August 26, 2004

Design Quote of the Day

"One who walks in another's tracks leaves no footprints."
- Proverb

Innovation creates "footprints" and is good.

Standards and conventions are necessary, because not all footprints are innovative, valuable, or pretty to look at.

August 24, 2004

Design Quote of the Day

"We are half ruined by conformity, but we should be wholly ruined without it."
- Charles Dudley Warner

Laws and rules stink...but without them we'd have anarchy.

A recent example of where lack of standards created a crisis was the now infamous butterfly ballot in the 2000 U.S. Presidential election. Usability professionals are working to establish standards and recommendations to avoid similar confusion in the future.
Around the World in 80 Clicks

An article by Lisa Battle and Duane Degler written in 2001 has some nice discussion about considerations when designing for international user groups.

Some of the considerations discussed include:
- Language
- Time
- Cultural expectations
- Metaphor and representation
- The user's locale

If you're thinking about internationalization (I18N), globalization, or translation, you should read this over.

The article was originally published in Performance Improvement (EPSS Special Edition), a Journal published by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)

August 23, 2004

How much does language affect how you think?

A fascinating story called Life without numbers in a unique Amazon tribe on the Globe and Mail site boggles the mind. It talks about an Amazon tribe that has no concept of numbers, no words for colors, and many other cultural characteristics that most civilized people would plainly call "strange."

"Adult Piraha apparently can't learn to count or understand the concept of numbers or numerals, even when they asked anthropologists to teach them and have been given basic math lessons for months at a time.

...the Piraha are the only people known to have no distinct words for colours.

...They have no written language, and no collective memory going back more than two generations.

...They have no creation myths, tell no fictional stories and have no art. All of their pronouns appear to be borrowed from a neighbouring language.

...Linguists and anthropologists who have seen both the Everett and Gordon studies are flabbergasted by the tribe's strangeness, particularly since the Piraha have not lived in total isolation.

The tribe, which lives on a tributary river to the Amazon, has been in contact with other Brazilians for 200 years and regularly sells nuts to, and shares their women with, Brazilian traders who stop by."

The story raises the question of whether or not the inability to describe something prevents you from thinking about it. I think that's a very plausible theory.