It is tiny houses all the way down…

People have been asking me about my downsizing, amazed that we would get rid of all our books, clothes and empty our living room of all the furniture. Their eyes get even bigger when I say we are looking to go from the 1000sq ft. home we are in now to something around 700. But that is nothing! It is still HUGE by comparison. Check out some of these inspiring people:

Gary Chang uses moving walls to turn his 344 sq ft. one room apartment into 24 rooms:

Alysha St.Germain moved into a tiny house (8 ft by 22ft) with her two kids

IKEA has been working on designing for small spaces. Check out this multi-function living room redesign:

From this you can see why my “small” house (by North American standards), with its two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and dining room, has hundreds of unnecessary square footage.

We moved back and forth between Canada and Japan half a dozen times in the past decade. We thought we were pretty lean in the “stuff” department already… alas! A dozen trips to goodwill last year proved me wrong. We have been downsizing our stuff in preparation for downsizing our space. We are still in the early stages of this journey.

Resources for Web and Mobile accessibility

Derek Wilson, a Career Development Practitioner with the Neil Squire Society, visited the Okanagan Developer’s Group yesterday to discuss with local devs accessibility online and on mobile. He gave us a demonstration of various assistive technologies such as VoiceOver and the Rotor on iPhone, and JAWS a popular (and expensive) screen reader application.

It was very enlightening to the designers and developers in the room, most who have never seen a visually impaired person use a computer, nevermind a touchscreen device.

I think it was enlightening for Derek as well. He got some insight into how real developers work, and was surprised that only one person in the room was a formally trained programmer (and his background was still unconventional, with much of his training in mathematical programming).

The fact that the web can work without knowing anything about standards is a boon to permissionless innovation, but a bane to users that require adherence to standards.

Below is a list of resources that Derek shared with the audience at OKDG to help them be more inclusive in their work. Follow him on Twitter @culturemate for more resources.

WAI Specs diagram


Other Resources



Videos and Audio

Screen Readers and the Web (YouTube)

See Web Accessibility Training Day, put on by The National Federation of the Blind Center of Excellence and the Maryland Technology Assistance Program. Below is a selection recommended by Derek. All links to the MP3 files are on the NFB site.

  • Accessibility: The Natural Outcome of Innovative and Inclusive Business, Eve Hill (Department of Justice)
  • Panel on Enterprise Implementation of Accessibility, Tony Olivero (Humana), Peter Wallack (Oracle), Steve Sawczyn (Deque)
  • Panel on Education Implementation of Accessibility, Kara Zirkle (George Mason University), Janna Cameron (Desire2Learn), Cheryl Pruitt, Susan Cullen (California State University)
  • The Trusted Tester Program, Bill Peterson (Department of Homeland Security)
  • PDF Accessibility in an Enterprise Setting, Shannon Kelly (Actuate)
  • HTML5 Accessible Design, Paul Bohman, Preety Kumar (Deque Systems)
  • Google MOOC Introduction to Web Accessibility, Louis Cheng (Google)

MLS FAIL: A tale of two many plugins

I wanted to hear MLS Commissioner Don Barber speak about BC Place but I ended up getting a terribly unhelpful message to install Flash, with no fall back. Not very good design at all. So I fired up Chrome to watch the video only to be denied again! A plugin inside of another plugin?! I thought they were just careless in their disregard for UX, now I see they are deliberate in their attempts to make torture users. The truly funny (terrible?) thing is, all of these videos are available through their iPhone app! They already have created h.264 fallback content but are not using it!

The HIG is undead

Yesterday’s was a great episode of Hypercritical by @siracusa about Apple’s (lack of) UI consistency. This topic struck a cord with me as someone who spends their days teaching new computer users.

As a teacher, my gut reaction is to hate apps that do not follow the HIG.

I understand Tog‘s argument about GUI quote-unquote “bandwidth” which has expanded enormously over the past 25 years. However, it still isn’t ubiquitous. There are still a lot of new users. We could generalize and say something terrible like “It’s all just old people, so the problem solves itself” but that isn’t true. It is estimated that only 2 billion people are using personal computers. UI patterns are important. I don’t think anyone would deny that. I would further argue that it is still too early to abandon standardized UI elements. The “bandwidth” isn’t there yet. There is still value in the HIG, at least in low-level, system-wide contexts.

That said, I think the iPhone and iPad might accelerate the abandonment of standardized UI elements. But first, I must digress.

Computers are not machines. I mean that in a mechanical sense. You cannot punch a few buttons and pull a lever and have the same output produced time after time. Computers are problem-solving devices. Everything depends on context. That is why step-by-step lists of instructions fail so often. Problem-solving tools and concepts are key (cf. Tog’s point of recognizing differently shaped houses). Every day computing is an exercise in problem-solving.

To return to iOS: when 3rd party apps were released I was appalled at all the crazy interaction metaphors that were being used. Every app is different! Talk about ignoring the HIG. However, limitations due to form factor and capability constrain the types of things that can be done. Even though iOS UI conventions are pretty loose people can make sense of it. And much quicker than they do on regular computers. This is brilliant because they can take these skills to their desktops and figure out what is going on there.

iOS devices are giving people the right problem-solving skills that will help navigate other UIs, hastening the demise of things like the HIG. Also, think about the future of mobile devices in markets overseas where traditional PCs are not accessible. That is class of new user that could benefit from not being saddled with HIG-encumbered historical expectations like we have.

In the end, the HIG is just a guide, shambling along. I agree with John’s argument that it is there to serve in situations where a better UI pattern cannot be executed. I think it should be adhered to for basic, system-wide functionality for the benefit of new users, but abandoned when a more effective alternative is possible.