Category Archives: inspiration

Good example of Design Principles at MapBox

At the beginning of any (re-)design project there’s always a time, when it’s all still fuccy, you don’t know exactly what you want to make differrent, or just have a list of requirements. Leah Buley has written about it in her post “how to recover from project failure” and shows some good examples for that.

When mapbox.com, a web-based design tool for creating, sharing, and embedding maps went out to redesign their app, they’ve also gathered some design principles.

Interaction is the basic unit of design. Begin the design process by identifying the user’s origin point, their goal, and the steps in between. A successful design makes every step along the way clear while keeping the user focused on their goal.

Transitional interfaces are easier to learn and more pleasant to use. Take advantage of animation and conditional visibility to guide users between steps and to add rhythm and momentum to interactions.

Interactions should be delightful and surprising. Design these interactions so that they’re enjoyable to perform again and again. Minimize the effort required to complete tasks, enable users to recover from mistakes, and ensure that they receive feedback after taking any action.

Focus the user on one primary action at a time. Avoid sidebars, widgets, and multi-column layouts. Rather than confronting the user with a multitude of possibilities, use visual hierarchy to help users make meaningful decisions and allow actions to unfold across multiple steps. At the same time, be sure to make it easy for the user to move efficiently between primary actions in case they need to change gears.

In my view, these are very well thought through and well written. Thanks to MapBox for sharing them.

 

Future perfect people

In his post about “the person the’ll become“ Jason Fried from 37signals writes about how important it is to look for potential when hiring new people. He argues that many people may just not have been in the right position to do their best work and or didn’t have the opportunities.

There’s also another view to look at. As a company, would you like your employees to have their best work done already? Shouldn’t they be at your company just in the moment they have their best time. This doesn’t necessarily mean at a certain age, since some jobs may require lots of expertice.

And in addition, people should apply for your company not because they’ve done good work, but because they want to do even better at your company. A couple of years ago, Oliver Kahn, the former goal keeper of FC Bayern Munich, said: if you are going to play for Bayern Munich, it’s not because you’ve been a good soccer player, it’s because you will be an even better one. You are expected to imporve and not rest on one’s laurels.

On changing perspectives

Last year I switched position in my company. After several years of being in e-commerce I’m now a concept developer for various topics within the whole company. With the change I also had to move to another desk within the building. Although this wasn’t the first time I moved within the company this was the one that affected me the most – but in a positive way.

What happended.  My first desk was in a room where I could see every sunset, well, as long as the sky allowed me to see the sun. This wasn’t something too special for me since at home I also have the change to see the sunset everyday. I really liked working there as I do like sunsets very much. After some time my department had to move from the third floor to the first floor. The view was very limited there – the parking lot and a building. We did have the same sunlight every day, but no more sunsets, no more special moments that let you pause for a while and reflect. A short but important moment.

Then, my switch to the other department let me move to another desk in the office. Back on third floor, but not back at the first desk. Instead I was at the opposite side of the building, with a view  to the sunrise. When I came to the office the first time last winter before the sunrise I was flashed. I sat down and didn’t even start my computer. For a couple of minutes I sat down and just watched the sun rise. And did nothing else. No talking , no thinking, just enjoing the moment. And it reminded me of something really important I had forgotten: Chaning perspectives.

There’s almost always two (or even more) views to look at a task, a problem, a topic. And there might not be one right or wrong way, good or bad. Every perspective has it’s unique features, circumstances, advantages, problems, etc. It’s important to always remember that and search for other perspectives. Only by looking at something from a different angle you might get all the different issues that are important.

Since then I remembered that situation over and over. Especially in my work, when I have to create solutions for designing web pages and creating concepts. Whenever I’m stuck I’ll try to find a new perspective.

The new Google Bar introduces logo based navigation

In the process to unify all their web apps Google has now introduced a new way to navigate all their web apps – the new Google Bar. If you hover your mouse over the logo, it shows a menu with links to the main Google apps and a submenu for the rest. To me, that looks very exciting since it’s a whole new way to navigate. Here’s the video from the blog.

Over the last years, people came to expect that the website logo is always a link back to a websites’ homepage. It’s a standard now that helps lots of users go “back to start”. The Google approach goes even further and is not only a link to the homepage but also to other important areas (in case of Google – web apps). That saves space and also makes the logo the first stop for the navigation.

However, as new as this seems, if we look at operating systems we see something similar. A button to access the systems apps and functions. And now there’s the Google operating system button. Looking into the future I’d expect that lots of other websites will use that feature.

Website performance and Apollo 13 (the movie)

Since the Google announced that they will include site speed in their ranking algorithm, the issue of website, especially, homepage performance, is now something you definitely have to consider. However, many websites already did a good job in the time before. About half a year ago I also did some research and experimentation on that topic.

When improving the load speed of a website there’s a lot you have to care about. A good overview is Yahoo!s “Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Website“. And there’s actually no one solution or a right solution, there are many ways and you have to look at what your websites purpose and the main paths are. For example, if you need a lot of Javascript but don’t need all code on the homepage, you can postpone loading the big chunks.

After some time thinking about different solutions for a project, I was reminded of the “Apollo 13” movie. During the flight to the moon the space module is damaged and they have to shut some part of the spacecraft down. The main problem before going back is that they may not have enough energy remaining. So they need to figure out the best order to turn parts of the system on and not going over a specific limit. Doesn’t that sound similar? It’s almost the same thing you do when trying to make you page load faster.

Don’t think business or design – think outside the box.

In his article “Why Design Thinking Won’t Save You” Peter Merholz discusses business and design thinking in helping in innovation. While business thinking is a lot about spreadsheets and data analysis, design thinking is what all the creative people do when ideating new concepts.

At the end of his article, he concludes that you not only need need a view of both, business and design, but also other disciplines such as journalism, arts, library and so forth. I agree with that because a limited view is always something to avoid. Instead one should focus in thinking outside the box, with box your business, design, or any other thinking.

As an example he mentions Brandon Schauer who has an MBA and is a Master of Design. Hence, he is trained to have at least two, sometimes opposing, views. But what if you don’t have two degrees and can’t get another one?

The key is now to get many views in a single person, so it’s actually something one has to do on his own. How? Take every chance to do something that you haven’t done before, buy a book about a topic that draws your attention, go to places you would usually not go, or talk to people that are not part of your normal live. Just be open to new things and curious. Or as Steve Jobs says it in his 2005 commencement address: “Stay hungry, stay foolish”.

Is there a crowd of wisdoms? Better ask experts.

In his article about “The Wisdom of Community” Derek Powazek discusses many topics related to a very important concept of the web as of today. He covers simplicity, interface, aggregation, participation, just to name a few, and is definetly worth reading.

Especially this quote is interesting to me:

The Wisdom of Crowds (WOC) theory does not mean that people are smart in groups—they’re not.

As he explains, WOC works best if the participation is very few and there is no discussion going on.

Conversational inputs are too complex for Wisdom of Crowds systems. Online discussion systems do not lead to wisdom on their own.

In other words, a crowd of widsoms doesn’t work. They don’t work because everyone part of the discussion is usually interessted in getting his own idea out, may not have complete knowledge of the problem, or it’s just hard to have a complete view of a discussion where opinions are often shared. Or, participants discuss opinions with each other and miss the importance to get back to the problem.

Instead of a crowd of wisdoms I’d prefer to have just a few experts that will understand my problem and provide me with a set of solutions and a recommendation. In addition I’d like to have someone to discuss with me and not with some other folks.

So, if you can’t use the wisdom of the crowds as descibed in Derek Powazeks article, better stick to experts instead of a crowd of wisdoms.

Reboot 9.0 – “Human”

Long awaited and now finally there it is – reboot 9.0. The last two events have been amazing, the city and especially the venue. Don’t wait too long to register.

What is reboot about? Reboot is an event where people from all over the world, but especially Europe, gather and share ideas, opinions and discussions about the web, the world and lots of other things.

This year’s theme is “human”.

A new way to communicate – VOX by SixApart

A friend told me yesterday about a new blog tool on the web – SixAparts Vox.com. First I was not suprised, but after a while I was completely exited.

So what is different with vox.com. It has one feature I always missed and that was for many people a reason to not have a blog – privacy control. It lets you decide who can read your post. Whether it’s the whole world, your friends or your family. Now you can decide who can read your posts and view your photos.

Why is that so important? Many people use their weblogs to communicate with friends and so on. However, weblogs can be read by the whole world. This is not how it should be – only your friends should be able to read it. So, many people switched back to good old email and sent an email to all their friends. Sometimes with very long text and images. Now, you can manage to do that with a blog tool and still get the privacy you had with email.

Another aspect is, that a new way to communicate will emerge. Lets look at an email conversation with 4 people. You write the first one to 3 of your friends, and all 3 reply to your first one. So, how do you integrate their comments in your email to all 4 again. Actually you can’t do that very well and even more, if those 4 reply to all 4 participants, it doesn’t get better. I am sure you had that experience.

I already used Basecamp to communicate with more than one person in an email like way and it was a lot easier than with email. Everybody sees each others comment and will react on this comment. Also, you can view the conversation more easily.

Now with vox.com you can start conversations, not just blog posts, with others using your blog tool and don’t have to use email anymore. Sure, there are still uses for email but this opens up a whole new world.

“Getting Real” online for free

One of the best books I read this year is free for everybody now. It’s 37signals “Getting Real”. After reading their weblog for more than 3 years now, using almost all of their products (except Ta-Da lists) I have become a big fan of theirs.

The insights and opinions in their book are amazing, groundbreaking and helpful. I have been struggling with same problems when programming and after using some of their techniques it makes a lot more fun.

But be aware, after reading this book you might get big problems with the old-habbit people that don’t want to change.