Putting lipstick on a bulldog

“You can put lipstick on a bulldog, but you still won’t want to kiss it.”

 I’m struggling to find the source of this quote. First heard it in one of the four Human-Computer Interaction lectures I managed to show up for.

It refers to the familiar scenario of styling a poorly designed system – even though the fonts and colours are nice, it’s still a piece of shit to use, and users fall out of love with it very quickly.

Not sure if my uni meant to put lecture notes online, but if anyone’s interested in a free skim of private education, here’s a semester’s worth of HCI slides and labs:


Things to know about people

To get ready for an upcoming project, I’ve been reading up on user psychology. Thought you might fancy a couple (3) tidbits from my studying:

 People remember only four things at once.

 An urban legend from the 50’s suggests we can remember up to “seven, plus or minus two” items at a time. Since then, science has discovered that we actually only remember FOUR.

So what? – When presenting people with figures, options, stats – any kind of info – keep it down to four items.

People tell what to do with an object based on how it looks.

 Mug handles, squishy buttons, fingerholes in scissors – all of these things invite you to put your hands on them in a certain way, which naturally leads to appropriate ways to use objects. Think of how stupid it is to have a handle on a door that says ‘push’.

So what? – Make buttons look pushable, use shading or highlighting to show an object is selected or active, consider how your hover effects could be better represented on touchscreen devices.

People become addicted to seeking information.

 The dopamine and opioid systems in your brain work together to make you seek out pleasure, then feel satisfied when you get it. We also then learn how we can get more pleasure, so dopamine kicks in again to make us seek some more. When it comes to deriving pleasure from information, our brains find it increasingly harder to stop checking Twitter, Facebook, email, online shopping and research sites.

So what? – Make it easy for users to seek small bits of information, then reward them when they get it. This trains them to seek some more. This is how shitty games like Farmville become addictive.

That’s it for now. All of these tidbits came from my favourite schoolbook atm, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People.

The eyeballing game

Another game for you guys. 🙂

The eyeballing game – http://woodgears.ca/eyeball/index.html

It’s a test of your spatial processing – how well you can ‘guess’ at lines and shapes using just your eyes and mouse hand.

The best designers I’ve known have super accurate, near pixel-perfect vision – they draw circles freehand, bisect angles without a protractor, tell you when a painting is crooked…

If you’re good at this game, I’m guessing you’re the sort who aligns beer coasters at the pub. 🙂

Inattention blindness – or “not seeing wtf is going on”

‘Inattention blindness’ is the user’s inability to see wtf is going on right in front of them.

It’s not because users are stupid, it’s more we get distracted and lose the ability to sense change around us.

Take this test and see for yourself –

You may have seen it before – in which case, hold off on the responses so first-timers can count without bias. 😉