News : August 2004
So the new design for mozilla.org has launched. Much to my chagrin most of my suggestions were not implemented... but then again, they were only posted a few hours before the design was set to launch. Anyway, good job on the redesign, it's a huge improvement over the last design... now to just fix those few bugs. [from PhotoMatt] Update: Additional commentary found at Wow-Factor.
Your Total Site
New Issue of A List Apart
Another new issue of A List Apart is out. In this issue Elika Etemad and Jorunn D. Newth write about the concept of using CSS to accomoate designs for handheld devices such as PDAs, PockPCs, and cell phones. The article is entitled "Pocket-Sized Design: Taking Your Website to the Small Screen" and is well worth the read.
Mozilla.org, still room for improvement
In a previous post (see Mozilla and Firefox: When brands collide) I talked about how the beta site design for Mozilla.org had some very confusing branding and architecture. Since then it seems that these issues are slowly being addressed. In the latest version of the Mozilla.org beta site you can see a little better identification of the various products and what they would be used for. I still think they could improve the architecture of the site, specifically the calls to action. There is also plenty of room to design something that better explains that obscure product Mozilla and how it relates to Firefox. They are accepting comments on the beta design through this evening. I posted my two cents, time to post yours. [from Leonard Lin]
Designing for the Unknown
Donna Maurer makes some good points in her post entitled Human-information interaction. As always, her posts are interesting and make you really think about the context of it all. So I wonder what some you have to say about this. How do you design for the unknown? Post your thoughts via the comments.
Scalable Inman Flash Replacement
Ok, it looks like Mike Davidson has been messing around with Inman's Flash Replacement (IFR), he has proposed a scalable solution he calls sIFR. For a while there it seemed like everyone was blogging about some new variation of Fahrner Image Replacement (FIR), people were releasing these things every day. So I stopped blogging them, but this one seems worth mentioning here, especially if you work on a rather, well, Flash-intensive site. [from Mike Industries]
Cameron Adams is holding a survey that he hopes will settle the dispute about whether designers are really any different from man walking down a street. He explains more in his post Designers vs. The Real World: Favorite color. If you are a designer or even if you are not a designer go and take the survey. I can't wait to see the results.
The Conversion Factor
Peter Merholz writes a great post about the conversion factor and failuar rates in complex systems called "Jumping through hoops." He makes some pretty good points here and these failuar rates are something that everyone should be watching closely through the process of in-depth analytics. The data will offer some insight into how user-centered design can make a good experience. To quote Peter he asks, "The challenge, of course, seems to be to manage complexity. Complexity seems to be a given. Is it? Is increasing complexity inevitable?"
How We Find Information
Continuing on the topic of one of my previous posts (see Giving Credit) Derek Featherstone has authored a great post about Tracking the Spread of Ideas. This is where social networks, findability, analytics, and information sources all meet. Derek would like to hear your input about the concepts here and if such a project would be worth it. I for one think it would be well worth it. BTW, if you are not familiar with Box of Chocolates I highly recommend you check it out.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine columnist David Wertheimer reports in from Ad:Tech Chicago and reveals how corporations are embracing user experience as a driver of revenue. This issue of his Wide Open column is entitled "Better Than a Human." Some of the companies the article covers are United Airlines, SideStep, and ATA Airlines. That's all for this week, we will return next week with another great article by one of my favorite writers. See you then.
Sometime late Tuesday night Microsoft launched the latest redesign of their home page. Matt Mullenweg was one of the first to blog about it. It's certainly not 100% valid or semantic, but it is getting there. I am doing my part to get standards compliance in the sites I am involved with, but it certainly a uphill battle. I think Doug Bowman's presentation at Digital Design World may have gained the intrest of just the right people at MS to make some forward movement. See Doug's comments here. I hope the next redesign is fully valid and semantic.
There is something to be said about the lack of credit blogs and community news sites give to their sources. Make no mistake, Digital Web Magazine is a firm believer in the code of Weblog Ethics and follows those guidelines religiously. What is very interesting is the number of blogs and sites out there who clearly gathered there information from one source yet never mention, credit, or otherwise show any form of recognition for the source in which they were received. You will noticed that we have covered this before and even shown how it can aid in the findability of information. It makes me wonder why credit isn't given, even if the source is not the original source. Perhaps there is a fear that others will discover that the content isn't original? Maybe they fear traffic will shift from their sites to the source's site? Anyway, these people know full well who they are and I encourage them to give credit where credit is due. After all, someone spent their hard earned time to find that information, it would be only fair to give them credit. Oh, and for the record, I am not talking about just material used from Digital Web Magazine, I am talking about material used from all sites and blogs.
Happy Birthday Blogger
Today marks the fifth birthday for Blogger, Evan Williams goes into detail on his site in this post. Congrats to the Blogger team, Google, and yes everyone who helped make this a reality over the years. You know who you are.
Web development mistakes
Roger Johansson has posted a great list of about 18 or so Web development mistakes. He calls upon his readership to post their favourite Web development mistakes in the comments. Go ahead and add yours to the list.
Making a Difference
Scott Stadum, a Peace Corps volunteer, is in need of a volunteer project manager for a project we are working on with a group of other volunteers. Some of you may remember Scott's previous call for volunteers and the post Dave Shea made about the project... well, we have a pretty good crew, we just need one good PM. If anyone who has experience project managing web site projects and is interested in actually "making a difference" please contact Scott.
SEO, The Best Way
Keith has a pretty good and to the point post about Search Engine Optimization, The Best Way. Often times I am asked how I was able to get such a great search ranking for some of my sites and the funny thing is, it's just like some sports: trying too hard will get you no where fast, don't try and you'll own the game.
Mozilla and Firefox: When brands collide
Through the grapevine we have heard about the proposed Mozilla.org beta website. Now, I may not be a marketing guru here and we all know there are many more twists in the roadmap ahead, but it seems to me there is quite a bit of confusion from the average consumer who wants to just download the damn browser everyone is talking about. Do they download Firefox or Mozilla and what are Thunderbird and this crazy Sunbird thing? For those who are trying to catch up, Firefox is the browser, Mozilla is the suite that includes a whole bunch of stuff. Thunderbird is the email client and Sunbird is the calendar application. Just my two cents here, maybe it should be a little clearer on the web site? [from Wow Factor]
Update: Some more insight into this problem can be found in this article enetitled "Taming the Beast: The Solution to Mozilla's Hidden Marketing Problem." [thanks, Leonard Lin, for pointing that out.]
The U.S. goes Highspeed
Andy King tells me that the U.S. Broadband Penetration Breaks 50%. "For the first time, U.S. broadband penetration broke 50% among active Internet users in July. U.S. broadband penetration grew by 1.21 percentage points in July, with 50.69% of active Internet users on high-speed connections at home." The statistics for this is derived from Nielsen//NetRatings data. Andy also reports that Broadband share in the U.S. should exceed 70% by November of 2005.
Fixing Permalinks and Credit links
Thomas Vandar Wal has posted an excellent blog entry entitled "Fixing Permalink to Mean Something" which sparked my interest. In it he describes how his site uses permalinks and what he did to help aid the findability of the information that shows up via searching Google and other methods. I think we can take this a step further. For example, for a long time Digital Web Magazine has always given credit to blogs and sites in which we find some of our news bits, well, if you have been watching closely you will notice that we no longer link to that blogs home page, instead we are linking directly to the specific post in which we found the information. This way when someone Googles for something and gets one of Digital Web Magazine's blog posts and if we found it online, they will be able to locate the source of that information without having to search the sources site for it. A simple solution for a issue we all have to deal with from time to time.
Ok, no, we are not talking Apple here... We are talking browsers. Browse Happy is the latest project to launch from the Web Standards Project. My hats off to the team at WaSP for making this happen. [from Sidesh0w]
Dave Shea writes a great post about how he made use of a larger target area for the navigation in his latest redesign. He cites Fitts' Law in his post. This technique reminds me of the days when I worked in Multimedia where the UI was a touch-screen interface, the buttons and clickable areas were much larger to accommodate this. We called them "Hot Spots." The same can be said for sites that need to appeal to an audience who can't easily maneuver a mouse (i.e. those who may have disabilities that effect their hand movements). It's good to see designers are starting to pay attention to HCI.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine contributing writer Andy Budd explores the many risks involved in Web development and offers some excellent techniques to identify and manage risk for the benefit of Web designers and their clients. His article is entitled "Risky Business" and rightfully so. That's all for this week, check back in next week for another great issue.
Scene360 shows its colors
Adriana de Barros tells us that Scene360 has redesigned. The new design may not be fully CSS driven or use any bleeding edge technology but the content continues to be an inspiration to us all. Thank you for producing such great content.
Optimal Line Length
Andy Arikawa has an excellent summary of the ideal line length on The Daily Flight. In the post he recognizes the work at SURL to find the answer to this issue. Well stated Andy.
Information Architecture Heuristics
Lou Rosenfield has developed a set of Information Architecture Heuristics. To quote Lou, "Every information architect should always have a set of favorite questions in their back pocket." [from StepTwo]
Jon Hicks points out that he's been attempting to redesign his site since November in his post Redesigning is hard to do. He concluded that he is not going to make any radical changes. Instead he is going for a Simplebits approach now. Keep the general look and layout, but freshen it up. Site refresh seems to be a term that is growing in popularity with some of the projects I am working on.
Chevrolet goes valid
The Scary Side of Search
In a recent BBC news article entitled Searching for new ways to search journalist Mark Ward quotes Kathy Rittweger, co-founder of search start-up Blinkx, about the software they are producing that will help filter your searches by "key concepts." This is essentially a piece of software that will track what you are working on (and I mean everything) to help isolate the type of search you would need to find resources on the same subject. The reality of this type of solution is that it jeopardizes privacy in favor of functionality. As one findability expert said, "I don't want to give up that information and I'm not convinced it will help improve search... though I'm sure it will make lots of money on the ad side." I couldn't agree more.
Is Fixing Really the Solution?
Adam Howell redesigns The Weekly Standards to a fixed width layout. He explains all in his post Don't Want ems, Don't Need ems. Well, to me this is what happens when you try to be pixel perfect like in print in a medium like the web. I really don't think you can impose pixel perfect layouts on the web without making the full site Flash. I mean seriously, look at how many different platforms are out there... sure you can get it close in Mac and Windows, but what about Gnome or other similar platforms? Sure they may represent a smaller portion of your readership, but my point is, it's not going to ever look perfect and identical to everyone... nor should it. If you are still confused, I would recommend reading Fluid Thinking and A Dao of Web Design. These are two great articles that go right to the point of how we should be designing for the web. Remember, just because it looks nearly identical on a Mac or Windows platform today doesn't mean you won't see the same or similar OS on a device 1/2 the size trying to display the same web page in full color and graphical glory. Finding a balance is the key to a true solution, fixing the width is only a temporary Band-Aid.
New Issue of Boxes and Arrows
A new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. In this issue is an article entitled Location and Presence in Mobile Data Services by Jonathan Grubb and Shawn Smith. The article outlines several technologies on the immediate horizon and how they are about to change the way we (and our phones) interact with the world. Also in this issue is Representing Content and Data in Wireframes: Special Deliverable #10 by Dan Brown in which he describes the pros and cons of sample data, Latin and actual data.
Eric Meyer tells us that XFN 1.1 has been released. Included in the new profile are the identifiers
me. XFN can be used in your blog posts (such as I have in this very post) or in blogrolls like I have done on the side of my personal journal. View source and look for the
How to apply for Information Architecture jobs
Michael Angeles has posted a great read on How to apply for IA jobs. I highly recommend you read this if you are applying to any IA job. I suppose now would be good time to mention that ZAAZ is hiring an additional Information Architect. It would be good if canidates had a history of working as an IA in their previous jobs (we're not in the habbit of hiring designers for IA roles). Memberships to places like AIfIA don't hurt either.
Dotted and Schemed
In the past few days since I have left for a short trip to Portland Digital Web Magazine has been dotted and schemed... color schemed at WorkingIdea and slashdotted for Ethan's great A Matter of Styles: Producing Quality CSS in a Team Environment article to be exact. Thanks for all the great links everyone!
Mezzoblue redesigns... again
Mezzoblue redesigns... again. Dave Shea explains all in his post entitled simply "Because..." Comments are closed on this entry and I can't say I blame Dave for doing so. Sometimes I feel the web community is far too critical... and even more often I feel the web community critiques when a critique has not been solicited for.
8 Quick Ways to Fix Your Search Engine
Jeff Veen has published a great essay on 8 Quick Ways to Fix Your Search Engine over at Adaptive Path. Also check out their report on Site Content Search avilable for a moderate fee. One of the things I like most about articles by Veen is that he never looses his touch. I recommend anyone who is exploring internal findability to bookmark this essay. Also see our Search and SEO sections on this site.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
This week Digital Web Magazine brings you yet another special double issue. In this issue contributing writer, Mark Newhouse, returns to cover the basics of CSS in his article CSS 101: Typography and White Space. Also in this issue is a great article by Ethan Marcotte which is entitled A Matter of Styles. In the article Ethan discusses the challenges faced when lone CSS samurai are brought together to work as part of a development team. Last but not least we would like to announce the latest addition to the Digital Web Magazine editorial staff; Jennie Robinson. Jennie joins us as our new Copy Chief. For the past two years, she has been consulting within the web industry providing Web standards audits and content strategies to her clients. Before that she was a content editor at MSN and Web news editor at MSNBC for two years. Needless to say we are very happy to have her aboard. We'll see you next week with more great articles.
UCD without the Users?
Donna Maurer makes some good points about designing and building web sites outside of User Centered Design (UCD) in her post How do they do it? This reminds me of some companies I have worked for who claimed to follow the practice of UCD, but never actually talked to the end user. I am happy to be working for a company that actually does talk to the users be it focus groups, usability studies, user testing, and surveys.
Web Design from Scratch
Ben Hunt has created one of the more resourceful sites I have seen in a long time about some of the best practices in web design. It covers everything on a basic 101 level so even if you are new to web design it's easy to follow along. The site is called simply Web Design from Scratch. It is by no means complete, but it certainly covers some ground that the web publishing community has been neglecting for some time now. Be sure to explore the tutorials section in depth.
How Valuable is Information?
Someone once said it only takes about 3 points of key information to steal someone's identity or to find out anything you need to know about them. Well, Kevin Cheng has authored a great article about Information: The New Currency which covers the notion of how willing we are to give our personal information to web sites just to access information we may find valuable. [from Information Design]
Blogging for Business
Here is a great article from BusinessWeek entitled Blogging for Business by Olga Kharif which covers C-Level blogs. As we all know there are many more uses for blogs in business than simply having the CEO or CTO blog. Wikis and Klogs empower employees to collaborate and archive their tribal knowledge. Marketing blogs help spin new products and events. Team and Department blogs help clear up communication about what work has been done and what needs to be done. It's good to see some of the business media press waking up for a change. [from Jeff Veen] Also see my presentation on The Why and How of Blogging at Web Design World and the notes for the Blogging for Business panel at SXSW 2004.
New Issue of A List Apart
Issue 186 of A List Apart is out and it is a special triple issue. In this issue is A Better Image Rotator by Dan Benjamin, Enhance Usability by Highlighting Search Terms by Brian Suda and Matt Riggott, and Better Invoices for Better Business by Kevin Potts. All great reading.
Color schemes from sites and products you know
While we are on the topic of color schemes, it looks like Tom over at WorkingIdea has a whole series of schemes from various sites and products. Know of other simular pages or sites? Send them our way, post via the comments.
Color Schemes from Photos
Adam Polselli has a really well designed series of examples showing how to extract color schemes from photos. He says, "Design inspiration can come from anywhere, anything, and at anytime. One of my personal favorites is photographs." [from WorkingIdea]
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
This week's issue of Digital Web Magazine is another special double issue. In this issue is a great book review by Karen Morrill-McClure in which she reviews 37signal's new book Defensive Design for the Web. Also in this issue is another great column by Alan K'necht entitled SEO and Your Web Site. There are also a few staff changes afoot here at Digital Web Magazine this week. Long time contributor, Tim Martin, has decided to step down from his role as Copy Chief due to a heavy workload. We are currently seeking qualified candidates for the Copy Chief role. If you have experience copy editing and would like to volunteer a few hours of your week to a worthy community cause, please contact us.
Volunteer Copy Chief Wanted
Well change is afoot. Long time Digital Web Magazine volunteer, Tim Martin has decided to step down from his role as Copy Chief. No, not because he hated the work, but because he has more work on his plate these days and simply won't be able to continue his volunteer efforts within the community. So, with that said, we are publicly accepting dedicated volunteer candidates for the Copy Chief position. The position involves copy editing one to two articles a week which run from 1,500 to 3,000 words in length on average. If you have copy editing experience and are dependable please contact the editor.
The UX Umbrella
A few days ago Lou Rosenfeld emailed me to tell me about the launch of another project he is working on. It is called UXNet, but before you get all upset about yet another association launching within this field, relax... it's not an association. Essentially UXnet is a way of pulling the whole UX community together for cooperation and collaboration among UX-related organizations and individuals. Among the list of supporting organizations is AIfIA, ASIS&T, IxDG, and UPA. I am curious to see if AIGA-ED, SIGCHI, STC and other groups will follow. I could see a huge benefit to such collaboration if it works out as planned.
Interaction Design Group
Rick Cecil, David Heller and a small group of other experts in the field have launched the Interaction Design Group (IxDG) web site. I still stand by my previous comments that IxD is really just a bastardization of Information Architecture, Human-Computer Interaction, and Expereince Design. Reading the site only confirms my theory... but I am happy to be proven otherwise given enough factual evidence that such a practice does exist and is needed in addition to IA, HCI and ED.
With every redesign, rearchitecture, and refresh of a web site there are things you should do before you do anything else... even on a low to no budget project. Adam Greenfield writes a excellent article on Planning for redesign, 1: Establishing the context. This is a must read for anyone involved with a site's goals and strategies.
New Issue of WPDFD
Joe Gillespie just published another great issue of Web Page Design for Designers. In this issue is a great feature covering the topic of Adapting print design skills for the Web. Joe covers the area of what print skills can still be used in web design. I imagine we will see another feature which covers why print skills should not be used in web design as well.