More Sugru projects

I use Sugru around the home and car a lot, both indoors and outdoors.  

So here's a few more simple improvements made around the house. 

First up, the classic charging cable strengthening (iPad 2) - no mystery here. 

With a 2 year old about, the iPad cable needs a bit of strengthening  

With a 2 year old about, the iPad cable needs a bit of strengthening  

Next up, finger grips for a small remote control to help stop it sliding out of the hand. 

Sugru finger grips  

Sugru finger grips  

Finally, the ultimate tool you can never find: a pointy sticky sharpish thing to perform resets and extract SIM cards. This wee metal pin came as the on/off control with my solar lights - but a paper clip would do the same job.

Device reset tool

Device reset tool

Add a Sugru handle - voila!

Thanks to touch, 9 Billion websites need changing; is yours one of them?

Does your website make a basic error in its user interface?

Out of curiosity I decided to see how many sites on the internet used the word "click" (according to Google).


Because ever since the emergence of the web, the standards bodies, user experience experts and design specialists have always said "don't use the word 'click' for links". They did that because using the word "click" pre-supposes the type of device that the viewer is using - namely a mouse of near equivalent.

But it has always been recognised that users have alternative access devices available to them. For the first decade of the web it was always felt that speech input would be the #nextBigThing. (It hasn't really happened yet, although google voice search on your smartphone is pretty cool these days and works really well in my experience).

Futhermore, "accessible" versions of browsers (e.g. text browsers) typically used alternative input methods, such as numbers on the keyboard to choose links.

"Clicking" therefore is not relevant to everyone. And never has that been truer, with the explosion of touch devices: smartphones and tablets. Apple's share of that alone is over 100 million and 15 million devices respectively at the time of writing (Summer 2011).

"Touch", "Press", "Swipe" and so on is now a predominant action for many users. "Click" is old hat.

So, what did I find?

searching Google just for the word "click" returns 9.12 Billion sites.

The phrase "Click Here" occurs on 2.97 Billion sites. Delightfully, the very first result returned by Google's automcomplete is the W3C's advice page saying "Don't use "click here" as link text".

Too bad - that's between 3 billion and 9 billion sites that need changing. (Some of mine included).

Should've listened to that advice after all.

Dangling the Apple Ipad2 of Temptation

So, the iPad 2 has arrived amid the usual Apple back-slapping and re-use of the "magical" rhetoric.

And this time round I'm actually tempted. 

This is not so much about the iPad 2 device and specifications per se - indeed, I would dearly love a better screen resolution and screen shape. So what is it? 

Well, when Jobs launched the iPad in 2010 he called it "game changing" and I chortled somewhat dismissivley under my breath; after all, the tablet concept had been tried before and not really taken on. The big bets were on netbooks which were gaining ground on laptops and well, to some critics, it seemed to be more a triumph of form over function. 

But, you know, Jobs was right. You can't ship 16 million devices (where others have failed) and not consider it some kind of success. And what that whole process has done has shift expectations. It's perfectly natural now to see tablets in use in all manner of environments from the corporate world, to healthcare, to teaching to starbucks.

So, setting aside arguments over whether iOS beats Android or a 7 inch screen is better than a 9 inch screen, the bottom line is the translation of the iPhone interface onto the iPad has introduced a new form of interaction that has created a compelling user experience. (And, after all, that's what Apple trades on).

So while I've been spending the year hacking away on my Netbook, the whole process of getting to grips with my iPhone 4 and Kindle has been teaching me that there is a user experience out there waiting for me, that is not simply a miniature re-incarnation of a legacy PC experience.

And that experience is not just about the user interface on the device, but also the whole lifestyle experience that surrounds it. It incorporates the ability to "pick up and go" in an instant; extended battery life; to travel with the device easily; to hook into a content and applications eco-system. These are factors that make simply owning the device easier, before you even consider the joy of its usability. 

My weekly routine of commuting to a travelodge and back, often late at night, is certainly a drag. And it's that dragworthiness that often saps me of the energy to even contemplate unpacking, unfolding and plugging in a laptop or netbook. Yet I've never had that problem with my iPhone. Always there, always on, quick and simple to use in bitesize chunks: that's just how my life is structured, if only I had a bigger screen. Enter the tablet. 

So, despite my utmost scepticim initially, I'm now at the point to embrace an iPad or tablet device (though most likely an iPad, because I'm sucking into the Apple eco-system. Clever Apple.) It's form, its performance, its behaviour, its slickly beautiful intuitive user experience all serve to address my emerging needs. Needs I didn't realise I had, because there was nothing to satisfy them in a neatly integrated way. But I can now see a perfect fit for this device in my nomadic life.

Vaxhaull Insignia: Designed to kill you

This car is horrible to drive. 
Through no fault of my own I'm driving a rental Vauxhall Insignia. I wish I wasn't.
It's apparently a "like for like" replacement for my Skoda Octavia vRS. Now, of course, the Skoda's not the most wonderful car on the market - but actually it turns in great JD Power satisfaction results year after year and frankly, is a big-smile-of-joy to drive. 
Not so the Vauxhall. Within 30 seconds I disliked this car. Within 10 minutes I hated it. Let me catalogue a few of the failings.

Ergonomics and usability

I expect to get in a car and figure out to use it in 30 seconds. Consider me new-fashioned but that's the way of the busy modern world. And I design voice user interfaces. 
I can barely begin to catalogue the ergonimic failings of this car - some verging on dangerous. But here are a few:
  • Hard to adjust wallowy seat with very hard lumbar support and a bizzare combination of manual and poorly-labelled electric controls. 
  • Overloaded with controls of poor design. An example being the "turnable" controls (e.g. for trip computer) on the fingertip stalks. Not only is this type of control hard to location and control accurately (turning motion on the stalk can be prone to operate the stalk in other unintentional directions) but more importantly, you can't fingertip control them - you have to take your hand completely off the wheel to operate. (In contrast, in the Octy, every steering and stalk control can be operated by finger tip).  You can see one such control in the picture below.
I can't decide which of the next two failings are the most ludicrous and/or dangerous.
  • First is the console control panel for the audio sytem. A swathe of indistinct plastic which at its biggest is 7 buttons wide by 5 buttons high. Yes, that's right 7 BUTTONS WIDE x 5 BUTTONS HIGH. Why on earth does it need so many buttons? This car doesn't even have extra features like electric seats or bluetooth. And if it does need so many buttons, why do they have to be so unfriendly, badly labelled and hard to navigate by touch.
    You really have to take your eyes off the road to operate this.


  • Perhaps the piece de resistance, however, is the insane placement of the gear indication on the automatic gear stalk. When the gears are in use it is completely obsucured from the driver! As a result of this I accidentally selected reverse at one set of traffic lights when I was aiming to select neutral. And there is no indication of the gear the car has selected in the driver's display. The whole set up is dangerous to the point of negligence. I've created a superimposed photo below of the gearstick in two positions, showing how in use it blocks the gear markings. 



Woolly and indistinct. You can't really tell how hard you are pressing the brakes, and the steering wheel connects with the road as if through a bungee cord. In fact, it's so like a bungee cord, when you turn a corner the steering is threatening to rip itself out of your hands to return to centre. It actually feels dangerous. Feel the road? No - all I can feel is my heartbeat panicking.

Visibility and Functionality

horrible visibility out the narrow back window, with huge 'C' pillars - made worse by a pointy boot that you can't see the end of. 
Speaking of the boot - it's deep but loses so much width due to needlessly fat rear wings. What makes it worse is the pointed boot lip. But even worse is the non-flat floor. It has so many ridges and "shelves" that it's more like the floor of the Atlantic ocean.
Overall? A triumph of form over function