Better experience for The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest

In this case study I take a look at how playing the New Yorker cartoon caption contest could be improved to support wider participation and better overall experience.

Summary

To begin with the end – here’s my design:

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We’ve gotta have it | Autocomplete is now expected

In our everyday digital travels, we grow accustomed to certain patterns and interactions.  Best practices evolve quickly.  As soon as there’s a better way to do something, it becomes the norm.  The UX bar is only raised over time – never lowered.

With millions and BILLIONS of consumers now expecting great design and user experience, getting even a small detail wrong can be a problem.

Here’s an example of how a seemingly tiny design issue actually makes a noticeable difference in everyday usability.

When giants awaken | Adobe enters interactive prototyping market with Project Comet

If you’re a designer or product manager you’ve no doubt been enjoying the explosion of new interactive prototyping tools like Atomic, Principle, InVision, and Axure in recent years.  All of these products make it easy to rapidly prototype and share interactive designs for any screen size.

In the old days, we used static wireframing in tools like Photoshop or Visio.  To convey the concepts of motion and interaction, which were crucial to how the final product would work for users, we had to notate a lot and show a storyboard of states: “Click this here, and this happens next over here.”  While this approach worked, it could be unwieldy for lots of different screens.  And it never gave you the actual experience being designed.  We were still working in flatland, and you had to imagine how the final app or site would actually feel.

Adobe Project Comet

2015: The year of the interactive prototype

Will 2015 stand out as the year interactive prototyping tools became a standard part of design?

Some of these aids have been around for a while. But all of a sudden they are everywhere. There’s a major picks and shovels gold rush on to create the latest must-have accessory for digital designers. And these are not your grandparents’ Visio.

A touch of the artist | iPhone’s cross platform back button

Great products never stop evolving.  But new features don’t always need trumpets and fireworks to roll out.  They can appear quietly, unannounced.  If they’re intuitive, no directions are needed.  People start using them, and they work.

There’s a nice example of this on the iPhone. I don’t recall what version of iOS brought us this little gem, but I have only recently started using it.  It’s the ability to go back, after tapping on a notification, to where you were.

In the rustic Methow Valley, the latest responsive web design

If you’re a fan of Washington’s Methow Valley, one of the reasons you probably go there is to “get away from it all”. As Seattle and the rest of the planet grows and grows, this beautiful North Cascades drainage along the Methow River, and particularly the upper area around the “town” of Mazama, is like the land that time (or at least the developer’s shovel) forgot.

Partly that’s because it’s a long way from anywhere and hard to get to. But human vision has also played a part keeping the Methow grand. If you’re familiar with over developed western valleys elsewhere, you may be a bit shocked when you see the Methow for the first time and realize what could have been in those other places. Clearly something is different here.

But while this east side valley may be quiet and unbuilt, the local technology is anything but quaint. Businesses are becoming more sophisticated in their online presence. Marketing and tourism are all important to this remote economy, and the way you reach your people is primarily in the virtual realm.  For more and more of us, that means on mobile phones.  And a good mobile experience usually means responsive design.