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Archive of posts tagged with Web

Some thoughts on the iPad

May 31, 2010


Over the last few days I’ve been lucky enough to read about the hype of the UK iPad launch from my own iPad, which arrived about a month ago.

After seeing a friend’s iPad at a wedding a couple of weeks before that, and seeing him proudly draw a giant penis on it, I had my reservations – aside from having a beautiful screen there were no killer apps, no super connectivity and the keyboard was not up to serious typing.

Now I’ve had my own for a few weeks, here’s why I love it:

  • It is the perfect browse the web / read feeds / reply to emails device from the sofa / bed. It is small enough to be ultra-portable but big enough to be a joy to use.
  • It’s a brilliant recipe companion. There are a few recipe finder apps already (epicurious in particular is outstanding), and the relatively small footprint makes it more convenient to have an iPad in the kitchen than a laptop.
  • Apps like Guardian Eyewitness are beautiful and there are doubtless many more to come.
  • Generally – the screen is brilliant and the device is super responsive. The email client is light and sensible and great for catching up. When I go back to my iPhone after using the iPad it feels like someone dipped it in treacle
  • Flight Control HD. I’ve written about Flight Control before, but my goodness. Playing it large is super smashing awesome good.

Epicurious app

And the dislikes:

  • Given that the screen is so good, why is there no camera?
  • The array of applications out there right now isn’t too inspiring. There are a million and one piano applications for iPad. Unless you have tiny fingers or are happy with playing chopsticks in a 2-octave range don’t bother. They are universally rubbish (but I am a piano snob)
  • Why are eBooks so expensive? For me reading on a screen will always be a downgrade from having a real book, so it makes no sense to me that eBooks are priced more highly than their superior print counterparts. Lots of analysis on this out there: “eBooks must not be devalued as this will depress the true value of the entire market in the future.” [Stephan Butscher, Simon-Kucher & Partners], but I wonder what will happen once Google Editions gets going.

So all in all I feel the iPad is absolutely not a necessity device – it takes tasks which are easily achieved on the iPhone and on your laptop and makes a few of them much, much easier. It is not a replacement for anything per se.

Cory Doctorow posted a few weeks ago on his frustrations with the iPad, Apple’s skewed monopoly on innovation, on what he calls the infantalisation of hardware, on closed vs open.

The points he makes are valid but I feel he quickly dismisses the vast market for whom a closed platform is perfectly fine. A large group of people out there (and I count myself as one of them, most of the time) don’t want to tinker or take their devices apart (perhaps burnt by previous failed attempts at fixing VHS machines or 90s PCs). They just want things to work really well, be beautiful and easy to use. Is that so bad?

Nice day for a blog wedding

March 27, 2008

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Big congratulations to Darren LMG and Sashinka on the announcement that they’re engaged! We do like a bit of love in the blogosphere. But in a world where our blog names are our surnames (Meg Meish (neé Notsosoft), Mike TD, Ian Blogadoon etc), obviously the biggest question of all is this: will it be Sasha LMG or Darren Sashinka?

Future of Web Design 2007: 15 things in 15 minutes

April 21, 2007

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15 things in 15 minutes
Steve Pearce from Poke London

Good design – fiddle until you get it right. It’s about giving the user pleasure (ooh, err)

1) Our home
Google Earth – like science fiction! Getting better resolution too. Archive, also. In schools.
Crisis in Darfur – puts events in perspective by putting them on a map – closer to the news

2) Travel – unbiased flight search engine – pings back best/cheapest flights. autofill, inline info on results, interesting stats
filtering flight time, name your price to find out exacty where you can go for your money

3) Environmental conscience – business with a conscience – tell their message through their products, get the basics right
experience beyond the site – nice returns form with your item. And they have fun.

4) Shopping – updates daily (daily fixes with RSS etc) to showcase the conveyer belt of new content which comes on stream, blogs and editorial features, video podcasts too.
Design manual for – inspirational bedtime reading, with some suggestions for future improvement

5) Security
London fashion week – 2 laptops nicked and pictures uploaded to flickr
Undercover – bad news for thieves! Mac gets stolen, report stolen by using your unique ID… stoen laptop calls home, sends location… and takes a photo of the thief

6) Your online activity – track sensitive info, credit ratings. Revealing

7) Social money
zopa – borrowing/lending directly from people
it’s open and transparent

8) Wealth – your global richlist ranking – social comment to spur people on to donate money – used in schools.

9) Learning
designing interactions by Bill Muggridge. Ask users to mumble to themselves whilst talking through stuff

10) Users in control – creating passionate users
Canyon of pain going from a beginner to an advanced user

11) DIY –

12) Create positives out of negatives – helpful error messages

13) Web is like a teenager – attitudes have to mature, doodling…

14) Doodling – drawing knobs – (sex witha miner is particularly amusing)

15) Poke – like everyone else – are hiring

Future of Web Design 2007: Thoughts from a designer (at Microsoft)

April 21, 2007

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Thoughts from a designer
Jon Harris, User Experience evangelist

hard to use
designed by Engineers

Rich vs reach – choosing the right experience
Windows Presentation Foundation – allows designers and develoeprs to work together
Vista gadgets
ASP.NET AJAX – framework, hmv digital uses this
Silverlight – rich interface stuff
Expression studio – Expression Media has nice transcoding things

Designers and developers speak different languages, apparently that’s why stuff looks different at the end
[I think it's because designers design stuff which is sometimes impossible using tools available in the timeframe, and things change]
Apparently developers break all the beautiful designer-made eggs!
Expression Blend smooths the handover from designer -> developer. Allegedly.

Future of Web Design 2007: Standards vs Flash

April 21, 2007

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Standards vs Flash
Florian Schmitt, (Hi-ReS!) & Jeff Croft, (World Online)

Jeff – Two random reasons for using web standards

Reason 2 – needs to provide tons of content presented in a way users expect
they need to learn how to navigate the site
eg marketplace site for laurence, kansas

Florian – uses flash

Reason 1 – knows nothing about the web, wants to get in fast
first project – 30 days (Flash trial length) – soulbath – a celebration of things that are wrong on the web

Reason 2 – wants to mess with people’s heads and create his own OS, eg Jack OS with Word:m’fucka registered to Vanilla Ice and Excel:rose

Initial thoughts:
-The I’m a mac, i’m a pc analogy doesn’t work for flash vs web standards

We should be long beyond the flash 99% bad debate and realise that they both have strengths and weaknesses

Common use of flash / html
The main principle (accessibility aside) should be that the concept and the idea determine the tool and language you choose.

In some cases this might be exclusive use of one tool, or a combination of them.

Where does Flash make more sense? Where does HTML make more sense?

Example 1 – news sites  – HTML eg
- deep linking & back button very important (difficult in flash)
- People want to be able to copy and paste (possible in flash but not intuitive)
- Good brand experience comes as a result of providing quality news content, not via a rich interface

Example 2 – experience sites
Branded entertainment / broadband / immersive
Sony Bluray- has flat version to comply with DDA – all deep links bring up the same flash if flash is enabled
Beck – all flash. some beck fans loved, some hated

- Brand experience is key
- People are open to assisted discovery
- Deep linking interesting from a viral perspective
- SEO / DDA complience are obvious concerns
- Database-driven, content-heavy sites. Do they work?

Example 3 – application sites
eg picnic, scrapblog, flickr, 37signals
- Emulating the desktop environment
- Not sure whether this is possible with web standards – quicker to use flash to build these sorts of sites
- Picnic – flash – slow, but uses flckr API and flash to do some very nifty stuff
- scrapblog – again using flash – forget that you’re using a browser

Combined use
- NYTimes Campaign finances data – database content -> xml -> flash display
- Lawrence Journal-World elections
- Nathan Borror’s studio
- swfIR – swf image replacement – rounded corners, drop shadows etc. Nice.

What are standards?
Does a high penetration make a technology a standard by default, ie. Flash for video?

If the latest Flash player has much greater penetration than the latest browser that fully supports web standards, does that make Flash a standard in practice, if not in name? [no, if a company defines standards then we end up with a dangerous situation...]

- why does everything on the web have to be 2D?

Future of Web Design 2007: User Centered Design for Evolving Products

April 21, 2007

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User Centered Design for Evolving Products
Ryan Freitas, Adaptive Path

What Ryan does: introduce teams to design principles that can improve the quality of their process and their products. – geolocation service. Website is a bit of a mishmash. Not streamlined enough. Need to evolve.

1) Evolution and product design

“The web is moving away from big sites with lots of pages and towards applications with interfaces”
- Peter Merholz

All products undergoing iteration evolve – some faster than others

eg WordPress – tweaks on a very regular basis
process refinements
taxonomy and IA iteration
inteface improvements – removing impediments

What’s the opposite of gradual iteration? – get specific news for a certain area. Successful, and relaunched with a different idea:
- users were engaging with local forums, so they focussed on this

Punctuation in product development

In evolutionary biology ‘punctuation’ refers to a sudden appearance of a new species

At a slow-enough pace, gradualism looks like statis – eg

eg riya visual search – scan photos, analyse and give you others like it. 95% approval/satisfaction rate, so people weren’t coming back
Relaunched as a shopping engine eg to imitate celebs –

Differentiation in the name of survival

Gradualism – small iterations
Punctuation – redefinition and refinement

How do you prepare for punctuation? It’s a big deal. Pick the right tools for the job.

2) A toolset for evolution

Restate the value
You don’t have a blank slate!
Forced to handle the history of the work you’ve done
What’s your elevator pitch? What’s the current goal/mission of your team? If you can’t describe it then you’ve added feature after feature chasing users, but you’ve lost sight of what/who you had in the beginning
Know your audience, know your benefit, know your competition, know your differentiation

Elevator strategy: For/Who/The/Is a/That/Unlike/We
Team activity makes people agree on common goals
The needs of users and the market will shift over time. Take the opportunity to understand your audience.

Tell the story
Conversations about future releases tend to begin with feature roadmap
It’s more about where people are taking the product instead of setting in stone where the product is going next [power to the people!]
Releases should be built on how you envision users engaging with your product
Personas are just marketing segments with headshots
Storytelling is about understanding motivations, intentions and expectations rather than segmenting them
A day in the life – cartoon of someone using the site at different times of the day
With plazes – use cases – users updating their location and then a friend asks plazes who’s nearby
Stories teams tell capture experiences that reduce frustration and celebrate engagement and extension.
Storytelling strongly links an appreciation for users’ needs with ideas for how to fulfil them
From these stories a feature set and rodmap aligned with current and future users is able to emerge

Atomize the features
With a common goal, and user stories to fulful, it’s helpful to understand the feature set
It’s the atomic structure – the core tenets
What’s the easiest way to sort out what features lie at the core of your product?
Working within constraints
For plazes the SMS component was imperative – very constrictive environment
Plazes core is: communicate presence as simply as possible (wifi went, everything else went)
Sometimes referred to as ‘peeling the onion’

Rich Skrenta [] – post about evolving topix. Ride the winners. What on the site is working and reorganise around those principles
Nail the core feature. Everything else will follow

Tidy the seams
Conway’s law “organisations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organisations”
Design tends to be a function of the the team that put it together
No coherence/consistency between features on different platforms
The silo-ed way in which you built the channels are not the way in which people are experiencing them.
Twitter is good, identical commands in all channels IM/Mobile. Yay :)
Exercise thoughtful restraint – world of checkboxes to select how you hear about the sites
37 signals’ todolist offering much more straightforward/restrained
Reduce noise where you can – overloading people with information is not a good way to engage with them. Don’t fill the screen just because you can.

3) Summary
[Phew. Fingers sore]
Evolution is tricky. Consider carefully before evolving too fast – your current audience and your team’s cohesion are both at risk
Simplification feeds back into the entire design process, simplifying the product and enabling differentiation

Future of Web Design 2007: Branding and identity

April 19, 2007

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Branding and identity
Rei Inamoto, AKQA

Impressive portfolio…

AKQA – huge company – SF/LDN/NY/DC/Shanghai 200 people in London, 500 people globally

Don’t think of themselves as designers etc
They create ideas that solve client’s problems – slightly bigger perspective.

26% of people remember what they hear
43% of people remember what they see
67% of people remember what they experience – something which combines different senses
[jingle writers have it tough, huh]

Experience = Remember

5 ways to make your brand more memorable

1) Have a point of view.
Being everything to everyone leaves you with nothing.

Example: – all in alien language of the covenant, cryptic navigation, no english text
how long would it take for users to crack the website to read it?
AKQA guessed 2 weeks.
Within 24 hours users collaborated parts of the character set and posted an entire translation into English
Translation and localisation is a pain in the bum – make up one language and consumers will do the translations for you.
Halo2 grossed more money in the weekend of launch than Spiderman 2 movie in the same weekend

2) Be who you are
Be pure and honest

Main character Joanna Dark has to kill everyone at Datadyne
Give details, explore Joanna Dark’s room. [Very dark and a bit dull...]
You nominate a friend to be killed. And they get emailed to say they’ve been killed. Nice…
Client afraid of promoting dark stuff – even though the game is about killing people

3) Let them engage with you
Give them something meaningful to do

Example: (nike 10k)

Googlemap mashup where you can store your local run routes.
Also responsible for the retail design instore
Text message alerts
Video clip of person crossing the finish line

4) Be relevant
Prove yourself worthy in whatever medium you work with.


Initially just a set of animated gifs for 5 years on they now have the online and offline advertising accounts
Nice TV ad, and some examples of interactive bus shelters to find stuff local to that bus shelter.
Digital sign on side of bus – bus has GPS chip to tailor messages relevant to the bus location
Try and find relevant ways to catch up with people

5) Simplify, simplify, simplify
When you think it’s simple enough, simplify it some more

Example: nike air
How do you make a buzz about a shoe without a shoe?
Show it from the inside – made a model of the air bubble – nice detail image

Future of Web Design 2007: Designing for developers

April 19, 2007

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Designing for developers
Andy Clarke, Stuff and nonsense

“it doesn’t matter the colour of the car, but what goes on beneath the bonnet” – billy bragg – a lover sings
Sums up the divide between visual designers and developers

Top Gear cool wall but for websites

Are Yahoo cool? No.
Yahoo are moving up to the sub-zero category apparently, Andy Clarke puts it on the seriously uncool part

Twitter – not cool, twitter API is cool though.
Digg – doesn’t use visualisation, and the conversations aren’t very interesting – populated by 17-year-olds, uncool
Microsoft – uncool (sponsors!!)
Dropsend – rad! (says Ryan Carson) cool because no-one uses it (rawr!)
Flickr – achieved a superb brand loyalty over photobucket etc – sub-zero

What we’re trying to do is create products that people love to use
Brand experience
Honda CR-V – uncool car but Clarke’s been driving it for 11 years. He doesn’t know about it under the hood, but it works really well.
If we look under the hood of things, there will be stuff that people don’t understand .We don’t have to understand the intracacies of every single part of every part of the app we’re making.

So what do designers do for a living? What is a web designer?
How can web designers best interface with other people in the industry to avoid making massive oily messes?

Richard – setting up a site called – advice/social networking/blogging site
Richard didn’t appreciate that Clarke isn’t just someone who chooses colours and whatnot
What he got from Clarke as a designer was more than making the pages look pretty: work on functionality/usability

Designers often very separate to development team. Sometimes IA people too.
Detailed wireframes before design doesn’t leave room for design flexibility
Wireframes take ages to do
Photoshop comps of every single page – take ages to do too.
Does every piece of the project need to be mapped out in a mass-produced car factory kindof of way? Probably not.
The process itself is not very creative.

Roughly what goes where? (less prescriptive) – jason santa maria
Reams of documentation / func spec not necessary – grey boxes which say ‘what goes where’
Avoid hangovers from other media
Designer – wants to communicate the essence of what it’s about – the brand values
For really worried – just one photoshop comp for the whole site
General colour pallette and to show what goes where
Big advocate of using XHTML and CSS in the design process to create meaningful prototypes
How do you design liquid layouts? How do you specify how the text scales up?
How make something static show dynamic workflow?
How do you communicate interaction and error messages on forms?
Did XHTML/CSS prototypes solely in firefox
95% of stuff made it through to the final project and a fair amount of time was saved
Write notes on top of design layout to communicate meaning – perhaps with suggested markup guides in the comp

“as an interface designer I can use microformats and then people who actually know what they are doing can do really col stuff with the data” – dan cederholm

Future of Web Design 2007: Creating award-winning online marketing campaigns

April 18, 2007

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Creating award-winning online marketing campaigns
Joshua Hirsch, Minister of Technology @ Big Spaceship

Not a web design shop
Not a flash shop
Not a production house
Not an ad agency

‘Digital creative agency’

Don’t pigeon-hole people into roles. [a LOT of time emphasising this]

Good old-fashioned storytelling / creating an experience around a brand

Guitar hero in the office is the key to their success [hint hint]

Ownership of the work, don’t employ freelancers

Producers instead of project managers so that they feel like they’ve made creative decisions [aww]

Brainstorming meetings includes someone from every part of the business. Anyone can have an idea.
- everyone has an equal voice from intern to senior mgmt
- everyone feels like they own it a bit

The last 5% – if your ideas are incorporated you’ll be more passionate about it
They don’t have a ‘pens down’ moment. Detail is what makes things good.

Office designed for collaboration, soft areas

Example: The Big Reel
Target bought all the screens on times square on NYE, Big Spaceship created animations for the screens
Motion reel for people interested in doing the work (just spec work around other projects)
Review session to edit down the ideas
Developers doing animation etc

Example: Nike Air
Keyboard controls control flash animation of athlete animations – crazy animations, some of which are videos, some are vector animations, some are programmatic elements within flash – convergence of different skills in one creative product:
Interactive shoe specs too
visualiser demo for loads of flash effects
Green screen space to create videos of eg athletes running

Future of Web Design 2007: integrated design across different media

April 18, 2007

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Integrated design across different media
Nat Hunter, airside

Director of airside is in LemonJelly so good thing.
Record sleeves – way to engage people through interaction
Good to surprise people, give them something they don’t expect (hopefully nice things)
Nice moment when you find the CD
Live shows experience – given a lucky bag
- bingo warmup pencil
- balloons – visual spectacle, breaks down social barriers
- ticket was a t-shirt (different gig), excuse to talk to people, also a long-lasting effect when you wear stuff later, also hidden UV element revealed at the gig

- alien god at music festivals
- animated ventriloquist puppet
- people confided in him

Wardrobe of the stars
- club space with a wardrobe, camera in there which displays into club

Petshopboys official site
- no brand / logo, so needed to design without this
- wanted it to look like a newspaper
- flash front end, enormous database backend [accessibility?]
- fan interaction? too much porn. petheads
- band-generated content – moblogging from Neil and Chris


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