The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Imagination Technologies's MIPS group, in the past of other companies such as Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

UI design ideas inspired by Giving Blood


Propose UI feature that allows you to scroll the entire screen around, as if embedded in a 2D plane that is 3X wide and high, to access buttons.


I just spent a morning giving blood.  Platelets.  3.5 hours at the blood donor center; machine set for 90 minutes; possibly 2.5 hours on the cot.  Paperwork and phlebotomist tubing and other setup.  Plus half an hour of travel time.

I would like give more blood more often.  Not just because it is a good deed - I already give at about the maximum rate - but also because it just plain feels good.  I am considering giving while blood and platelets more often rather than double reds less often, partly to more often get that good feeling of having done good.

I would like to empty my Inbox more often.


I have never been able to use a laptop or tablet to read email while donating blood.   But it seems like it should be possible to read email on a cellphone while donating blood, although past attempts have not succeeded well.

I conjecture that the past attempts failed because of lousy cellphone email client design.  I am hopeful that the new swipe-oriented clients would allow me to read email on my cellphone with one free hand and arm, while donating blood with a needle stuck in the other arm.

It is hard to do much with your hands if you are needles in both arms, making reading, difficult, whether book or cellphone. Whole blood donations are single needle; all of my recent double red donations have been single needle; my platelet donation today was double needle, although single needle apharesis is an option for platelet donations.  I think that I am going to ask o single needle donations in the future.

But, the experience of trying to read email on my cellphone with apharesis needles in both arms has given me some UI ideas. Recorded here.

I was able to hold my phone in the hand of the arm into which blood was being returned.   There was too much tubing to try to hold my phone in the hand of the arm from which blood was being taken.  Bear that in mind if you are strongly right or left handed.

Using the "Zero" email app to go through the Unread email in my Inbox was reasonably easy to do, in this very restricted position.  Swipe up to move to the next message, left/right to go in or out.  Similarly, after I ran out of unread email to read, using the Flipboard or New York Times or Oregonian news apps was easy enough - easy swipes or taps that did not have to be directed at any particular button.

But, accessing buttons, doing anything other than swiping, was a real pain.  In particular, the X that closes many screens, from the upper right hand corner, was quite hard to reach.  One of the phlebotomists chastised me for moving too much, causing the apharesis blood return to block.

This difficulty of accessing buttons was what caused me to

a) Only be able to scan my unread Gmail in Zero.  I could swipe into and out of a view that allowed me to read most of any email.  But clicking on links (oh, no, I clicked on links in email!!!!! Security alert!!!!! But at least it was email that I expected, not unsolicited, although I must increase my phishing paranoia) brought me to a web browser that was hard to navigate by swipes.

b) It was easy to tap the Zero star that left an email in my Inbox for further handling.  Ditto swipe to dismiss and archive.  But filing to a folder or project was out of the question.

c) Zero's Inbox view, list oriented, with many different options - perhaps may have been useful, but I could not manage to use it.

d) As I have mentioned elsewhere, Zero does not work for my company email, which is ActiveSync only to cellphones, forbidding IMAP except on laptops. Zero does not yet support ActiveSync, so I cannot use it for work.

       Nor were any of the other email clients usable in this "My arms are pinned down, and I can only swipe with my thumbs" usage model.

e) For the first time I actually made good use of the Apple accessibility feature that brings the top line of the screen with the X icon down to halfway.   But it was still uncomfortable.

f) I was able to accurately hit buttons like the start button.  So it is the reach, not the buttons, that is the problem.

g) I found myself wanting to be able to scroll the entire screen around to be able to reach the buttons, much as one moves around a map.  As if the screen was embedded in a blank 2D plane. I imagined it as a firm press or other gesture to engage the "move the whole screen" around" mode, swipes and scrolls to move the button at the far distant UR corner to under my left thumb.  With elasticity to move the screen back.

I.e. I think that this "scroll the screen" approach might go a long way to allowing the traditional icons and button decorations for user interface to be useful in a one handed environment.

I can imagine "separability": the video or webpage or email you are looking at might stay fixed on the screen, while a mask of the buttons might move around.   Or move all together.

h) I plan to ask for a single needle the next tie I give platelets, so I may no longer care.   But:

h.1) I think that I *will* care - because I think this swiping is easier to use than the traditional UI.

h.2) I think this may be especially relevant to users who do not have the option - to physically disabled users, who may have to ability to move their thumb, but not their hand or wrist or arm.    Certainly to people in a cast.

I wonder if deliberately trying to test UIs by deliberately restricting motion, much as I did by accident when trying to read email while donating platelets, might be a good way of encouraging better UI design.  More accessible not just for the disabled, nor just for the increasing number of older folks, but also for the entire bleeding market.


First, I am not a doctor, nor do I have any special knowledge about the Red Cross policies for blood donation.   I am just a user, a blood donor, who would like optimize his blood donations, both for maximum good and personal convenience.

If this information is already available from the Red Cross, then I wish it had been concisely presented on the website.  If it is already presented, then, damn, *I* was not able to find it!

Second, for any insurance company that sees this post and considers it evidence of a preexisting condition:  Tain't so.   I am not giving platelets because I, or a member of my family, is expected to need them.   I am just giving blood because I think it is a good thing.

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