Favorite Articles I’ve Written in 2010

I admit it: it wasn’t a great year for me, writing-wise. I was lucky to have a few decent articles to put on this list. Here’s the articles I wrote that I liked the most in 2010.

Interaction Models (January)
One of the central tasks of any device designer is to create the interaction model. The interaction model is the overarching framework that ties the functionality together into a unified whole. Done right, the interaction model can be a major product differentiator; even if individual features are replicated, it may be difficult (although certainly not impossible) to reproduce the interaction model that ties all the features together.

3x2x2: A New Method of Thumb Typing for Tablet Computers (April)
Thumb typing is, of course, not new. (Few things are.) Blackberry users have been typing with thumbs for nearly a decade now, and other mobile phone users have been texting using only thumbs prior to that. There even thumb keyboards, and several interesting designs for thumb typing on a touchscreen. I want to add one more: the 3x2x2 Method.

Ghost Fingers Typing for Tablet Devices (May)
Ghost Fingers are a pattern I found when researching my book Designing Gestural Interfaces. Ghost Fingers are when a device becomes seemingly transparent so the users can “see” (onscreen) their fingers on the back of or inside of the device. Ghost fingers could be employed with tablets by putting a touchscreen (it could even be just a wide capacitive strip) on the back of the tablet that would only turn on when the keyboard was deployed. It could even be a physical keyboard, although that could get annoying when simply holding the tablet. As the user pressed the (digital or analog) buttons on the back, the corresponding key on the front of the screen would be highlighted.

Ebook Affordances (May)
I’ve put a handful of books on my iPad over the last few weeks, but I have to admit: I keep forgetting to read them. Not because the books aren’t good, but because, unlike physical books, ebooks take up no psychic space. Physical books by the nature of their being, well, physical and visible, remind me to read them. This isn’t true of digital books. Currently, I can’t glance at the Kindle or iBooks icons on my iPhone or iPad and know whether I have a library beneath it, waiting to be read, or nothing. There is no visual affordance that there’s anything there for me to engage with.

Finger Positions for Touchscreens (August)
When it comes to touchscreen devices, we’re not making the best use of our fingers.

What is a Device? (August)
For tens of thousands of years, humans have used objects to augment our reality. We employ tools to do what we can’t do easily with our own bodies, to change our environment, and to reason through problems. Our devices are no different, only more powerful, with the ability to transform activities, spaces, even entire cities

Everything I’ve Ever Learned About Giving Design Critiques I Learned from Tim Gunn (November)
I went through two years of studio critiques while getting my Master’s degree in design, and have been through dozens of them in the five years since then, but I can honestly say I’ve learned more about how to appropriately give design criticism from Tim Gunn, one of the hosts of the US television show Project Runway.

Why You Want (But Won’t Like) A Minority Report-style Interface (November)
Gestural interfaces show us how little of the body we actually use when interacting with the digital world. The Wii and Kinect, as Minority Report did, show us there are other ways of doing our tasks that can be more engaging, more physical. After all, who wouldn’t want to sweep their arm in front of a giant screen to open a folder? It’s like magic, and makes the simple mouse click or even finger tap seem dull. If nothing else, Minority Report-style interfaces cause us to think more expansively about what an interface could or should be, how we could be interacting with our devices and environments.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention probably the most popular article I ever wrote (although there wasn’t much writing involved): Essential Interaction Design Essays and Articles (September), which spun off the even better resource, The Interaction Design Library.

Happy reading, and see you in 2011!

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