A little too simple?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending time in several bookshops, just browsing. One of the stores I visited was Kinokuniya, in George St. It’s a great store (if at times a little over-priced), with a huge range of books. But because the shop is so large, they try and help shoppers with a touch-screen kiosk that searches for your book, and prints out a map of where the book is located (if it’s in stock).

Kinokuniya kiosk

As you can see, it’s a very simple interface. In fact, this is the second screen. The first screen lets you choose what items you want to search on, author name, book title, etc. And the results are very accurate. But this screen in particular, while it may look simple enough, it’s perhaps a little too simple. Why?

Yes, Qwerty layouts might not be as optimised for performance as Dvorak’s, but it’s what we know.

Standard Qwerty Layout
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

I put it to you, that when presented with a keyboard-esque layout for entering text, our brains, which are now so used to the standard qwerty layout, have great difficulty swapping to the unrelated visual order of the Kinokuniya interface. Sure, it’s simple, but it’s been overly simplified.

Did I miss something?
Funny enough the thing I missed – which you might have on first glance as well – is the button “PC Keyboard mode”. Sorry, but im not using this kiosk to set my personalised options – there is no ubicomp going on here, I just want to search for a book. So as far as im concerned, my brain is like “this button doesnt even exist”. Especially when im standing on an angle to the screen, AND my focus is on the keyboard, and not in the bottom right corner.

While the time difference between using Qwerty or not wouldn’t be measured even in minutes, it just bugs me they dont use Qwerty by default, AND that I have to choose to use it. I dont want to have to learn another layout. Ive already got to deal with mobile phones, pda, dvd’s, security locks… my brain just wants to enjoy the browsing experience. I want to find a book.

Interestingly, I initially had the same reaction (but for different reasons) to the use of the Qwerty layout on the iPhone.

iPhone qwerty
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

After using Nokia mobile devices for such a long time, with their predictive text and limited 12 button interface, I thought that using the qwerty layout for sms was too complicated, and perhaps it is (I haven’t had a chance to really play with the SMS capabilities of the iPhone – not having one of my own!!), but at least Apple didn’t attempt to come up with a new layout.

The Kinokuniya kiosk may be helpful, but from an interface design point of view, I find it ignores the user and their use-case. It is (for want of a better term) undesigned. And although undesign can be found everywhere and is a legitimate approach to interface design, ignore the user at your own peril!

Clever, but tasteless…

Found around the Pyrmont area, these Lost signs are actually subversive advertising for the new dating website Meet My Friend.


And while it certainly catches your eye (which I guess is the whole point), it stretches the friendship when you realise that it’s not some poor sod whose gone missing, but some start-up looking for clients. It seems I’m not the only one who feels this way either.

It’s the name of the game I guess. Illicit a reaction from the viewer, in the hope that they will tell their friends what they saw. Increase brand awareness at minimal cost. Viralness. And if you look it at it from that point of view, it certainly works. After all, im blogging about it, so it got me talking/thinking/reacting didn’t it?

However, beside the fact im married, this kind of advertising would not lead me to actually use the service. If this kind of guerrilla campaign turns people 50/50, then id be in the camp that get turned away, not towards. My 2 cents.

Earth Hour

At work we just went live with a project for Earth Hour, which began it’s life in Sydney as a 1 hour event where everyone turns their lights off – including big business. Well, this year, it’s going global. Spread the word!


For those interested in the technology, we used RoR and Radiant.

Wedding Day Gallery

OK, so I’ve been a little slack of late (try the last 6 months!!) posting anything not related to my personal life… and indeed it’s something i’ll try and remedy, but in the mean time, here’s a link to some photos of my big day (can you believe it’s nearly 6 weeks ago?!). This is by no means a complete set of photos, and if anyone out there has more and would like to share them with me, please drop me a line.

October 6, 2007. Daniel & Ailin’s Wedding Day

Footnote, For those interested in the technology, I’ve used the awesomely simple Simple Viewer to handle the preview – I would have made my own, but time is a premium at the moment. If you plan on using it yourself, the only thing to remember is to not have too many photos in the one gallery. At least in the free version it will try and load them all up into memory.

That is all.

Kia Ora from (sometimes) sunny Paihia

Hey all, well we have been in NZ now for 4 days, and we are nearly completely relaxed!

We spent the first night in New Zealand in the Langham Hotel in Auckland – swanky to say the least. Bath robes were the order of the day, and later in the evening we headed out to High St for a beatiful dinner at Vivace. Prices were more expensive than we’d anticipated, but my lamb shanks were the envy of everyone! They practically melted in your mouth. Delicious!

We spent a third of the second day driving to Paihia, located in the Bay of Islands, along the top north east coast of the north island. The drive was at times windy and sub-tropical, but Ailin is a fantastic driver and we arrived (after a few detours) to our resort ready to relax.

And you know you are on holidays when the biggest decision of each day is what time you will head down to the restaurant for breakfast, whether lunch will include one wine or two, and where to have dinner :)

Today (thursday… we think) we went to a Glow Worm cave in Waiomio, just a half hour drive south of Paihia, which is home to about 12,000 tiny bright spots of light. At times they were so close you could touch them, although this of course is strictly forbidden :) We also went to the famouse Kawakawa toilet block designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. A very creative loo… it moved Ailin in very special ways!!!

Anyway, tomorrow is our spa treatment and then on Saturday we will head a bit further north to discover something else… who knows what, but it will be fun finding out!!

Photos to come when we get home.

Ailin & Dan

(ps, the Global Gossip here isn’t using our designs yet – at least not all of them!!)

We’re Married!




More pictures coming shortly!

Interactive billboard

This is something I’ve not seen before, at least not in Sydney. In Pitt St Mall, NAB (a bank in Australia) have erected a billboard on the back of a public telephone, that invites users to interact with it.

all, thumb

I probably paid closer attention to it than I usually would, as one of my colleagues at work is currently completing his final semester at UTS, and his project (titled Poster 2.0), while not necessarily directed at the advertising industry, certainly touches (boom boom) on the concept of display systems that are designed specifically to be interacted with. From that point of view, I was intrigued to see how others in the mall would deal with this very unassuming interactive piece.

The premise

The billboard is setup like a public survey. There is an area where a yes/no question is put to the public, a tally is displayed, and interactin sought (vvia a simple yes/no touch device below). The results are displayed instantly, and the tag-line is “Live life at a great rate.”

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I watched as several people took at least a minute or two to come to grips with the concept. More than half didn’t get it – that is, they stared, waiting for something to change. Obviously the invite wasn’t clear enough for them. One guy did eventually pluck up the courage to engage, and as soon as he chose “Yes” to the question “Have you ever lost money in Vegas”, the billboard updated the count, and he had a bit of a chuckle, and walked off. Result? Not sure…

all, thumb


I don’t completely understand the communication of the Billboard. Take for example the following : “Have you ever lost money in Vegas : No (see below).” And then below : “Live life at a great rate.” Is this suggesting that only those people who haven’t lost money before are the ones that NAB want as customers? (The yes’s were more than the no’s when I was there…) I also wonder how much effort is going into placing and maintaining this billboard, vs how much actual new customers NAB are actually going to get. Perhaps, though, this is not the purpose of this sort of interface – is it’s job is merely to engage?

I did enjoy the subtlety of the display however – it didn’t initially jump out and grab you, it made you look twice, and even made you try and understand it – that sort of brand time is definitely worth something, though I don’t know how you quantify it.

Anyway, interesting regardless – and I think something that will become more and more common given time.