Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

Web 2, Content 1

Obviously there should be some clever dot nomenclature in that title to make it more obvious, but that would have made it it just, well, too obvious, and besides, I didn’t fancy the idea of what the permalink would look like and since when have I written a meaningful title anyway.

Maybe you’ve read this far. Maybe you only got the first line in your reader and so you haven’t seen this line and I wasn’t interesting enough to make you get this far. I’ll probably end up putting some screen grab or other in here later to make it look nice and as for the Sun template, that makes everything I write look nicer than it really is, which makes me seem more authoritative, when obviously I’m not. But you might not see that either.

If you grew up with the ‘content is king’ mantra stuck on your huge CRT monitor with a post-it note in the late 90s, and you were devising a strategy for your web content that was focused clearly on what you had to say, rather than how it looked, then welcome back to relevancy. As we’ve (the royal we’ve) integrated web 2.0 capabilities further into our core publishing architectures, and in many cases, foregone ownership of publishing technologies altogether, we’ve willfully opted back into html 1.0. Sure, we have open, distributed platforms that mean we can write once, publish multiple and aggregate endlessly (how fun was it to make recursive feeds of yourself on natuba, before it turned into some weird iphone freakshow?), but how can I squeeze my multimedia in there, or my flash-based corporate profile? Answer is, you can’t. Not really. Not without accepting that things will end up a bit, well, not exactly how you want them. Of course, you can publish a bookmark to your 1.0 web site, which looks as fantastic as it ever did, and even has all the pixels in the right place, if you’re using the right browser/OS combination, natch, but an RSS feed? What kind of losers want to read that stuff?

If you’ve spent 17 hours updating your blog template, like I often do, to get the icons left aligned and the text justified and just the right size, then you’ve just fallen into the pit marked ‘waste of time’, where you’ll find me. Of the 17 people that read anything I ever write, about 16 of them have probably subscribed via google reader or bloglines or something, which means that all formatting has disappeared and my carefully crafted font is now 19 inches tall and my in-line images are not in-line at all, but a huge page break in the middle. Mind you, of those 16 people, only 6 of them are actually reading, the others are just marking it as ‘read’. In fact, I’m the only one who cares, but even I don’t care anymore. I’m writing everything with html 1.0 as the lowest common denominator, which means at least I get to right-align my images, but not much else. It’s quite nostalgic. I might dig out my copy of Mosaic and see how things look. And then take a ride on my space hopper or something.

Listening Post: John Martyn: Certain Surprise

Are We Ready Yet?

Web ready? There must be some simple process to make sure that all this product data is stored somewhere, so that we can access it it when we’re rendering product content on No? Ah. But there is a process. There’s a few.

Designing interactivity based on product taxonomies is really interesting stuff. There’s a number of ways you can slice the data which enables you to present compelling experiences that drive to conversion. It’s even more interesting when you’re designing on an assumption of what those taxonomies look like, rather than what they actually look like. There is a point up to which you can make sensible design decisions, based of top-level and subcategory branching, for example, but there does come another point where, without the data, you really don’t know whether you can entertain alternate experiences, through, say, filtering across common product attributes. If you don’t know what attributes there are, you don’t know if they are common.

But designers like challenges. The challenge is often to get folks to lust after the design so much that they’ll give you whatever you want. I’m asking for the data.

Listening Post: Public Image: Public Image


Or maybe that’s Unselect, although that’s obviously not a real word, but when does that stop us? As I try and complete a design specification for a product finder, only interrupted by my writing about trying to complete a design specification for a product finder, I notice that its the subtle nuances that really take the time to figure out. I know what a table looks like. I also know what a drop-down list of comparable subcategory products looks like. I even know what a Products By Category: Subcategory Listing: Filtered: Single Attribute product list item looks like. But I don’t know whether the 508 label for a button that allows you to uncheck a range of checkboxes should say ‘Unselect All’ or ‘Deselect All’.

Actually, I do know that its ‘Deselect All’, but I only know that because somebody told me. I’m sure someone here who can quote the style and editorial guides complete with page references and footnotes off the top of their head would have been able to point out to me the grammatical and semantic reasoning behind that decision, notwithstanding the fact that unselect isn’t actually a word, even though I thought it might be, because my vocabulary necessarily contains a mixture of English, US English, and web terms, which means I’m never quite sure these days when I write an email or comp a blurb that I’m making any sense at all. Much like as I’m writing this.

The thing is, however long I agonize/agonise over the relative placement of a product image and whether the attribute listings should be bulleted or repeat the attribute names, or what labels we give to information architecture in context with other category pages, the thing that will take 20 minutes to resolve, in a meeting where you’ve got 15 minutes to present the design specification, of which that component appears on 2 pages which should take 2 minutes to cover, will be the annoying label for the widget. So I’m sorting that out right now. I’ve probably missed an entire interaction flow as a result, but that label is now correct, right?

Listening Post: Teenage Fanclub: Commercial Alternative

The Secret Is Out

There’s no magic bullet for design, no one-size fits all, or cross-market, cross-audience component set that captures unique customer needs across your entire audience. But there is some cream.

It’s worth investing 7 minutes of your life watching the video to discover what you probably already knew – customers really do know best when it comes to design. Designers are just here to do exactly what you say.

In noting this approach to making your design customers instantly happy, I’m considering making a purchase. As we wind down to the holiday season, we’re winding up on deliverables on a few design projects that should see the light of day early in 2008. I could really do with some Information Architecturizer Spray to instantly organize some category page frameworks. If anyone knows where I can get some by Wednesday, that would be great.

But seriously. No, hang on, that was seriously.

p.s. Happy birthday, Martin

Listening Post: Iggy Pop: Nightclubbing

New Team Home

For any of you have been following the Customer Experience and Stuff blog, you’ve probably realized it’s no longer Martin Hardee writing it. Since Martin left Sun to go and customer experienceizate, we’ve been running that blog as a team effort and it’s probably about time we got ourselves a new team home. There’s no particularly good reason for moving, except that the blog’s URL is a personal one – – and we wouldn’t want to misrepresent Martin, or give a false impression of who’s writing for it.

Actually, that’s not 100% true. It sounds good in a corporately responsible way, but actually, the reason we’re moving is that this new blog is MINE. ALL MINE. Well, its the design team’s, so we’ve given it an abstract URL identifier so that its not associated with one person. We’ll probably lose 80% of our regular readership that linked to the old URL in a feed reader or added a link in their del.ectab.le bookmarks or just have it favorited, but I’ll be sure to put an enormous blinking message on the old blog, to try and redirect folks here. If nothing else, it’ll show us if people actually read the other one, rather it being popular through automated referrals.

We will endeavor, of course, to make this an interesting place to come, so hopefully, if you’ve never even read the old blog and are reading this because you thought ‘New Team Home’ might have something to do with football, then we’re already reaching out. As a point of interest, even though I might say something like ‘favorite endeavor’, I’m actually in the UK, so when I say ‘football’, I really mean ‘soccer’, but I’ll let you interpret it as it makes most sense to you, which is probably more sense than it makes to me. Most other contributors to this blog are in the US, so when they say ‘soccer’, they probably mean ‘football’, if you’re reading this in London. Not that they will. They might say something like ‘community’, though, which will refer to our programs to engage with specific audiences to build a relationship, not to a block of flats in Hackney.

We’ll be posting thoughts on web design, customer experience, usability and letting you know what’s happening on and associated sites. I expect we’ll post completely irrelevant things too, but we’ll try and make them sound relevant by adding a web design tie-in in the last paragraph. You can let us know what you think, or maybe just quietly agree/disagree. Either way, we hope you’ll find it a worthy distraction for a few minutes and maybe we’ll even be interesting or useful. That’ll be a first for me, but there’s more cleverer people on the design team, so if I can somehow bribe/blackmail them into breaking their blogging duck, it should be an interesting web experience.

Listening Post: Chris Morris: Radio Show 27/07/94