User Interface Design

Posted in Strategy on by James Penman

User Interface Design - Information Architecture Diagram - Johnny Lightning Strikes

What is user interface design?

In the past 30 years, the ways in which we interact with content have changed significantly. No longer do we simply pick up a piece of paper and read from left to right — we click, we surf, we roll over, and we search. As these systems have become more complicated it has become increasingly important to make them seem easy. This is the purpose of user interface design.

User interface design, or user experience design, is the process of designing how a user interacts with a given system, whether that system be a website, an application, or a piece of software. It has a hand in all aspects of interaction — how a user perceives a system, how they learn it, and how they use it. While user interface design is primarily associated with digital products, the philosophy behind the field is much older than websites and software. As soon as humans started building machines that required people to operate, someone had to think about how this operation could be carried out as smoothly as possible.


Jamie Kosoy wrote a great article that puts the HTML5 vs Flash “conflict” into perspective wonderfully:

Pretend you were that student of mine, and pretend you started school 4 years ago. It’s your senior year now. In your freshman year, Twitter had just started. Facebook was approaching its first birthday – everyone was on MySpace. There was no whiff of a rumor of an iPhone. The mobile revolution was a pipe dream. Multi touch and gestural navigation wasn’t even a remote possibility.

He explains how it isn’t simply a matter of how viable either of the technologies are, it is a matter of the attitude with which you approach the entire digital ecosystem.

It’s gotten easier and it’s gotten harder simultaneously. There is only one way to maintain in that landscape, and that is to keep an open mind.

And the best part is these attitudes are important to everyone – client, designer, and developer alike.

Flash vs. HTML5

Creative play is a powerful activity, one you should work to make time for if you hope to remain nimble, energized, and (hopefully) innovative. It’s an idea that can be arrived at via diverse routes; people explain it differently, justify it differently, and engage in it differently.


Jessica Halfand and William Drenttel have put together an excellent little primer about the fundamentals of what Graphic Design is over at Design Observer, what matters it concerns itself with, and what effective Graphic Design means. It’s a broad overview, but they hit most of the essentials. After all, they are veterans of the field. At the end they even kindly offer a list of books they recommend for further reading.

Long ago, to be a graphic designer was to distinguish yourself by defining your territory as fundamentally two-dimensional. Unlike artists, graphic designers had clients. Unlike architects, they delivered printed messages. Today, with the meteroric rise of desktop computing, social networking and mobile technologies, graphic design is the ultimate DIY activity. Or is it? Albert Einstein once said that the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. So don’t ask us to explain how kerning works: just trust us.

Read the rest of it here.

Respecting convention

Posted in Strategy on by James Penman

Derek Sivers recently posted an article titled Quit Quirks When Working With Others, and it made some good points about how virtues like “originality” can fail. He highlights how you’re sometimes doing everyone (yourself included) a disservice with your reinventions of “tired” concepts. By toeing the line of convention and saving your unique ideas for places where they’re welcome, you preserve what’s most important: Playing well with others.

As previously hyped, we had the pleasure of attending the (hopefully annual) Designer/Developer Workflow Conference this past weekend right here in Kansas City. What was it about? Well, here’s the description from the website:

What’s the big deal about workflow? Workflow is something we all do, day in and day out – although you may not even think about it. Do you work with multiple applications during the day? Do you work with team members, departments, clients, etc.? Improving those workflows is what D2W is all about.


Designer/Developer Workflow Conference Speakers

Totally surprisingly, Kansas City is going to be host to a conference for designers and developers of websites! I know, right? The only way you normally get to see presenters like Seb Lee-Delisle speaking is if you catch a flight to Brighton and attend Flash On The Beach or other such conferences, usually in cities that are a prohibitive plane-flight-and-hotel-room-cost away.

If you’re going to be there too and want to meet up at some point, give us a holler!

Web fonts! *shakes fist*

Posted in Strategy on by James Penman

Web Fonts - TypeKit Homepage Screenshot

A List Apart just published an excellent article looking at the state of fonts on the web. It covers all the reasons to be optimistic as well as a few things to be concerned about. The article links to a funny-because-its-true open letter to commercial font vendors that highlights the backward state of most font foundries by stating quite simply:

Website Technical Factors - Johnny Lightning Strikes Again

I started this post thinking I would do a quick dump of the technical considerations that go into excellently designed and positioned websites. A lot of people want their website to have specific functionality, be built on specific technology, and be optimised in specific ways; however, a lot of people have no flipping clue what they want, let alone need. The article I imagined I’d be writing would be for the latter group, a sort of primer on the technical decisions that would need to be made. However, I knew I was in trouble when my basic article outline was over a thousand words on various considerations.


Based on a true story

Posted in Inspiration on by James Penman

From: DudeGuyPerson A <[redacted]@yahoo.com>

Subject: cooperation

Date: March 8, 2010 1:22:20 PM CST

To: johnnylightning@strikesagain.net

Dear sir or madam,

I would like to analyze visual style of select companies. Thus, if it is possible I would like to ask you to share your company’s brandbook with me.

Yours, DudeGuyPerson