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Showing posts from 2011

A Tale of two Sites

Lately I've been contributing to charities using their websites to donate money directly - rather than hand money to a chap on the street. 
The experience has been interesting to say the least. As you would expect, some websites are poorly designed, unnecessarily complicated and make it very difficult to donate. One website I used was actually misleading - getting the user to set up a monthly subscription when the user thought they were going to make a one off payment (if you didn't see the check box with the small print..). 
Most website design guides focus on layout/composition, colour, texture, typography and imagery.  Modern web designs will have you focus on social aspects - such as design for sign-up, on-going participation, collective intelligence and sharing. I'm not going to dig into these topics (it's easy to look up) - but the good and the bad are exemplified in the two examples I've chosen to illustrate the experience.

I will apologise here for making an e…

Google Fusion Tables

One of my favourite sessions at Google I/O this year was the Visualisation of data in Google Fusion tables.  The ease with which a non-technical person could create an interesting analytic is awesome. Empowering the user in this way allows the user to spend more time on surfacing key points instead of having to worry about the mechanics of creating the visualization. Enjoy !

The Google Maps Styling website is located here

Product Kaizen: Observing how users interact with products to drive future enhancements

I discovered two new things today. Not big things, mind you, but very helpful.

1. Typing '@' in a Facebook comment stream immediately brings up your friends list and starts filtering your text as you type

2. Selecting text from an error message in Adobe Flex and hitting right click brings up a menu that has 'search in google' as the first option.

Both are great examples of observing user behaviour after the product has shipped and using those observations to drive improvements to the product. Most user testing occurs during the design cycle (in agile) or after the code has been written (lets face it - in waterfall development) - but rarely post production.

In the Facebook example, people have been typing '@' to direct a comment towards a specific friend in a discussion thread. The use of '@' in this way carried over from Twitter, at least that's why I started doing it.
In the Adobe Flex example, people getting error messages would select the …

Quick start: Add Google Analytics to your Adobe AIR application in 4 easy steps

I've been an advocate of Adobe AIR since I used the eBay "San Dimas" application (AIR was called Apollo, San Dimas became eBay Desktop). The potential to modern, build rich and smart client applications that have all the benefits of a web application (automated application updates) but the elegance and simplicity of a desktop application (native desktop integration) is a great option for developers who want to build modern client/server applications.
Recent developments by Salesforce (database), Amazon (email) and Google (XMPP) only strengthen the value of using AIR for rich client applications backed by cloud based Enterprise services. (AIR doesn't solve everything and modern browsers such as Chrome and Safari have comparable capabilities through their support for HTML5 ).

One of the downsides of using Adobe AIR, and Flash in general, has been the lack of support for Google Analytics. It was something that we severely lacked when we built the desktop ga…