Monday, December 27, 2010

Interested in Type Face and Web Implementation?

Over the last several days I've been engrossed in a series of articles on typography and rendering on digital devices. Type Rendering on the Web Here's a great quote:

At the most basic level, the difference between these two outline formats is a matter of mathematics (cubic vs. quadratic B├ęzier curves). But a font’s existence as one kind of outline or another can affect its file format, and not all web browsers support all file formats. Buckle up, the next few paragraphs are going to be turbulent.

No single font file format works in all web browsers (yet), so Typekit serves the most appropriate format to each browser: the emerging W3C standard WOFF (Web Open Font Format) wherever possible, Embedded OpenType (EOT) to Internet Explorer (it’s the only format IE8 and earlier will accept), and either raw OpenType (OTF) or raw TrueType (TTF) everywhere else. Type rendering: font outlines and file formats

The above quote is pulled out of context and makes the series of articles seem more abstruse than it is. Anybody interested in why fonts appear different on different browsers and O/S would love this series of articles.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Twitter Has Become the Norm

Twitter is continuing to grow. They added 100,000,000 users in 2010. That's a pheomenal growth, but even more exciting is that it is incorporating itself more in people's lives. According to Sysomos 21 percent of Twitter users now follow more than 100 people, tripling the total last yearand 16 percent have more than 100 followers.


Furthermore an ever increasing percentage of Twitter users provided a bio, name, location and website URL as part of their public profile. Twitter is becoming part-and-parcel of many peoples lives. Woe be to the company which is not aware of Twitter.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Dumb Phone Lives On?

Mashable has an article which states that Dumb Phones will be around with us for quite away due to market penetration, availability of 3G networks in 3rd World countries and that "Companies can build apps and port them to dumbphone platforms, or even develop cloud apps based on SMS."

I suppose then that it all boils down to semantics. If a phone that one can use to text and take pictures is a dumb phone then what is a phone that is simply ... a phone? I think the article overstates the point by lumping phones that can send and read text (as an integral part of the phone) with phones which can only send and receive voice. Such a phone can receive a fax or a text but cannot (without modification) store and display the received data.

People bought nearly 62 million smartphones in the second quarter of 2010 (according to Gartner research). But compared to the 264 million new “dumbphones” sold in the same quarter, all those iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerrys are just a drop in the bucket.

How many of those "dumbphones" could send and display text? I would guess an overwhelming majority of them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The United States of Auto-Complete


Very Small Array has another great visual. This time they typed in the names of states and recorded what Google Auto Completed on a map of the United States.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blogger Comments not appearing

A client had an issue: he put up a post, like any other, and the link for comments wouldn't appear. SEE BELOW:


It is supposed to look like the following:




The first thought was that somehow the embedded youtube video was causing a problem. It was commented out and, lo and behold, the comment link reappeared. But what could be wrong? The youtube video was the same as any other. The coding was the same, no closing tags were missing.

Blogger puts in the following code whenever one uploads a graphic.
<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: left;">
</div>

I put it around the video and now the comment link worked.

Why you need this div around some videos and not around others I haven't figured out yet.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Was Internet traffic hijacked to China?

If you were at all interested in China hijacking the world's internet traffic take a look at this report from renesys.com

Did China's government really divert 15% of the Internet's traffic for eighteen minutes in April, effortlessly intercepting sensitive traffic in flight, and generally creating a massively embarrassing man-in-the-middle attack on vulnerable global communications?

Well, yes and no. Mostly no.

Yes, this event really happened. No, it probably wasn't a deliberate attack, or if it was, it wasn't a very effective one, compared to what might have happened, but that's where the story tends to bog down in technical detail and lose most readers.


It's far better information than what CNN and other major networks provided.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Netflix is Swallowing all of America's Bandwidth

It's not just Canada. Netflix is swallowing America's bandwidth, too, and it probably won't be long before it comes for the rest of the world. That's one of the headlines from Sandvine's Fall 2010 Global Internet Phenomena Report, an exhaustive look at what people around the world are doing with their Internet lines. According to Sandvine, Netflix accounts for 20 percent of downstream Internet traffic during peak home Internet usage hours in North America. That's an amazing share—it beats that of YouTube, iTunes, Hulu, and, perhaps most tellingly, the peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol BitTorrent, which accounts for a mere 8 percent of bandwidth during peak hours. It wasn't long ago that pundits wondered if the movie industry would be sunk by the same problems that submarined the music industry a decade ago—would we all turn away from legal content in favor of downloading pirated movies and TV shows? Three or four years ago, as BitTorrent traffic surged, that seemed likely. Today, though, Netflix is far bigger than BitTorrent, and it seems sure to keep growing.
Will Netflix Destroy the Internet?

Every so often a new subsection of the market "takes over" and dominates the market. ISPs complain as it puts "too much" demand on their infrastructure, the inevitable clamoring for tiered markets arise and there are new fears regarding net neutrality.

Currently video "hogs" bandwidth in today's market but it won't in tomorrows. This discussion will continue for the rest of this decade and on. Until we have enough bandwidth for both business and personal uses; until we have enough for live HD sport broadcasts, gaming and Netflix to run concurrently with business applications such as HD conference calls; where remote location engineers and architects are able to look at problems at a construction site; and doctors at a remote location are able to assist in a surgery - until we have the bandwith for that (and more) this debate will continue.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tatoeba



If you've ever been interested in languages - this is a site for you. It's unique concept is linking sentences together, not in the usual table format, but in a form of a neural net (their FAQ calls it a graph structure). People add sentences in one language: "It's a beautiful day." And people who are bi-lingual, or polyglots, translate it into other languages. One person may translate it into French and Russian; and another from French to Vietnamese; and yet another from Russian to Tagalog. Presto - you have the beginning of an English-Tagalog dictionary.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blogs and Articles

I'm not much of a fan of Slate for technical articles but they have an excellent article on the changing face of blogs and magazines.

While Gawker is dropping the blog format, sites of magazines like Wired and The Atlantic are embracing it. (At both outlets, all articles, other than those that first appeared in print, are published in a blog-like format.) Or check out Newsweek, whose home page lists headlines and snippets in reverse-chronological order, just like at your friend's Blogger site.

The design shifts—with blogs looking more like magazines, and magazines looking more like blogs—aren't just superficial. These changes in presentation are collapsing all distinctions between "blog posts" and "articles."

Slate, This is Not a Blog Post

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why am I waiting so long for some websites to download?

Too many sites I go to take a long time to render - often times over 30 seconds. The page displays but freezes so that the user is unable to scroll down and often the site temporarily freezes the browser so that one is unable to go elsewhere. (I find this issue to be more prevalent with IE than Firefox. It also applies only to the tabs and windows associated with that particular session.)

I've looked at the coding of these pages. Most of them are professionally done. The coding is fine and the graphics of reasonable size. So why do the pages take so long to render?

These pages had one thing in common. They had dozens of external javascripts for content scrollers, assorted widgets, jQuery, analytics and dozens more external CSS calls. Many of these .js and .css calls were unnecessary. The lesson here is that developers need to pay more attention to these external HTTP calls and limit them to what is necessary. It may be necessary to recombine the css and js to optimize the page loads.

Another big offender is the practice of preloading videos and podcasts. Developers cannot make the assumption that users will want to view these items. In delaying the page rendering in order to pre-load the videos they are alienating viewers. It may be a tough decision but pre-loading may not be an option.

See an earlier article: @Font-Face and Page Rendering

Monday, October 4, 2010

How to Add Different Meta Tags for Different Posts in Blogger

This is one of the questions I get very frequently.

One trick of the trade used by all developers is to save a back-up. This way, if you can't undo your changes, for whatever reason, you can still revert to the original. After saving a back-up to your harddrive find the following piece of code: all-head-content

(In Windows do a CTRL F)

It will take you to the following:

<b:include data='blog' name='all-head-content'/>

Just after the above code add the following.

1. Tell Blogger which page you want to give the unique meta tags.
2. If you want to use the META Description Tag describe your content in a sentence or two.
3. If you want to use the META Keyword Tag put in your keywords and separate them with a comma.

<b:if cond='data:blog.url == "http://yoursite.blogspot.com/someYear/someMonth/fileName.html"'>

<meta content='How to add different meta tags for different posts' name='description'/>

<meta content='meta tags, blogger' name='keywords'/>
</b:if>

You can repeat this step as often as you want to.

It is my opinion that using these tags is not worth the effort. Ten years ago, yes, they were useful. Today, after all the abuse by SEOs, these tags are close to useless.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

15th C Help Desk

I've been having a frustrating time helping people with the simplest of applications. This was the perfect comic relief.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

DuckDuckGo

As long-time readers of this blog know, I'm a strong advocate of privacy rights. The problem is two-fold: first people don't understand how much privacy they've given up and second the available privacy technology is too difficult, too complicate for the average person to use.

It looks as if that may be changing. Another privacy based search engine has come on the market. It has a silly name, DuckDuckGo but if it provides good results it may become an important tool in one's "privacy arsenal."

EDIT 9/27/2010:

If you're looking at privacy minded search engines don't forget to look at  Start Page.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Underscores versus Dashes in URLs

I had a whole series of discussions with clients regarding this, especially in having them change company policy in constructing URLs. I found this video and, to paraphrase an old saying, a video is worth a thousand words.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The End of Google Wave

Google has decided to pull the plug on Google Wave. After great promise it dies an ignoble death.

Google in their August 4th update states that:

Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects.
Update on Google Wave


The failure was primarily due to the business decision to launch the product too soon. This was a robust application whose target audience included non-techies who will have nothing to do with a product that doesn't help them accomplish the tasks at hand. In many ways Google Wave was a time-sink, entertaining and a useful exercise for IAs, developers and other techies, but of little to no use for many business users. The end result we see now - after a rousing introduction - Google Wave is dead barely a year after being introduced to the public.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Psychology of Users

One thing to factor in when coming up with a strategy with business owners is the psychology of users, both that of the site owners themselves and the site users. Site owners want to have what others have or they feel that they would be lacking in comparison to their competitors.

Then there is the psychology of site consumers who feel that the site is less professional without the gizmos that another site has.

I see this all the time in relation to social media. Some sites are better suited for social media than others. For some sites social media will never be more an unnecessary time sink and money pit.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bad Day at the Office

This is for all of you who have ever let a typo or a photoshop error go live or to print:





Reliability
... always upholding the highest standards for every detal.




Martin Luther King Day Rally







This product has been x-rated at point of origin.




Oddee.com

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ever Wonder About Excel Dates?

I found a blog post that might answer most of your questions.

WAY BACK in 1991

... Later that day, I had some time, so I started working on figuring out if Basic had enough date and time functions to do all the things you could do in Excel.

In most modern programming environments, dates are stored as real numbers. The integer part of the number is the number of days since some agreed-upon date in the past, called the epoch. In Excel, today's date, June 16, 2006, is stored as 38884, counting days where January 1st, 1900 is 1.

I started working through the various date and time functions in Basic and the date and time functions in Excel, trying things out, when I noticed something strange in the Visual Basic documentation: Basic uses December 31, 1899 as the epoch instead of January 1, 1900, but for some reason, today's date was the same in Excel as it was in Basic.

Huh?

I went to find an Excel developer who was old enough to remember why. Ed Fries seemed to know the answer. ... http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/06/16.html

Friday, July 2, 2010

Do The Simplest Thing

I've read the following again and again. I wish I had come across it 10 years ago. From: xProgramming.com

"The most important rule in our development is always to do the simplest thing that could possibly work. Not the most stupid thing, not something that clearly can't work. But simplicity is the most important contributor to the ability to make rapid progress."

We find that we have to remind ourselves of this rule continually. Developers like to develop, and most of us have years of experience in creating a "general solution" to whatever we're asked for. Real progress against the real problem is maximized if we just work on what the problem really is.

On the contrary, if we know we're going to need something we should build it in while we're building the object the first time. It'll save time.

  • How can it possibly save time to do more rather than less? The best you can hope for is to break even. A little bad luck, and you'll come out behind.
  • When you're thinking about "we're going to need this someday", you're not thinking about "we need this today". You just distracted yourself from your goal. Don't compound the error by chasing tomorrow.
  • Software follows an 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the benefit comes from 20 percent of the work. Find that simplest 20 and do it.
  • Studies show that developers are not really that good at predicting what will be needed. It's better to wait for a real need, and provide for it then.

Smalltalk code is extremely easy to modify. We do not have to design or build for the future. Progress is fastest if we just do what we need to do now: leave the future to the future.

On the contrary, when I'm immersed in a new object, I may see how to do something that will later be more difficult because I won't be up to speed.

  • If the object is so complex that it will be hard to modify later, it is just too complex. Simplify it so that adding new capabilities will be easy, but don't make it even more complex by adding them now.
  • Add commentary describing the key idea. Your mission is to make the fastest progress against what the problem really is, not against what the problem might be or might become.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

iPad: The Future or Not?

Like millions of others I’ve been wondering about the impact of iPad on the future of the internet and computers. It appears as if Apple has hit a home run, although there are a few caveats regarding its impact. First the positives. The interface is remarkable and it is the first great eReader on the market. Tablets, and especially the iPad, is ending print media (books, magazines and newspapers). We’re seeing technology come to what many of us have been imagining for the past many years. First Wolfram|Alpha came out last year and now the iPad. Combine the two, wait a few years for incremental improvements, and you will have a computer straight out of Star Trek, Minority Report or Avatar.

Now for the caveats.
Tablets, including the iPad, are not designed for heavy-duty data entry. For it to replace laptops keyboard tasks will have to be improved. I don’t think this is much of a problem as it is a simple incremental step to improve the screen keyboard.

The iPad is a mobile device and will take a beating. How durable is it? Will the screen take the punishment without breaking too often.

It’s still too bulky. It needs to fit easily into a pocket and then expand to the necessary size. This will come in time. And sooner than you think. Laugh if you will. When modem speeds increased from 9600 to 14.4 to 28.8 people laughed when I answered the question “How fast is fast enough to load a webpage?” with the answer “As fast as it takes when you’re changing channels on your TV” or “As fast as it takes from flicking on the light switch until you have light.”

I’ve heard many complaints that the iPad doesn’t use any Microsoft products; that you can’t make phone calls, or use it as a camera. If the iPad catches on, which I think it will, those features will be included soon enough and shortly these complaints will be a thing of the past.

I think this is the first tablet that will capture the imagination. I do think that the lack of an external drive is a problem – for the moment.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Designing for a Blackberry

If you're designing for BlackBerrys keep in mind the computing power of the late 1990s. The CPU's in phones such as the BlackBerry are not up par, being the equivalent to about 500MHz, and cannot properly render javascript-enhanced content.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Google Wave - Is it still there?

Last year Google introduced a new work collaborative application called Google Wave. It seemed an answer to many business people's dreams but it no longer looks as inviting.

Is it because Google launched the product too soon? Is it because non-techies have a hard time with it? - and as all IAs know the ideal software is one in which the users are unaware of, and certainly not frustrated by.

I've experimented with it but NONE of the business users were happy with it and didn't participate. I've heard several others voice the same the thing. No matter how good a product is, if it is not used it isn't useful.

Here's hoping to a comeback. Wave has great potential.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What is a good bounce rate?

A bounce rate, for those not familiar with the term, is the percentage of users who come to your site and then leave without going to another page. Too many SEOs, and other experts, write articles and give seminars where they say such things as “any bounce rate under 50%” is good,” or that a “30-40% bounce rate is good” and a 50% bounce rate means that you have to work on x, y or z in order to bring your site to the optimal bounce rate percentage.

I don’t think any such generalization can be made. You may have a page for upcoming events and the user went straight there to make certain he had the date and location correct. People may be looking for your phone number, find it on the first shot, and then bounce off. It does not mean that there is anything wrong with your keywords, your site organization, or the way you are presenting information on a page. It means the user found what they were looking for.

Frequent visitors to your site are probably not going to crawl through your site each and every time they come there. They are coming for specific reasons. Often times that will mean that they will get what their looking for on the first page.

Example: you’re looking to find out if your team won or lost last night. You go to nba.com and there is the score on the top of the page. You may not want to go any further. You found your information and you left. The same thing holds true on your website. You could lower the bounce rate by forcing the user to click through a series of pages to find the data they’re looking for (such as hiding your company address or phone number) but that would be counter-productive.

What does this mean? It means that you cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to bounce rates. If a frequent user comes to your blog he may not click through your site but still be a very satisfied user. Analyzing your bounce rate will have to include thinking about the user – if the user found what he was looking for and bounced off. Great. Don’t dwell on the fact that he didn’t stay longer. The more the user incorporates you into his routine the less he is going to crawl through your site.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Time Travel is Impossible



Of course this cartoon can be deconstructed but it's meant to be funny and thought-provoking - and it is.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Google Includes Site Speed in Search Ranking

Give 3 cheers to Google. They are trying to take account of how fast a page loads when determining their search results. This is a tremendous advancement: advancing properly coded pages over poorly coded ones. The devil is in the details but including page load and rendering speed in their ranking algorithms will only make things better for all of us.

Now, if only they can determine the original content writer and rank the site higher than copycats. I suppose it will become practical in a few years as Google increases their indexing and computer/database speed increases.

Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that's why we've decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.

While site speed is a new signal, it doesn't carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal in our implementation and the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com at this point.

Using site speed in web search ranking

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Facebook and Privacy

Once again Facebook has added a feature which will share information beyond what most people will expect. There is a new privacy setting called "Instant Personalization" that shares data with non-Facebook websites and is automatically set to "Allow."
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Kurt Opsahl notes, Facebook introduced this concept using the innocuous topic of "cooking." Who wouldn't want to be known as a fan of cooking? Unfortunately, the same rules apply to more controversial pages you might also like:

"Previously, you could list "cooking" as an activity you liked on your profile, but your name would not be added to any formal "Cooking" page. (Under the old system, you could become a "fan" of cooking if you wanted). But now, the new Cooking page will publicly display all of the millions of people who list cooking as an activity.

"Cooking is not very controversial or privacy-sensitive, and thus makes for a good example from Facebook's perspective. Who would want to conceal their interest in cooking? Of course, the new program will also create public lists for controversial issues, such as an interest in abortion rights, gay marriage, marijuana, tea parties and so on."
PC WORLD: Facebook Gets a Little Too Personal

Go to Account > Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites > Instant Personalization and uncheck "Allow".

When you uncheck the box the following pop-up appears:


FWIW if your friends don't do this they will be sharing information about you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

YouTube and Usability, Again

As a follow-up to an earlier post I read the following in Google User Groups:

YouTube's "product team" is not about functionality.

In fact, their prime directive seems to be to remove as much function as possible, while making every remaining operation as non-intuitive, cumbersome, and fugly as possible.

Their complete destruction of the video watch page is the latest prime example.

Couldn't have said it better myself. Google has an amazing product line (YouTube) but every action it seems to take baffles me.

End Users in Action

I was working with a client setting up a YouTube channel and had an interesting learning experience. The client wanted to change the name of one of his newly created playlists and was unable to do so.


He tried clicking on the list on the left, then right clicked on the name in that list[1]; clicked on the name of playlist [2]; then searched the buttons above the videos -- with the mouse moving back and forth [red box], left and right over the buttons; then clicked the drop-down arrow next to the ADD TO [3]; went to change screen icons on the right [4]; went back up to his Channel Name and chose the dropdown from there. [5] Came back this screen and gave up.


A co-worker spent at least 15 minutes looking around the Google YouTube help pages without able to find it. Both the client and the co-worker are experienced "expert" computer users. Both missed where they were supposed to go. Both assumed -- because of YouTubes low functionality -- that they would have to delete their playlist and create a new one.

Both couldn't believe it when I showed them the link.

How illuminating it is to watch users in action.

So, how does one edit the name of the playlist?


If you're on your "My Channel" screen (not on this screen) you have to:

1. Select the drop down by your channel name
2. Select Favorites
3. On the left column select "Playlists"

You are then at "this" screen.

4. Select the drop down by "Edit Playlist Info"
5. Edit the title (should be clear at this point)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Digital Photocopies and Identity Theft

Just in case you haven't seen this article:

Digital Photocopiers Loaded With Secrets
Your Office Copy Machine Might Digitally Store Thousands of Documents That Get Passed on at Resale

Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive - like the one on your personal computer - storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daniel Kahneman: On Remembered Happiness



Daniel Kahneman had a fascinating presentation at the TED 2010 conference on experiential vs remembered happiness. One of the illogical quirks of humans, according to Kahneman, is that we make future decisions based on how happy we remember an experience and not on how happy we actually were while experiencing the actual event. This is an interesting and useful conclusion for everyone in business who wants return customers.

Kahneman presents an interesting example contrasting the "experiencing" self versus the "remembering" self with patients who underwent colonoscopies. I would recommend seeing the presentation, but cutting the example to its core: people whose entire experience was painful and short would have a better "rememberance" if the experience was a little longer and the pain and discomfort at the end was bearable. This would hold true even if the technician doing the colonoscopy would "continue" with the proceedure simply for show for a few momements.

How does this apply to customer experience, to your role as a business person or IA? Pay attention to your customers remembered happiness as well as the experiential.

Speakers from TED 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Linking: How clearly differentiated do they need to be?

Have we finally passed the Jakob Nielsen threshold when it comes to linking? We now see sites, such as CNN, designed for the most basic of users presenting numerous different navigation models.


For example today’s edition of CNN uses several different models, few of them explicit. The top navigation assumes users know that they are links. The graphics link to the story, as do the titles below them. It is assumed that the user knows to click on them. Underneath the titles is a description of the article followed by the words FULL STORY. Although FULL STORY has a slightly different color the link differentiation is remarkably subdued. Below the lead articles are a list of articles under the label "Latest News." As with FULL STORY the visual differentiation is limited to a slight color variation.

My only quibble with the usability aspects of this page is that the description text should also link to the article.

Nonetheless we are crossing a major threshold here. Average users are expected to assume that links exist without any visual clues. Will there still be users who go to this site and be confused as what to do next? Yes but people who are confused will soon be crossing into Crocodile Dundee territory. After all EVERYONE knows what escalators and elevators do.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Print Friendly URLs

Pages with a "print friendly" version usually deliver the same content but with a slightly different URL such as &print=yes. The print friendly version should be blocked from being indexed as users should not arrive at a "print friendly" page directly from the SERP. The most important reason is that the page does not provide the same navigational clues and outlets as do normal pages; secondly the print-friendly pages formatting does not lend itself to be the first glimpse users have of your site.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yelp - Trying to Fix a Problem that won't go away

Jeremy Stoppelma, the CEO of Yelp, wrote in Yelp's official blog that:

"User trust is the foundation on which Yelp is built and the reason 31 million consumers turned to the site last month to find a great local business. Today we're announcing two important product changes to reinforce that trust and make it even more clear that Yelp treats review content equally for all businesses, with no connection between advertising and reviews.

Specifically, we're adding the ability to see reviews filtered by our review filter and we're discontinuing the "Favorite Review" feature that's part of our advertising package."

Jeremy - what you need to do is to make certain that the reviews are from real people and are not placed there by companies; and to combat bad, spiteful reviews allow discussions on the comments (comments on the comments). This is not taking into account the "pay-for-play" perception where becoming a paid advertiser on Yelp enables you to remove bad comments and put up good ones.

Yelp is a good idea but falls short in execution.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Apple may build a Search Engine

Data Apple collects about users from its vaunted iPhone is so valuable that the company must build a special search engine just to keep Google from gleaning insight from that data, analysts say.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said there is a 70 percent chance Apple will roll out a mobile search engine tailored for its iPhone within the next five years.

Google is currently the default search engine on the iPhone, which has tens of millions of users. Pairing the leading search engine -- 65 percent in the U.S., more share abroad -- with one of the most popular smartphones on the planet made good business sense.
Apple-May-Build-a-Search-Engine

OK, now this may be an interesting fight. Google needs some serious competition, Microsoft doesn't seem to be bringing the fight to them; maybe Apple will be able to do so.

Credit Card App for iPad

As someone working on a day to day basis with other small and microbusinesses this app hits home. One can now use a credit card machine with an iPad. We're seeing the day when we can "touch" phones and be able to easily transfer information (either contact or payment). We were able to "beam" information between Palms a decade ago but this is one more step forward, easing the way for small and microbusinesses.

I've blasted this to all my business contacts. Wow!

Twitter Creator’s Credit Card Scanner Comes to iPad

This comes right on the heels of Silicon Valley's report that soon you will be able to snap a photos of a check with your cell phone and deposit it by transmitting an encrypted copy to your bank.

Regulators were surprised when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks caused delays in financial transactions. With air traffic grounded for several days, the bundles of checks that banks and other businesses needed to move around couldn't get cleared.

So in 2003, Congress passed a law commonly known as Check 21. It allows anyone who receives a check to make a digital image of it rather than having to deliver it physically. The law has led many companies to install scanning machines that digitize thousands of checks at a time for deposit.

Deposit money by taking a photo

eCommerce, the times are a-changin'

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Scrolling verus Clicking, Again

Not too long ago I wrote that we should get away from scrolling and go back to the codex. Jakob Nielsen in Scrolling and Attention: Alert Box, March 22, 2010 wrote:

Today, users will scroll. However, you shouldn't ignore the fold and create endless pages for two reasons:

  • Long pages continue to be problematic because of users' limited attention span. People prefer sites that get to the point and let them get things done quickly. Besides the basic reluctance to read more words, scrolling is extra work.



  • The real estate above the fold is more valuable than stuff below the fold for attracting and keeping users' attention.



  • So, yes, you can put information below the fold rather than limit yourself to bite-sized pages.

    In fact, if you have a long article, it's better to present it as one scrolling canvas than to split it across multiple pageviews. Scrolling beats paging because it's easier for users to simply keep going down the page than it is to decide whether or not to click through for the next page of a fragmented article. (Saying that scrolling is easier obviously assumes a design that follows the guidelines for scrollbars and such.)

    Initially I was a little surprised by what Jakob Nielsen wrote as it differed markedly from what I've surmissed UNTIL I noticed that we were referring to two very different activities. He does use the term "article" but his examples refer to stores showing products versus a reader and an article. There is a considerable difference between reading an article and the quick scrolling through data that one does when going through a store's displays or a search engine's results page.

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Usability, and General Best Uses

    We generally don't think about usability issues when it comes to the 3rd Party systems. I found out that a client of mine, who uses a web-based email systems (because they're not tied down to one computer) had not been saving her "Sent" emails.

    It got me to thinking about default values and prompting users to act in "their own best interests."

    In case you have the same issues click on the 'Options' or 'Tools' link, usually located at the top right. (Yahoo and numerous other WebMail products.)

    Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    YouTube and Usability

    There are many UX issues with YouTube. I've mentioned them before.

    Here is a quote from a Google Employee responding to the frustration of YouTube users.

    Here are a few ways your input has influenced the page's current design...

    ** YOU SAID:
    The "Like" button (which initially not only rated videos, but also saved the video to your Favorites) was confusing. It didn't feel right to rate and add a video to favorites at the same time.

    *** HOW YOUR INPUT INFLUENCED THE NEW DESIGN:
    By redefining what “Liking” a video means and adding a “save to” button in the actions bar, rating a video ("Liking" it) and saving a video (Favoriting it or adding it to a playlist) are now totally separate actions. So when you want to rate something, use the “Like” button. When you want to Favorite something, use the “save to” button.

    This is 2010 and Google still does not employ UX professionals? Who would, who could, possibly think to have one link do two such completely different tasks. Just because you may like a video in the context of general browsing doesn't mean that you want to add it to your playlist.

    As an example I may *like* a video of a friends baby but that doesn't mean I want to save it to a site dedicated to Information Architecture.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Scrolling versus clicking

    Site design has gone away from page turning format of the codex and back to the concept of scrolling. Is this an advancement? Should information be presented screenful by screenful? The problem in reading large amounts of information, whether scrolling or page turning / clicking format is the ease by which the reader may remember or mark his progress through the text. The advantage of “pages” is that one doesn’t lose ones place on the page. Scrolling requires our eyes to readjust to a new configuration of text. This is counter to our usual mode of acquiring information. Back in 2001 I wrote, while writing on the same subject:
    The only reason for not “turning” pages is because presently response time is too slow. Only when the response time become nearly instantaneously (less than 1 sec) does turning the page make sense.

    Well now that it is clear to everyone that “page turning” is preferable to scrolling, and we can present pages nearly instantaneous the question becomes how do we convince customers to incorporate this in their site redesign?

    There is a price for converting a website and for most companies there isn't a ROI. Retrofiting a "scrolling" site into a "page-turning" site calls for more experienced developers and new IA design. As such changes will have to wait until the next major site redesign.

    What can be done right now? Scale back on the displayed text. Eliminate as much text as possible EXCEPT in the posted articles.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Facebook surpasses Google

    This week Facebook surpasses Google SE as the most used site on the internet.
    Facebook becomes bigger hit than Google
    I wonder - when will Facebook collapse? Certainly it will continue to rise in popularity for a while - but there will come a time (sooner rather than later) when privacy issues will come to the fore. There will be an "event" that will give people pause to be on Facebook. At that point Facebook will reach a fork in the road and must choose which path it will take: will it respect its user's privacy or will Zuckerman/Facebook continue down the path it's on.

    I think that Facebook will continue down the path it's on, make it's money "today" and die out as it's replaced by a more privacy-friendly alternative.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Meshing the Developer with the Information Architect

    Many IA professionals come primarily from the creative side as I originally did. Now I come from the technical side as well. Both sides bring strengths, both sides have problems. I’m working on an intranet sub-site which is primarily being used by accountants and bookkeepers. A simple IA problem arose. It's a bit lenghty to explain. The intranet has a standard three column layout. Navigation on the left; middle column has major headings (bookkeeper & accountant items)and then drill down information on the right.

    Everything is being kept above the fold in either iframes or scrolling divs as appropriate. The problem to be fixed was this: as the user scrolled down in the right column there was no indication of which heading had been selected. We needed to find a way to keep the label at the top of the right column.

    The developer in me said: no problem just put a scrolling div inside the iframe and the problem is solved. The date and info would stay put as the data was scrolled down. It was more than a little disappointing when I found that an "unsolvable" problem came up. There were now two vertical scroll bars next to each other. The “obvious” solution was to remove the scrolling from the iframe. Unfortunately the coding that allowed the div to scroll (overflow: auto) overwrote the iframe code which normally removed the scrollbar (scrolling=no).

    So what to do? Obviously we can’t let this stop us. There were two solutions. One solution was to build another iframe with the header information in it and have one link change both iframes. This would be a very clunky solution. The other solution would be to create a div that would hide the iframe’ scroll bar; leaving only the div scroll bar visible to the end user. Think of this div as an object in Visio or a layer in Photoshop that you brought to the front hiding what’s behind it.

    I dislike these kludges; you shouldn’t have to hide coding problems with “fake” divs. That’s the developer in me speaking. What is the problem in knowing technical solutions? Simple, sometimes knowing the technical aspect of a problem is a distraction. The IA’s role is to solve IA problems; not to solve the developer’s problems.

    Does this mean that developers are handicapped when it comes to doing IA work? Not at all I find that some IAs, from a more creative background, have issues with the Creative Director. They have the same problem in the creative end as I have in the development end. Namely do your job and leave others to do theirs – until they ask for a suggestion.

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Display problems when combining AdSense with Blogger.

    I was on the AdSense boards and someone was having problems with the AdSense ads breaking her design. She wanted to have text, followed by the ads followed by text. This following long post is to help her with her site design. In a nutshell blogger's CMS can be problematic when adding photos or graphics; especially for HTML newbies who don't want to look at the code.

    So to this budding blogger and others following in her footsteps here's the simplest way to accomplish what you're looking to do. Place:

    <div style="clear: both;"> THE TEXT GOES HERE </div> around your text.




    test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text



    test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text


    test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text



    Now let's try it with the AdSense Ads that the person was having trouble with instead of plain graphics. Here's what it looks like without the divs:



    test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text test text

    Here are some of the pages we have done in our notebooks over the last few months. We are plugging away at these parts of speech, learning a new one every few weeks. Our Latin curriculum is also introducing the parts of speech, so we are being introduced to them in that way also.




     Another Language Arts resource that we will be using very soon is called Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl. I have a few friends who have used this and are loving it. It is a gentle way to do Language Arts with your child, and seems to go along nicely with curriculums like Five in a Row, which we also love. :) I have ordered this book and am excited to start using it with the girls!


    We still have problems. Why? For two reasons. One because there is a line break between the <iframe> tags; and second because some tweaking needs to be done in the iframe tag. To get the two iframes to line up next to each other both must be align="center" or align="left" depending upon what you want. Don't depend too much on doing this when you upon load the image. You still need the ability to do basic tweaking on your site. Even for one as user friendly as Blogger.

    Blogger's content managment software is not perfect. If you wnat to move the imported graphics around you will need to know how to tweak your site.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Twitter Digg and Predictions

    I just looked at an old TechCrunch article Did Twitter Just Pass Digg? [January 20th, 2009] The author, and many of the commenters, cannot believe that Twitter caught up with Digg. I wish I had seen this article earlier. I cannot believe that they didn't see how FAST Twitter was growing. It is immaterial whether Twitter surpassed Digg in January of 2009 or a month or two earlier or later.

    To be fair to the writer, and the commenters, Twitter and Digg have two very different models and their usage is difficult to compare. How does one compare a tweet with a news aggregator such as Digg?

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    The EFF and Net Neutrality

    The following quotes come from the ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION's
    January 14, 2010 submission to the FCC regarding net neutrality legislation.

    In order to protect the free speech interests of Internet users, the Commission should reject copyright enforcement as “reasonable network management.” Copyright enforcement has nothing to do with the technical business of network management.
    Congress has not deputized the FCC to be a free roving regulator of the Internet. On the contrary, Congress has consistently preferred to protect the Internet from excessive regulation. So while EFF strongly endorses the goals of this Commission as stated in the NPRM, a limitless notion of ancillary jurisdiction would stand as an open invitation to future Commissions to promulgate “policy statements,” issue regulations, and conduct adjudications detrimental to the Internet.

    We need to be able to allow ISPs to provide greater access to the services that need it, such as real-time applications, while ensuring that they do not pay attention to content. ISPs cannot both be doing the government's bidding regarding law enforcement of copyright and illegal material AND at the same time be expected to be "net neutral." That is asking the impossible.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Facebook partners with AOL

    ReadWriteWeb has an excellent post on the partnership between Facebook and AOL. Facebook Wants to Be Your One True Login


    The partnership reinforces the idea that our Facebook profile is at the center of our online existence. Whether or not someone is signed into AOL is no longer what's at stake here, it's whether or not the user is logged into Facebook.

    With all its problems Facebook has become THE social networking site. Some people are concerned with Facebook becoming a "monopoly." Privacy, and Facebook's approach to personal information, is the concern; not monopoly powers.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Pwned

    For all those people who wonder what we mean when we say "PWNED."

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Personal Blogs and Privacy

    How does one make a blog in which NO ONE but you and a selected few can have access to the information? If you're a corporation with sensitive information the only answer is in a password-protected directory in a secure-hosted environment.

    How about if you're a smaller entity or private individual and would like a more cost effective solution. For instance you want to have photos of your trips, or your children but you don't want these photos and private moments available to the world at large for this year and next. Blogger, for instance allows you to limit viewers but you must enter each and every accepted email address. This can be a time-consuming and irritating task if names are constantly added.

    The best solution would be to have your blog in a password protected directory. Unfortunately some services, such as Blogger, doesn't allow that anymore as they have suspended their FTP service.

    Your best solution is limited to finding blogging software that will store the photos and the blog posts on YOUR domain. You will then need to password protect those directories. At that point you will be completely safe from the Search Engines prying eyes.

    There is another solution. It's not perfect but it should suffice for all but the most paranoid and that is to add tags telling search engines not to index the pages. The reason this is not perfect is that the tags are merely a suggestion. The search engines can still index and display the pages if they want. Chances are high that they will not index and never display these pages. But, it is not assured.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Excel, Sorting Date - Sometimes retyping is the answer

    Had a brain dead moment. I was trying to sort an Excel file by date but some of the rows were not sorted with the rest.

    I checked to see that the cells were indeed dates:

    (select column > format cells > number >date). That worked for some of the lines.

    Some of the dates had a leading space or some other non-alphanumeric character, that happens sometimes when you’re copying and pasting data from different files. That’s easy to solve as well:
    Select the date cells with a problem.
    Go to Find and Replace (CTRL+F)>Replace and remove the space

    That left several cells with a problem. Couldn’t figure it out, this was the brain dead moment. Spent 15 minutes on 15 or 16 lines in which I couldn’t figure out the problem.

    I tried retyping the date and – lo and behold – it worked. Same thing with HTML code sometimes retyping simply works.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    Improving Blogger Search Engine Rankings

    You may have heard of all the meta-tags that can help with your Google ranking. Of course there aren't any. But there are some tips and tricks that you can use to maximize your SEO.

    One means by which Google and other Search Engines rank pages is by the use of the Heading Tag. Heading Tags There are 5 heading tags but only the H1 is truly meaningful in SEO searches.

    For some reason Blogger Templates use either a H2 or H3 for the post title. So, assuming you are optimizing your post titles, you should change the Heading Tag associated with your post title to H1.

    Go to Layout > Edit Layout and
    do a search for "data:post:title" and change the H2, or H3 if you're using one of the Minima Templates, to H1.


    Don't forget to change your style sheets. Do a search for H2 or H3 and change them to H1. Make certain you change only the ones with "post."



    EDIT: May 6, 2010

    I've been told that Google doesn't like it when there are more than one H1 per page. If that's true then changing H3s to H1 is not a good idea. I'm researching this to see if this is true.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Is your site infected by malware?

    A few sites I'm associate with have been infected with malware. It appears as if one of the site owner's FTP application was infected and all affiliated sites were infected with the same malware.

    I was directed to blog.unmaskparasites.com and it seems to have a tremendous amount of information on just this problem.

    From Hidden Iframes to Obfuscated Scripts
    10 FTP Clients Malware Steals Credentials From

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    People are only spending 0 seconds on my site

    I'm often asked by clients who look through their Log Stats, such as Statcounter and Google Analytics, why people are "only spending 0 seconds" on their site. "How is it possible for so many people to spend less than a second on the site?" they ask.

    "0 seconds" does not indicate that your visitor came to your site by mistake or spent only a fraction of a second there. It indicates that the visitor looked at only that one page. The analytics program can only measure time spent on your site if the visitor clicks on another page on your site.

    While you need at least 2 points in time -- 2 pageloads -- to compute a visit length even that may not be completely accurate. AOL users, for example, will generate 0 second visits because their IP changes constantly.