Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Let them eat cake.

It amazes me somewhat that when a good solution does crop up, it's not implemented across websites that should be using it.

One of my pet peeves about some websites is that their articles spread over a number of pages - I know why this is, it's to break up the content into easily manageable chunks - like what is done with printed media. But folks, this is the web. I don't want to have to click 10 times just to read an article - that's 10 times I have to download the associated banners. Straightforward printing is also near impossible on these multipage articles - and 'print-friendly' pages are worthless when we have CSS to provide that functionality.

So why aren't these sites providing the content in one page and breaking it up using javascript? It's perfectly accessible, it's quick and printer-friendly pages are a thing of the past. It still amazes me that 3 years after the article was written, we have webmasters keen to spread content out over multiple pages - especially as broadband connections have become more ubiquitous.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Generic Commands.

In application design, there's a tension between power and simplicity: Users want the ability to get a lot done, but they don't want to take the time to learn lots of complicated features.

  • One way to address this dilemma is to use progressive disclosure — that is, to show users only the most important options until they ask for the advanced features.

  • Another good approach is to use generic commands, which remain the same across many different contexts and thus reduce complexity.

Nice reads.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Creating customer loyalty.

Even though I'm already a loyal Amazon customer, the repeated great experiences
keep strengthening that loyalty. Small things count[...]They could've
gotten an extra $3.99 shipping cost out of me, but instead they refused to let
me pay extra.

Perhaps it's not about this sale. Perhaps it's about the next one. Nice post.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Bad graphs

Something I never even considered until today. Though, I've never used a 3d chart before.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Magic Shop

Apple employees help sell $4,000 worth of product per square foot per month. When employees become sharers of information, instead of sellers of products, customers respond. […] Gap started employee orientation on the wrong foot by showing us a video about the perils of employee theft. Starbucks handed out Orwellian handbooks telling us to “Be Authentic.” Such approaches produce cynicism and engender a fake sense of belonging, if any at all. Apple treated us like adults.

They know how to do things right. (via)

Monday, 22 October 2007

Passive voices...

Found via Andy Rutledge.

Check out Andy's new Design View Show project if you're heading over there, too.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The User Experience Flip Mode

One basic assumption of good experience design is that people fundamentally don’t like change. They can’t deal with it, it’s too risky, and changes will all too often lead to failures...But the human mind’s capacity to adapt to change, sometimes rapidly and seamlessly, can be astonishing.

Nice article. And I love the interactive title image.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Friday, 19 October 2007

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A perfectly cromulent fairy door!

Flickr has a sense of humour.


Made me chuckle. My favourite fonts are... Comic Sans?!?!
Get them over at Angry. (via)

Monday, 15 October 2007

Radio Syndication Simplistic?

Interesting post on how RSS readers don't pick up the formatting of beautifully crafted web pages.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

"Good enough" is not worth my time, effort or money. Why create it?

I was linked to this article via Andy Rutledge.

I'm going to use Seth's own words here -

I'm going to go out on a limb and beg you not to create a 'good enough website'. There are more than a billion pages on the web. Surely it can do without mediocrity? If your organization can't build a website that you all agree can serve as a great extension of your brand, you need to stop right now and find a new job.

Leave it to the designers. Your website is an extension of your brand, your philosophy. A cheap knockoff will NOT suffice, especially when your competition is just one click away.

What's the point in building yet another average site when there are billions of others out there? Does your business value unique selling points? Wouldn't your business want to be cutting edge and above the competition? Don't you want to make a difference with your brand?

And again, it's not about the font, colour and layout (although all those are important). It's about building a site that is an extension of your philosophy, what differentiates you from your competitors. It's about writing content that pulls readers in effortlessly, compelling them to experience the offline brand. It's about organising your content into logical, easy to access menus. It's about making your ideas shine through the use of semantic markup, so that blind users can still get your message.

Sure, create another mediocre site. Go ahead.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Ten Ways to Make More Humane Open Source Software

Hell, it doesn't have to be open source. This document sets down guidelines for any software project. Very good read. (via)

Things Just Fall Apart.

Devoid Of Yesterday.

Great video. I love the site design as well, pity it's all in Flash.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Dissecting Hotmail.

If you left it to Microsoft to design every application interface in history, the iPod would have never been the success story it is today. But this is not an examination of why Apple 'get' design. This is an examination of flaws that shouldn't be there in the first place. By making things appear easier, the total application looks harder to use than it actually is.

Let's just have a quick look over the Windows Live login screen. I'm looking at it through IE6 on a Windows 98SE machine. So, my experience is totally in the hands of Redmond as I write this.

It's colourful enough, sure. It's also extremely big. What made it so big?

Useless Happy Talk

The first column is just happy talk, plain and simple. It's also verging on the edge of being patronising, which is probably the worst application of happy talk that there is. Please Microsoft, give me some credit. I think I should know how to use a login form by now.

Ironically enough, being on the left, the happy talk is the first thing you'll read. Microsoft have inadvertently drawn attention to a block of text nobody should be reading. People should be logging in here, not waddling about pushing their mouse around in some popcorn and wondering why Vista's 'cupholder' just broke.

Using Buttons As Links

The second column gets worse. The reason buttons are buttons is that they perform actions. They are not hyperlinks. A hyperlink takes you to another page without any action taken, whereas a button performs an action, such as deletion.

Arguing that a link should link is not just being pedantic. Users expect links
to navigate
. Specifically, they expect an entirely new page to load,
replacing the current page. Any other action is liable to cause confusion. To
users, navigating is far removed from what the links in the REI do, which is
execute commands, actions that apply or alter the underlying business

Michael Zuschlag, Links and Other Wrong Controls

What irks me about the second column is not that Microsoft want me to sign up for a shiny new Hotmail account. It's that the way in which they have added an unnecessary button to what could have been a simple link.

Another annoyance is the little icon beside Windows Live ID. It sort of looks like a link, because the icon appears to have an action behind it - but nothing. In fact, it's almost duplicating the information found in the third column.

The third column is the most useful, because it contains a form. Yet it seems to have the lowest visual priority because it's over on the far right. It's all nice until after the password field. In which lies some confusion.

Link Colours

Blue is a common link standard on the Web. And Microsoft to their credit have put many of their links as blue. But, one isn't. And it's the 'Use enhanced security' "link". Why is this? Why is one link black when all the others on the page are either grey or blue? It's confusing.

And why is this even an option anyway? Shouldn't we be signing in over SSL automatically? Tell me, what is the advantage of giving two security options and, by default, enabling the inferior non-SSL login? What's the point in writing a feature such as User Annoyance Control and allowing the user to disable it?

UAC is another topic. I'm going off topic here.


I can't believe that I'm actually writing this. The tooltip for the 'enhanced security' option gives rough idea of what it does. What would be better is 'Click to login via a secure server'. That's it. The current tooltip is a little wooly (why would I want to see a lock icon? What does that do?). Worse, remaining links don't have tooltips.

Instead of popping up an absurdly large popup for the (?) links, why aren't those tooltips? Why does 'enhanced security' get a tooltip? Why does the 'Sign up' button get a tooltip, but the login button doesn't?

If you're going to do tooltips, be consistent.


There's too much of it here. Windows this, Windows that. Hell, read this from one of the Windows experience blogs.

Windows Live Product Team Blogs. Almost all the Windows Live apps and services
have an official team blog you can visit to read the latest from their team
about their product. This can also be a great place for leaving feedback. Many
of these blogs allow for comments. You can leave feedback and suggestions
through leaving a comment on their blog (all you need to do is log in with your
Windows Live ID). How do you find all the team blogs? Simple. I have created a
special page specifically for all the Microsoft Team Blogs that exist. You can
see the list of Windows Live blogs here. The Windows Live Hotmail and Windows
Live Mail teams even have a blog specifically set up for email support. You can
also visit the new Windows Live Wire blog for all the Windows Live blogs as

These two options are available to anyone wanting to leave
feedback on the Windows Live applications (such as Windows Live Messenger,
Windows Live Mail, and Windows Live Writer
) or the Windows Live web services
(such as Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Hotmail, and Windows Live Spaces).

Talk about a mouthful. I doubt that any of these applications need the 'Windows Live' tag. I think it sounds cheesy and very much within the realm of monopolising online presence; Microsoft for your email. Microsoft for your office work. Microsoft for your desktop. What's wrong with catchy names, like Basecamp, Digg, Blinksale or just 'plain old' Hotmail? Infact Hotmail is a great name all by itself. It's like Feedburner. Roll with the Hotmail name and drop the stupid 'we must own every software program you use' paradigm.

Back onto Hotmail, there's way too many logos on this login screen. They have to go.


Here's my proposal for a new login screen. It does away with what I think are key usability flaws. Gone is the Windows Live crap and back is the Hotmail of old. People don't have a chance to get confused with the Windows Live ID, as it's just a simple username/password combination. There's no happy talk and no three column confusion.

I've also gotten rid of the useless footer for the most part and moved the 'Forgot password' to go with the 'help' link. Sign up is now a link. The whole thing is a lot less confusing and there's no crap anywhere - the space saved is shocking. It's not as minimal as it could be, but it's definitely better than what's there now.

What I didn't do was revamp the colour scheme - I like that.

As a side note: I did that entire exercise in Paint (you can tell from the lack of anti-aliasing on the Hotmail font) - really, does Microsoft consider that a worthy graphics editor to bundle with their operating system? Paint has a lot of potential to be great - but right now, it's rubbish.

Yes, I got the idea from Andy Rutledge. I thought it'd be a good exercise.

Wasteland Vista

Some really interesting points in this article. Read the whole thing, there's some really good advice on how not to design an application. And I completely agree with the following:

Vista doesn’t seem concerned about balance, at least to someone acting as a
user. From what I can see, the specific visual form was designed to provide
appeal in showrooms and demos not in regular use. It’s a form for selling a
product, not for using it. This is design driven by marketing, about making the
sale, not the experience.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Wall Street Journal Redux

Great read. Check out the rest of the series too.

XML, the future?

How semantic are the XHTML tags we have now? h1 isn't descriptive at all - let's face it, a more suitable tag for that would be title. Or article.

XML is a long way off from being a standard, but at least then you can have much more descriptive tags. RSS is a great example of what is possible by using lean, structured markup instead of tag soup.

I guess what we have now is still plagued with CSS flaws (multiple backgrounds? a good multicolumn layout module?) and such documents with 'proper' semantic XML tags will only become reality when we can write XHTML without an excess of division tags.

And only that will happen when Microsoft jump onboard the CSS3 bandwagon, as Apple/Mozilla have already done.

Let's face it, there are some agencies writing sites with divisions as if they were table cells. That's not how web design should work.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Reference Wallpaper

Firefox has a good extension that resizes the browser to any size you want - built into the web developer toolbar. A very useful tool that all web developers should have in their toolkit.
Still, I like this. There's something about the design of it that is really nice.

EDAW Benches

Love this. Very slick. (via)

Redbean Holiday Cards

Love the colours on these. Classy. (via)

Not unpleasant...

There's an interesting discussion in the comments at Christopher Fahey's blog, on the NYT article regarding the percentage of time that men/women find unpleasant whilst doing an activity.

Is it really so easy to generalise the issue? When you consider that such a figure is hard to quantify, given the heterogeneous nature of how we use computers, it's difficult to believe that 13% of the time, unpleasant situations occur.

I find Windows to be ugly 10% of the time. But 90% of the time I'm not using Windows. How about you?

Monday, 1 October 2007

On progressive disclosure...

Progressive disclosure is a method of revealing the details of a feature on
an on-demand basis, so that the basic elements of the feature appear by default
while the less used or more advanced elements are hidden. These elements are
usually just a click or two away, so they remain readily available, but they’re
hidden by default to avoid interface clutter for the majority of users who do
not need them.

Robert speaks a lot of sense.

Israeli Food Bank

Thought provoking. (via)

Missing logo? What's the world coming to?

A month or so back I was reading Andy Rutledge's site and stumbled upon this article. I felt inclined to Andy's comments on the article at the time, as he was pointing out that, actually, the logo is the least important element on the page.

At the time I didn't really know what to think, but I trusted his judgement and tried to see it from a usability point of view. See, I like the concept of a logo. But needing it as a primary orientative feature of any place, well I wasn't sure about that.

When you go to a bookshop (let's pick Borders), the logo is the most important thing at the shop front - it is telling you where you are. Inside however, the books, music and films take priority. I don't want to see this logo everywhere, it would distract me from browsing, and sometimes buying a book of my choice. The total scenario would go something like this:
  • Get a bus into town
  • Walk to Borders
  • Browse books
  • (Pay, and) Leave

Simple. How much of my time is taken up by staring at the logo? 3 seconds, at most, as I'm walking to the store. There might be displays that have the Borders branding on them, but typically I'll just shoot downstairs to the technology/art section. At most I'll see 'Borders' 3-4 times whilst in the shop. The most important thing whilst I'm there is buying a book. Obviously.

Let's take a website example. Google have their logo pride of place, top centre of the page. (I don't need to link to Google do I?) Now, because it's the biggest element there, one would assume that it is, in fact, the most important thing on the page. No. People go to Google for their search capabilities, not their logo. Although, it has to be said that Google come up with nice variations on their logo from time to time.

Perhaps not such a good example.

The site in question, Toyota, is missing their logo. However, the site is definitely not missing the Toyota brand (the word is mentioned 13 times on the screenshot). I could probably ask for less Toyota in the news headlines!

In my opinion, saying that the logo is the primary orientative element is ridiculous. If anything, it's what I typed into the address bar. Perhaps there should be text confirming that I am there, but a logo isn't necessary. I don't see a logo for the application window of iTunes on OS X, only the one sitting in the dock (which I hardly look at).

More important is the navigation and content of the page. I care more about that than I do a brand. Content determines brand, not fancy graphics. The reason I visit Andy's site often is because he has very good content and offsite links. I don't go to eye the logo typography (which is, admittedly beautiful).

From a usability perspective, on the web, the logo doesn't add anything. It's only used as a differentiator - and you certainly won't be staring at it all the time you're viewing a page.

Ratings done right.

I really like this. Star ratings are good if you're in an application such as iTunes, where you're the only user. But on the web, 100 negative ratings could skew an otherwise flawlessly reviewed product.

So this slider gives a really good indication of where the ratings are (all good in that picture). It's how ratings should be done.

I also love Amazon's way of dealing with ratings, below:

Although, I am confused as to why they need to show me the same information twice (see if you can spot it). That's one of the downsides of Amazon - they give you so much information it can be overwhelming.

Thanks David. (via)