Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

10Jul0

Lifespan is an important Design Decision

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Mayan mahem

Mayan mahem

The lifespan of a planned application or website is an important (and often overlooked) requirements influencer. Many questions come to mind that appear to be technical in nature but have to be understood by the designer to optimize their design decisions on capabilities and known limitations of the target technology. Designs can never truly be technology agnostic and in my opinion if they are, then this fact will create gaps between design and implementation later on. So you better be aware of them.

Typical Questions to ask:

  • Will the app be likely be superseded by something else within the next 6 months?
  • Is another known technology catching up and soon more prominent than our current target technology?
  • Do we rely on third-party tools/plugins that need to be maintained or maybe will render our application unmaintainable?

Especially the last question bares high risk of failure. If you rely on a JavaScript's front-end framework - like we all do - say, jQuery UI, chances are that our designs will a) be limited and b) sometime be stuck in the middle once a major redesign hits us. If the redesign happens before the end of the planned/anticipated lifespan of our app, cost and effort to upgrade might not be feasible and thus we cannot upgrade to the latest versions anymore. The End.

Scalability

Amount for various cases where your design needs to be flexible enough to handle changes over time. These can include:

  • Administration: more objects (users, items) are added over time. Does the app provide pagination? Search? How easy can they be plugged in?
  • Load: processing times increase. How will the system display delays in page refreshes? Download times?
  • Client requests: more functionality needs to be added. Is the design flexible enough to accommodate another button or menu item? Etc.
  • i18n: multi-language support needed? Now? Later? Maybe?
  • Accessibility: is it worth the effort?
  • Support for MVP (minimal viable product) and incremental improvements?

In many ways the Maya calendar and it's associated 2012 phenomenon are a good example for design decisions based on lifespan. Who cared back then that after 5125 years the calendar would need to be reset (or cannot handle more combinations), like many software systems didn't take into consideration what is now known as the Y2K or Millennium bug which was caused by the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits for pure storage consideration, which nowadays in our abundance world of storage is really hard to follow. But hey, it costed an estimated remediatioin of $416.- in today's currency world-wide.

Lesson

Take into consideration the lifespan of your app when designing it. Any negligence is careless design and may result in increased cost or even an unmaintainable or unusable product later on.

What are your experiences with lifespan?

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.