Archive for the 'web design' Category

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Human-Computer Interface: The Simplicity of Asking and Telling

Simplicity in user interface combined with the power of the what is returned equals uncommon success.

Google User Interface

The Google interface allows complex queries with the most basic interaction.


Twitter User Interface

The Twitter interface allows publication into the social conversation stream with a user interaction that looks very similar.

One interaction is asking, the other is telling.

The Open and the Closed: Closed is the new Open

Open Door

A closed system can be a portal to openness through the network. This is a fundamental change in where the opportunities for software application development will be located in the future.

In the era of the desktop computer, an executable program needed to reside on the local computer hard drive and take advantage of the tools offered by the operating system. Access to APIs and documentation defined how open a system was. Ability to alter, or improve the system, to better support an application was a further sign of openness.

This same paradigm has been used to think about the coming age of the teleputer. Pundits and hackers cry out for access that is analogous to the desktop OS development environment. They don’t seriously attend to the possibility of a radical shift away from the hard drive to the cloud. This idea is a riff off of Steve Gillmor’s recent post.

A Short Interlude:

Upgrading software and maintaining compatibility through multiple versions on a desktop computer is one of the top usability problems of the desktop environment. The installed executable application model creates infinite complexity at the point of least understanding and ability to cope. Think about what happens when you move that complexity back into the cloud and give responsibility for managing it to the application developers. A “computer” becomes simple for the user, and as complex as the business model and developers of the application can support.

Tim O’Reilly, in his NY Times Op Ed piece, asks Verizon to open their platform in the same way that the computer is open— either on the desktop or the server. Although he coined the term “Web 2.0” for his conference, he doesn’t seem to really understand the implications. The new path to openness is laid down by Steve Gillmor when he writes about the “hard drive” vs. “the cache.” With HTML/Ajax, Flash and Silverlight, small runtimes can be present anywhere and everywhere. The future of application development is against these small runtimes in the browser and single purpose network connected applications that make use of a subset of browser capability.

It’s an avenue to much greater user acceptance and uptake; and it removes an element of complexity from the local machine. This is how you dramatically reduce the hours of work required to maintain a computer / handheld device. Those who demand access to your computer and teleputer so they can load it up with the code they’ve written are not necessarily doing you a favor. They are probably just setting you up for a future moment when your phone will crash beyond your ability to repair it.

Resist the forces of complexity that wear the guise of “openness.” Closed systems can support both simplicity and openness via the network. Open systems support potential complexity at the device level and openness via the network. Open systems like Linux will enable closed system CloudBooks that will achieve simplicity, reliability and openness through the network.

Web As Industrial Design: Painting with Code

Juicer Prototype

 If you happen to be passing through Terminal 3 of the San Francisco Airport any time soon, check out: Prototype to Product: 33 Projects from the Bay Area Design Community. Rushing through the Terminal to my gate, I didn’t have enough time to spend with each of the pieces. The exhibit features preliminary sketches, detailed illustrations, models, prototypes and the finished product. Every time I see this kind of approach to design I think that Web design should be done in the same way.

Designers of Web sites need to take the materials, the DOM, the semantic HTML, the CSS, the javascript, the images and links into account when they design something for a person to use for a particular purpose. Industrial designers need to know and understand their materials. Will there be a new generation of Web artists and designers who can paint in code?

No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better

Samuel Beckett

A link tossed in to the stream by Joe Tennis on Twitter, stirred up thoughts about failure. Joe’s pointer was to a blog posting on the process of creating computer games, and the ideal of setting up an environment where failure can happen faster and isn’t punished. That’s a unique idea in this day and age.

It brought to mind a quote from a late Samuel Beckett novel called “Worstward Ho.”

Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.
Samuel Beckett

If you intend to participate in a creative profession, whether it’s writing fiction, making paintings or plays, creating companies, products or software— you’ll need to learn to live in, and with, failure. In a sense, success is the failure that we’ve made an accomodation with. We shoot for perfection, and we always fall short. Dave Winer summed it up in 1995 in his motto for Living VideoTextWe make shitty software, with bugs. Software must ship prior to perfection, in that way it’s like life. We must live our lives prior to perfection. If we wait, we’ll miss everything.

Failure is tied to risk. If failure is not an option, risk is not an option. If risk isn’t an option, only a very small kind of success is possible. The principle is the same as an investment portfolio. You can banish risk, but you can’t expect a high level of return. Risk is a requirement of potential high return. The same is true in any creative pursuit, if you want a big success, you’ll need to learn to live with risk and failure.

And not just live with them, but to call them friends. Learning how to fail faster means learning how to succeed faster. Creating a safe environment for failure encourages risk taking and exploration. It gets you there faster. But just as with success, not all failure is equally successful. Failures need to be crafted just as carefully as successes. Just ask Samuel Beckett…

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