What can UI designers learn from a baby’s face?

In the presence of a cute baby, you would be hard-pressed not to smile even on your worst day. Have you ever wondered what it is about them that melts your heart; ever thought about possibly capturing this cute-factor in your user interfaces?

Cute baby

Spare a moment to really look at the picture of the baby above and then look at this guy:

Patrick Wilson

By now you must have felt the different ways your body responded to the two pictures, even though the two people may be total strangers to you.

So, what is it about the faces of babies that makes us smile, or gives us the yearning to interact with them? Ted White, my lecturer at the time who later became my mentor taught me a valuable lesson in one of his lectures when he said, “you can’t create a user experience, but you can create the situations that can enable the user experience you desire”.

Being a budding user experience designer, that statement shook my world- I had to learn more, I had to know how he came to that idea. Where that journey took me is an article for another day.

Today, Ted’s statement makes a lot of sense and I will share the few characteristics I presume prime total strangers to smile at the sight of babies they don’t know.

# Innocence is captivating

We find new people a little harder to trust, we remain cautious until we have ascertained that they will not hurt us. This kind of feeling is absent with children because we know they won’t hurt us.

Applying this to the interface:

–       Interfaces should take the blame for things going wrong and assure the user that it is safe to engage with them.

–       User interfaces should never seek more effort/information then what is reasonably comfortable for the user. Ever heard somebody say: “what do you want from me?” You’ll rarely hear that said in a pleasant tone.

# Small is cute

Being less harmful, babies are also small and thus appear more vulnerable and therefore people are somewhat drawn to protecting them. This draws you closer.

Applying this to the interface:

–       As little, yet as much as necessary. This is the mantra of minimalist designers. Minimalism can be understood as a design philosophy where the simplest and fewest elements and content are used to create the maximum desired effect. And so were babies created; as such our interfaces should have no obstacles between the user and the experience we are laying the foundations for.

# Babies’ guards are low

Babies are forever handing out olive branches; as long as you don’t present a threat to them- a baby will accept you and acknowledge you in kind.

Olive Branch


Applying this to the interface:

–       There is a never-ending debate in the usability circles/forums regarding “intuitive” interfaces, one side arguing that nothing is intuitive and the other camp surprisingly arguing that a nipple is the only intuitive interface and that everything else is learned thereafter. Being aware of this debate (regardless of your camp) is important because UI designers need to be aware of the learned things that users already know so that we could make use of interface metaphors to reduce the learning curve of the user interface, in effect lowering our guard.

# Strong emotions are contagious

Babies cry and yell in joy at the top of their lungs, they share all their emotions indiscriminately.

Applying this to the interface:

–       Be passionate about your message and remember that a great interface is selfless, does not draw attention to itself and is devoted to serving a specific purpose for the person using it.

–       Find the right tone of voice for your interface and stick with it. Among other contributing factors to choosing your tone, the most notable is determined by how you want to be remembered. It is about crafting the personality to go with the look.

What other things have you found in your world that light up your soul? Share them with me on Twitter @uxtshepo and we can draw more parallel UX discussions.

Make love, art and live free

Tshepo Lehutjo


The Future of Interaction Design

Ah the joys of the internet. I recently stumbled on this really interesting 18 minute doccie by Basset & Partners on the future of Interaction Design. Particularly excited about the “Internet of things”, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?!?!



User Experience – In my own words

“User Experience cannot be described, it is perceived while you are in it. Only after it is over can you comprehend and review with the benefit of understanding the situation”.


I thought I would start with this quote to open up the topic, since for me it best describes my understanding of what User Experience is. Having come from a traditional agency background where there is little or no user experience present, the term was relatively new to me and from what I understand, one can never entirely grasp what User Experience is / entails.

User Experience has opened my eyes to a whole new world of the digital realm and all the teachings it has to offer. One of the major lessons for me to come from User Experience is that one must put user needs first, its not about making the design and / or application look pretty its about  “does it work for the user?” ,which brings me to my next point, user testing. Which is a major part of user experience, if not the most important, because that will determine how you create the experience for the user.


One can also say that the words – User Experience – are self explanotary but it goes much deeper than just the explanation, there is a methodology involved that one has to follow. User Experience affects all aspects of the user’s interaction with a product: how it is perceived, learned, and used. It’s about understanding your users, meeting their needs and crafting amazing digital experiences.

What I have learnt in the space of a year is pretty amazing, the most remarkable thing being that the learning never stops and that I’m hungry for more knowledge.

I don’t think I could ever go back to thinking any other way but the UX way.

Origin Interactive Office

Our diligent worker bees

In the everyday life things that we do, there is a whole lot of UX involved even if you don’t notice / realise that that’s what it is. From simple things such as sitting on a chair, which was designed with the user in mind and their comfort while they sit, the toothbrush also designed with the user in mind, how you hold it so you can get the maximum experience when brushing your teeth.

Bad UX is when, not all designs and / or products meet their users needs, which is why we see designs fail or products that don’t sell and have to be sent back and re-evaluated, tested and then put back in the market. All this could be avoided if the user is taken into account during the initial design phase.

Users are very simple; they want something to fit into their daily life routine. They don’t have time to learn how a new design or product works, they would rather move on to the next best thing. Which is why it is vital that User Experience be done the right way to get maximum results for the user.

Nqobile Tshabala our Studio Manager

The lovely NQ



Written by our very own Nqobile Tshabala, Studio Manager Extroadinair

Introducing our newest “Originals”!

Here at Origin Interactive we celebrate our diversity and unique skill sets. We love meeting and joining forces with passionate individuals who share our vision of improving people’s lives. We are proud to announce the addition of these two awesome guys to our team.

Tshepo Lehutjo

Junior UX Consultant

Tshepo - Our new UX Consultant

The little engine who could!

We’re all about collaboration, education and information. We were thrilled to welcome Tshepo to our team as an intern in 2012 while he was completing his MA: Digital Arts – Interactive Media at the University of Wits. Tshepo was studying the Usability of Twitter applications on Smartphones. It didn’t take us long to realise that we had discovered an amazing expert-in-the-making from which we could learn a thing or two, while at the same time, expose him to the enticing world of User Experience.

We kept our eye on this talented young man and as soon as we heard he was available for hiring, we scooped him up before anyone else could. Tshepo has proven that when he’s thrown in the deep end, not only does he swim; he dives in headfirst and tackles sharks with his bare hands. Seeing as his favourite saying is “Challenge accepted!” we’re not surprised that he confronts problems head on, with a passion to solve them logically and meticulously.

Michael Chihaka

Junior UX Visual Designer

Michael - Our new UX Designer

Hot design(er)

Michael is our Junior UX Visual Designer with a great deal of experience working in various design programs.

Junior, as the other staff has affectionately nicknamed him, is incredibly passionate about strong conceptual design and feels that “without design thinking, there’s no route to innovative and alternative human-centred solutions”. His philosophy is to practice design thinking, from inspiration to implementation.

After completing his Honours in BA: Information Design at the University of Pretoria, his professional experience includes working on various exciting projects for clients like SAB Kickstart and Castle Milk Stout, SA Design Hub, Sabat, VO5 & Transitions to name a few.

Junior is truly a triple threat as he is also an aspiring DJ and has completed some of his motion projects to the sounds of his own music. With a passion to learn and grow, and a desire to always push the boundaries of digital design, he is definitely a shooting star in our galaxy to keep your eye on. Michael’s down to earth attitude and ability to laugh at himself have kept him grounded and focused on one thing: expanding his and others’ worlds through significant digital engagements.

Our two new team members at daily stand-up

More staff = more birthdays = more cake! YAY


Welcome aboard guys, we’re super stoked to have you!


Why we should think about thoughtless acts

“Thoughtless acts are all those intuitive ways that we adapt, exploit, and react to things in our environment; things we do without really thinking.“

Jane Fulton Suri
Leader of “Human Factors” group at IDEO

It has been said numerous times that good UX is invisible. A difficult statement to explain to the layman (as are all things UX) until I came across THE BOOK. Thoughtless Acts. A fascinating study of how people react to their environment. In the words of author Jane Fulton Suri: “In daily life we make interpretations about the stuff around us all the time – how it might work and what we can do with it. We develop an exquisite awareness of the possibilities and sensory qualities of different materials, forms and textures. Understanding these intuitive interpretations might be a significant source of insight for designers.”

A physical metaphor for our intangible practice

We spend hours as UX designers deliberating the clickability of a button or the placement of calls to action. If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the few years I’ve been involved in the industry, it is that the largest part of UI design is based upon knowledge of how users expect solutions to behave. But is this a dangerous assumption? In other words, are we assuming that some interaction models are set in stone? What can we learn by actually observing people in their everyday life… outside the context of being OUR users?

We sometimes forget our users are people

Now now, before everyone gets upset, I’m simply saying that we forget our users are people with more going on than just our designs / solutions / applications. Of course how they use our interfaces are of great importance. We can learn so much from material interactions and behaviours in the “outside” world… and this requires not only observation, but questioning why people do the things they do, in a certain way, using certain objects. It’s called affordance. Humans observe the environment in terms of its possibilities for action.

Why we should notice these acts now

With the creation of various platforms and devices, designers have to adapt. Based on my own experiences, the introduction to touch interfaces forces you to rethink behaviour models. No longer can we rely on the old slogan of “that’s what the user expects it to do”. Now is the time to recreate the interface and behaviours. And there are a few big guns claiming to do exactly this.
Microsoft comes to mind with their Windows 8 Metro styling for touch and the latest buzzword, the NUI. The Natural User Interface is a concept based more on gestures and how we would physically interact with objects. Sounds good right? BUT – I have personally seen an iPad user get frustrated using a Windows tablet device. Despite this being a Windows 8 touch device, and the app being beautifully styled, there were predefined expectations on how it should behave. And these expectations were based on how an Apple device would work. Which prompts the question: Should we all just do what Apple does (not that we can, due to strict copyrights). IS there no more room for innovation in interface behaviours?

The short answer: There is always room for improvement. Of course we need to continue reinventing, and redesigning, and redefining… based on a comment from Fulton Suri there is a middle ground: “The world doesn’t need a unique design solution for every creative adaptation we see…we should look for patterns that point to a universal need. “ p.167

So, redefining the interface within universal expectations… that’s not difficult at all!

To finish, I would like to challenge all of you to look for Thoughtless Acts as you go about your business. It’s the best Baader-Meinhof experience I’ve had in a while. But don’t just notice a thoughtless act. Examine it; ask yourself why it’s happening. You might learn a few things about people in general.