On the usability of number pads

Computer number pad with the number 7 in the top left.

I'm not thick. I know it doesn't sound like much of a boast, but I'm pretty competent at this whole adulting lark. But it appeared that I had forgotten a 4 digit number I'd set up less than a minute ago! The security guard smiled wearily at me, "It happens to everyone!" She said. Which, […]

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Just use QWERTY!

Photo of the Channel 4 search screen.

The QWERTY layout is, I grant you, an illogical mess. I'm happy to hear your arguments that Dvorak is the one true way. Or that Colemak is several percent faster. But QWERTY is a standard now. Everyone uses it on their laptops and phones. It is used everywhere. Except, it turns out, streaming services. They […]

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Zero Interfaces

R2D2 interfaceing with the Death Star.

The best gadget I got in lockdown was a set of motion activated lights. They have no user interface. I walk by them in the dark and they turn on. Midnight piss? No fumbling for a light switch, no shouting to a digital assistant, no logging in to an app. Simple. I love it. It […]

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Whatever Happened to UI Affordances?

Default share panel with only a few options visible.

I am grumpy. As my very clever wife summarised, I hate when designers prioritise their æsthetic preferences over my usability needs. I tried sharing a website using Google Chrome for Android. I hit the share button, and a panel popped-up from the bottom of the screen. Hmmm. It didn't have the share destination that I […]

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⩵ != ==

Lots of mechanical fingers typing on a complicated keyboard.

One of the frustrating things about computers is their limited input options. A "standard" PC keyboard only has about 100 keys. Sure, some have some bonus buttons for controlling the machine, but it is becoming clear that there simply aren't enough buttons to efficiently program computers. Most programming languages have the concept of relational operators. […]

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Event Horizon's crappy UI

A tablet computer.

Remember schlocky 1990s splatter film "Event Horizon"? No, me neither. But lockdown has us exhausting our supply of Sci-Fi movies, so we rewatched it. Anyway, I found some bugs! I'm a big fan of the Sci Fi Interfaces blog. It details the Human Computer Interaction design of the imagined future. It has primed me to […]

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Proximity is a key indicator of function

A bathroom sink. The taps are on the opposite site of the sink to the faucet

I walked into an unfamiliar toilet recently. You've probably done the same, looking around to find the stalls, work out whether the driers are near the sinks, if there's soap available. I was completely taken aback when I saw this monstrosity of a sink. It's well known that we Brits love our separate hot and […]

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How should couples handle joint email addresses?

Terence and Liz in front of Lasers at emfcamp.

For years, my email address was registered with our electricity supplier. I got the monthly bills sent to me. My wife's email was used for the water supplier. This made sense when we were a young couple with separate finances - but now we're a smug an old married couple, with a joint bank account, […]

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The "Make Everything Better" Button

A hand-drawn iPhone. In the middle is a single button which says "Make Everything Better".

Back when I used to help people design mobile phone apps, I would talk about the platonic ideal of an app. It's quite simple and effective. You press the button in the middle of your screen - and it makes everything better! You push that button and a taxi arrives, or a pizza is delivered, […]

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A grumpy look at using a Yubico Neo NFC on Ubuntu & Android

YubiKey Neo - a thumb sized USB device - on cardboard backing

Twenty One. I have 21 accounts which use Two-Factor Authentication. I use the Authy app to manage them all, but it is still a pain to scroll through and find the exact 2FA token I need. Encouraged by my friend Tom Morris's blog post, I picked up a YubiKey NEO for £50. It implements the […]

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