Saturday, August 16, 2008

Not Quite Loving Google's Gadgets

Last week I added to this blog a couple new Google Gadgets. There they are >> in the sidebar, they help me show more dynamic info and news on this blog, and I don't need to know any HTML coding whatsoever. I thought I'd be clever and try to use the magic of the internet to make it look as if I'm updating my blog, when I'm not. But as you can see the gadgets look like crap. Since I'm a designer I'm all about looking good, so this is really annoying me.

After I installed the Gadgets my first thought was, "holy crap, I think I need to start using WordPress now". That's how bad they look. But soon I realized that I should be able to customize these gadgets all on my very own. After all, I am a designer, and what's the point of knowing HTML and CSS?

If successful (hopefully this won't just be a load of non-billable work) Informational Geometry will be VERY Informational and will actually look nice and tight. And then, I can write a whole blog post on how to engineer a website (which could potentially earn money) without having to engineer anything at all.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Wisdom of Experience

I wish everybody involved in building websites, everyone, to take a look at this presentation from Agile 2008. This presentation basically explains how the whole process should work, and why. It's too revealing to summarize, you just just have to check it out.

The Wisdom of Experience
by Alan Cooper

OK fine here's a quote,
"No competent business person would choose speed over correctness if they had confidence in the outcome. "


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How is That a Sport?

Every four years a phrase is uttered from living rooms and bars across the USA. It's the Olympics, and along with the spectacle and grandeur are few questions about what constitutes a "real" sport. Comments like, "Where's the skill in that?" and "Look, he's got a gut" are exchanged, and of course, "How is that a sport?"

Here are the most questionable sports, from a broad panel of Baltimoreans:
- Badminton? Hello! Tennis people.
- Synchronized diving? Isn't just "diving" enough?
- Rhythmic gymnastics? What's the deal with the ribbons?
- Target shooting? You don't DO anything, you shoot a gun, how is that a sport?
- Beach Volleyball? In those bikinis? This just can't be taken seriously.

I myself am not a sports fanatic. I'm just happy to be entertained by the great big show that is the Olympics. Leave a comment about the Olympic sports you find questionable!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Is Your Website a Turn-Off to Women?

Are most of your users female? Statistically women spend more money, and make more household purchasing decisions than men do. Are you loosing business on the net because your site isn't targeted to your audience?

I found this research article on the BBC about gender bias within web design. I think most internet professionals already know this, but they don't really practice it. I thought it'd be fun to share.

Website design is 'biased to men'
Websites could be missing their target audiences because their design is biased towards what appeals to men, researchers have found.

...Co-researcher Dr Rod Gunn said: "The statistics are complicated, but there is no doubt about the strength of men's and women's preference for sites produced by people of their own sex."

His research colleague, Gloria Moss, added: "What we have found is that organisations are not considering how they can tailor their websites to appeal to their entire target audience. ...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

For UI Simplicity Rules

One of the biggest trends on the web for 2008 is the reign of simplicity. Over the past few months, some of the biggest websites have revamped their site design, opting for sophisticated but simple over gratuitous graphical bloat. Stripped away are the blends and visual effects, replaced with meaningful information, helpful text, and thoughtful interactions. It seems as if some of the best practices in user centered design are finally getting through to people.

Facebook launched a new "cleaner, simpler design". They say, “We’ve made the changes... in order to highlight the most recent and relevant information that users value, give users even more control and ownership over their profiles and simplify the user experience,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

And a couple month's back MySpace launched a design update, one of many, which they are working on with Adaptive Path.

My personal favorite new design is the BBC website. Launched in April after an open beta, their new design incorporates (gasp) actual user feedback. I think strikes a wonderful balance of visual aesthetics, user experience, and customization.

One note, the most important thing in regard to any website design is not to loose focus and over-design the interface. The content should be the focus. Facebook & MySpace would be nothing without their members. BBC would be nothing without it's news and entertainment content. Already I'm drawn in to the stories... what UI?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Forcing Inspiration

It's been a few weeks since I've written anything in my blog and so I've decided to force some inspiration. I do this for work all the time right? I sit down and design internet detritus for random clients, every day, so why can't I just force inspiration on myself?

"Force" is a bit harsh, I should use "process"... let's go.

Researching "inspiration" on Google uncovers:
- Way too many utterly useless search marketing pages
- Christian references
- Women's fitness
- "Forgiveness"
- Inspiring Quotes
- A couple of blogs (I like )

A couple clicks and I get to the wikipedia post on Artistic Inspiration. All this is very interesting, but I'm not waiting for divine truth to compel me.

Isn't the entire internet, potentially, a source of inspiration? But there's something intrinsically wrong here trying to find inspiration online. I'm staring at a screen, but it's sunny outside. Plus I'm overwhelmed by hundreds and hundreds of useless websites set up only for the purpose of hosting ads. I go off line...

(a day later)
After wandering around the neighborhood and asking myself "What is inspiring?" Seeing things which capture my attention and thinking, "What is the essence of this inspiring feeling?" Here's what I discovered:

The weather - Because the sunshine, warmth and greenery feels good.
A cafe - Because of the friendly vibe and the comfortable decor feels good.
Music - Because it makes me feel good.
People - All our neighbors are friendly, nice, and interesting.
Animals - Why is cuteness inspiring? It just is.
Beautiful things - I think beautiful artwork & homes are very inspiring...

It's clear that actual Experience is inspiring. Life. I'm sure everybody finds different things inspiring but somehow I don't think anybody really thinks their iphone, the internet, or anything on a screenis inspiring. Like the difference in feeling when watching a game on TV versus seeing it live. But this is just me. I wonder what inspires other people, and how they translate that inspiration into their lives.