Folda Lisa

The Mona Lisa, made up using folders in different shades of yellow and brown
Found via Certified Bullshit Technician.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Building Apps People Need (and are willing to pay for)

If you’ve taken a psychology course or have leafed through a user experience book, you’ve probably come across a diagram of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: from top to bottom -- 1. Self-actualization (Personal growth an fulfillment) / 2. Ego/Esteem (Achievement, status, reputation) / 3. Social (Belongingness, love, family, relationships) / 4. Safety (Protection, security, order, stability) / 5. Physical (Food, shelter, warmth, sleep)

Dan Zambonini of the web development shop Box UK took some inspiration from it and wrote an article titled Web App Business Models: User Needs and What People Pay For. In it, he writes:

As customers, we have a finite number of needs that we’re willing to fulfill by parting with our hard-earned cash. If you’re planning a web application that can’t build a business model around one or more of these needs, you may face difficulties generating sustainable revenue.

He breaks down people’s needs into the following categories, with an explanation of each one:

He also looks at how much people are willing to have different needs fulfilled. For example, people are willing to pay geometrically increasing prices for increasing comfort. Consider the 15x price difference between “cattle class” and first-class tickets on an airplane (even though both depart and arrive at the same times), or the 27x price difference between a bargain-basement pillow and a down-filled one:

Charts showing geometrically rising prices of increased comfort (economy/premium economy/business/first class plane seats and basic fibre/duck down/goose down pillows)

Entertainment, on the other hand, is a different beast. According to Zambonini, across the wide array of entertainment options from games for their mobile phones to vacations in the tropics, people are willing to pay the same rate: $5 an hour…

Chart showing linear scaling of entertainment prices

He categorized the top 100 U.S. sites by the needs he listed — here’s how they break down:

Pie chart showing breakdown of top 100 US websites by needs fulfilled: Entertainment (30%), Wealth (20%), Education (14%), Esteem (11%), Time (10%), Belonging (6%), Survival (6%), Comfort (2%), Scarcity (1%)

Naturally, such categorization is subjective and had to be drastically simplified, with each site being slotted into a single category. Sites about food were put into the “survival” category, even though a top 100 site on food would probably cover things like gourmet food and wine, which could arguably be put into the “entertainment”, “comfort” and even “esteem” categories.

He closes the article with a series of questions that you should ask about your application, such as “Does my app allow the user to do something more quickly?”, “Does my app allow the user to express their creativity?”, “Does my app provide entertainment for the user?” and so on. Your should be able to answer “yes” to at least one of these questions, and better still, you should be able to explain why.


This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Qixing’s Big Move

Good Luck, Qixing!

QIxing Zheng in her TechDays 2009 orange speaker shirt

We may be losing a User Experience Evangelist, but I think we’ll get a great Windows 8 in return. Qixing Zheng, who’s been with Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Evangelism team for the past three years, is leaving to join the Windows UX Team as a Program Manager. While I saw firsthand that she enjoyed her work as a UX Evangelist, talking to developers and designers about building usable, comprehensible and beautiful applications, joining the Windows UX Team is the opportunity of a lifetime. After all, how often are you given the chance to design something that will get used all the time by millions of people, all over the world, at work, play and in their day-to-day lives?

Qixing’s been the sole writer for the Canadian UX Connection blog during her tenure. She posted her farewell article, A New Year and a New Beginning, on January 1st, but don’t think that’s the last you’ve seen of her online. She promises that she’ll be blogging soon – she’ll let us know where, and I’ll let you know in turn. In the meantime, you can follow her on Twitter, where her handle is @hundredflavour.

What About User Experience?

Windows 3.1, as seen using the garish yellow and red "Hot Dog Stand" colour scheme

While I’m glad that Qixing is going to be applying her skills and knowledge to Windows’ user interfaces, there remains the need for someone to help developers, designers and people who play both roles build useful, usable and beautiful interfaces, applications and experiences. This is becoming even more important as mainstream software development extends beyond the desktop OS to the web, mobile phones, tablets and even big-ass tables.

I’m planning to pick up some of the slack in the tech blogs where I write, Canadian Developer Connection and Global Nerdy. In addition to articles on programming, industry trends and reports from the field, I’ll also be posting articles about usability, user interface and user experience, as seen from the developer’s point of view. I’ve had some experience in this area, and where my skills and knowledge fall short, I can always call on my “friends in UI places” and bring their opinions and know-how to you.

Once again, congratulations Qixing, you’ve been a great teammate — and yes, we’ll keep evangelizing user experience!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


The “Spock, Paper, Scissors” T-Shirt

The T-shirt of the day at Tee Fury is sure to be a big hit fans of Star Trek and classic games. It’s the “Spock, Paper, Scissors” shirt:

Powder blue and slate versions of the "Spock, Paper, Scissors" T-shirt

Here’s a closer look at the design:

Close-up of the design: hand-drawn illustrations of Mr. Spock, a sheet of line 3-hole paper and a pair of scissors

The shirt sells for US$9 plus shipping. It comes in two versions:

  • Men’s: Slate blue, in sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL
  • Women’s: Powder blue, in sizes S, M, L, XL

If you want it, you’ve got until the end of the day today (Monday, January 4th) to place an order. Once the day ends, Tee Fury will retire the design from production.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.