Posts Tagged ‘website design’

Technology in clown shoes?

November 4, 2010

Did you get an iPad yet?

You do have an iPhone, right?

Or whatever brand of smartphone you prefer – you know, the kind that has internet capacity (and not WAP, either).
If you do, you’re part of the future, if we are to believe some of the big players. Apple seems to have already relegated their actual computers to an afterthought, compared to the efforts placed on the carry-with-you-gadgets, Microsoft is moving in, and every mobile service provider out there is scrambling to give you on-the-go internet, as is a plethora of other service providers (here in Denmark we have free internet access on buses and trains, for example).

Mobile internet is the future, apparently.

Well, I’m not gonna poop on that, it’s probably true – I am, however, going to add some comments to it, for you to make of what you will.

The defining factor here is speed. The speed of your internet connection, and the processing speed of your hardware.
By now, the standard internet connection is more than 1 megabit, and many if not most people have way more.
This doesn’t just mean you can download that video of the sneezing panda in mere seconds. It profoundly affects the way web sites are coded; almost the entire progress in website design and coding has been dictated by the increasing bandwidth and computanional capacity available.

The earliest web sites were just static text, perhaps with an 8-bit image, then later with a few spinning gifs, but try going to, oh, I don’t know, let’s say your Facebook page.
Run your mouse over it a little – see all those tips, hints, pictures and stuff popping out? The constantly updating statuses, chat, whatever?
Or check out your favorite news outlet, and notice all the Flash adverts all over it – they need the advertisement for funding, without it they can’t exist.

Each of all of those things demand a chunk of code be downloaded into your browser, and for your computer to execute it. They also demand something else: The Mouseover Event.

Not many mobile units have that kind of bandwidth yet, and they also don’t have any mouseover capacity (because there is no mouse pointer – your finger is the pointer). We’ll get back to the power in a moment, but that event needs a little explanation, especially if you’re not a web geek.

sadly, this is not live anymore – easily one of the funniest memes ever

You see, most of what makes websites of today non-static (or reactive) is due to the mouseover event family. Regular code (HTML or Javascript) can pay attention to your mouse pointer and make the website react to its location, and most Flash in websites is almost entirely based on mouse pointer detection.
Basically, the only thing most Flash content will do on a mobile device is play video and let you click things like regular links – forget about playing all but the simplest point-and-click games, for example.

This is no small point – websites that rely, say, on expanding menus can’t be used at all on a mobile unit, pure and simple; you can’t access the site content if you can’t get the menus to show.

Then there’s the issue of power. That’s actually pretty straight forward: – if the content requires a lot of stuff to be downloaded and executed in the client (your browser), current mobile chips just don’t have the power, and, perhaps more importantly, neither do the batteries.
And battery technology is not following Moore’s law and can’t keep up – if you want an indication of the power consumption, try running some Flash content on your laptop without the charger plugged in. It will hork that power down like a stoner with a plate of burritos.


Also, it is worth keeping in mind that a lot of stuff gets downloaded or executed behind the scenes even if you don’t point at or click on it, sucking up bandwidth and power beyond your control.

The reason this situation exists is that web content as we know it was designed on, and for, stationary computers and laptops with a charger never too far away – obviously, the content was built to push the available power to its limit.

But what is the new situation – mobility – going to mean then?

Are we going to see all the knowledge and funcionality of the 21st century internet suddenly becoming, not obsolete (as it is not being replaced by something better, not yet anyway), but just not used anymore?
I mean, take Silverlight for example, Microsoft’s cutting edge web technology, which they’ve spent years developing. Good luck with that on a mobile device – it’s geared specifically towards all that multifunctionality executable stuff, rich media and whatnot, and even if the mobile chips grow powerful enough to handle it, and even if mobile internet becomes fast (and cheap) enough, we still need some pretty exceptional leaps forward in battery technology to be able to use it.
HML 5 is going to have problems too, as a large part of it is centered around extended mouse pointer detection functionality and rich media.

Will all this carefully developed technology be wasted? What should web developers focus on – powerful stationany machines or iPhones? With the current challenge of getting consistant behavior across platforms and a few years worth of computers (which has people like that frothing at the mouth already, let me tell you), they’re not going to be able to cover both flavors at once; the difference is way too big.

Are we going to see two internets – one for mobile, another for “real” computers? I mean, sure, we want stuff that works on our mobile devices but we don’t want to come home to our actual computers and load up something that looks like Facebook Mobile. We want the bells and whistles there.
But do we want two internets?

I guess what I’m asking is, are we going to see this state-of-the-art, developed-over-decades internet tecnology go tripping over its own feet, like the awkward adolescent it is?

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Cross-web beta

March 31, 2009

You saw that button called “cross-web navigation”, which activates a sort-of top bar at my main site there?

(hey, maybe the bar is above this very blog right now!)

Well, I was inspired by Unhub (thanks for the heads-up, Mindjumpers), who were in turn inspired by Skittles, to make my various identities across the web more readily available to my audience (in so far as I have one).
It can be a good idea, I think – at least if your various sites support each other and whatever purpose you made them for.

So I went ahead and whipped up this little thing – it’s in beta so far, and has only been tested for appearance in Safari; if you’re on another browser, consider this my style disclaimer.
Definitely works on the principle of KISS but I think it does the job.

So maybe I’ll keep it around…

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“Would you like to listen to some music…?”

March 14, 2009

I am no fan of websites with sound on by default – even though occasionally it can be done well, most sites run some sort of ambient loop which gets old very quickly.
On the other hand, music is, of course, great, and the internet is a multimedia, errr… medium, so let’s try to use that for the powers of good – here’s my take on that:

Jesper W. of Copenhagen’s website now offers you, dear visitor, a right cool radio station

(I’d put it right here, too, but WordPress doesn’t allow that type of embedding)

It’s my station over at – I’ve decided to put it in as an opt-in, popup solution: If you’d like music, you’ll get it, and you can even keep listening after you have left my corner of the web (no doubt vastly impressed and inspired).

The station features everything from cornball to dire techno and polish dancehall, because I am a man of broad taste (plus, I’m getting old, I think) – it’s all good.

You’re quite welcome.

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UX thoughts on a friday

March 6, 2009

Settle down, class… I know the weekend is only hours away but we still have stuff to get through…

I thought I’d just use the newly launched (or rather, beta-launched) “Den Store Danske”, the Great Danish Encyclopedia online as a case study – so let’s go ahead and take a look at this picture:


You can see the first problem with the user experience quite well, can’t you? This does not look like an encyclopedia.
It looks like a site for something called “Villahjælpen”.

You see, the site is advertisement funded, and that top banner ad is a tricky bastard – if done right, it’ll be OK, if not it will steal the thunder from the site’s own headline. This doesn’t begin well, because the site’s own header simply is too inconspicuous, compared to that banner ad space.
(Also, one has to apply some form of do’s-and-dont’s to website ads, to avoid massive clashing, but that’s a different article)

What you can’t se in that pic up there, however, is that both the top banner and right sidebar ads are flash animated out the wazoo (go visit the site, I’ll wait), and this brings us to the next UX issue at work here:
“Den Store Danske”, being an encyclopedia, is a knowledge harvesting site – it’s a place you’re supposed to go when you’re studying and need specific information, data, facts.

An encyclopedia is a no-nonsense thing, and the design here doesn’t reflect that – all those animations are quite distracting, actually, escpecially if you’re hunkered down over something serious and just need to quickly establish some facts.

Sure, people will sometimes just sort-of browse for interesting stuff in such a place, but it should not be designed for it, any more than an actual encyclopedia (the book – you remember that, right?) should have a wee comic and some entertaining short-stories thrown in every 10 pages.

Finally, there’s the encyclopedia itself – the part where you search for, and hopefully get, information.
This is the primary function, and should take up the primary space, visually. In stead, we have here a case where the log-in entry fields at right are just as prominent at the search field, whereas the filters are just text strings, basically sitting there as if they were any kind of text.
– and those are weird, by the way, with stuff like “cars & motorcycles”, “food”, “travel” making it look like an eBay subsite menu…

Now, DSD is supposed to become a kind of official wikipedia of Danish scholarship (you can log in and submit things, which – unlike a wiki and with the intent of lending greater trustworthiness – will then be verified by a board of editors).
Therefore, it should come across as a wiki: – it should be open and inviting, and the searching should be at the very center of your first impression. Basically, a search control panel with some supporting stuff surrounding it, impression-wise.

This design is not open, in my opinion, and it doesn’t communicate very clearly that this is a search site.
I would have gone about this very differently.

A final thought: – should knowledge sites like this ever have ads?
I mean, isn’t there a risk that, on a subconcious level, the proximity of ad material (animating its way into your attention wether you want it or not) to supposedly un-biased data will compromise our trust in the latter…?

Have a good one!

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I told ya!

March 3, 2009

Remember how, back in an earlier post, I sort-of casually mentioned how easy it would be to add a sign-up for a newsletter at my shiny new website?


Here you go – still did it myself, promise, using only what I could find on the internet in terms of guidance.

Now, all I have to do is pepper my soon-to-be-enormous fan base with creative wisdom.

And trust me, I will – irregular, sure, but wise it will be, creative it will be. Or, at the very least, funny.

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Huzzah, the new website!

February 18, 2009

This may not be very comme il faut but I feel like congratulating myself just a tiny bit – the new site at is up as of today! Yay!

I’m particularly happy about this one because this time, not only did I design it (of course, the previous one was of my own design too) but I also programmed it all myself.

Actually, I mention this for a reason (as you may have guessed) – this was, and is, a project…

This internet thingy, well, let’s just say it’s keeping JW on his toes, being an experience nerd – I don’t think a single day goes by that I don’t, in some way, have thoughts about how this medium is used. Some do it this way, others that and the other, but in my opinion, far too many websites (considering how long we’ve had for practice) succumb to the scourge of technology:

Discordance between purpose and the underlying tech & mechanics


(you thought I was going to say “feature overload”, didn’t you?)

So what I did was set out to define for myself how I wanted my website to look and feel, and what I wanted it to do – and then get my own hands dirty and see if I could indeed do this, without having to become some kinda professor and without forcing the hand of my users, or annoying them (technically speaking – if you’re annoyed at my style, that’s entirely allowed).

I didn’t think it had to be that bad, since a site such as this has very few functions – no databases or sign-ups (although I could have added a newsletter real easy – maybe I’ll do that one of these days), just pure presentation, which is all a lot of sites do, so I decided part of it would be doing it myself (if a non-coder can, it’s a strong argument against technological difficulty as a reason for not-too-well-done websites, right?)

I also don’t like flash sites very much (no offense intended, my previous site was flash) – I think it breaks the conventions of navigating the net, but not in a good way in and of itself.
It’s all down to the flash programmer, and that can mean too much freedom, because the function of this type of site has to be rather simple – and doing simple things should never be complicated just for the hell of it (even if it looks good in flash).

So the mission was to find out how close I could get to my initial vision, using only basic code, no embedded flash or any such stuff, and getting all my info off the web (did the weirdest google searches I’ve ever done).

Well, I got pretty close – the new site looks like I want and does what I want it to, so: Mission accomplished.

Until I change my mind.

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