_archive for the ‘Usability’ category

Chrome, Anyone?

09/04/08 :: by pwang

The headlines for this week will probably have “Google Chrome” somewhere. Google’s new browser, love it or hate it, is definitely going to change things. Initial likes? The comic, of course, which goes beyond a good marketing/advertising move to something more educational and fun, so you can read it to get caught up with the technical specs on Chrome. I read it and got amped up before installing the app itself. It’s very blue, and there’s no menu bar. Otherwise, it felt like any other, non-IE browser (although the interface at times felt very IE, especially the nav bar). A standout is the new start page, which shows thumbnails of visited sites and used search engines, something I thought smart and useful.

So after using it (not heavily, mind you) for two days, no crashes. Nothing broke. Facebook and all my other web apps worked; even my own site looked right. I’m not keeping my fingers crossed because the app is beta and has bugs. Is it faster? In terms of JavaScript, John Resig says, not really. There is a new task manager-esque feature as well, so windows can be dealt on an individual basis: no more one bad site bringing down an entire browser session. Maybe. I haven’t done anything too crazy to notice a difference, yet. Neither is the new browser a messiah in saving memory, using about 100mb total for keeping open a few web applications, the same as Safari for Windows does. The bottom line: a transparent browser that just (mostly and for me) works, but nothing more than that, yet. The comic was cooler.

But after all this, one question. Why ‘Chrome’ and that logo?

Data Resolution

08/28/08 :: by pwang

I don’t have an iPhone and am unaware of any visual redesigns since this was published, but I think in general this video editorial is applicable in a lot of cases, including its case study for Apple’s general design strategy, where sometimes user-interface design prioritizes looks and associates that with a user-friendly design. Mr. Tufte in this video really sheds light on data resolution, and what it means to be simple while not being sparse. There ought to be no reason that constraints in the medium should affect the level of detail in the message.

Dynamic Information

07/31/08 :: by pwang

If facebook had only made a movie like this one, my previous post would have been much easier to write. While a great design is suppose to be transparent, my confusion with the redesign of the simplest website (next to our own) delicious.com (bah, the old url was cooler) makes me feel today’s user has no patience to figure everything out on their own. I definitely see the value in editing screen captures and animating layouts to show the features of a site. The time spent seems to be a good trade for increased usability. Too bad delicious didn’t make this video the most accessible thing on the site. As a sidenote, Flickr video may become an interesting platform for pecha-kucha-like content.

If you want more snazziness than simplicity, check out the videos from Good magazine. This one I particularly like. The music is well integrated, and the animations illustrate the rather exhausted information in a refreshing way.

I’m not suggesting this is the future of distributing information. I’d still prefer a wiki. But if it’s something that you want to share with many folks, then why not make it a fun and exciting experience as well.


07/24/08 :: by admin

no comment…

Facebook at Work

07/23/08 :: by pwang

Like anything with the web these days, news to one person may not be news to another. So my discovery of the new Facebook site may really be old news to the blogosphere. With the f8 convention sold out and happening as this post is written, Fb is really doing some really exciting things, proving itself to be still at least seemingly hip, young, and innovative, in light of its tussles with Google and business negotiations with entrepreneurs and large companies like Microsoft. What impresses me most is how the team interacts with the users.

Like an American driving in another country, on the opposite side of the road with the wheel on the right, users of the new site will have horrible first impressions of the flipped layout. Good thing the negativity is short-lived. In terms of looks, the new look is even more spartan than the original. The wrapper for the site fits snug with the browser window, and its contents are given more room to breathe. There is no more box constricting the site’s content. Before seeing what is possible with this new system, the old one felt fine. The excessive scrolling to the bottom in search of something interesting felt routine and even a little visceral, like going through a real yearbook. The new tabbed profile, coupled with the efficient and more than ever desktop-app-ish controls have made things easier for newbies and initially confusing for veterans. It’s mostly the few main pages with any real redesign. A lot of the content is outputted in the same way, and the pattern of a paginated list for most results pages remains in heavy use. A number of pages don’t even have updated widths for their content column yet, but all have ads on the right column. Given that Facebook is all PHP, maybe these are signs that future battles will be on scalability and flexibility. As a note, a lot of Google is done in Python, which is said to be more scalable. I’m not too worried for Fb, since the company probably has some of the best PHP programmers around. F8 will only increase the line of recruits.

It’s not an easy thing, doing away with something that has a bit of a venerated history, mostly though wide use. It goes to show innovation requires freedom, especially from the constriction of past success. Kudos to Facebook for the vision and the guts. When it appeared, the now worshipped old layout added buttons on the left and made the content container awkwardly boxy. That was probably only a year ago (a time I can still recall, despite having a profile for four years), when a friend shared how he thought Fb was going down the drain because of the then new look. Like when they launched the News Feed a while back, there will be frustration from every corner with the big revamp. Now the same main and mini-feeds are given even more of the limelight. The same with everything that gets more use, like the mini-twitter. All Fb did was ask its user base to develop the app for themselves through their feedback and listen. I think it’ll happen again. And that’s where all the fun is, watching the whole thing grow from just a small camp on the wild frontier of the interwebs. And me? I’m going to use the ‘new’ Facebook, since if I go back I’ll lose my user history with the new features. Also, if anyone from Facebook reads this, why doesn’t your site support pretty urls? It would make your big trove of content more accessible to your relatively non-address-bar-savvy users.

The Difference Between Web and Print

06/27/08 :: by pwang


I don’t know much about the publication, but I really enjoy the well-designed layout and type in NewWork Magazine. The site even offers scans of the issues and neatly organized them into sleekly scrolling pages. It was disappointing to find no zooming function, since I wanted to see the fine (and probably finely kerned) type.

But then I realized even that wouldn’t solve this problem, something that has defined the web design industry. We’re limited to a screen that simply won’t allow the type of freedom a large-format paper does. To compensate, we have scrollbars and zoom. But the experience is different. I’m still looking at the composition in the browser window that’s in another frame, the operating system. Plus, I would never interact in the same unreserved way with a pricy piece of printed glossy paper as I would with a blog. I don’t have an answer or a solution, but I’m sure that just as much as web has impacted print, print will do the same to the web. After all, there is such a variety of great print design. It probably also relates to the medium itself, the web is still young compared to print. I’m confident web design will one day be more original than print design, partially because I like working under constraints, including large format.

Copy Is Everything

04/11/08 :: by dcook

TGIF Motherfuckers

It’s amazing how good copy can improve the appeal of virtually anything.

If you go to a site that has poor copy it’s apparent as soon as you lay eyes on the page. This makes going back to these sites painful and annoying to read. On the contrary, sites that take care to produce good copy always garner my attention. These sites draw users in. Whether the site’s content is news related, comedy related, sports related, or documentation related the copy can be something that either repels or attracts users.

Take the market of e-cards. E-cards these days are a dime a dozen. There are tons of annoying animated, singing e-cards that are relatively useless to me. However, a site like www.someecards.com uses it’s copy and a simple image to really captivate it’s users. I go to this site all the time and just spend time wandering around, finding comedic gem after comedic gem.

I wish more sites would take into consideration the copy they produce, it makes a world of difference.

In the spirit of Friday, I’ve posted one of my favorite e-card images.

whoa, forget jdate.com

02/05/08 :: by hdunce

this is the craziest site i have ever been to in my whole entire life.


i remember when i went on jdate.com for “testing” reasons and thought it was a little nuts how guys just start iming you to try to hook up, but that was then and this is now. mashable says it is a dating site, but really the technology can be used for any site. basically as soon as you get to a page other people’s comments are literally popping up in real time. i heard major league baseball does this during live games- brock you can test that out. anyway, really interesting site. create a profile, test it out, even if you are married.

p.s. there’s a lot more to the site, so read mashable’s post if you care to know.

Interface Survey

11/29/07 :: by Cédric

Take some seconds to answer 10 questions about your prefered interface.

Then you can see the answer.

The 50-50 answer for this question is weird…

Interface Survey Submit

My first thouht is because the change between Windows and Linux/Mac in the confirmation box.

Talking about process

11/20/07 :: by brocksteady

Oh, how web designers wish they always received wireframes as well thought out as this.

Anyone interested in the web design process should check out Keith Robinson’s post about the IMDb redesign presented at the Future of Web Design conference.