At the Ref Desk (4/25/17): Someone calls but when I pick up the phone all I get is background noise -- people talking, etc. Did he or she just sit on their smartphone and dial out accidentally? Interesting jumping off point for a work of fiction... [more...]
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Design

Message to Box.com

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 6/5/15 (11:46am)

EmbedWidget_BoxDotCom_400x308.gif
You call this a slideshow? By default, over a third of the photo is covered up with usage data (of all things) on the right. Why not make showing usage data optional through a setting in the embed code?

Telnet First!

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 6/17/13 (11:29am)

Peter Merholz serves up a welcomed reality check amid all the hoopla of 'mobile first':

My concern with "mobile first" is that we'll mistake that for "mobile only" (the way that the Web was seen as the end-all be-all for quite a while) and not appreciate just what our customers are actually doing, nor prepare ourselves for what's next.

I'll be the first to admit, proudly in fact, that 'responsive web design' was clearly the right way to go. We had multiple devices and we needed some coherent way of accommodating them.

But I've never been able to comprehend why this required (at least among some) a second -- and to my mind completely unrelated -- step, namely that of having to start your design at the level of the least capable device (i.e. mobile) especially since 'least capable' doesn't necessarily mean 'least complicated'. You might as well have told people back in the old days, 'design for telnet' -- 'telnet first'!

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+1 for RibFest Website

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 6/10/13 (9:18am)

Yeah, I went to the Ribfest and had a great time. Beyond the event itself what impressed me the most was the website. Great professional job! (And responsive to boot.)

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Design Fail

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 4/24/13 (2:56pm)

I swear if I get another one of these as a design proposal for the main page of a website, I'm going to sue Microsoft for crimes against usability. (P.S. Why Microsoft? Hint...)

New Web Design for UIC's Office of Academic & Enrollment Services (AES).

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 7/19/12 (6:58pm)

I'm kind of pooped having spent a fun morning at Dominican University with the "Chicagoland Drupal in Libraries" group. I then hustled back to UIC (thanks Gwen for the lift!) where I had the usual list of web editing chores. I also had enough time to upload this baby:

http://admissions.uic.edu

This marks the final phase of a redesign that I've been working on since the beginning of the year -- spurred on by two requirements:

  1. fresh new look
  2. gots to work on mobile

Happily, 'responsive web design' came along right at the time I was tackling this project. (What's 'responsive design' you ask? When looking at the above page, slowly make the window more narrow. Then go back out. That's responsive design.)

Anyway, I still had to do the 'landing pages'. This one, the Admissions page, is the first of four.

But back to my itinerary: At around 5:15pm, I left UIC and headed over to DePaul for a couple of hours of 'Fun @ the Reference Desk'. It was a relatively quiet night. In Summer, Reference closes an hour earlier (i.e. at 8pm instead of 9pm) so I made it back home before 9pm.

In any case, as I said, long day -- productive just the same.

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Responsive Design Doesn't Have to Be Butt Ugly

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 4/27/12 (10:01am)

The next chapter of responsive web design
By John Yuda on April 27, 2012
For designs to be truly responsive, we need to move beyond flexible grids and media queries. John Yuda outlines five building blocks for the future of RWD

I notice that this is .net magazine's third article/post on responsive web design in as many days. I think an interesting follow-up would be something along the lines of 'the next chapter of responsive web design' -- from the perspective of visual design -- an aspect that's oftentimes forgotten in the rush to praise, for example, the Boston Globe site which if you ask me is visually rather bland and unexceptional.

We already know there are other sites that are 'responsive' and still appealing -- so one doesn't rule out the other (unless we want it to).

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Mobile, Schmobile

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 3/17/12 (12:13pm)

I really think this 'mobile first' business is more a symptom of how new and imprecise the device type is. I mean, first of all, people making these arguments often roll into their figures tablet computers, which makes about as much sense as including netbooks and laptops.

Second, since when do you build your interface around the least capable device? This is the equivalent of designing for IE6 -- or designing your villa around the requirements of a hut or pup tent. Finally, have you had a look at some of the 'mobile first' products on larger desktop screens? Not impressed? Me neither.

"Mobile First"? Call it the "New Austerity".

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The Age of One App Per Website is Over

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 1/29/12 (1:40am)

While preparing for next week's presentation on Responsive Design, I tried to recall my original uneasiness over the phone app frenzy. You remember -- that short painful period only a few months ago when either you were developing a phone app version of your site or you just weren't serious. You thought it silly? So did I. But it took me a second to remember why. I mean, this was before Responsive Web Design had sunk in as a possible solution. So why the initial uneasiness? And then of course I remembered: the notion that your average user was going to download a separate app for every site -- the equivalent of taking your collection of bookmarks and downloading a separate program for each -- was a complete absurdity. Thank God, we're beyond that. It's history.

Presentation on Responsive Web Design at UIC

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/26/12 (4:38pm)

Gearing up for a presentation on 'Responsive Web Design' that I'll be giving at the UIC Webmaster Brownbag next week. From the official announcement:

UIC Web Professionals,

Join us for a discussion about Responsive Web Design on Thursday, February 2, noon - 1 p.m. Leo Klein, Coordinator for Web Communications in the Office of Admissions and Records, will discuss Responsive Web Design as a significant development in how we approach web design -- what's got us to this point, the need to design for various platforms from PCs to tablets and smartphones. The session will include discussion of key topics including Media Queries and Mobile First.

Audience: all levels. Also, experience and thoughts from others on this subject is encouraged and highly appreciated.

Search Box Syndrome

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 9/30/11 (10:41am)

We've been here before -- from a usability study looking at how students use (or don't use as the case may be) various library database pages:

In 2006, Steve Krug said internet users were mostly looking for something clickable to click on; BGSU students, by contrast, often looked for a search box to search in. When a search was unsuccessful, instead of retooling it, the student looked for a different search box and tried the same search again. The students in the study tried to change the subset of information they were searching, not the search they had already decided was the best one.

Okay, so the next logical question might be, is this a student preference or is there something about the design of the website that drives them to it? Maybe yes, maybe no but considering the effort we put into all of this, it's certainly worth testing.

But hark! A bit further down in the same study -- apparently vendor consolidation will save the day:

Therefore, if we want students to use a wider range of our resources, it is crucial that we teach them to recognize the resources that will be useful for them. As the brand diversity of our resources narrows, vendors and publishers merge, and vendors market more and more to end users, this strategy may become easier to adopt.

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