Friday, March 22, 2013

Hero Shot and other interesting trends in Web Design*

There are several interesting design ideas that have taken hold.

 The Hero Shot / One-Page Design / Flat-UI Design

The Hero Shot
A hero shot is a large image that dominates the viewing area. The image, for all practical purposes, is the design. It's a very clean, very engaging look. The image brings out the emotional response of the viewer and the simple navigation and call-to-action elements do not overwhelm the viewer. Present different images on reload and the site remains fresh for return users - and it also allows one to more easily integrate multi-variate testing into site design.

One Page Design
The hero shot works very well with one page design. There were many reason we, as designers, went away from one page design in the late 1990s. Multi-page designs were "kooler"; it allowed for more images and text to be quickly shown to the user (connection speeds were MUCH slower then); it allowed for knowing when and where the user dropped out; it was useful for breaking up server-side interaction; it was useful for showing more advertising; it allowed more methodical presentation of data; and it was kooler. Designers and marketers want something new, attractive.

As with all things fashion the one-page design is fresh once again. Of course there's some interesting twists: namely the transitions between "pages." For all practical purposes the one-page design is presenting differing "screens" with transitions between them, but the fact that they're all on one page makes it new. I would say that there is also a utility in the design as all the information is loaded and remains even if the server connection is lost. Ultimately its appeal is not its utility - it's its freshness. Regarding the reasons why designers went away from one-page design and their return. All the practical reasons that existed before no longer remain.

Flat-UI Design
The use of flat, as opposed to textured, or beveled elements. It's advantage is that it has a clean, fresh look. It allows more elements to be presented to the user but at the same time maintain a more minimalist feel. All three elements are part of the current design zeitgeist where mobile design is influencing design presented on larger screens.

* For my distinction between Web Design, UX Design and UI Design please see "What's in a Name? Web, UX, UI Design"

Monday, March 11, 2013

SEO is like marketing

At the SXSW Conference Amit Singhal (Google) sat down with Guy Kawasaki to talk about the evolution of search engines.

Kawasaki veered the next stage of the conversation onto the topic of SEO, and how companies can improve their search rankings.

“We at Google have time and time again said—and seen it happen—that if you build high-quality content that adds value, and your readers and your users seek you out, then you don’t need to worry about anything else,” Singhal said. “If people want that content, your site will automatically work… you could make a bunch of SEO mistakes and it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Is SEO bullshit?” Kawasaki asked.

“That would be like saying marketing is bullshit,” Singhal said, which drew a laugh from the audience—and maybe some gritted teeth.

I wouldn't say the SEO is bullshit but there are a lot of bullshitters who say that they are SEO experts. As it happens the SEO world has merged with the advertising world and SEO/on-line marketing is becoming synonymous in many people's minds. Obviously expertise in marketing, determining ROI from analytics is necessary and legitimate for many businesses.

Traditional SEO has it's white hats: people who focus on what many content developers, product owners and developers don't do: associating high value words to directory and file names; placement of these words in H1s, alt tags; and cleaning up the HTML code. The last point should have been done by the developer - and is, only now, becoming standard as responsive web design forces developers into this practice. (EX: Putting navs at the end of the file and using CSS to place it elsewhere.)

The merge between traditional SEO and advertising is the focus on landing pages associated with marketing campaigns; how users navigate from this landing page; and the associated ROI analysis.

However, SEO, for much of the web-community, is associated with fast-talking scam artists who promise high returns and, of course, can only deliver for a short while by unethical practices such as creating landing pages with nothing but carefully crafted key words - but no actual content; by link farming; click-jacking, astro-turfing; hiring people to do automated +1 ranking; and spamming forums & blogs.

After showing such "promising" early results the company then takes more money from their victims until the game inevitably plays out.

ISO 8601

These guys are too good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Reality of a Developer's Life

JavaCodeGeeks has a great post on the joy of being a developer. Here are some of my favorites:

When you upload to the production server:

When you close your IDE without saving the code:

When you try to fix a bug at 3AM:

When you show your boss that you fixed the bug:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Predicting the Future

A warning from Michael Crichton on predicting THE FUTURE.
Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS? None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn't know what you are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future.

They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.

The essay is called "Aliens Cause Global Warming" and one can find it in several places. EDIT 1/31/2014: Removed several dead links. Aliens Cause Global Warming