Archive: May, 2011

Larger web fonts and their appeal

Scanning through the rather gorgeous Gdgt redesign this week, I was impressed with its change in typography. The site uses Proxima Nova for its paragraph text, almost uniformly well above 12px, making reading comments and reactions on the site?s many gadgets easier to browse through. A bump in size also opens more opportunities for sizing variety within a single page, ranging from smaller 10px text for secondary sidebar information to large 16px text reserved for primary questions and notices. Overall, the typographic changes should deliver better usability and most likely generate far higher traffic.

Gdgt?s typographic change illustrates an important web design lesson: To improve the impact and readability of a text or information heavy web site, experiment with increasing the body text slightly. Try to move up from the common 10 to 12 pixel range to something larger, like 14 or 16px. It?s a practice many well designed sites are latching onto, especially in light of higher resolution displays and custom web fonts.

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Avoiding news overload: Delete and curate

With the relentless pace of news online where any one story is often covered by thousands if not millions of news sites, many of us are drowning in information. It?s a phenomenon that rang especially true during a lunch break this week: I was jumping between the New Yorker on my iPad, real time updates on the Google I/O conference from Twitter and video news clips on the BBC?s web site. After an hour of multitasking I felt over saturated; ironically it felt like I was taking a break from my lunch ?break? by returning back to project work.

To combat news overload, I like to stick with one simple rule: Get your news and information from as few sources as possible. Not using that news magazine app lately? Delete it. Haven?t read up lately from that one RSS feed? Unsubscribe. Have several websites that you check out each day yet their content overlaps heavily? Stop visiting all but one.

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Improving the PS3 user experience

Flipping on my PS3 this week, I was reminded of the system?s poor user interface. I wanted to watch some Netflix and make some system setting changes, but the setup was awkward and clinical, while also taking longer than expected. Ironically, those same characteristics could be applied to Sony?s tepid response to their recent massive Playstation Network (PSN) security breach.

That?s the thing about user interfaces; they reflect the priorities and values of their makers. Apple?s work is known for its visual simplicity and graceful lines. Twitter conveys freshness and a sense of whimsy. What about Sony? Other than favoring dark color schemes with pulsating icons and text, giving a vaguely generic, Euro-slick vibe, there isn?t anything that makes Sony?s UI stand out or be that approachable.

That?s exactly why a UI refresh is important, especially in light of Sony?s PSN debacle. An improved user experience can both help get the brand back on track and add differentiation from its competitors. I?ve got three suggestions for Sony: ditch the XMB, improve notifications of game and system updates, and emphasize large imagery and user avatars.

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