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A web creative passionate about standards and strategies.

Visions & Afterthoughts

Archive 2006

The Freedom of Fast Iterations: How Netflix Designs a Winning Web Site

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This is an excellent article at UIE.com on Netflix success on UI implementations and its fast iteration process. This "agile" method really focuses the UI designers and developers on creating new "throw-away" ideas and keep what works in real world testing.

I believe there is a real need for designers/developers to be in an environment where all ideas can be flushed out and tested before its being dismissed. How else would web UI/applications be fresh and improved?

Once, a designer had spent time and energy working on a feature that testing showed didn't work. When it came time for the team to remove the feature from the site, the designer was distraught. He had become too emotionally invested in his design, and it got in the way of his job. He ended up parting ways with the team and moving on. Unfortunately, the process of fast iteration affected more than the product itself.

To that I would say tough luck if your ideas had to be thrown out. You have to be pragmatic about UI if the target users rejects it then you should throw it out yourself. It is not about admitting defeat, but to gain understanding of why it did not work that is the benefit. I see people who become too attached to their ideas are simply too self-centred, when you need to be user centric.

Pay Joe and be forgiven for your sins...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I subsidize Joe?s indolence. Do you?The honorable Joe Clark has launched The Open & Closed Project, an initiative to write a set of standards for the four fields of accessible media — captioning, audio description, subtitling, and dubbing. The project will develop those standards through research and evidence-gathering, and where research or evidence is missing on a certain topic, they will carry it out themselves.

So donate your pocket change now and be saved for your web standards and accessibility sins. I have and I feel much better!

IE7 out and pasted

Saturday, November 11, 2006

It has been a few weeks since the launch of IE7. I have to say I'm quite happy with it in general. If only they would ban everyone on IE5.5 and later then I'd be happier. I still haven't gotten around to "fix" my site for it since I'm planning to redesign it in December. I think I might still "patch" it up temporarily.

But for those who are thinking about it or in the process of doing so, please, please, please use conditional comments instead of IE7 hacks.

Accessibility for me, myself and I

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Roger's latest article has simply highlighted the fact the social perception of people with disabilities are often looked upon as them versus us. I totally agree with Roger that everyone is in need of accessibility, whether they know it or not.

Personally, I can see my vision deteriorate pass 50 years of age, and no doubt my accessibility needs will increase. I also can say that, for whatever reason, I may have other disabilities in the future. For all you designers and developers, think of yourself and think forward, as the present is impermanence. So remember, accessibility is for you too.

Starck on Starck

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You are arguably the most famous product designer in the world and have created many memorable objects. What are your personal favorites?

"The next ones. I don't like anything that I've done. That's why I continue to do it. I'm talentless, cynical, lazy and venal. Every object I've designed tells me how weak and lazy I am."

- Philippe Starck interview in Oct/2006 edition of Metropolitan Home

That's the quote of the decade! Thanks to Todd Dominey for the quote.

Text-Resize Detection

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lawrence Carvalho & Christian Heilmann article for A List Apart is a gem.

I would advise you (and me) who find text-resizing in your layout less than pretty to check it out. It is not a complete solution but an important progression to better flexible layout.

IE7 Release Candidate 1 Out Now

Friday, August 25, 2006

The term release candidate refers to a final product, ready to release unless fatal bugs emerge. In this stage, the product features all designed functionalities and no known showstopper class bugs. At this phase the product is usually code complete.

This means IE7 is 99% complete and ready for release soon. There maybe RC2 or even RC3 but should be officially out end of the year. So designers and developers, download it and start testing all your sites in IE7 now. As well all know the distribution and acceptance of IE7 will be fast XP or Vista.

200 Issues Improved in IE7

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

You have to hand it to Microsoft's IE team. Resolving 200 issues from PNG transparencies support, :hover dynamic pseudo class available for all elements to min/max width supports are good examples of improvements made. I know these should have been in IE6 but its better late than never. Right?

Head to the IEBlog's article (by Markus Mielke, Program Manager) for all the details. I'm sure you will be smiling/relieve more afterwords. Much appreciated IE team!

Michael Beirut's Design Profession Truth

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

A must read for all designers out there. Michael Beirut's article, one of the best he's written, have outted the design industry as it should be. A bunch of insecure egotistical so-called professionals. Design profession is inconstant defensiveness against all those who critique the real value it provides. Beirut's true answer is this...

As a class, we designers long to wrap ourselves in the bulletproof cloak of our profession, thinking that if "a place at the table" is reserved for something called "design," maybe we can slide into that empty seat. But the game doesn't bring the player; the player brings the game. Every great designer I've ever met has gotten respect the old fashioned way, by earning it. The means to that end are glorious in their variety. There is no one true path to victory, no silver bullet. I know some designers who are incredible strategists; others who are charismatic witchdoctors; still others who are patient teachers; and a few who are just plain magicians. Each successful designer has to prove him or herself with every new project and every new client. And, perhaps, with each new success the job gets a little easier for the rest of us.

I can't agree more. Its more the individual's works and history that provides the validation that design is valuable to his or her clients. There are bad lawyers as there are good ones. There are also good architects and there are bad ones. It is the same in all other professions so why not design?

Jakob Nielsen on AJAX and more

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

First and foremost I am not a fan of Nielsen but certain times in his career as a usability expert he has had given a few gems. This July interview highlights a few good gems.

Usability is one of the key influencers of the conversion rate, and improving usability will typically double the conversion rate for a site that has had low usability in the past. But there are many others factors that influence the conversion rate, including the brand's reputation, the product itself, and obviously, the price.

And this...

Since AJAX is an engineering idea, it has the opposite problem of leading to featuritis. Remember: just because you love technology and advanced features, it doesn't mean that your customers do. They just want to get in and out without worrying about your web site.

I am a pragmatic standardista and certainly do agree just because AJAX is the new trend doesn't mean its free from qualifying uses' needs. Technolgy for technology sake is so 90s. Its not often I agree with Nielsen but it this rare instance his User-Centric approach is commendable.

Firefox 2 Beta 1 Out!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

There have been strong growth for Mozilla Firefox since its launch, capturing 16% of the US browser market in a few years in no mean feat. With version 1.5 out of awhile now, Firefox version 2 beta 1 is officially launched.

The new features include:

  • Better RSS feed support
  • Default open link in new tab rather than new window
  • Crash recovery for all tabs and pages
  • Inline spellcheck for form fields
  • Microsummaries for bookmarks
  • Support for JavaScript 1.7
  • Improved security for plugins and extensions
  • Client-side session and persistent storage
  • Support for SVG text using svg:textPath

Do yourself a favour and check it out now!

CSS Reboot as Web Standards Validation Indicator

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A good article by Sean Fraser on how CSS Reboot Spring 2006 submitted sites are less 30% valid to W3C standards. Meaning a huge 70% of these "rebooted" sites are not fully validated to standards. Funny how many developers and designers "rebooted" their sites and not bothered to validate their own code.

It appears that those sonorous messages from Big-Top Barkers, Standardistas, Web Standards Evangelists, Semantics Peddlers and Old Professionals are wee and small beyond the vernal arcades of the Standards Side Show. Still, it’s not all that dismal. Some sites failed for typographical errors. Some for The W3C CSS Validation Service not comprehending CSS3 Selectors. Some were failures caused by CSS Hacks. Hokey-Smokes! A few 9 Rules Sites failed, even!

People. If you are reading this, do your due diligence and test your own work. To submit your sub-standard work to a web standards contest/event is not only shameful but outs yourself for lack of some basic web skills.

But credit for the 28% of valid sites "rebooted", kudos and good work!

PocketMod

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I have been using PocketMod is the past three days and I have to say it is refreshing to say the least. It may look like an ordinary mini booklet but so much more.

"Lets face it, PDAs are too expensive and cumbersome, and organizers are bulky and hard to carry around. Nothing beats a folded up piece of paper. That is until now. With the PocketMod, you can carry around the days notes, keep them organized in any way you wish, then easily transfer the notes to your PDA, spreadsheet, "

Open ItI do have a PDA and various other similar eletronic devices, but these cannot match the practicality, economy and flexibility. You can generate any type of 8-pages booklet from calendar, organisers, games, references and so on.

I have been using for 3 main things; to-do list, weekly organiser and shopping listings. I'm sure there more things I'll use it for. Best to check it out yourself. Make you try out the Create PocketMod flash app.

Joe Clark on WCAG2

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Now I have been a fan of Joe Clark ever since attending Web Essentials 2004 which he presented. He is the straightest shooter on web standard if ever there was one. In his A List Apart article, Joe has brought forth the darkness that is WCAG 2 for all to see. It is this damning state of affairs that web developers with any interest in web standards have had to enduring over the years which makes Joe's words ring true. I for one share his views as the work group is farcical and I normally go there for a good laugh.

I have read and agreed that the current WCAG 2 is well short of the mark in current standards, let alone the future applications. But at least they can stop the process soon and review it in full. It is obvious something needs to be resolved internally at W3C before the next version begins. Let us pray WCAG 3 (if there ever will be one) can be better in both process and outcome.

Get Your Daily Vitamin

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I must be sleeping under a rock. I have just noticed Vitamin from Carson Systems. Cool new resource for web designers, developers and entrepreneurs. Check it!

Microsoft, IE and the Web Standards Project

Friday, May 12, 2006

Amazingly frank blog from Chris Wilson, Group Program Manager of the Internet Explorer (IE) Platform team at Microsoft.

" Yes, I have the power to enact change. Yes, I will continue to improve standards support and compliance in IE, and make the web better. That’s my job, my charter, my vision, and my passion. The day it isn’t, I’ll quit. The day the development of the standards-based platform in IE goes on a back burner again, I'll quit. My management up to and including Bill Gates has said we are back in the saddle with IE, so I have a job to get back to. "

All is after an interview with Molly. I sincerely hope Chris gets to enable his belief and passion on web standards back into IE7 and beyond.

Web Directions (nee Web Essentials)

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Web Directions BannerJohn Allsopp and Maxine Sherrin have evolved Web Essentials to Web Directions. The September 26th - 29th event promises to be bigger and more SXSW for Australia. The conference will focus on;

  • standards based design and development
  • accessibility
  • user centred design
  • information architecture

As always, I shall be in attendance and reaffirm my passion for all things web. Be sure to check it out and come along.

Blogrolling - May, Part 1

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

There are just too many thing happening on the web and too little time to cover everything notable. So I am blogrolling a lists of interesting links.

Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 Released

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Microsoft has released IE Beta 2 yesterday. There are minor changes to the interface and some changes from Beta MIX06. Again I stress that we trial and report bugs back to the IE team. Its for our benefit as much as its Microsoft.

At this stage, I am still using 80% Firefox and 10% IE with another 10% between Safari, Camino and Opera. So Firefox is still king for me.

Web tracks:

A Designer's Guide to Prototyping Ajax

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Excellent guide by Kevin Hale for designers to prototype AJAX or any new web development projects with web services. Its very difficult for designers to develop concepts for AJAX UI, as most functionality will stay at a single screen. Hence, static wireframing is not effective as these need to reflect the dynamic nature of AJAX. Designer and developers have to work together for prototyping which in hand helps user-centric designs.

Be sure to continue the guide as this is only part 1 of a series.

UPDATE 17/04/06: Ajax Wireframing Approaches following the article above.

Apple Boot Camp is the new "Classic" by John Gruber

Friday, April 7, 2006

Big up to Mr. Daring Fireball for writing this article. Great anaylsis by Gruber and most of which I am in agreement with what Apple have strategically planned.

" But now that it's here, Boot Camp does seem like an obvious move for Apple, no? It's a low-risk, no-lose proposition for them, and but the potential upside is huge."

Apple Mac with Windows? Boot Camp makes it possible.

Thursday, April 6, 2006
Boot camp image

In the aftermath of Bootcamp beta release, Apple have enable Mac Intel users to freely install and natively run "any" other OS (Windows and Linux) into their Mac. Apple has opened a big can of worms in the OS and PC landscape, effecting PC companies like Dell and HP. The option for Mac users to select/switch between Mac OSX and MS Windows on the same Intel Mac machine, which makes Apple Macs the only official machines that can run both platforms. This will not only encourage PC users to switch over to Apple Macs but also elimenating the excuse of many PC users' reliance on Windows-based software and data.

Furthermore, these switcher will now have a full view on why Mac OSX is superior to Windows XP running on the same machine. I personally think most users will question the need to use Windows platform at all once they see the difference. Apple is also gambling that Mac users will not abandon OSX and just use Windows. Even with a better OS, Windows still command a much greater library of software and particularly in gaming. The next 2 years will definitely be interesting especially when Apple should have all Macs on Intel and an new OSX "Leopard" by end of the year, with Microsoft delaying Vista to early 2007, its only going help Apple's marketshare in both OS and PC.

<OBJECT> or <EMBED> Tags No More?

Friday, March 31, 2006

For Microsoft at least, it seem to be happening. Dave Shae highlighted this issue on his blog and linked to this eweek news. This is huge for everyone in web development.

It is huge because almost every site I know uses some form of <OBJECT> or <EMBED> embedding for PDF, Flash, Quicktime and other media. Obviously, we will have to wait and see. But since Microsoft is already taking action to modify Internet Explorer its not looking good. It could be a matter of time before other browsers are force to modify as well.

Seriously, why is US Patent office giving away patents so commonly used to in most websites? I am further dismayed by the fact we are limited not only by technological challenges but by ridiculous patents into the future, a total mine field of unforeseeable path.

IE 7 Beta MIX06 and its fixes

Monday, March 27, 2006

Since my last post on some of IE7 "Layout Complete" short comings, several web gurus have provided more insights to fixes in the interim. Checkout the latest on the web tracks below (especially Andy Clarke).

Web tracks:

IE 7 Beta MIX06 and its short comings

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

After the update on IE7 beta to MIX06 version, the IE team have completed all CSS implementation, san updates on bugs and known issues. This current beta version with the version which we will really need to test and work on since the browser's rendering engine in mostly complete. But thus far its a much better CSS implementation than before as stated by both Molly and Andy Clarke. However, as we have come to expect, there are some issues with IE7 beta.

As highlighted by Roger Johansson they have left several CSS psuedo-elements out, which limits clearing on many elements on current websites. Also, it is clear that the full CSS standards set by W3C have not been implemented either.

I am sincerely grateful to the IE team on how well they have improved IE7 (especially if you compare to IE5), but in a sense I believe IE7 have yet to reach the heights of Mozilla Firefox 1.5 or other less popular but fully standard compliant browsers. We can only hope this will change before IE7's official launch or at the minimum revised at later updates.

Web tracks:

Bruce Mau @ Parsons

Thursday, March 16, 2006

If you don't know Bruce Mau, you need to know him and what he has done for design profession. His ideas and impact are social design and the way we interact with it. Here is a good description of Bruce Mau from AIGA.

This interview at Parsons Table gives a good insight to his views on design and where it fits into our lives. Here is a small but powerful excerpt;

"... it's all within a design context that we've produced that becomes really almost invisible to us. If you want to understand that, you need only imagine how often you can close your eyes and open them in an environment that isn't filled with designed things and isn't itself a designed environment. You realize that almost our entire reality is produced by us. That's the world that we live in, but we cease to see it, it becomes almost a natural context--until it breaks, until it fails. So that when a plane crashes, suddenly you're aware of the kind of force that's involved in taking a big group of people and putting them in the air..."

Have a read on the whole interview, as I just wish they could have podcast the whole session.

UPDATE: Go to Massive Change to see the initiative Mau has brought forth. Great idea, but not sure if the captalists around the world would act on it.

Modern Approach to Flash SEO

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

If you develop Flash and have even the slightest interest in standards-based development or Search Engine Optimisation, you need to check out this article by Geoff Stearns.

Personally I am pro-Flash. It is a great platform for animation and interactive media can be extremely effective, but only as FlashObjects. However, websites that fully employ Flash as the complete website have too many limitations and not as extensible as standard web developments.

Visual stats thru Crazy Egg

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Another great heads up by TechCrunch on a cool web statistics service. One of the nice features fromCrazy Egg is its ability filters all the clicks/actions to a visual hotspot of where the users interacted with the design and layout.

I think its quite valuable to be able to "see" what the users are clicking on and how they are actually using the site as larger representation than say a usability test averaging 10 to 15 user cases. Ultimately, I think the greater statistic feedback can help many sites improve elements and contents. Looking at numbers doesn't really help UI designers and developers, its the visual reactions that will improve usability and access to content.

Check out the article here.

Google Adsense

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

For you regulars, I am testing Google Adsense on this website for the first time. Let me know if its really detracting from the site or you don't mind at all. Comment here.

Web User Momentum

Friday, March 10, 2006

An interesting article at A List Apart on momentum of user interest, which in turn produces actions and results. One of the biggest problem with getting users to fill this, check that, submit it or buy now is keep their interests when they first get there.

Users goes to websites for a purpose (long gone are the days where people "surf" the web) and this purpose is to get something that interested them. Nick Usborne, editor of Marketing Experiments Journal points out a very good point here.

"If you want someone to do something, you need to build what amounts to a funnel, or pathway. Help the reader identify the one thing they want, and then simplify and "narrow" the design and the text in order to focus on that one thing, and build energy and enthusiasm within the reader. Take away any distractions, visually or with words. Focus on the one thing."

Many of the web workshop I have conducted with clients having been try to focus what do they want prospective users to get to the content or act upon. It is not a hard concept but many still believes in the old model of step-by-step action. "Funneling" user's interests to the content or actions, not creating distractions or barriers. And by all means, lead them through simplified forms and information if need be but just understand that user's interest is very limited and quite easy for them to abandon your site.

Agile Web Design

Friday, February 24, 2006

Emily Chang has written a good introduction article on the much discussed process of agile design. I believe this process has been adopted by many designers and developers a long time ago. Whenever there is an organic outcome. There is no stopping-point in many of the projects we do now.

Evolutionary design strategies are even print and branding design principles, so I fail to see anything new here. The current adoption of identifying methodologies and labeling it as something new is in fact a good idea, especially to those not practicing the idea. Agile design is being adopted but maybe articles like this highlights it more so others will join the fold.

Web tracks:

Standarditas Fascistas

Friday, February 24, 2006

The web champion that is Molly has highlighted the types of web zealots that are making web-standards adopters and advocates look like idiots. I believe web-standards have to be practiced with a lot of A web creative passionate about standards and strategies.matist approaches. There always cases where is near impossible to make it 100% fully standards compliant, so before you dig into your fellow webby, listen to their side of things and if you believe you can help them, do so instead of lambasting their work. Make sure you check out the article and it's comments.

A Moment for After Life

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Its often the case when people are dying they often recapture turning points in their life. John Maeda (one of my true heroes), posted this recently. Having also seen the movie After Life, which I also loved, I felt it really makes you think long and hard what your life is about. Maeda deftly describes the movie as ...

"When people die, they go to a place where there is a movie production company. There the staff interviews the new arrivals to get them to select the one memory that they can take with them as they pass on to wherever that might be. A movie is made of that one memory, that they get to take with them as how they remember their life."

I would love to know what mine would be. At this point in my life, I've only lived 30 years so I would hope better things are to come. But I do remember back when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old something turned me down to this path of creative life. During my first day of kindergarten, I was drawing as I used to do at home. My teacher back then was amazed at the quality I had produced for my age and commended me on it showing it to everyone. From then on everyone in the class was congratulating me and asked me to draw for them. From that early point in life, I started to focus on creative expression drawing on anything I saw and the rest is history.

It really gave the child that I was a sense of being and defining my contributing part in the world. That I think would be my little short film to take after I pass on.

Design-Bullshite-Sandwich

Friday, February 10, 2006

UX Magazine (Andy Rutledge) has written a great article on the bad design deemed the benchmark for web success.

"... too much nonsense spouted about the effectiveness of certain successful companies' websites and it's time to correct it. Those who say that poorly designed websites are partly responsible for some companies' success are feeding you a load of crap. And too many of you are eating it up."

The definitely agreed with most of his views. Seriously, we all love Google and ebay but as a brand building goes they have a long way to go and its UI can be alot more refined and still keep its great functionalities.

"Bottom line is designers need a foundation to ward off ridiculous ideas like "bad design creates success." We shouldn't relegate ourselves to simply sailing whichever way the wind is blowing this week. When the wind smells bad, it's time to get upwind of the bullshit."

'Nuff said.

IE7 Beta 2 Preview Reactions

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

There have been many blogs and web reviews up on about IE7b2 and it hasn't been all hugs and kisses. I would say most of the critiques were contructive, especially these following posts;

  • IE7 First Impressions - Nice overall first look and agreed on the unrefined UI at this stage for IE7
  • And All That (IE7) Malarkey - Many sites like Malarkey have had issues rendering correctly, this maybe a temporary issue or something more evil?
  • Charting IE7b2 - Eric has had said all along that until it officially out, none of us should in anyway cater for IE7. But we definitely should give the developers all the feedback they need.

Just to remind everyone that its still a beta, Molly has posted on missing "!important" declaration and should updated in later versions. So keep sending feedback to the IE team people, or talk to them.

Internet Explorer 7: Beta 2 Preview

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

IE7 Beta is now out for public review. Great work for MS delivering a beta this early in the year. I am sure the final version is long way down the track, probably in the fourth quarter. Anyway, download it and give them feedback for goodness sake. Its our responsibility to tell them what you think.

And REMEMBER, its a beta!

UPDATE: Be warned that IE7 installs over IE6 or older, but can be easily uninstalled back to normal.

Web Authoring Statistics by Google

Friday, January 27, 2006

This is a great example of Google contributing back to the web. This statistical overview for web development is an invaluable insight to the community. It was sad to see GoLive corruption of the web is still around and custom markup coding breaking standards and validity left right and centre.

Of course, all this must also be partly accredited to web-passionardo John Allsopp and his Semantics Study.

Four Things

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I blame Zeldman

Four jobs I've had

  1. Cinema Usher
  2. Junior Designer
  3. College Tutor/Lecturer
  4. Creative Consultant/IA/BA

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. Shawshank Redemption
  2. The Professional
  3. Fight Club
  4. Castle in the Sky

Four places I've lived

  1. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  2. Gold Coast, Australia
  3. Brisbane, Australia
  4. Melbourne, Australia

Four TV shows I love

  1. The Simpsons
  2. Top Gear
  3. Initial D Series
  4. The Amazing Race

Four places I've vacationed

  1. Tokyo
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Bangkok
  4. Taipei

Four of my favorite dishes

  1. Chicken Tikka Masala
  2. Kyoto's Katsu Ramen
  3. Kuala Lumpur's Curry Laksa
  4. Mum's Slow Braised Duck

Four sites I visit daily

  1. Engadget
  2. Soccernet.com
  3. digg
  4. News.com.au

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. Relaxing at Bora Bora
  2. Travelling Europe
  3. Hiking & Mountaineering at Nepal
  4. Playing games at home

Four bloggers I am tagging

  1. Molly
  2. Roger Johansson
  3. Jason Santa Maria
  4. Eric Meyer

Comic Sans was mistake.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Vincent Connare has blogged his design of Comic Sans as a resolution to a specific problem. The typography used for those annoying Word/Office Assistant animations, and not for systematic use of text typography.

It just amazes me how typographically powerful and influential Windows is, especially when there are only so many (limited) system fonts available. Comic Sans became used as an alternative to Times New Roman and worse, Arial. This is a great insight to typography development to GUI systems.

Connare: Art, design & typography: Type Designs: Comic Sans

CSS 3 Selectors Explained

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Roger Johansson has again given some invaluable insight to CSS development. He provides good, concise explanations of the new selectors in CSS3, including an approximate level of browser support for each group. Check it out as I found it great information for future web developments.

Archival Posts

Posts archived annually
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