Đẹp Magazine on Nokia N9

This is not just a digital copy of the dead-tree version, Dep mobile on Nokia N9 gives users a new experience with unique features “tailored” for smartphones.

Dep magazine on Nokia N9

Some key features:

  • AMOLED 3.9inch screen for beautiful pictures.
  • TextMode view for reading text content.
  • Smart menu systems for convenient browsing.
  • Dep and TTVN&Dan Ong are 2 among 15 Vietnamese apps pre-loaded on Nokia N9.
P/S: this is the article about Dep mobile on Nokia N9. I led this project from the conceptual phrase to the finish. More on the making of this app soon.






Page vs. Screen

Page: A user-recognizable collection of persistent state. It can be viewed as a Silverlight page that contains information, memorable content, or links to other pages.

Screen: A general UI screen such as a pop-up window, dialog box, or splash screen that does not contain memorable content. It is not a user-recognizable collection of persistent state.

from Windows Phone 7 Design Guidelines

Design across multiple platforms

LukeW had a nice observation about the role of  muscle memory in design across multiple platforms.


One a side note: I have recently played around with Android devices and realized Apple made very good use of muscle memory in design its virtual keyboard.  The keyboard layout switching is placed at the bottom left corner; hence I have used it without thinking about it at all.

iPhone keyboard: big and at the corner

While in the Android device I had, the switching key is the third key from the bottom left corner, this design force me to looking for the key every single time I want to use it.

LG Optimus: small and not at the corner

Usability in big systems

Windows 7 has improved greatly from the previous versions in term of the overall user experience. There are many nice touches, for example, the show desktop icon is moved to the right-hand corner of the supperbar which means the bottom right corner of the screen. This design make use perfectly of the “Fitts’ Law”:http://particletree.com/features/visualizing-fittss-law/.

The show desktop icon
Corners are the easiest places to reach because they have infinite dimensions.

However, it’s hard to get the usability right for big systems. Yet, Windows 7 has many user interfaces in which the usability is weak. One UI which I find hard to use is the Edit System Variable dialog; this dialog has not been improved in the Windows 7 redesign. Normal users don’t use this dialog often. The main users are technical people: programmers, system admins, etc. People come to this place to edit environment variables like PATH, HOME, CLASSPATH, etc.

the value edit field is just too small

The values of these variables are usually text strings comprise of directory paths. For instance, a typical PATH variable will look like this:

bq[fr]. %SystemRoot%\system32; %SystemRoot%; %SystemRoot%\System32\Wbem; %SYSTEMROOT%\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\; c:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Roxio Shared\10.0\DLLShared\; C:\Program Files (x86)\QuickTime\QTSystem\; C:\home\programs\android-sdk-windows

Obviously, people need to scan through the value of a variable before editing such as removing or adding a directory path. In the current dialog, the variable value field provides very little space to show the content. It has been painful and frustrated to edit variables like PATH or CLASSPATH. I usually have to do select-all and copy the value to Notepad to inspect the value.

One cheap and quick fix is to make the textfield (of variable value) resizable. Resizable textfields are used widely nowaday when users need to work with unknown-length texts. The proposed design look like this:

The users can now resize the textfield to have a better look at the value if they need to; the overall look and feel of the dialog remains the same, hence the new design familiar to existing users. Additionally, in term of the development cost I believe this change is cheap.

To have good usability for big systems is really hard, there are too many UIs, workflows, user cases to consider. And keep in mind, all changes need to be done with in a time frame and a budget. I am thinking of a more “open-source”:http://design-challenge.mozillalabs.com/ approach to the design and usability issues might help.

Mental Model

bq. A mental model represents a person’s thought process for how something works (i.e., a person’s understanding of the surrounding world). Mental models are based on incomplete facts, past experiences, and even intuitive perceptions. They help shape actions and behavior, influence what people pay attention to in complicated situations, and define how people approach and solve problems.

“Link”:http://uxmag.com/design/the-secret-to-designing-an-intuitive-user-experience via meebo.com

Review of Felix Studios’ Baomoi Mobile

I have recently review BaoMoi Mobile application developed by Felix Studios. It is a fast and stable. Interaction-wise it was well thought out. I do have one recommendation that the fix the scrolling at the end of an article.

This time I tried to present visually the problem I found.

Design in Large Organizations

Just as importantly, they’re adept at the delicate art of making design happen in a large organization. That requires an underrated but critical skill that’s worth taking a moment to elaborate upon: beyond their substantial talent, these people get along with people, which is a remarkably effective tool that surprisingly few designers possess. Beyond praising their design chops, I think the highest compliment I can offer is that these colleagues of mine are all interesting, trustworthy, and likable. That’s something I really cherished and that I’ll really miss.

from “Khoi Vinh.”:http://www.subtraction.com/2010/07/14/a-change

Wallet Design

Wallets are familiar objects; almost anyone has one. The word “wallet” has been used since the first century AD, but the modern wallet design become standardized in the early 1950s[1]. A modern wallet generally has one or more currency pockets, multiple card slots, and sometimes a coin purse compartment.

Wallet designs, around the world, are so similar to each others, hence the implicit assumption (intentional or unintentional) is that people use wallet in a similar fashion.

However, it does not seem so. For example, in Vietnam very few has credit cards or bank cards (checking or saving accounts), hence people do not need to carry many cards in their wallets; many only carry an identity card and a driving license. Coins are not popular; the government introduced coins few years ago, but there is no needs for coin usage. Some shops even refuse to take coins as they care cumbersome. Therefore, people mostly use wallets to keep cash. In fact, many people don’t even have wallets.

In contrast, a person living at North Americas – or an industrialized country – needs to carry many things in his wallet: cash (bills and coins), credit cards and bank cards (very often up to 10), a driving license, an ID card, various discount or membership cards (Safeway, Costco, Marcy, Bestbuy, etc.), insurance cards (dental, medical, optics), and many others. There are easily more than 20 cards a person carries around all time, yet this is a conservative number. As the result, wallets become very thick. For sure it is not comfortable to wear or to sit on, as wallets are usually kept in back pockets [2].

Since people have different needs, a standardized wallet design is not suitable for everyone. From this point, I would limit the discussion within urban life of industrialized countries. A most visible need is to carry a lot of cards. The current (common) design, which has been standardized in early 1950s, does not fulfill this need.

Many major designers including Gucci, Louis Vuiton, and Armani don’t seem to realize this problem. They certainly create luxury and good looking wallets, but I doubt very much they considered the actual practical needs of users.

Few months ago, I was introduced to a new kind of wallets by Max, one of my colleagues. His wallet looked so flat even with many cards inside. At the time, I’ve moved to US for few months, and have accumulated many cards which make my wallet so thick. Every time I sat down, either at my desk or a coffee shop or in a meeting room, I had to take the wallet out. It was not convenient and certainly not a good habit. After taking a careful look at Max’s wallet, I was sold, and ordered one for myself at http://www.all-ett.com


The company markets this new design under the name All-ett Billfolds. I am very happy with this purchase, because the new wallet is so thin that I have no problem carrying it around and sitting on it all day.

There are few design innovations that make this wallet thin. The most important one, IMHO, is the new layout which has four pockets for cards. This design spreads out the cards into 2 stacks, instead of stacking all cards in one stack as with traditional wallets. Also each pocket can keep multiple cards; this reduces the material layers in between cards. With a traditional wallet, each card pocket or slot you only can keep 1 to 2 cards.

This new layout makes the cash pocket much deeper than normal US bills. Another good design of this wallet is that there are two cash pockets with different depths, hence bills are spread out as well.


Last, All-ett are made of a nylon material thinner than the traditional leather. The result is a very thin wallet. This wallet is slightly bigger than a normal bi-fold wallet, however it fits nicely in a Levis back pocket. A bonus point, which I learned from Max, is that if you turn the all-ett sideway and manage to put it in a Levis back pocket, you are safe from pickpocketing. This is mine with 16 cards.

Nothing is perfect; there are two minor issues. First, there is no coin compartment; second, the material feels cheap. While, there is no easy solution for the first issue (I put coins in the front pocket nowadays), I wish they can use some other materials to give a better texture.

fn1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallet

fn2. I assume wallet users are mostly male.

Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School

The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School
by Michael McDonough

1. Talent is one-third of the success equation.
Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether it is social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I am wrong, just look around.

2. 95 percent of any creative profession is shit work.
Only 5 percent is actually, in some simplistic way, fun. In school that is what you focus on; it is 100 percent fun. Tick-tock. In real life, most of the time there is paper work, drafting boring stuff, fact-checking, negotiating, selling, collecting money, paying taxes, and so forth. If you don’t learn to love the boring, aggravating, and stupid parts of your profession and perform them with diligence and care, you will never succeed.

3. If everything is equally important, then nothing is very important.
You hear a lot about details, from “Don’t sweat the details” to “God is in the details.” Both are true, but with a very important explanation: hierarchy. You must decide what is important, and then attend to it first and foremost. Everything is important, yes. But not everything is equally important. A very successful real estate person taught me this. He told me, “Watch King Rat. You’ll get it.”

4. Don’t over-think a problem.
One time when I was in graduate school, the late, great Steven Izenour said to me, after only a week or so into a ten-week problem, “OK, you solved it. Now draw it up.” Every other critic I ever had always tried to complicate and prolong a problem when, in fact, it had already been solved. Designers are obsessive by nature. This was a revelation. Sometimes you just hit it. The thing is done. Move on.

5. Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.
In design this means “draw what you know.” Start by putting down what you already know and already understand. If you are designing a chair, for example, you know that humans are of predictable height. The seat height, the angle of repose, and the loading requirements can at least be approximated. So draw them. Most students panic when faced with something they do not know and cannot control. Forget about it. Begin at the beginning. Then work on each unknown, solving and removing them one at a time. It is the most important rule of design. In Zen it is expressed as “Be where you are.” It works.

6. Don’t forget your goal.
Definition of a fanatic: Someone who redoubles his effort after forgetting his goal. Students and young designers often approach a problem with insight and brilliance, and subsequently let it slip away in confusion, fear and wasted effort. They forget their goals, and make up new ones as they go along. Original thought is a kind of gift from the gods. Artists know this. “Hold the moment,” they say. “Honor it.” Get your idea down on a slip of paper and tape it up in front of you.

7. When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance.
Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble in approaching problems. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power – the power to create things and impose them on the world – is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns.

8. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; or, no good deed goes unpunished.
The world is not set up to facilitate the best any more than it is set up to facilitate the worst. It doesn’t depend on brilliance or innovation because if it did, the system would be unpredictable. It requires averages and predictables. So, good deeds and brilliant ideas go against the grain of the social contract almost by definition. They will be challenged and will require enormous effort to succeed. Most fail. Expect to work hard, expect to fail a few times, and expect to be rejected. Our work is like martial arts or military strategy: Never underestimate your opponent. If you believe in excellence, your opponent will pretty much be everything.

9. It all comes down to output.
No matter how cool your computer rendering is, no matter how brilliant your essay is, no matter how fabulous your whatever is, if you can’t output it, distribute it, and make it known, it basically doesn’t exist. Orient yourself to output. Schedule output. Output, output, output. Show Me The Output.

10. The rest of the world counts.
If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time.