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Design

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.

When Design Gurus Clash: Edward Tufte vs. Don Norman

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 7/11/11 (10:50pm)

I was going through an interesting article on (quantitative) design guru Edward Tufte when I came across this interesting spat between him and (simplicity) design guru, Don Norman that -- despite a cheap shot by Tufte -- seems to wonderfully address polar opposites:

Some designers have questioned whether Tufte's reverence for elegance and accuracy can verge on dogmatism, with too little consideration of context or audience. "The world is not filled with professional statisticians," said Donald Norman, the codirector of the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University and the author of The Design of Everyday Things. "Many of us would like a quick glance just to get a good idea of something. If a graph is made easier to understand by such irrelevancies as a pile of oil cans or cars, then I say all the better." (Tufte deflects this criticism by pointing out that Norman has been a paid consultant to Microsoft; Norman says his consulting work has nothing to do with his own thinking and writing.)

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'Mobile First' Doesn't Mean 'Mobile Everything'

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 5/3/11 (9:06am)

Boston Globe Logo I was reading about a presentation by Ethan Marcotte on re-designing the web-site for the Boston Globe so of course I headed over to have a look.

The site was okay as things go but a little heavy on the list side together with a spartan application of formatting and layout. In other words, it was about as plain as you can get.

Then I went back to the account of the presentation and read about its "mobile first approach to design":

Mobile First

Why Mobile first: traffic has exploded, new capabilities, and narrow screens force us to focus. In many cases our mobile experiences are focused while our desktop experiences are cluttered. Going mobile first pushes focus everywhere.

While I'm all for designing for multiple devices and while I use a mobile device myself practically the entire day, if that's what you build your site around, you're more than likely to end up with something that looks like it was designed for, well, mobile devices.

You're then liable to short-change yourself on the advantages that layout and formatting can (and should) bring to the larger screen -- characteristics that help organize content and make it more appealing. These things need to be part of the process from the ground up. And when they aren't, it shows.

For a couple of good examples, have a look at the recently redesigned Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times.

UPDATE: Here's my comment to their staff:

Nice but kind of plain.

Just because you have to design for a mobile device that fits in my pocket doesn't mean you have to strip out all the visual design elements that might make your interface more appealing when I'm looking at it with my 27" monitor.

The goal ought not to be lowest common denominator but best solution for each platform.


UPDATE (10/3/2011):
Similar sentiments expressed by Jonathan Longnecker at .Net Magazine

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Thought of the Day on Web Design

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 3/21/11 (3:18pm)

It's really, really hard to make something really, really easy.

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Eric Meyer on What Makes Web Designers Special

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 4/12/10 (5:51pm)

Do people designing for the web need any special skills beyond a knowledge of Photoshop? The question comes up every once and a while. Here's what CSS Guru Eric Meyer has to say:

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Zeldman Reveals Secret of Successful Project Management

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 7/2/09 (12:47pm)

Web Designer extraordinaire, Jeffery Zeldman (half-seriously) reveals the secret of successful project management:

The trick to great projects, I have found, is (a.) landing clients with whom you are sympatico, and who understand language, time, and money the same way you do, and (b.) assembling teams you don’t have to lead, because everyone instinctively knows what to do.

One can only wonder what prompted the comment.

Yes, It's that Time of Year: Blue Beanie Day 2008

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 11/19/08 (2:11pm)

Courtesy of Jeffrey Zeldman:

Announcing the second annual Blue Beanie Day! Show your support for Web Standards and Accessibility. Please join us on Friday, November 28, 2008 in celebrating Blue Beanie Day.

Friday, November 28, 2008 is the day thousands of Standardistas (people who support web standards) will wear a Blue Beanie to show their support for accessible, semantic web content.

When Design Kills

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 11/16/08 (10:07pm)

I had a very pleasurable time at the Garfield Park Conservatory on Chicago's West Side several weeks ago. Finding it however included a mishap due in part to this extremely poorly constructed map which I found while wandering around looking for directions.

You can see a larger version of the entire billboard here -- plus a close-up of the map itself.

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NetDiver 10th Anniversary

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 11/6/08 (10:05am)
netdiver_10.jpg

Carole Guevin's NetDiver, a portfolio site for aspiring web designers, is celebrating its 10 year on the web. You can get the "Official" poster here...

Carole Guevin was a voice of (cutting edge) sanity during the early days of the web and it's great to see her site still going strong. She even has a Facebook Group...

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More Ugly Money from the U.S. Treasury

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 4/6/08 (12:26am)

new_5_dollar_bill.jpg

I really think the US Mint (coins) and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (dollar bills) have lost the art of designing money. The fine detail and overall sense of composition that used to distinguish our currency is now no more.

Case in point is the new $5 dollar bill with that big ugly purple '5'. It looks like they just got out a huge rubber stamp and banged away.

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