Using the body as a conductor and part of the overall circuit to create sounds, different types of food create different sounds!
You may have recently seen articles that explain how Google will be checking the speed at which your pages load and will be using it in their page ranking system. I had read about it on the Register’s article “Google tweaks search results with mystery site speedometer“.
I then realised that a company I have worked with in the past has a tool that allows you to test this type of issue for your site and even allows you to record the results over time…
Check out Gossamer Threads GTMetrix Site Performance Analyzer. They have just added a new system that allows you compare up to 4 reports/URLs. Oh and it’s free, oh yeah…
Christopher Blizzard demonstrates how the upcoming Mozzila FireFox 3.6 can change the page orientation if your device has an accelerometer system (Thinkpads, Macbook pros). You can see how this works in the video below:
Working too hard is not that efficient… in the long term
At a time where people are worried about losing their jobs and working all hours god sends to stand out from the pack in a positive manner it seems that they may not be providing their company with the best of themselves. Obviously if your company is short staffed and still has as much work they may not be so interested in the article over at FastCompany. But may be worth reading so at least you are aware
Examples from Flickr and Facebook are provided to illustrate the misconception that getting people to work their socks off may not be providing you with the best results in the end!
Make sure you check out this great video from TED, Stefan Sagmeister is a world renowned designer who explains how every 7 years he takes a year off to pursue personal areas. He also indicates that structuring his time off was probably one of the most important parts in a successful sabbatical year. Furthermore this time often allows him to be a better designer and provide his clients with a better quality service once the sabbatical is over! Better still take the time to view the video see for yourself.
A very interesting study over at UsableWorld illustrates how images used in articles that have faces can have unusual effects on what people look at. Depending on the direction the faces are turned it changes the way people read the page.
In this first example the face of the baby is looking straight forward. You can see people spend a lot of time on the actual face of the child to the detriment of the actual content to the right.
In the second example the baby is looking towards the content on the right. You can see that this layout produces a more evenly dispersed set of hot areas.
The importance of experience architects in creating or updating a web site is often underestimated. There is a general tendency to fudge the initial user experience phase (sitemaps, personas with their specific user journeys and wireframes) or even skip it and jump straight to concept designs that are then fleshed out to ‘wow’ the client. The whole rationale that consists in understanding what functionalities and services are required on the site and structure them in a coherent manner, hopefully even test them before designing commences, is omitted. Defining the main functionalities of a site, then having an experience architect (who worked on that first phase) to sketch it out and analyse it should precede the functional specifications but most of all the design phase. Designers that have extensive web design knowledge as well as experience architecture knowledge are few and far between so you are unlikely to obtain the optimum result by starting with the design.
The initial phases, when analysing the structure and organisation of an existing site in view of updating it ‘can’ benefit from card sorting. This consists of taking the different sections and seeing how users sort the different sections / areas into groups. It can help you understand how users would expect these different areas to be organised and therefore, where they would expect to find them. Different logical taxonomies may appear following the analysis as different user groups may sort cards in different ways. There are also 2 different types of card sorting, ‘open’ where no structure is predefined and ‘closed’ where participants are asked to place the cards in a pre-defined structure. Card sorting is not recommended to simply test a current site but should be considered as part of the process involved in defining the structure of a site that is being created or updated / redesigned. It can also help when adding or updating a new area to a site. As Nielsen explains more users are required in card sorting than in usability testing though. A fair amount of analysis is required to obtain useful findings.
Sitemap, user journeys, wireframes
By creating the recommended set of ‘sitemap / user journeys / wireframes’ you are capable of seeing black on white the optimum route a person will take. The organization and categorization of content blocks should be logical but can be modified to optimise the user journey outcome. A site should usually provide several optimised user journeys for the different types of target users / personas that have been identified.
Simplify the site and structure
Generation Y as opposed to generation X and the baby boomers are more net fluent and savvy online, capable of delving through content until they find the information they feel relevant and trustworthy. Their experience and knowledge provides near instantaneous gut feeling about a site. Uncluttered, simple pages with straightforward navigation principles just feel good. A pleasant experience on a web site that easily allows you to find what you are looking for is memorable simply because it is unfortunately a rare experience. This new generation and generations to come are a primary targets, neglecting them is not an option.
Simplify the design and content
Simple ways of communicating, avoiding the “noise” traditional designers want to apply in order to personalise or own their design can complicate things. Twitter, like SMS are two extremely simple ways of communicating, their restrictions simplify the communication.
Now is this to say that design is just powder in your eyes? Well, when applied by talented designers that know their target audience, how to play and innovate with the chosen medium and how to further optimise the previously crafted user journey, then obviously no.
A friend of mine works at the “Musée des Arts Décoratifs” in Paris, we discussed this concept when applied to modern decorative art. I was comparing the concept to artists capable of choosing specific material(s) and their ability to amplify the user experience and overall design through the selection of specific material(s). The technology but also the interfaces mechanisms of web sites are in this perspective key elements that a great designer will know and use to further his / her design.
Accessibility, standards, usability and web 2.0
Web applications are becoming more and more complex to the extent that they are starting to compete with desktop applications (ex. Google Maps and Mail, Flickr etc.). The interaction provided as well as both usability and accessibility when relying on standards are far better. Although the ‘web 2.0′ term is often used as a buzz word (see Zelman’s web 3.0 article) the term has undoubtedly helped spread the idea of more savvy websites, thought through and help improve user experience.