Category Archives: usability

I <3 Alfred app

In my free time, I’m an Apple geek. This means that new OS X users come to me and ask me about essential apps for their shiny new Mac. After explaining to them that there is Microsoft Office for Mac and that they should chat using Adium, I try to sell them on idea of App launcher. Currently my tool of choice is Alfred App. I love it because it has a great personality, design and it works great (in that order).

It’s a helper app so you often don’t think about it, it’s just a quick Ctrl+Space away. After todays update, I’ve clicked around the preferences and discovered this gem:

They keep track of usage for me. Data geek in me is thrilled about this and I now also have a new argument for newbie OS X features – it’s that great that I run it on average 36.8 times a day!

Does your app give me such a great chart to share?

OmniGraffle 5 Diagramming Essentials book review

Guys at Packt Publishing were kind enough to send me a copy of their OmniGraffle 5 Diagramming Essentials book by Ruben Olsen to review, as I’ve written about OmniGraffle a couple of times and use it regularly.

While the book claims that it’s intended audience is everyone from novice to a pro. I’ve found it more suitable for novices that prefer to learn through user manual instead of exploring the real application and Googling for more complex solutions. The book covers all the parts of OmniGraffle, from creating basic diagrams, stencils, shapes and advanced editing tools. While I was familiar with most of the content in the book, the in-depth instructions with great screenshots still presented a few new tricks inside the application that I didn’t know that I miss – until now. Since OmniGraffle is available both in basic and Pro editions, they make sure to clearly mark if a feature is specific to Pro version.

If you have experience you’ll get through first two-thirds of  349 pages pretty quickly. The last third has best content, where author explains how to create great looking diagrams and organize your work as your files grow bigger. This is the point where I found a few aha moments as I didn’t even think to lookup advanced ruler and shape settings. There’s even a chapter on all the keyboard shortcuts that you can use, which while might sound geeky is something I’m definitely planning to learn in-depth to save time.

I’m not a big fan of books that basically cover all functions of user interface. That is why I appreciate example projects through which author shows how exactly are they useful for rapid prototyping of iPhone user interface or for creating boring workflow diagrams. I use OmniGraffle mostly for wire-framing, so creating a complex workflow diagram was something I always had problems with. The book explained all the possibilities and shortcuts nicely and even learned that it can create ideal distribution of objects on canvas for you.

If you care about your OmniGraffle skills check out their example chapter – Making your Diagram look good, which is one the best chapters in the book and very much suitable for pro users as well.

Overall, the book delivers on the promise – a bit for everyone and you can pick it up as a complete novice or if you’re a pro. I would recommend it to people who feel that they need to have a manual next to their application. If you’re a pro you’ll probably Google advanced topics as you need them as you already know most of the book.

Official page for OmniGraffle 5 Diagramming Essentials book.

I would also like to encourage Packt Publishing to figure out how to deliver their content to Kindle. I’ve read a few technical books on a Kindle while commuting and it was a real pain to get iPad just so I could read their digital PDF. Why not go with paper version? I’ve discovered that I can read Kindle version of a book in a week, that it took me a month for a paper version.

The great OK/Cancel button dilemma

Today I created a simple web form. So simple indeed that it has only three design elements:

Turquoise Ceramic Buttons
Image by panavatar via Flickr
  • input field
  • OK button, in this case labeled “Save”
  • Cancel button

Since I’m always confused about the order of OK  - Cancel buttons (you, should it be OK / Cancel or Cancel / OK), I checked a few dialogs around my OS X and they all read Cancel / OK.

I personally prefer the second option, as I usually like to confirm my dialog boxes and it’s much easier to hit OK in down right corner vs. finding the item next to it.

Second choice it’s probably that I’m brainwashed from seeing this choice all the time on my Mac.

After showing my choices to the person in charge, I got the obvious feedback: “Reverse the Cancel / OK button”.

Fine! (I change the button order and go looking in various HIG documents).

Here are results:

Apple’s HIG states:

Always put the action button in the bottom-right corner of the alert. This is the button that completes the action that the user initiated before the alert was displayed. [ed. note: this would make it Cancel / OK]

GNOME’s HIG states:

Show a Cancel button that will prevent authentication and close the alert. Place this button to the immediate left of the OK or equivalent button. [ed. note: this would make it Cancel / OK]

Place command buttons that apply to all property pages at the bottom of the property window. Right-align the buttons and use this order (from left to right): OK, Cancel, and Apply. [ed. note: this makes it OK / Cancel]
KDE’s HIG doesn’t state anything (or at least I couldn’t find it), but it seems that it standardizes on OK / Cancel.
So here we have two camps. The OK / Cancel one is clearly bigger because of the whole Windows platform using this convention. I’ll leave out different argumentations out of this document, as it’s kind of a holy war between certain UX factions.
Interesting thing with this issue is that it doesn’t matter, as long as you standardize. Nobody managed to measure any difference as long as it was the same across the whole environment.
But what to do in case of Web applications, where you can’t standardize the whole Internet? Jakob Nielsen thinks that you should go with the option that is natural to more of your users.
At the end of the day, this translates to use OK / Cancel as majority of your users will probably be on Windows or KDE, unless you’re running some kind of OS specific niche site. Even then you should only switch if you’re working for OS X crowd as you can’t really know Window Manager usage distribution of your users.
What about you? Do you OK / Cancel or Cancel / OK things? Or are you just constantly twitching because that OK never feels right?
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OmniGraffle stencils

UX community in Slovenia is slowly waking up, even though this might just mean I had lunch with @mitjamavsar. The discussion evolved around tools for wireframing and prototyping. Since I’m a happy mac user I pitched for OmniGraffle as it had something that’s a killer feature for me – great stencil community.

What’s a stencil? It’s a small sprite that can be reused in your OmniGraffle documents so you don’t have to reinvent UI elements every time  you need them.

Graffletopia - UI elements overload
Graffletopia - UI elements overload

While there are almost too much stencils on the page, one set stands out on its own. Yahoo! Design team Wireframe stencil kit.

Yahoo! Design Stencil Kit
Yahoo! Design Stencil Kit

It’s available for OmniGraffle, Visio and in more traditional vector formats like PDF, PNG and SVG. If you take a look at only one stencil library this month, let this be the one.

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