News : October 2004
Quantifying the User Experience
Robert Rubinoff has published an article over at Site Point which dives into How To Quantify The User Experience, or what I would refer to as measuring intangible elements such as branding, usability, functionality, and content. It's a pretty good read and offers some good quick techniques to help improve your web site's user experience. Though I would take it a step further and suggest that this method should always be coupled with standard web analytics and user research (i.e. Informed Design).
Miller's Magic Seven
Digital Web Magazine contributing author, Bryan Eisenberg, has published an article entitled Debunking Miller's Magic 7. The article, of course, goes in to details about disproving the theory that George A. Miller expressed in his 1956 research paper. Both Keith and I have written about magic numbers and the rule of seven before. I think it's long since been determined that Miller's theory is only best used with a grain of salt. It's a good metric to try to stick within the ballpark of, but certainly not law. It's a Breadth vs. Depth issue (thanks Henrik) that can only help narrow the margin for err. Ultimately the best way to go about finding the right metric to us is to practice Informed Design.
Is Google Cloning a Yahoo?
Is it just me, or is Google trying to clone a Yahoo!? Today it was announced that Google bought Keyhole. Keyhole is a Mountain View, California company of 29 employees that creates digital maps. This sounds a lot like what Yahoo! is doing with Yahoo! Maps. And lets not forget Google's market cap. It will be interesting to see where Google ends up after all of these purchasing sprees.
New Issue of Boxes and Arrows
A new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. In this issue there are three new articles. First is a great article about some of the things you can do in Visio by Dan Brown (the other Dan Brown). The article is entitled Wireframe Annotations in Visio : Special Deliverable #11. Also in this issue is Use of Narrative in Interactive Design by Nancy Broden, Marisa Gallagher, and Jonathan Woyte. Lastly Adam Greenfield has a great article in this issue entitled All watched over by machines of loving grace which covers "Some ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous-computing settings."
Digital Web Magazine Basecamp Case Study
Jason Fried from 37Signals tells me that the Digital Web Magazine Case Study for Basecamp is now online. We have used Basecamp here since we started the last redesign and you know, I couldn't imagine doing business without it. Read our case study to to see how we are using it for weekly publishing as well as other short-term and long-term project. Special thanks to Krista Stevens for prepairing that for us.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine we a great article from contributing author, Jim Ramsey. Jim's article, Making News with Web standards, he takes a look at the San Francisco Examiner's leap to CSS-styled pages and the advantages of trimming file sizes for high-traffic newspaper sites. Also, this week's readership question has been posted. The question this week is how often do you send Digital Web Magazine articles to co-workers, colleagues, or upper management? That is all for now, see you next week with more in-depth articles on web design, web development, and information architecture.
Readership Question: How often do you share articles?
This week's readership question comes in from Chris Moritz. This is a question I should have asked along time ago. I find that one of the things I appreciate from my co-workers is when they share links to good articles or resources that I didn't know about before. With that said this week's readership question is: How often do you send Digital Web Magazine articles to co-workers, colleagues, or upper management? And if you don't I would love to hear why not. Keep it constructive. Post your answers in the comments for this post.
Is a customer-centric worldview utopian?
Wow. Let me say that again, wow! Mark Hurst writes perhaps one of the most enlightening articles I have read all year. His article is duly entitled Introducing the Customer-Centric Worldview. But don't judge the article by its title. Read it for yourself, all the way through. This is exactly why I think it is so important to do qualitative as well as quantitative research on a web site (see: Informed Web Design). Don't just know thy user, cater to thy user. We are stuck in a world where sometimes the clients business objectives out weigh the user objectives in the interest of, well, doing business. I think the client's business objectives are important, but perhaps equally or less so than the user's objectives. A good series of checks and balances need to be in place here. Which brings me to my question: is this a utopian pipe dream? I don't think so. I think with enough due diligence we can get businesses to start seeing things from the eyes of the customer for the greater good. What are your thoughts? [from Asterisk]
Load Times: Hotels and Resorts
The Weekly Standards closes
Adam Howell decides to throw in the towel at The Weekly Standards. With that I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, "Failure is not falling down. Failure is not getting up." No, I don't believe he has failed, I think he has only just begun. I wish Adam the best of luck on whatever future endeavors he has planned (from home in his pajamas). Yes, his daily posts and weekly site reviews will certainly be missed. All I can say to you, Adam, is don't forget the little people when you get to the top.
Andy King has published a great article on how to Use Server Cache Control to Improve Performance. In this article he shows you how to configure your Apache server for more efficient caching to save bandwidth and improve web site performance. A good article worth the read for anyone on a their own virtual or dedicated server.
Since people seem to be boasting their browser stats and showing off how they favor certain browsers, I am going to do the same for Digital Web Magazine:
A few caveats to go with that.
- This is a web practitioner site so the stats don't accurately translate to your average consumer or business web site.
- These stats are only since the 19th of October since that is when we switched to the new server and host.
- Like all stats, the weight of the information is strongly influenced by the metrics used and the source of the data. In this case, from a single web site's session data.
Feel free to add your site's stats in the comments.
Flash Player 8?
Some news on the Macromedia front today. It appears that Kevin Lynch demoed the next version of the flash player at a conference in Tokyo, Japan a few days ago. Some of the features include a new type-rendering engine, performance improvements, real-time bitmap effects, real-time video alpha channel. Which are all great and such, but lets hope they also have solved some of the accessibility and standards compliance issues with the product as well. See the link above for videos of the demo. [from Jason Santa Maria]
Design Process with CSS
Wow, here is a very detailed step-by-step presentation on design process that Doug did while he was in Sydney called Pushing Your Limits. He covers the Blogger redesign in great detail as well as some mentions of the techniques he used on Wired News, Stopdesign, Adaptive Path, and even throws in a few tips for Microsoft to use. [from The Daily Div]
Design on Principle
I mentioned this overview A long time ago but it is still as relevant as ever. Andrew Mundi of Mundi Design Studios created a Flash piece to communicate the Principles of Graphic Design. Whenever I get stuck on a design issue I find myself going back to this presentation and reviewing the various facets of design and rethinking how I am going about finding the solution. When's the last time you went back and reviewed the core design principles? Ideally we should be doing this every day, and many of us do... but sometimes thinks like space (white space) or motion are forgotten... other aspects of design are used to compensate, such as color, size, shape... which may not always be the best aspect of the design to adjust.
Here is an interesting Netscape Timeline and Netscape Browser Archive at the Netscape Info Centre on SillyDog.org. There is also a Microsoft Internet Explorer Archive. Mosaic anyone? Of course, I have always used Evolt's Browser Archive as my definitive source. Anyone know of any other browser archives out there? [from Nate's Notes]
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine we a great article from contributing author, Ka Wai Cheung. Continuing on our series of slightly more technical articles, Ka Wai examines the current state of HTML/CSS and how we can adopt paradigms from other programming languages to foster more usable and scalable Web applications. The article is entitled Devising a new paradigm for usable, maintainable Web applications. Also, this week's readership question has been posted. The question for this week is, How long should our blog posts be? On another note I am happy to report that Digital Web Magazine has moved to Media Temple as our new host provider. Special thanks to Cal Henderson for all of his help doing the server migration. Digital Web Magazine is now being run off of Media Temple's powerful Appliance Server with multiple OC12 connections which means to you is less downtime, quicker response times, no more bounced or delayed emails, and hopefully a better user experience overall. Lastly, I am proud to announce that Joe Finucan was our winner for the 5,150th newsletter subscriber Joe has been shipped a Clip-N-Seal Variety 3-Pack and a new Clip-N-Seal Skinny Mini as well as a signed copy of Dan Cederholm's new book Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook. Congratulations Joe. That's all for this week, see you again in seven days.
Readership Question: How long should our blog posts be?
One of the things that I find interesting is perceived value based on length of information. For example, when reading blog posts, it is interesting to see how the average length of a blog post varies dramatically from site to site. On one end of the spectrum you have what I would call link-blogs like you see in the "Latest Links" section on the right of stopdesign. Near this same group there is the short posts that are often found on sites like K10k. Digital Web Magazine's blog posts contain a bit more commentary but are still link focused. Then on the other end of the spectrum you have post such as the ones Keith makes on Asterisk. So my question for you this week is, what do you find as the optimal blog post length specifically for the Digital Web Magazine daily news blog... How long should our blog posts be? Do you want to see longer posts? Do you want to see the blog turn into a link-blog with a separate supplemental blog for longer editorial posts? Or are the posts you see today just the right length?
Digital Web Magazine moves to Media Temple
Thanks to the hard work and a few late night efforts from Cal Henderson we have successfully switched our host provider to Media Temple late last night. This transition was in part because of the three consecutive weeks of email downtime, but also because of the lack of communication and customer service provided by our former host provider. Digital Web Magazine now rests on a ultra-powerful Media Temple Appliance Server with multiple OC12 single-hop connections to providers such as Level 3, UUNET, and Global Crossing. What this means to you as a reader is less downtime, quicker response times, no more bounced or delayed emails, and hopefully a better user experience overall. I should note that we are still making final adjustments on the new server, so if you see anything that is not working properly, please contact the webmaster. Special thanks to Jason McVearry and Chris Lea of Media Temple for answering all of our questions and making the transition as painless as possible.
Contract Web Designer Wanted
As some of you may know Keith Robinson has left his job at the Seattle Children's Hospital for a new job at another local web agency. Since then their web team has started looking for a web designer to temporarily fill the void. Yes, this is a 1 to 3 month full-time on-site contract job. Only Seattle-based web designers need apply. You would be working on their Internet, Extranet, and Intranet sites. All applicants must be able to provide an online portfolio. Candidates must have excellent CSS skills and be able to design and develop tableless web sites. Candidates should also have a firm understanding of current web standards, usability techniques, accessibility requirements, and of course have superior visual design skills. Ideal candidates must also be advanced Photoshop users and be able to write markup and CSS by hand. MovableType experience is a huge plus. If you're interested, email the web team manager, Christian Watson.
Metadata for the rest of us
Adaptive Path has an intriguing new essay out by Peter Merholz entitled "Metadata for the Masses." Peter shares some new ideas about how to get input on your metadata from your users. Well worth a read. Also on a related note, don't forget to join Jeffrey Veen (another fellow Adaptive Pather), Christina Wodtke, and myself at SXSW for our presentation "How to Inform Design." Loosely subtitled "Setting Your Pants on Fire." It should be family fun for all.
Learning to Communicate
Here is another great post from Keith. This time around he steps outside of the web-centric world and into the world of communications. In his post he explains how to use Positive Communication to help encourage others. This is a very well written article and I highly recommend everyone take a second out of their busy Tuesday to go and read it start to finish. When you're done you may also want to check out Michael I. Almond's piece The Web is a Human Creation.
Blog Commenting Features
Adam Howell makes some great points in his post Comments and Commenting Are Broken. He goes into depth about some of the problems we face today with blog commenting systems and puts out a list of features that he would like to see included in the near future. Blogging tools are evolving at a rapid pace, perhaps even faster this year than any previous year. It's only a matter of time before someone implements these features Adam suggests, but it would help if we had the web community pushing the blogging tool developers in the right direction. Speaking of comment features, did you know you can permalink to a specific comment on Digital Web Magazine? All you have to do is use the permalink found under each comment post (right below the commenter's name), it works just like permalinks for the daily news blog posts.
Information Architecture Trends
Lou Rosenfeld has posted the results to his survey on IA Trends. He has included some extra analysis including some charts and his own take on what the survey is really saying. Read more in his post entitled IA Trends Survey Results and Analysis. I am not so sure I agree about the points the charts seem to communicate regarding the trends of in-house, agency, and consultant IA work. I am curious to what Digital Web Magazine's readers have to say about this. Feel free to share your comments here or on Lou's Bloug.
Yes, we have a winner. Congratulations to Joe Finucan for being out 5,150th subscriber to our newsletter. Joe will recieve a Clip-N-Seal Variety 3-Pack, a new Clip-N-Seal Skinny Mini, and a signed copy of Dan Cederholm's new book Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook. Special thanks to D.L. Byron and Dan Cederholm for sponsoring this event.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine we a great article from contributing author, Paul Tero. Continuing on our series of slightly more technical articles, Paul has written a great Introduction to Databases. This is a pretty good place to start, coupled with our introduction to PHP article, if you plan on creating a database driven web site. On another note I am proud to announce that Digital Web Magazine has passed yet another milestone this last week. We received our 5,000th subscriber to our newsletter and to celebrate we are giving away a Clip-N-Seal Variety 3-Pack and a new Skinny Mini as well as a signed copy of Dan Cederholm's new book Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook. To win these great prizes all you have to do is be our 5,150th subscriber to our newsletter. Lastly, I have started something new for getting reader feedback. Each Wednesday I am going to post to our blog a simple question to our readership. This week's question is already online. I hope that through the responses to these questions we can gain a better understanding of your needs as a reader and help improve the magazine to fit those needs. That is all for this week, we will see you in seven days with another great article.
5,150th Subscriber Giveaway
Update: A winner has been selected
As I mentioned the other day we are just had our 5,000th subscriber and since that number flew on by we will be celebrating by giving our 5,150th subscriber a Clip-N-Seal Variety 3-Pack and a new Skinny Mini, not to mention a signed copy of Dan Cederholm's new book Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook (Read the book review). So if you haven't already go an sign-up to the newsletter for your chance to win.
Readership Question: What day should we publish on?
Since we publish late at night on Wednesday nights the daily news on the site typically slows down. I have decided to start posting one question to our readership Wednesday mornings. This will help streamline our annual survey (which runs December though January) so we can focus on the more mile-high issues in that survey. So for today I want to ask you, our readers, a simple question (TM SimpleBits). You can respond by simply adding a comment to this post. The question for this week is; on which day would you be more likely to read a new issue of Digital Web Magazine? (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday... etc) As a side-note to that, the theory is that we would publish the night before the day that is most popular so that when you wake up and load up your browser in the morning the new issue will be there. Again, use the comments to reply and you don't have to type in just the day, feel free to explain why you feel this way. I look forward to hearing your responses.
Stuck up on Validation
Keith goes into some detail about the concept that a lot of web designers and web standards advocates seem to be confused about. His post is entitled Web Standards = 100% Validation?. I made the same kind of comment to one of my readers recently. Since when did moving towards web standards have to mean 100% validation?? Keep in mind that I am by no means saying validation is unimportant. Validation is very important... but it is even more important to get sites to move towards web standards, even if it doesn't validate 100%. Baby steps people, baby steps. Ya, sure ABC could have done better, but you don't know what was involved just to get to where they are at today. We should show recognition for a good honest step in the right direction instead of crying foul when something triggers a few errors on the W3C Validator service. The web community needs to learn to encourage web standards, not to discourage sites from taking a stab at them.
I am not one to be flaunting stats or anything like that around here, but this is a milestone for the magazine. In all the hustle and bustle with the email server problems last week (which are still going on), I lost track of one thing. It turns out that within the last week the Digital Web Magazine newsletter received it's 5,000th subscriber...the milestone sort of blew on by. Normally we would have had some kind of give-away like we did previously. Well, I guess we will have to wait for our 5,150th subscriber. At the rate we are going that could be right around the corner. What will the 5,150th subscriber get? I am not 100% sure yet, but perhaps some great web design books from Peachpit/New Riders and O'Reilly. Maybe some free hosting if we can swing it. Whatever it ends up being it will be well worth it. So if you haven't already please sign up.
Understanding How Users See Your Blog
Derek Featherstone has another great post about Understanding How Users See Your Blog which goes right along with what informed design is as I previously mentioned. To quote Christina Wodtke, "the real thing is learning how to use quantitative information to get the 'whats', and using qualitative information to get the 'whys' and then using quantitative information again to validate."
ABC News styled
Informed Web Design
Often times we see self-proclaimed web experts dispensing unsolicited blanket statements about how we should design, build, and use the Web. Sometimes they are nothing more than good guesses and common knowledge, other times worse. While it is good to have some guidelines (not rules) in what it is that we do, there are better ways to do this. So how do we know what's best for our sites? We ask our site's users. This is what is referred to as Informed Design. Coming up in March of 2005 Jeffrey Veen, Christina Wodtke, and myself will be presenting a how-to session on Informed Web Design at SXSW. We will examine the relationship of quantitative and qualitative data gathering. We will explore what these methods are, when and how you should use them, and why they are important to the UCD process. The whole point of this is to empower your web teams to architect, design and build with a better understanding of your users. I hope to see you there. For more reading on this subject I recommend checking out Peter Merholz's post Taking a longer view... and reading Donna Maurer's blog, she has been posting about this subject quite frequently.
So here it is, syndication has gone far beyond the blog. You can now subscribe to your favorite internet audio feed via your iPod or MP3 player. To quote wired "For anyone who loves listening to the wide variety of internet audio programming, but can't always listen to their favorite shows when they're scheduled or take the time to download them manually, help has arrived. Known as podcasting, the technology is a new take on syndicated content feeds like RSS and Atom. But instead of pushing text from blogs and news sites to various content aggregators like FeedDemon and Bloglines, podcasting sends audio content directly to an iPod or other MP3 player." Here is the full article on Wired. [from Scott Moir]
If you have been trying to contact myself or any of the staff members at Digital Web Magazine for the last few days I would like you to know that our email server is down. We are not sure how soon it will be back online and when it is, if the email that was sent during the down time will still be there. The best way to contact us is to wait until the email server is back online (I will post a notice here) or if you happen to know our IDs you can contact us via IM. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine we have two great articles for you to check out. First, Digital Web Magazine's own Managing Editor, Krista Stevens, writes a great review of Dan Cederholm's book "Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook." Second, Daryl L. L. Houston contributes a great article entitled "PHPitfalls: Five Beginner Mistakes to Avoid" which is a must-read for anyone who works with PHP. That's all for this week, we will see you next week with more great articles.
Intranet Trends and KM
Shiv Singh writes a very well thought-out article on Intranet Trends to Watch For. One of the points he makes that is of particular interest to me is #5, "The new killer app -- the knowledge management tool." KM over the past year or so has increasingly taken center stage when it comes to really solving a company
Using Patterns in Web Design
Sorry about the news being a bit slow around here the last few days, I have been pretty swamped. Things will pick back up by Thursday or Friday. For now I wanted to mention a great paper that was published on 37Signals by Ryan Singer entitled An Introduction to Using Patterns in Web Design. Losts of insight and sketches to check out in this paper. To quote the first line in the paper "The biggest challenge for web designers is the unthinkably huge number of possible ways to solve any given problem." and it just gets better from there. [from UI Designer]
Giving away design
It looks like Keith is giving away a free blog template design to most deserving individual or group (non-profits only). There are more details and specifics about the rules on Keith's site. I think it is a great idea and really says something about how giving the web community is. Six months or so ago I gave the entire design, markup, PSDs, and imagery for my old nickfinck.com site to a religious non-profit group simply because they emailed me and asked first. Contrast that with those who never asked and simply stole the design and markup without permission. I guess the moral of my post here is that you should always ask, because you never know, they may just give it to you.
It seems a new type of gallery is springing up all over the place, or at least just now coming on my radar. Favicon galleries seem to be a trend lately, here are three of my favorites: Favourite Favicons by Daniel Burka, 401 Favicons by Tokyo Ouja, and MpP Favicon Gallery by Michael Pierce. Michael actually makes some good points about the Digital Web Magazine favicon. I am not an iconographer, much less a logo designer, I would be happy to see if anyone reading this would be interested in helping me develop a better favicon. Just post in the comments below if you are interested in helping design and create one.