A scientist hires a down-on-his-luck riverboat captain as her guide on an Amazon adventure in Jungle Cruise, a forthcoming Disney film inspired by the classic Disneyland theme park ride. Yes, Disney’s ride-inspired films have largely been forgettable apart from the hugely successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And yes, the trailer does seem eerily similar to the 1999 film The Mummy in many respects, with a soupçon of Tomb Raider thrown in for good measure. It also looks like good old-fashioned escapist fare, a perfect summer offering.
Emily Blunt plays Lily Houghton, a scientist who is keen to locate the Tree of Life somewhere in the wilds of the Amazon. It’s purported to hold “unparalleled healing powers.” She’s already located a mysterious arrowhead she believes is the key to unlocking those powers, and now she just has to find the tree. Her younger brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall) accompanies her on the mission, and they hire a colorful riverboat captain, Frank (Dwayne Johnson), to guide them.
Frank is a bit on the shady side, manufacturing all kinds of fake thrills on his standard riverboat cruise to delight (and sometimes disgust) his clients. He’s in this for the money—and his price for guiding Lily and McGregor tends to fluctuate along with their fortunes. “All the while,” per the synopsis, “the trio must fight against dangerous wild animals and a competing German expedition.” Not to mention, there might also be some kind of mythical cursed creature standing in their way.
The parallels to The Mummy —which starred Rachel Weisz as Egyptologist Evie Carnahan and Brendan Fraser as American adventurer Rick O’Connell—are striking. An early 20th century setting? Check. Attractive young woman with a scholarly background, plummy British accent, and a yen for adventure? Check. Traveling to an exotic land with her brother as a sidekick? Check. A competing expedition? Check. Hiring a ruggedly handsome, rakish bad boy with a heart of gold as a guide? You betcha. Hell, there’s even a scene early on where Lily teeters precariously on a ladder in a library, which just has to be a deliberate nod to Evie’s major “oopsie” early on in The Mummy (“I’ve just made a bit of a mess in the library”).
And you know what? That’s OK by me. The formula may be well-worn, but it works. I loved The Mummy—a perfectly executed action/adventure comedy, despite some troubling ethnic stereotypes—and Blunt and Johnson clearly have the same kind of high-octane onscreen chemistry as Weisz and Fraser. Disney has struggled to recapture the magic of the original Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) in its slate of films inspired by popular theme park rides. (Even the Pirates sequels have gotten progressively worse from a quality standpoint, despite their box office success.) With its adorably bickering leads and sense of adventurous fun, Jungle Cruise looks like it might just succeed on that score.
Jungle Cruise is scheduled to hit theaters July 24, 2020.
Google has a password manager that syncs across Chrome and Android, and now the company is adding a “password checkup” feature that will analyze your logins to ensure they haven’t been part of a massive security breach — and there have been oh so many of those. Password checkup was already available as an extension, but now Google is building it right into Google account controls. And it’ll be prominently featured at passwords.google.com, which is the URL shortcut to Google’s password manager.
Your login credentials are compared against the millions upon millions of known compromised accounts that’ve been part of major breaches. Google says that it also monitors the dark web to some extent for collections of passwords — but most of the database that password checkup compares against comes from crawling the open web.
If your password has been included in a breach, Google will encourage you to change the affected password. Same goes for if Google sees that you’re reusing passwords, which is a terrible practice; everything should have a unique login. And of course, Google will also notify you of accounts using weak passwords that are on the easy-to-guess end of the spectrum. In the case of the extension, passwords were hashed and encrypted before being sent to Google:
Since Password Checkup relies on sending your confidential information to Google, the company is keen to emphasize that this is encrypted, and that it has no way of seeing your data. Passwords in the database are stored in a hashed and encrypted form, and any warning that’s generated about your details is entirely local to your machine.
One point I raised with Mark Risher, Google’s director of account security, is that consumers are increasingly being asked to store their passwords in several places at once. Apple has iCloud Keychain. Google has this. And then you’ve got 1Password, LastPass, and other dedicated third-party password managers. What’s someone to do? Pick a horse and stick with it? Or try to keep multiple password managers in sync? The potential for mismatches or having an old, incorrect password in one of these places is pretty high. Google doesn’t really have a great answer for this issue, but says that it supports importing passwords and will be working to make that process smoother over the coming months.
To coincide with Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Google partnered with The Harris Poll to check up on the password habits of people in the US, and the results are pretty worrying. Too many are still including items that a stranger could easily find out — like a birthday, pet’s name, etc. — in their passwords. And not enough people are talking advantage of extra security measures like two-factor authentication (only 37 percent of respondents are using it) and password managers (15 percent).
66 percent of those polled said they use the same password for more than one online account. And when it comes to sharing with a significant other, only 11 percent said they changed their Netflix (or other streaming service) password after a breakup.
Password reuse is the main thing Google is trying to discourage, because using the same password for multiple services could put you in a dire situation should one of them be compromised. If you’re not a fan of digital password managers, just write ‘em down somewhere at home. Even that’s a good option if you can keep prying eyes away since you won’t repeat the same password.
Bloomberg reports that Apple will open up Siri to third-party messaging apps with a software update later this year. Third-party phone apps will be added later. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman:
When the software refresh kicks in, Siri will default to the apps that people use frequently to communicate with their contacts. For example, if an iPhone user always messages another person via WhatsApp, Siri will automatically launch WhatsApp, rather than iMessage. It will decide which service to use based on interactions with specific contacts. Developers will need to enable the new Siri functionality in their apps. This will be expanded later to phone apps for calls as well.
As Gurman notes, the company’s change in approach comes as Apple is facing scrutiny over the competitive implications of its dual role as app maker and App Store gatekeeper in the US and elsewhere.
It’s interesting that the update is a Siri-only change. Users will still not be able to replace Messages with WhatsApp or Phone with Skype as their default messaging and phone apps for instance, but it strikes me as a step in the right direction and a change that I hope leads to broader customization options on iOS and iPadOS.
Some UX/UI designers still remain skeptical about voice interfaces. Someone thinks it’s just a marketing hype that will pass soon. Others believe voice assistants are awkward and unnatural (although, they’ve never even tried one). And while they were hesitating, a professional community has shaped up — with their own secrets, patterns, mechanics and the job market too.
I grabbed out one clever cookie out of this fellowship to puzzle out Voice Tech. Kate Yulina, UX architect at Just AI, shared her thoughts on what is needed to be changed in a UX designer’s way of thinking when they decide to dive into Voice UX.
Voice is convenient. It should be
User Experience cannot be designed in a vacuum. Voice skill is created in a specific case — where and when it’s useful. You can’t think of the skill first and of its appliance second. What’s really important here is the situation itself. Voice is more convenient than web or mobile apps in a situation where we need a concrete function to solve a concrete problem. Why? Because we don’t have to wait till the website is fully loaded, or to scroll the pages, or to push any buttons. Sites and apps are cross-functional. Voice skill should be geared to the concrete situation, right here and right now.
A great example here is the Nike campaign that took place this February at the Lakers-Celtics NBA rivalry. During the halftime, they dropped a message saying limited Nike Adapt BBs are now on sale and anyone can get a pair for $350 — they just had to ask Google Assistant for it:
The shoe was sold out in 6 minutes! Over 15000 people did their orders using voice only. This goes to prove that a perfect situation here — is a real game where real athletes are wearing product in the moment.
Voice is good not only for brands, but it also suits enterprise needs. Alan AI had a nice use case here: technical staff that handles elevators in the US spent a lot of time on documentation — they had to fill up forms, maintenance data, had to report on task performance, etc. And while they did it, they didn’t actually work. Alan AI employed voice AI technologies to address this problem: now tech staff can fill in the blanks by voice during their main job or on their way to work. No time loss, no stress.
🔥 Voice UX is not about the piccies, it’s about the context of the situation. The designer’s role here is to examine this context in detail in order to understand what a user would want to do in a situation like that
Once and for all: one skill — one function. If a person wants to order a cup of coffee — they use a coffee skill. Next thing they want to know a distance to the moon? That’s another voice skill. The all-in-one approach doesn’t work here.
UX/UI designers and marketers argue all the time about what volume of information is enough for the first screen. There’s nothing worse than endless scrolling while waiting for the content to download. Dialog interfaces got the first screen too, but unlike the web, there’s no need to scroll, because voice assistant is a selection of skills. A user simply says the invocation phrase that activates a single function.
Modal windows and buttons
Another name for modal windows is a dialog. What are the modal windows used for? To confirm or deny a user’s intention to do something. In actual life, people express their intentions with yes or no form and nobody wants the buttons, trust me.
Smart speakers, smart displays, smart homes, smartphones, talking toys, and car’s dashboard — these devices define the context for the use. Some things are perfect for smart speaker usage at home, and it totally differs from in-car usage. One and the same assistant should have a different skill set across different platforms. You got to define the context for the use and the device itself. Check, whether voice may be combined with any other mode of interaction
🔥 You can’t invoke custom skills if you don’t know the invocation phrase. Besides, invocation commands vary depending on the ecosystem. In terms of UX, this is the biggest vulnerability. That’s why major companies are working strenuously on skill discovery — in course of time finding new and trending skills would be much easier
BTW, VUI-designers insist that skills with the same mechanics built for different assistants should be specified as separate projects.
User interface design in 7 stages
I’ve been asking VUI designers and users of our chatbot builder where do they begin their work on the script. Everyone was saying it starts with an idea. And it can be described in any format in any text editor.
The fastest and easiest way to understand how the dialog between a user and your app would be structured — is to write down an example of it. It’s a text file describing flow performance. These dialog examples would remind you of a film script, where all the remarks are applied to the roles.
Tell them what your bot can do. Use short-length phrases. Finish phrases with a yes-no question — that way users would understand what is expected of them.
Bad “Hey! I’m Activity bot and I can’t live a day without sport. Sport is my passion, my inspiration! Also, I’ve got a great experience as a coach and I have a hundred exercises stored in my base. I’d love to share my favorite ones with you!”
Good “Hello! I am Activity, athlete bot. I’d be glad to recommend you a set of exercises. Do you want me to tell you about yoga?”
2. Think through the user flow
Designers apply flowcharts to work with the user flows. They define the app’s logic: a flowchart consists of the dialog steps, and sometimes logical elements are added — API requests, work with the context, etc.
Quite often flowchart shows the main forks in a voice skill. Some designers use flowchart to cover up every detail of the skill. But we wouldn’t really recommend doing that, because pretty soon it would become non-legible and any correction would take oodles of time.
You better start with a success path — a simple and easy-to-understand exercise to help with user flows. Make it through till the end and you will see where new conditions and departures from the main script appear.
Wherever your user is, it should always be possible for them to begin again, to turn back, to make headway, and to give variable replies. Don’t ever make them keep in mind all the commands.
4. Write out dialog examples and think of the more varied answers
My colleagues keep dialog examples in Google sheets. They find it handy, but it is not the best option, actually, because you have to describe logic and possible transitions too. Some people script using Word. There’ s no common format, no rules, no regulation. Just do what you feel comfortable doing.
Users get angry when the assistant repeats oneself, sounding like a broken record. Nelly Kamaeva, VUX designer, confirms this hypothesis. During the skill test, she saw how quickly kids have lost their interest when hearing the same answer repeated again.
🔥 Think of the few synonymous remarks, a user would hear when they get on the same step of a script. VUI designers recommend using 3 to 10 alternative versions of the same phrase
5.Explore the Catch-All for unidentified intents
Catch-All is a place where all unidentified intents fall.
– Who am I talking to? Are you a robot?
– Well, you got me. Do you still want to continue our conversation?
The phrase “Who am I talking to? Are you a robot?” would fall into Catch-All in case you didn’t cover it in a script. The phrase “Well, you got me. Do you still want to continue our conversation?” – is a default reply in such scenarios. Think of a helping hand for a user that fell to Catch-All.
6. Think through Voice and Personality
Think of the talker that bores you to death. They are never any fun to talk to, a real buzzkill. The same may happen to a skill conversation. Alexa, Google Assistant, and others got their own Speech Toolkit with a wide set of male and female voices, different accents and audio effects to lighten up the talk. You know, you could use cough and snuffle if you want to.
But if you really want to impress a user in order to draw them into the conversation, you better tinker with grammatical stylings and work harder on the speech synthesis: get all the accents, pauses, and tones right. It’s meticulous work, but I can tell you, that’s worth the effort.
Another option here — a professional voiceover. Yes, it takes time, it’s expensive, and in case you want to add something new to the script, flexibility gets lost, but it’s effective. Your skill may speak in the voice of influencers, politicians, and movie characters.
We used recordings made by professional actors for one of our business projects. Only 0.5% of users could smell a bot — they didn’t realize it, it was just a guess, as they told us later
7.Use sounds and illustrations to create a special atmosphere
You can pick sounds you like in a sound library or you can create your own (remember that Alexa is quite demanding to the file extensions, converting is going to take some time). For instance, there’s a skill that simulates a friend or partner, right there beside you, enjoying a peaceful sleep by means of… snoring!
🔥 VUI is not limited to flowcharts and dry texting. You’ve got all the resources to create cool and engaging skills
More hints from VUI designers
Don’t tell your users how to use your interface
Voice is a common and understandable interface, it is natural. So, don’t teach the user how to talk, they can do it.
Bad “To hear the message again say “Hear again”. To skip to the next message, say “Skip to the next message”.
Good “Do you want to hear the message again or we can skip to the next one?”
Ask yes-no questions
I recommend to avoid open-ended questions and statements, it’s better to move user toward action.
Bad “Hi! I’m Symphony, an audiophile bot. I’d love to recommend an album and tell you everything about it”.
Good “Hi! I’m Symphony, an audiophile bot. I’d love to recommend an album and tell you everything about it. You want to know something about a song of the day?”
Avoid bureaucratic language
It’s an obvious recommendation, but very few people follow it. No one wants to read a complex and overloaded text, hardly anyone would love to hear it.
Bad “It is crucially important to notice that following albums this brilliant singer recorded have become platinum, which makes it possible to draw a conclusion about the successfulness of the debut album as a means of an effective entrance to the international arena.”
Good “Debut album drew the world’s attention to the artist. No wonder his next records became platinum!”
Test it all the time
Test your skillin silence, at the crowded street, in a noisy room, speak with different intonations and speed. Even in the quietest place in the world things can go wrong. Someone may think the testing process is dull and boring, but trust me, it’s not. Every skill needs a real crush test!
From my personal experience. One day I’ve been developing fitness skill: Alexa conducts instructions, then the music turns on and a user has to repeat exercises. I’ve been testing everything enthusiastically by myself: I was jumping and running, I changed song length and repeated exercises like thousand times. Until skill’s UX was gratifying.
Dare and swear
Your users areprovocateurs. I promise you, they will test your skill off the topic. Like, you’ve built a skill that helps to order a pizza, and some sneaky guy would ask it for sushi. Come up with a fitting reply for such cases.
One more thing: curse heartily 😝I mean it! We at Just AI even got a vulgarity checklist, that is being used during the course of testing.
Listen and listen again
Pronounce everything you’ve come up with. Listen with ears everything your user would hear. Ask your friends and coworkers to read and even put it on an act. Record your speech and listen to the recordings several times, try things out.
Train your skill
But keep in mind, that you won’t provide for every eventuality at the first try. Just take this and adapt. Your skill will need more training, so read dialogs and analyze logs.
A piece of paper, a pencil or a whiteboard — there’s nothing better than this set to begin your work with. But there are other advanced tools that can make the life of a VUI designer so much easier:
It’s a tool for quick prototyping. You can literally build up a dialog between a user and a system step-by-step using a flowchart, and then you test it using the prototype. It’s great for WoZ and quick hypothesis testing.
Mentality and real user experience here differ from what we are used to in a web or mobile environment. And that’s the most interesting part — while the voice sphere is relatively new, this is the best place to experiment, invent, and to make great strides.
I made a mistake this week. I tweeted. I tweeted that, while I like the Porsche Taycan, I was disappointed that it couldn’t beat the range of the Tesla Model S years after it came out. And while I stand by the opinion that the Taycan isn’t fundamentally changing the game, Audi took the time to explain to me what non-Tesla EVs are bringing to the table.
Essentially, the diagrams they sent over of the Audi E-Tron suggest that it’s built to handle some serious abuse. And in some ways, range had to be compromised to ensure long-term durability.
Take, for instance, the cooling system. The E-Tron individually monitors and cools individual battery pack modules to keep them between 74-95 degrees Fahrenheit. If one of them has a problem, you can also replace a module without having to mess with the whole pack.
It’s also got significant cooling dedicated to the electric motors themselves, including a waste heat pump that can use motor heat for cabin climate control.
Motor cooling is the weak link in the Tesla Model S, with motor heat soaking usually responsible for power reductions under hard driving.
So more aggressive and redundant cooling systems add weight and sap some power, which explains part of the reason why the E-Tron goes 204 miles compared to 370 miles for the Model S Long Range.
The other big part is the battery itself. First, the Model S packs a bigger 100kWh battery pack compared to the 95kWh pack in the Audi. Obviously, a bigger battery gives you more range, but it also costs more, weighs more and takes up more space.
Given how intense the crash structure surrounding the battery is, it would probably be extremely expensive to expand the battery’s safety cell to accommodate a larger pack. If you don’t think you actually need the range, it’s not worth it.
But a 5kWh battery difference doesn’t nearly explain a 166-mile range deficit. Cooling, aerodynamics and weight obviously contribute, but the biggest factor is that Audi does not let you access the full battery. The E-Tron automatically walls off 12 percent of its battery, leaving you with an 83.6 kWh usable pack.
That’s because fully charging a battery isn’t good for its long-term health. Tesla acknowledges this, too, giving you the option of electronically limiting your charging. But because a lot of people want to minimize range anxiety, many customers don’t wall off their batteries.
So far, though, Tesla’s battery packs have held up better than, say, their drivetrains. But the idea is to overbuild for the use case.
Essentially, traditional manufacturers have customers that are less likely to accept drive unit failures, battery replacements and quality concerns that Tesla early adopters often write off as a small price to pay for a car from the future. And, without the sort of growth-is-everything valuation of a Silicon Valley tech firm, Volkswagen’s shareholders are less likely to tolerate stratospheric warranty costs.
Plus, at 370 miles, we’re definitely reaching a point where overall range becomes significantly less important than charging times and charging infrastructure. In America, we’re still waiting for a reliable and expansive fast-charging network to really take on Tesla’s Superchargers. The Volkswagen Group is getting one built out, but it’ll take some time.
In the meantime, don’t expect anyone to best Tesla’s range. Audi, Porsche and Mercedes are all being cautious with their EV tech. By sacrificing some miles of range to keep the motors and battery pack cool and healthy, the goal is to provide EV levels of emissions reduction without sacrificing the quality or durability of an internal combustion car.
The company said in a blog post that 98% of group boards have five people or fewer, with 77% of them just being between two people.
Pinterest finally jumped on the reactions bandwagon, introducing new ways for Pinners to share feedback, including with a heart, a clap, a lightbulb or a question mark.
Its new sorting feature enables users to organize Pins by reactions and comments so that they can prioritize the most popular ideas. Pinterest said it will soon add the ability to sort by the Pinner who added the idea and when the idea was saved.
And Pinterest said that in the coming weeks, it will roll out a redesigned space that will let group members communicate with each other directly on the board, enabling them to track the latest thoughts in one place.
The updates are rolling out globally across all platforms, starting Thursday.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Apple’s new iOS 13 update adds a new privacy measure that requires apps to get your consent in order to use your device’s Bluetooth. After installing the latest version of iOS, trust me when I say you’ll be surprised by the number of apps asking for Bluetooth permission the next time you open them. Some might seem very strange (like Dunkin’ Donuts in my case), but others probably won’t make you think twice about giving the thumbs-up.
The reason Apple implemented this is because Bluetooth has enabled companies to sneakily track your location over Bluetooth by using beacons in stores, shopping malls, and even on popular city streets if they’re placed within range of a place you’d walk by.
This is entirely separate from your iPhone’s location privacy settings, which makes it seem all the more underhanded. A beacon is very easily able to detect your device’s Bluetooth chip and log that with a retailer or some other app on your phone. So getting more strict about Bluetooth is a good move by Apple to prevent unwanted tracking of its customers.
Similarly, the company is also getting even more transparent about location, showing you on a map how often and where apps have recorded your position. This prompt is much easier to understand, and will probably startle people into slimming down the list of apps that can monitor where they are. As it should!
But there’s more room for confusion around the Bluetooth prompt.
At the most basic level, I think some iPhone owners are going to wonder and maybe even assume that they must grant Bluetooth permission for music and other media apps to continue working with their Bluetooth earbuds, headphones, or speakers. It’s a reasonable question when you see that an app “would like to use Bluetooth.” (To be clear, you don’t have to. Bluetooth audio is handled through system settings, is separate from apps, and will continue working for apps that you deny permission for.)
You’ll see a Bluetooth request from stores and even fast food chains that might utilize beacons for in-store promotions or to help you find what you’re looking for in the right aisle. Other common cases include companion apps for your fitness tracker, Bluetooth headphones, or apps from camera companies. (Most recent cameras support syncing photos over Bluetooth.)
Apps that support Google’s Chromecast streaming platform often ask for Bluetooth access as well. While Chromecast streams content over Wi-Fi, the platform has a “guest mode” that makes it convenient for visitors to play videos or audio on your TV without having to know your home network password. But to find nearby Chromecasts for guest mode, these apps use Bluetooth. Thus the permission prompt. Google is now letting developers integrate Chromecast without guest mode to avoid the Bluetooth request altogether if they choose.
But the key for all app developers is to be direct about why they’re requesting Bluetooth access. Apple’s generic message is far too vague and leaves plenty of uncertainty around exactly what it is you’re giving consent to. Here’s Sling TV succeeding at being clear:
Fitbit also nails it:
ESPN, meanwhile, just sticks with the default notification, and that was enough to set off alarms for Nilay. (Again, in this case it was because of the app’s Chromecast support.)
As more and more apps are updated, hopefully their wording around Bluetooth won’t leave any room for confusion. For now, if you see a Bluetooth request that seems unusual, you might want to just pick “don’t allow.” If a feature in that app stops working soon afterward, you’ll know why and can go into settings and enable Bluetooth access.
Generation X has been hiding in plain sight for years now. Today’s culture war is typically divided into two camps: fist-shaking Boomers who hate socialism but love Medicare, and millennials staring alongside Gen Z into a future that somehow promises to be both unaffordable and apocalyptic.
As a designer, therefore, a creative and impatient mind, you need constant change in your life to be more creative. We need to be challenged frequently in order to stay fresh on our ideas. And, sometimes, we can get caught up by our daily work routine, automating some tasks and slowly damaging creativity.
There are some ways to avoid this natural process and it usually involves to force your brain to step out of the routine and break the pattern. I like to say that the best way to do that is finding yourself a Side Project. One can argue that just by having a hobby would do the trick and yes, it can do it as well but, sometimes, you need something more challenging than a hobby, you need to feel useful, that you are working on something that can develop news skills and should, be related, to what you do as a designer.
Potencialize your creativity
If you work with creativity, you should know by now that to be even more creative and to have more ideas you need to step away from what you are doing and let the mind work for you in the background. Sometimes ideas come out of nowhere but in fact, it just your subconscious trying to solve a problem for you while you are doing something else.
Let’s have a look at David Lynch explaining where ideas come from:
New ideas will come just by being exposed to different things, just by the fact you took your brain out of its comfort zone. In order to keep your “creative freshness”, you need to live your life, experience things.
The most important thing here is to allow your mind to be constantly challenged with new things so it remains fresh and always open to the unknown.
What I’ve learned with my own side projects
Right now, by the time I’m writing this post I’m currently involved in 5 side projects. For some people that can be a lot, but for me, it still manageable, as long as they don’t require my work at the same time.
Having a side project constantly keeps me out of my work routine and constantly allows me to develop/improve news skills.
Although I have all those side projects, I would like to go back to one that had a big impact on my career. A project that was initially supposed to take 3 months but it took more than a year. A project I was proud to have started and finished even though it came with some physical and mental consequences.
I’ve learned so much with it that it opened a whole new career path for me that I could choose to pursuit if I want to. The project I’m talking about was my first attempt to do a mobile game, Tamaringo.
Back in 2014, I was working full time on an advertising agency as a Digital Art Director. The workload was intense and I was working too much and mostly doing some very automatic tasks. Basically, I wasn’t being challenged enough.
At that time there was a boom of apps and mobile games and lots of successful stories about apps just having thousands of downloads and people starting companies because of them. Then, I decided to follow the trend and make my way into the mobile game business and that’s when the idea for a side project came up.
I joined forces with a friend and former co-worker to start developing our first mobile game. We had nothing to lose, we had our jobs to support us and this felt like a fun escape from advertising and a possible plan B, in case the game was a success.
I don’t want to go in details of the whole process of creating the game but I’ll highlight some of the things that I learned with this experience.
Creating a mobile game that is good enough to be competitive in the market is a full-time job.
It’s very important, when choosing a side project, that it is by nature, smaller than your everyday work otherwise, it will become a nightmare until you finish it.
We didn’t know enough about games except on how to play them.
We thought just by being a gamer it would be enough to create our own product but there was a whole new world that we had to immerse ourselves in before we start doing anything. Now, we have a lot of knowledge about the process and the business of creating and publishing apps.
We learned the true concept of burnout.
Like I mentioned before, this was my biggest mistake, taking a full-time job as a side job. Of course, that would have some consequences on our mental and physical health. The end of that year we ended up so exhausted that we just wanted to end the project and finally have weekends and some free time for ourselves again.
Designing the UI of a game is not the same as designing an app.
Designing an app is very different from designing a game. There are lots of things that need to be taking into consideration when you need to use the interface while playing. You need to design it with constant motion in mind, always trying to predict where to place some elements in a way that doesn’t damage the gameplay.
It’s not just about design, you need to understand the business and how to market and publish a game.
We had to learn everything you need to learn to design and sell a game. That learning process gave us a lot of insights but handling all those things while creating it forced us to focus on the actual product and neglect the only thing we were both experts on it, marketing.
You always learn something…
After almost a year in the making, we had a game published at the App Store that sold around 200 units ($0,99 cost per unit), mostly to friends and family. It was a success and failure at the same time. In the end, we acknowledged that the game was visually beautiful but it was not fun to play, therefore, nobody would keep playing it for long. It would never be able to compete against Angry Birds, for example.
No matter the outcome, you will always learn something in the end, whether is throughout failing or winning. Now, I know a lot more about the game industry, the process of creating and publishing a product to an AppStore. Besides that, I improved significantly my designer skills by creating the whole UI and doing the game design for it. That wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t decided to go on this journey and start this side project.
If you are still with me on the importance of having Side Projects and you want to know how to start, keep reading.
How to find a side project
Sometimes its gonna be helping a friend with a project, sometimes you can spot a need that needs to be addressed. Ideas can come from everywhere, you just need to find something that can drive you to work on the side.
In my case, very often, my friends and colleagues have some ideas and they share them to me. If they are very interesting and can challenge me in different ways I have a hard time saying no. You can always find time for something that is going to bring some joy in the making.
Of course, if you have many side projects at the same time that can be a problem if they all require your attention at the same time. So, be careful not to have way too many. And, always start small, so you can learn how to manage your time well and then scale up.
So, keep your eyes open for opportunities, they can come from everywhere and everyone. But, if you are eager to start something soon, you could start by reading this post down below. I hope it helps.
Articulating an intricate thought can be challenging, however, XMind disentangles a strategy known as mind mapping, which can make the procedure a ton simpler.
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved”
A mindmap is a useful tool for concept enrichment. A strong emphasis should be laid upon mind mapping as it helps in generating new ideas and in identifying relationships among different data and information.
XMind lets you create a diagram where an overarching idea branches off into related ones.
To start, enter your core idea, then attach additional ‘nodes’, or subtopics. Each can split off into subnodes, which in turn can split off into further subnodes of their own. If at any point you start to lose sight of the big picture, simply take a look at the running list of all the nodes you’ve created.
There’s much more to mind maps than mere words: one can include icons, images to liven them up or make nodes easier to find.
Beyond brainstorming, mind mapping is also helpful when you want to break a sprawling project down into concrete action items.
A B C of drawing a Mind Map
The Tree Model
Most of the Mind Maps follow the Tree Model: they start from a single object, often positioned in the center and they then develop several branches that represent related concepts. Each branch can split into two or more branches but they never merge together: the whole map is a hierarchic scheme where each object has only one ‘parent’ but can have multiple ‘child’.
Because of its low complexity, this model is fast and easy to manage, but sometimes the constraint of hierarchical relations doesn’t allow a meaningful representation: sometimes we need more flexibility.
A Mind Map for UX Designers
As seen, Mind Maps are tools for brainstorming, pattern recognition, and process visualization, so there is an endless way a Mind Map can be useful in our UX design work. But I found one kind of Mind Map specifically useful to us because it shows the entities and the way we are connecting them: the Ontology Map.
Ontology is the philosophical study of being, it studies concepts that directly relate to being as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.
Ontology Map has some similarities with the Database Relationship Diagram used by developers and indeed they have the same goal: they want to represent the relations between the existing objects of the system. Nevertheless, the Ontology Map is more often a design tool than a documentation tool, so we use it mainly in the early stages of the project to help us define how the system can work.
Characteristics of a Mind Map
Clear organization and structure. Mind maps are restricted to tree structures. They have clear, directed flows outward from the tree root to its leaves.
One central topic. In mind maps, all nodes (except the tree root) have only one parent node. Each node can have children corresponding to that concept’s subtopics. Every concept in a mind map can be traced directly back to the root topic.
No definition of relationships. There is no distinction between different types of relationships among nodes — all the edges in the tree are represented in the same way and are unlabeled.
Uses in UX
Mind maps help organize a collection of information connected to a single topic and structure it in a systematic, meaningful way. In UX, they are helpful when doing categorical ideation work, such as:
Breaking-down components on a specific webpage — for example, in order to determine the mini-IA of the page
Planning subject topics within a website
Mapping information covered in a segregated and much better way
Cool features that XMind Offers
XMind features that I personally like the most or help me the most are:
Seamless experience across all devices: Mind maps can be easily found on laptop and mobile devices, and XMind works perfectly across different platforms.
Dark UI: XMind: ZEN supports dark mode on any desktop platform. The interface can be switched between light and dark in Preferences.
Drawing a Mind Map at the micro-level can be really hard and is often useless. Overall during the early design phases, it’s more productive to create Lo-Fi maps instead of wasting time in detailing and codifying them.
Each designer will have their own preference for the model they like most after they weigh the pros and cons. I, personally, prefer the Tree Model because of its simplicity.
Thank you for reading my blog. I’m really excited to push more stories! If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to clap👏
All the points that I’ve mentioned are as per my understanding, so feel free to drop in your comments. Positive criticism is always appreciated. 🤘🏻💎