disciplines to be able to communicate with each other. They just don’t speak each others language and you can’t document your way out (which many companies attempt). Why does this not always end up in disaster? In successful multidisciplinary projects, the (UX) designers were a key factor because they speak a common language! Great presentation. Makes you fear for companies running those kind of projects without designers though 😉

Two more presentations I liked very much: Leonne Kaldenbach and Anita Wierda from Nspyre showed the effects of the gap between industrial and consumer user experience and how to close it and Michel Varkevisser from Thales showed their experience in combining Agile (Scrum) and User Centered Design processes.

UI Design Principles training

April 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Last year, I have been working on my own design principles training (simply called “UI Design Principles”) for quite some time. In the last couple of months I gave the training a number of times to different groups, some internal, some external. What was common for all session was the enthusiastic response and participation of the course members, which made it a joy to share my knowledge!


The training is a 4 hour session on topics that help you to make a great GUI design. It features stuff like gestalt principles, Hicks & Fitts’s law, the working of the eye and the processing of images by our brain, progressive disclosure, responsiveness, forgiveness, etc. It is aimed at anyone who is active in the design of user interfaces in any way and it’s not about technology! So if you are a project leader, component owner, team leader, process engineer, architect, software engineer, etc. participating in creating a product with a user interface, this training can help you. If you are interested drop me, or ICT Automatisering, a message!

Amsterdam Usability Week

Nielsen Norman Group

Just returned from a few days at the Amsterdam Usability Week, organized by the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g). This company was formed when the legendary Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman decided to join forces in 1998. The NN/g has become one of the most fore-standing research, training and consultancy firms in the world in the usability field, so when I heard they were coming to Amsterdam, I just had to go!

I attended 2 days of training:

  1. User Interface Principles Every Designer Must Know by Katie Sherwin and
  2. Wireframing and Prototyping by Kara Pernice.

Both were excellent and both instructors have great communication skills. Its not often a presenter can talk for a whole day in front of a screen and keep your attention till the last minute without you ever feeling bored, but both Katie and Kara can, the hours flew by like a Concord! Great stuff.

The design principles training touched on some of the subject I cover in my own training too (more on that later) and it even had some of the same sample images that I use which surprised me and made me smile! The Wireframing and prototyping training was very hands-on (especially in the afternoon) and teamwork was key. It was good fun and a perfect ending to a busy -information overload- week people had who attended all 5 days.

The NN/g does these usability weeks all over the world. If you do anything UI related, being a product owner, designer, coder, etc, I recommend you check them out!

Book recommendation: Designing with the Mind in Mind

March 16, 2013 Leave a comment
Designing With the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson

Designing With the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson

A while ago I finished this excellent book on UI Design Principles / Rules: Designing With the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson. I do wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in UI Design and the science (psychology, biology) behind UI Design Principles.

The book gives insight into how our brain and visual system works and has lots of examples that show how things go wrong when we don’t take that into account when designing user interfaces. Of course it also contains examples of good UI design. The book is compact and easy to get through, and when you apply the design rules in it, you can back up your design decisions with a solid scientific background.

Thoroughly recommended!

UI Intervision group @ ICT

March 9, 2013 1 comment

At ICT Automatisering we’ve formed ‘intervision groups’.  In these groups, professionals with common knowledge about a subject gather regularly and share information. Recently, we’ve formed the “UI Intervision group”, for which I have become one of the chair men. In this group we currently have about 10 professionals that have a keen interest in User Interfacing.

We meet about 5-6 times a year in the late afternoon /early evening at the ICT Eindhoven office. First meeting, my collegue and fellow chairman Hans Hendrix gave an introductory presentation about Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF).  At the second meeting I gave a presentation about UI Design Principles. Next meeting will be about developing the UI of apps on the Android platform.

For future meetings, we are considering external speakers. So if you are a specialist in the domain of User Interfacing and are willing to hold a presentation of 1 to 1,5 hours, please do contact me with details of the subject!

Excellent UI/UX design course

September 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Finished an excellent course called “Creating User Experiences: Fundamental Design Principles” by Billy Hollis. Some great quotes:

“We are moving from “making things possible” to “making things easier”.  People or businesses that don’t follow, risk becoming irrelevant because others will step up and do better because of increased user expectance.”

And another one:

Billy Hollis First Law of Programming: Users Outnumber Developers.

“We (developers) spend an awful lot of time on worrying on things that makes life easier for ourselves or the development process. Things like unit testing, version control and continues integration. That’s fine, because those things add value. But we should spend even more time on making things easier for our users, because users outnumber developers.”

The course centers around ‘UI Design Principles’ that stem from basic human psychology, evolution and the way the human visual system works. These results in things like Gestalt Principles, Fitt’s and Hicks law, and things like ‘Preference for Naturalness’ (i.e. humans have a preference for open spaces, this comes from the Savannah preference).

Great stuff! I recommend the course for every developer that is interested in user interfaces. You can follow it on pluralsight.

#devdate; Next Generation User Interaction

September 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Went to a devdate meeting at the high tech campus in Eindhoven last thursday. Very impressed with the organization & catering (cheers TASS!), and the enthusiastic hosting by Ben van der Burg. Several interesting presentations. For me the highlight was the presentation of dr. Wijnand IJsselsteijn about opportunities for interactive user interfacing.

Windows Explorer Annoyances – Part 1

Windows Explorer is one of the Windows applications I spent most time in. At work, we have a large collection of network drives, local drives and large folder structures. We still use Windows XP there. I get along with Windows Explorer in XP just fine. The only thing I really miss in XP (because the large amount of folders I have to move between constantly) is tabs in Windows Explorer. Luckily, there are 3rd party tools for that, like the QTTabBar extension (http://qttabbar.wikidot.com/) or the xplorer2 replacement (http://www.zabkat.com/).

But in Vista and Windows 7 the Explorer is ‘upgraded’. Now I love progress, especially in Windows Explorer, since I use that a lot, so anything that gets my work done quicker gets my blessing. And to be fair, a lot is indeed better (like the address bar) in Vista an 7. But that are some things that nag me so much, I just have to write about it! I have lots of usability issues with Windows Explorer in Windows 7, so this post is just the first of a series about it.

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SMS on iPhone

I’ve got an iPhone (the 3GS). I love it. It’s the most user friendly phone I’ve ever had. In fact, it’ so easy to use that I was a little bit disappointed when I just got it. I was looking forward to a weekend playing around with it to discover all its features at to set it up to my liking , but a couple of hours later, I had seen everything. Way different experience from Symbian (UIQ) where you keep discovering features that are hidden away in some obscure corner of the UI months after you got the phone!. But there are also quite a few stupid niggles with the iPhone  (must-resist-writing-about-iPhone4’s-antenna-issue). Today’s topic: the SMS application.

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Web applications are evil

As the web gets more mature and web technologies more advanced, more and more applications are ported from dedicated desktop applications to web applications. Those of us who work in (large) corporate environments have to deal with many web apps, for example to register worked hours, fill in planning estimates, do document archiving, lookup people in an internal phone book, etc.

Now, I do recognize that there are many scenarios where the advantages of web applications are too big to be ignored, but in a lot of cases they are not. At least not from a user centric viewpoint. And shouldn’t all applications be developed with the end-user in mind first?

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