Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


Highlights of Week 16/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg


What part of “No-reply” don’t you understand?

Posted by Michael Gaigg




The application sends out automated emails with links to a report that was requested by the user and created by the application. The sender address is 'no-reply@company.com' and obviously not meant to receive any further correspondence.

As it turns out, this exact no-reply email alias receives 'feedback' almost on a daily basis, some valuable and constructive, others from painfully true to filled with hatred, meaningless and doubtful.

Here an example:

Thx….this rocks……I am soooo gonna use u for this shit 🙂

What should we do with this answer?


It is important that you hear something... anything... that you give your users a channel to voice their experience from which you can/should learn and grow. Don't label them 'stupid' just because they "didn't get it", all the opposite, maybe YOU didn't get it because a reply to an incoming email seems intuitive and picking up the phone or opening a web browser with a link to a feedback form isn't.


So what can be learned from something seemingly unwanted - or to say it differently: not anticipated?

  • Take your customers serious.
  • Turn supposedly unwanted correspondence into contextual insight (observations drawn from data that resonates with an understanding of the business).
  • Turn them into business opportunities. Let them help you make better and faster decisions or simply improve the quality and perception of your application.
  • Optimize your automated emails following the guidelines for transactional email

Do it like Facebook. When Facebook realized that their users reply to email notifications about let's say comments on a picture of them, they simply turned those replies into a comment on the comment.
On the downside, less users go to the actual site to post the comment and continue using the service but on the upside the communication doesn't stop and becomes more real-time and valuable. A little give is a little more take I would say. Right on!


Highlights of Week 05/2010

Posted by Michael Gaigg


Highlights of week 51/2009

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Highlights of week 51/2009

  • 7 Controversial Usability Predictions for 2010 (by W Craig Tomlin) is in my eyes not as controversial as stated and surely a good read for everyone working in this field.
  • Seth Godin was kind enough to share his book What Matters Now as a free download. You'll find more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about. Good Xmas read, thanks!
  • LinkedIn announced its faceted search feature which is based on eight facets: company, past company, location, relationship, location, industry, school and profile languages. It really comes in handy when searching for people by location or friendship degree, something that Facebook is badly lacking still.
  • URL shortening is big not only since Twitter hit the 140 character message limit. This week Facebook and Google announced their very own services, goo.gl and fb.me with bit.ly announcing its plans for Bit.ly Pro, a service that lets publishers create their own custom short URLs that use the Bit.ly platform.
  • Menu Mind Games, really funny and quick read about the marketing tricks built into menus, for example, how something as simple as typography can drive you toward or away from that $39 steak.

Go figure: Hierarchy of Digital Distractions

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I'm still smiling about David McCandless's Hierarchy of Digital Distractions, a visual representation of digital things that matter to us. Well, some of them more than others.

In the shape of a pyramid the illustration reminds us of the order of importance model as suggested by Maslow's hierarchy of needs where the most fundamental need - earning our bread and butter (any kind of actual work) - is at base. Activities higher in the pyramid require more of our attention and 'trump' the activities below. Moving up in the pyramid means re-prioritizing activities by focusing on lesser important but subjectively more fulfilling needs.

The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions

The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions

So, if you in the midst of a phone call on one of those ancient Landlines, a New Voicemail will catch your attention which in turn will be trumped by a Mobile Phone call in silent vibrating only before the next Text Message comes in which obviously is not as important as a Mobile Phone call. Beware of buying an iPhone though because anything happening on your iPhone will overpower the before mentioned.

An email from a romantic partner will always rule over any skype call and a new message from your online dating service which is in return more important than an @message on twitter, a message on facebook or a new contact on flickr. All this happens is fine until one of your devices crash or your partner shuts the lid of your laptop on your fingers.

What's your funny interpretation?


The Three-?-stick

Posted by Michael Gaigg

The Three-?-stick is going around ... and and so it came around. Björn from the Webzeugkoffer (excellent webdesign blog in German) picked up the stick by answering 3 questions that I will answer now too:

The three questions

Which Editor do you use for (X)HTML and CSS?

I'm using Macromedia Dreamweaver. I'm still stuck at MX 2004, but I really got used to the color coding and other superficial things - it's like toothpaste, once you are hooked you'll never change again (don't ask for the trade pls).

...and notepad 😉

Which little tool became a true time saver for you?

Can't live without Firebug - seriously, can't live without it. That's not a little tool? Ok, what about ColorSet, love that also.

Flash - what do you think of that technology?

Call me a purist, but I'm really into DHTML. Unless somebody convinces me otherwise I can do what I need to do with HTML a JavaScript library like jQuery, Dojo, YUI or even the Facebook JavaScript Library.
I disliked flash when it got into 'mode' a century ago and still think that flash intros should die. Accessibility is still an issue also.

On the flipside our company created a really powerful ArcGIS API for Flex for building Rich Internet applications on top of ArcGIS Server, our internet mapping server. I might need to reconsider some of my previous believes.

I forward the three-?-stick to


What is ‘Web 2.0’ and why it should matter to you

Posted by Michael Gaigg


Create your own web 2.0 BS at http://www.emptybottle.org/bullshit/

It's been 4 years since the term 'Web 2.0' became popular and I still hear critiques that it doesn't mean anything. Common arguments include 'nothing new', 'not based on a new technology', 'just a trend/bubble' or 'just a marketing buzzword'. Here I am, taking a stand by telling you why Web 2.0 isn't just another buzz or bubble, why Web 2.0 became and is common wisdom and why Web 2.0 should actually matter to you. Call it differently if you feel thrown off by the marketing jargon but have a peak at Scott Berkun's extraordinary take on web 2.0:

"We have always been collaborative. Always been social. It’s in our genes and it’s what we have evolved to do well. Good technologies enhance our natural abilities, give us useful artificial ones, and help us to get more of what we want from life. Web 2.0 and social media make the process of collaboration and developing relationships more fun, efficient, powerful and meaningful."

Web 2.0 is a Transition

Web 2.0 is neither a trend nor a revolution, Web 2.0 is the transition from

  • proprietary web applications to open services platforms
  • monolithic releases to perpetual beta
  • publishing to participation
  • static content to syndication
  • directories (taxonomy) to tagging (folksonomy).
  • ...

Add to this list by sending me a comment.

Web 2.0 is Power to the People

Web 2.0 is software that gets better the more people use it! Sites like del.icio.us, Flickr, eBay or Amazon base their success on the use and contributions by their users. Social networking sites measure their success by the involvment of their participants.

Trust your Users! Now that is what I really love! Wikipedia is probably the ultimate example of an experiment of trust, content creation through the user community - yes, it works! Amazon's reviews distinguish them from other online bookstores like Barnes and Nobles that work with exactly the same data stores, just Amazon makes use of suggestions, ratings and other statistics to enhance their search results and create a basis of trust. Same holds true for eBay's reputation system or Googles PageRank.

Some rights reserved! Share, Remix, Reuse - Legally. 'Hacking' and 'Mixing' (creating mash-ups) is crucial for creative work and probably the single-most important movement of our time, thanks Creative Commons.

You control your own data! Syndicate, add, upload, tag, allow, deny, connect! It's about you and your data, with all its benefits, dangers and responsibilities, but wonderfully powerful 🙂

Web 2.0 is the Next Generation

I don't mean the next generation of technology, as a matter of fact none of the key technologies XHTML & CSS, DOM manipulation, XML & XSLT, XMLHttpRequest and JavaScript is new. I mean the Next Generation of Users, the Net Gen. It is no surprise to me that the flagship website Facebook was created by a Net Gen-er (Mark Zuckerberg) who at the age of 20 understood how to apply the existing technology to the demands and desires of the new generation.

His vision embodied some of the core competencies of Web 2.0 companies (from What is Web 2.0):

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

Facebook scores high in most competencies but like every early-adopter had and still has to face concerns and rejections for others. Facebook had to appologize when huge protests occurred after introducing the News Feed in 2006 which is now the most used part of Facebook or dealing with privacy concerns about the social advertising system Beacon.

And to be honest, I still don't understand the real power and use behind Facebook. At this point I should make space for the next generation like my friend Robert who offered to give some insight and explains:

"When you look at vamp bites, slaps, gifts and all, it seems pretty pointless. I'm a big fan of my feed though ( obviously ). Facebook pulls data from Twitter, Flickr, Digg, Last.fm, Hulu and Google Reader --- so I see feed more like 'This is a slice of Rob's life, RIGHT NOW' instead of 'Here's some stupid stuff he did on Facebook...'"

and how he thinks about Privacy:

"Yeah, I don't have much online privacy. Everything but my age, which is out there but I make it a little harder to get. I find that If someone knows my age first, It might be a problem. If they learn it last, no problem at all. I like people to be able to talk to me, I want all my info to be assessable. I can't really think of anyone who I wouldn't want to have my info that couldn't get it anyway; but I do know people who I want to have my info but might not be able to get it otherwise. Plus, I love messing with the internet shy."

Why does Web 2.0 matter?

Businesses need to understand the opportunities and potential offered by Web 2.0 and its changing user behavior. To become or stay competitive, companies need to create applications that learn from their users and support an architecture of participation. Understanding and implementation of one or more of the following Web 2.0 concepts are paramount:

  • Users add value: Involve your users in adding value to your application
  • Trust your Users: Provide users with the tools to create unique, hard to create content which will eventually give you a competitive advantage.
  • The Perpetual Beta: Engage your users as real-time testers and instrument the services so that you know how people use the new services.
  • Cooperate, don't control: Offer API's and content syndication and re-use data services of others.
  • Some Rights Reserved: Keep barriers of adoption low. Use licenses with as few restrictions as possible.
  • Utilize Network Effects: Aggregate user data as a side-effect of their use of the application.