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Designing Virtual Realism—Dan Rubin

Dan is a highly accomplished user interface designer and usability consultant, with over ten years of experience as a leader in the fields of web standards and usability, specifically focusing on the use of XHTML and CSS to streamline development and improve accessibility.

His passion for all things creative and artistic isn’t a solely selfish endeavor either–you’ll frequently find him waxing educational about a cappella jazz and barbershop harmony, interface design, usability, web standards, typography, and graphic design in general.

Pretty much Dan rocked - after attending lots and lots of web conferences one gets a little sick of designers that are total purists - holding design up as a "higher calling" - Rubin's approach (if a humble hack can be so bold as to precis a 50 minutes presentation) is that design is all about user outcomes. A nice example he gave was a picture of a door handle that, rather than being a pull handle, was a push one. People brains are used to working a certain way - if we've been pulling door handles all our lives, a push handle will simply confound users.

He drilled into some specific design cues - things like digital simulations of classic amplifiers that recreated the switchs, knobs and dials of the originals. He looked at fine details in terms of drop shadows, depth, gradients and pixelisation. He discussed styling cues of web applications and specific example of well executed sites. But at the end of the day my takeaway was that he really talked aesthetic psychology - or that was the take my coffee-addled brain took from it. As Andrew Hedges said in a great tweet;

Aesthetic usability effect = Attractive things work better

I'll drink a glass of water to that (out of a fantastically designed, aethetically pleasing and intuitive to use bottle of Waiwera Water)