Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

14Nov0

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

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Bullshitr

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.
23Oct0

For which generation are we designing for?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I just came back from a webcast held by Human Factors International titled "Who Are We Designing For? The Generation Dilemma". It reminded me that even though most designers - me included - belong to the Generation X (or maybe especially because of that) we need to understand and recognize behavioral differences between generations when designing web sites.

Sidenote: This generalization must not prevent us from continuing to identify and define our target audience through personas or applying all the other UCD principles based on representative users. It is solely meant to raise awareness that we as designers need to be aware of these differences.

So, what are these generations?

"Baby Boomers"

  • 78 Mio (US) / 1.11 Billion (worldwide)
  • born between 1943-1960 (age 65-48)
  • think of technology as a tool
  • computer at work or at home (often not the latest model)
  • use computer mainly for email or work-related activities
  • use sites that help save time or serve relevant information

"Generation X"

  • 55 Mio (US) / 1 Billion (worldwide)
  • born between 1961-1981 (age 47-27)
  • are technology savvy and career-focused
  • keep their computer (desktop) in a separate room or office
  • start their day with practical activities like reading news or checking stocks
  • utilize computer for work but still keep balance of life and work
  • use sites for practical tasks like online banking, news, travel preparation

"Net Gen"

  • 80 Mio (US) / 2 Billion (worldwide)
  • born between 1982-2000 (age 26-8)
  • technology is inherent and part of life
  • have their computer (laptop) by the bed
  • start their day checking social activity online
  • look for and do things that make them laugh, might be silly
  • attention span is short, impatient
  • use social networking sites like Facebook

How does the knowledge about these generational differences affect our designs?

The same guidelines for accessibility and usability like consistency or efficiency hold true but it is to be emphasized that certain guidelines must be enforced stronger for some generations while others can be loosened up. Here is a rough overview:

Baby Boomers:

  • Simple look and feel
  • Safe to use, more error-prone than usual
  • Navigation in predictable places
  • Hierarchies of information
  • Step by step instructions
  • Provide options to enlarge font sizes
  • Things that don't move, flicker, or play automatically

Generation X:

  • Focus on quality content
  • Provide 'do-it-yourself' tasks
  • Give control and allow customization

Net Gen:

  • Content has to be attractive, innovative, can be quirky
  • Design can be highly interactive
  • Audio and video is not only accepted, it's expected
  • Entertainment is important
  • Avoid pictures of elderly people (yes!)

How can a design satisfy all generations?

The answer is (as always): it cannot. Designs have to be focused on and implemented towards your key audience. A university web site needs to satisfy its customers, the students. The press, teachers and parents are without doubt important as well, but without satisfied students the university doesn't even have to think about getting the press to visit the site.

There are ways to generalize your site's content though:

  • Identify the user (login) and present a customized UI
  • Identify the content (landing page) and predict its likely customer
  • Identify user preferences by explicitely asking