Akatombo Web Log
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Now with XML feed
Actually we’ve had it all along, and just now decided to promote it, but you can subscribe to our RSS feed and get the latest updates delivered straight to your feed reader.
Monday, March 22, 2004
Design for your Dad
Carrying on from the earlier discussion of industrial design techniques applied to the web, I have begun reading Henry Dreyfuss’ Designing for People (Amazon) (Amazon Japan). The book is a joy to read with sketches by the author in the margins adding to the character of the writing, and myriad insights into the design of some of the most enjoyed and taken for granted devices of the 50’s and 60’s. It is a credit to the author that many of the items discussed were still in common use during the 70’s and early 80’s when I was a child.
I expect that we will gain a great number of insights from this book, but a discussion of using forms from existing items to increase the usability and acceptance of new products is what caught our attention this morning.
“The purist is likely to throw up his hands at the thought of such a restriction and accuse the designer of artistic blasphemy. True, we are straying from the path of utter purity when we consider anything but pure form, proportion, line, and color, but we have larger horizons than the purist need consider. Ours is the everchanging battleground of the department store rather than the Elysian fields of the museum.”
This quote is striking because it perfectly describes what a web designer’s thought process should be like. The tools we have available to us are just that, tools. We should not allow their impreswsive features or capabilities led us astray from our mission of providing a means of communication that makes the flow of information as smooth and easy as possible. We should also not allow tools’ limitations to overshadow our objective of creating a means of transferring information smoothly to the end user.
The web designer’s area is neither art nor publishing but a blend of the two. Our biggest complaint about many flash websites is that they throw out the conventions that give users clues about everything from the navigation of the site to the relation of pieces of data to one another. While this is a very satisfying and challenging artistic endeavor, it usually doesn’t serve the needs of the client very well.
We often run into the opposite problem with web standards-based websites, we must be careful not to let the tools we use get in the way of providing the optimal user experience. The standards we have available to us now have not yet been utilized to their full potential but there are limitations to them. As designers who love web standards and strive to make our sites as compliant as possible it is a real challenge to realize that the client may better be served in certain cases with a technique that standards can’t yet deliver.
To help us keep this idea in the front of our minds we had a sign up on the office wall that says simply “Design for Users.” We strive to keep the intended end-user, and how they will use the site in mind as we develop websites. Upon reading this section of the book and the previous discussion on this site we decided that we should modify our sign to make the message intuitively clearer.
First, we thought the word user aside from being generic, sounds like we are referring to parasites not the people that use (and hopefully enjoy) the websites that are the lifeblood of our business. Second, we thought we should replace user with a word that reminds us that not all those who consume the products we create are as technically knowledgable or web-fluent as we are. After a brief discussion we came to the conclusion that in general it was our fathers who were the least likely to be sending forth burning e-mail missives, checking the day’s weather report online, or even playing a rousing card game on the computer. We therefore changed our sign to read “Design for your Dad.”
We are now trying to think of another phrase or something to add to the phrase above that will remind us not to be purists, or in other words, to forget about our tools and focus on the goal. Any thoughts? What methods do you recommend for keeping yourself in the right frame of mind for creating an optimal user (we need to find a better word) experience.
Friday, March 12, 2004
Our hearts go out
to the families and friends of the victims of the horrible events in Madrid. We don’t know what else to say, but our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
News in Japan
Opposition surfaces to dual surnames for married couples <- Link removed because it no longer points at a story
Does anybody see a reason why the Japanese government should have anything to say about this? We are completely baffled. I suspect that Mr. and Mrs. Daniels-Sueyasu might take issue with this particular governmental position. What do you think, is the government overstepping their bounds in regulating things like this? Why?
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Physical Design Principles in Web Design
Recently we have been pondering the principles of fields such as industrial design and how they might apply to web design in general, and usability in particular. One that has piqued our interest recently is the concept of the average person. This is a set of specific average measurements for a population or group, things like height, arm length, ratio of lower body to torso, eyesight, and finger length. We have been thinking about what we can consider to be the measurable properties of an Internet user. The potential audience comes from such a wide range of possible areas and has such a variety of hardware and Internet connections this can be quite a chore. The task does become slightly easier when your target demographic is in a certain range (i.e. 20-35 year old males living in the greater Tokyo area), but still what can we assume to be a measurable average for an Internet user?
Often “the average user” is used to assert beliefs on what websites should look like. These measurements are almost never based on an actual measurable average of anything. Things such as the three-click rule, which doesn’t matter nearly as much as having well-organized information, are often attributed to what the average user needs. This is not what we are talking about. We are considering whether or not there might be actual measurable, specific attributes of a majority of web users (at least in a particular demographic)? Would eyesight be one? We are brainstorming here, and your input would be greatly appreciated.