Google Analytics Call to Action Trips Me Up

Access analyticsGoogle analytics login is like no other Google app. It always takes me a minute to figure out how to sign in. Every other Google app offers login on the top level page with a submit button: "Sign In." Below the login, there is a call to action (big blue button) to "Create Account" or "Get Started." Analytics, on the other hand, offers a text link to "Sign up" and the call to action button, "Access Analytics" takes you to the login. Access analytics? Couldn’t it at least say "Login?" How about just following the login design of every other Google app?

Google Apps Login Areas

Using PicoCrickets to Teach Debugging

P.I.C.O. Cricket program for a purring catWe ran into trouble yesterday trying to make a cat meow when left in the dark. The cat was a PicoCricket, a programmable kit for making creations that move, make sounds, and light up based on inputs like touch, sound, and light. We were trying to make a cat that purrs when it’s dark, but the thing purred no matter the light conditions. I did not plan it, but it turned into a good debugging exercise for my daughters (ages 10 and 12). The image on the left shows the program with which we began, which was running in concert with a similar program (stack of blocks) to make the cat’s collar light up. (This is one of the sample projects sent with the kit.) The program on the left basically instructs as follows: "Keep doing the following: if the sensor is picking up light at a brightness of less than 20, then play the sound of a kitten." ("20" what, I am not sure.)

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What Kind of Community Do We Want to Create?

In his opening keynote at the Information Architecture Summit 2009, cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch, of Kansas State University, asked the room of user experience designers: “How can we create an environment that creates the kind of community and the kind of people we want?” It’s arguably self-aggrandizing to think we are engineering types of people, however Wesch, and later Jesse James Garrett, reminded us of McLuhan’s observation: “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

While the Facebook timesink is beloved for the community and connections it helps us maintain, the constant vacuous quizzes are a vexing reminder of its lack of avenues for creativity. Wesch noted that “We are most creative when we let go of identity.” Demonstrating identity is one of the strongest intrinsic values of most social networking sites (SNSs). In creativity-focused sites (deviantArt, Flickr, MySpace) pseudonyms (an alternate persona or ‘alt’) are more common than on sites where real identity is the main focus (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook). Social networking sites also must negotiate a balance between enforcing social norms and supporting individual freedom.

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What Keeps You From Blogging?

I found symmetry in the kick-off and closure of the Information Architecture (IA) Summit 2009. I asked Indi Young, author of Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior, for advice for UX Designers tending their careers. Young suggested:

  1. Be a strong persuader
  2. Be able to form and articulate opinions quickly, and believe in those opinions
  3. Write

On the final afternoon of the conference, Young’s encouragement to nurture confidence was echoed by Whitney Hess’ inspirational presentation, Evangelizing All of Us: You Can’t Change the World if No One Knows Your Name. Hess challenged the non-bloggers in the room to talk with her about why they are not publishing their writing.

I imagined that discussion, and realized that it’s not that I don’t have anything new and useful to say, but rather that I’m out of the habit of critical thought. How dismal. I put a premium on completing tasks, including reading a great deal, but not on taking time to develop my responses to the things I encounter.

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Video of Scripting Enabled Talks Available

Scripting Enabled conferenceScripting Enabled (hacking the web to be more accessible) began in 2008 as a two-day conference started by “developer evangelist” extraordinaire, Christian Heilmann. The first video and transcript of one of the September talks is now live: Denise Stephens on Multiple Sclerosis. Denise describes how her symptoms, and thus needs and abilities, change from day to day—from vision distortion to feeling like she’s “wearing Mickey Mouse gloves.” Denise encourages a universal design approach to account for the unpredictable nature of how the unknown visitor may be using and experiencing technology. While the goal is to create for the broadest possible need, Denise’s story is powerful and useful because it offers glimpses of actual problems she encounters. No matter what our abilities, planners and developers of technology must make it out business to hear as many such real stories as we can.