Wednesday, August 15, 2007

There's no place like Home

I read through many blogs everyday, many of them seem to be a rehash of others, some are pure marketing fluff. There are a few however, that have some good information and so I trudge through looking for a glimmer. I found one such posting on Vitamin.

I currently run a website for the state organization of my church, a website that many, many people have told me looks great and much improved from it's previous edition. Needless to say, I hate it. It's not very original, it's crammed full of stuff, theres no flow, and on and on. I work on this site as a donation of time, purely volunteer and while I welcome help from others members of the church, no one has yet stepped up. This could be good and bad. Bad because I, like most people in this world, am extremely busy and haven't been able to devote the time to this site that it deserves or needs, I am just barely treading water. Good in that although I have a vision for the site, I don't think I could adequately share the vision with someone else enough for them to anything other than tread with me.

I came upon an article yesterday on Vitamin named 'Home Sweet Home'. The article describes what the NEW homepage should be. One particular point I liked was that homepages typically represent less than 40% of entry ways into the website. The popularity of search engines and RSS feeds(blogs particularly) have enabled visitors to go directly to the content they are interested in and bypass homepages altogether. This has led me to become even more disappointed in my website. I am not sure if the site could hold up to use like that. From the installation of Google Analytics I can see the numbers: 63% of my visitors enter through the homepage. Do I have enough information elsewhere?

The other thought I received from this article was that a site should be designed from the detail pages inward, culminating in the design of the homepage. The homepage should be a gateway to the information inside, not the last page a visitor sees. I cannot compare my site to this, of the 63% that enter the homepage, 45% leave from the same page, never entering the site. Another detail is that of the 37% entering through other pages, a staggering 85% of those exit from the page they entered, never seeing the rest of the site. Am I giving them the information they were looking for, or boring them to sleep.

I have some more work to do. Maybe I will document my progress here, at least I will be able to look back on it and see if I wasted my time or not. It's a continual learning process.


Friday, June 22, 2007

An Event Apart: Day Two


There is way too much to share here. I can't say how much this stuff has inspired me.

I heard the term 'designed by a webmaster', and it was like taking a blow to the chest. I looked back on what I would have called 'some of my best work' and wretched. it was designed by a webmaster. The content was there, it was very functional and I would say usable. It did not however, look like something I 'wanted' to use. There was no user engagement.

Khoi Vinh talked about using grid layouts for the website, and it made so much sense. Clean, efficient and it allowed the web page to tell you where to click, how to use it.

Mike Davidson began the revolt, or helped to continue it. Encouraging everyone to set the standards for web usage and design instead of waiting for a bloated bureaucracy to tell you what to do. I was ready to burn my shorts in solidarity.

It was hard to sit in this conference and listen, so many ideas that I just wanted to start immediately working on.

The folks at A List Apart including Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer are truely inspiring and I thank them whole-heartedly for bringing these minds together.

Stay tuned, I have more to share

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Event Apart: Day One

Today was the first day of An Event Apart in Seattle. All in all a good day. The speakers are engaging and interesting, with a good mix of humor and information.

The group at A List Apart, starting with Jeremy Zeldman and Eric Meyer proclaim the site is for Website Builders. To be honest I didn't catch the subtle nuance of the phrase. The event however cleared that up. Instead of targeting the developers or designers out here, the range of topics engage the entire experience of a website or web application. From the details of typography to the thoughts technology and enabling web visitors, the speakers shared their insightful experiences in creating websites.

Here are a couple of the speakers and the topics given.

Secrets of the CSS Jedi - Eric Meyer
Eric started us off with a discussion on CSS browser defaults and how to minimize the differences in browsers for the pages. He also shared with us those items that are not only difficult to change, but not worth the worry either.

Writing the User Interface - Jeffrey Zeldman
Here we received advice on how to not overburden visitors with too much info, as well as how to be sure the information or instructions provided are not only concise but clear and easily understood. He also provided that any percentage of customer baser is worth consideration, maybe you can't accommodate for one reason or the other, but you still need to give it thought.

Designing You Way Out of a Paper Bag - Jason Santa Maria
Jason schooled us in the finer details of the site design process, providing examples of wireframes, graybox diagrams and multiple proofs. He maintained that while the client is the final say, they came to the designer for a reason, for expertise, and you should not be afraid to showcase your ideas and thought processes and give the client their monies worth.

Are You Experienced - Andy Budd
Perhaps to me the most insightful discussion was that given by Andy Budd. Andy talked about designing a user experience. He provided examples of how most sites are given to designing around the user or the business or the technology. The experience should take all that into account but should not be defined by that alone, that a graceful combination can provide the website visitor with a fun, engaging and helpful website.

And now on to Day Two ...

Change of Format

When I first started this blog, it was to post simply random thoughts, or at least that is what I told myself. I also told myself that I could work on my rapidly decaying (some may say non-existent) writing skills.

It doesn't seem to be doing any of the above. I am finding myself not making the time to write, and it seems that when I do, I just want to complain.

So, the train is off of the rails.

I am turning this into a technical blog. Yeah I know, another technical blog. I want to use it to expose what I have learned and allow me to coordinate that with what others have learned, mostly in website design. Not the graphical aspects but the design of the sites themselves including usability, typography, data collection and data sharing.

Thanks for reading so far and I hope something I say in the future will be found interesting.

Friday, June 08, 2007

What is up with our legal system?

Apparently Paris Hilton is really upset. What good is all that money if you can't buy your way out of jail time?

I remember years ( and years, and years ) ago when OJ Simpson was found innocent in a court of law for the murder of Nicole Smith. I was not concerned at the time about guilt or innocence, the jury found him innocent. I was in for a lesson. After being found innocent in a criminal court, Smith's family was not only allowed to have him tried again in civil court but they won. Apparently he was slightly guilty for her death and the criminal court just missed the evidence. At first I thought this was double jeopardy, something our Constitution is supposed to prevent. But no, since a civil suit is only about money, its allowed. So even thought he was found innocent of the murder, just because he was a suspect and that was enough to get Smith's family a whole bunch of money. I certainly hope that made up for the grief and loss. It's old news, often debated, but old. It did make me slightly wonder about our justice system that it could itself ignore its own rulings.

In Paris' case, I heard the comment of a legal professional that letting Paris go back home instead of serving her time, undermined the purposes and goals of the system. What do I know, several people also stated that the Sheriff' department has the right to override the judge in it's determination of where a convicted criminal can serve their time. To them the judge only offers suggestions. Call me crazy, but a drunk, doped up porn star potential murderer(*) should serve out the time they are given, especially if they were given parole and already proved they couldn't do that right. On the other hand, based on past civil suits, i could sue her just for making me nervous about being on the same road as her, mental anguish I assure you.

* In case you are concerned about my choice of words, make no mistake, they were chosen. Anyone who drinks and drives or dopes and drives is simply a murderer in search of a victim.

I say most of this to get to another point.

In the Seattle Times last week there was an article about a kid who was tried with a group of other kids for a 'Columbine-style' incident at a school here in the Northwest. (Article) He was found innocent while others were convicted. Those convicted are back in school. He is not, the school district has expelled him and will not allow him to return until he admits that he did wrong, even though a jury has acquitted him of the crime. He's innocent, but they want an admission. Does anybody see the logic in this, please tell me.

Here children is another lesson about our justice system. In the US you are innocent until proven guilty (by everyone but the press), if acquitted you can always sue them for something else, or at the least just ignore the reality of the situation in favor of a reality where you get to decide instead.

I love this country, but some of the people that live here are just looney.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Drive to your vacation destination

Some people like to drive to their vacation destination, I myself find it relaxing. I flew down to Atlanta last year and drove back. My family and I went through Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful. It was fun.

I thought about my next vacation and came upon these driving instructions. In just under 32 days I could be in Dublin, Ireland.

Google Maps: From Seattle to Dublin

Better practice my breathing.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Don't believe every bumper you read.

I find it absolutely amazing the people that misquote their Sunday School lessons. If amazed there, I am completely aghast at those who would try to quote sections of the Bible having never read it.

I was walking through downtown the other day and saw a bumper sticker that at first made me pause for thought, then it just ticked me off. The bumper sticker stated "The last time we listened to a Bush we wandered in the desert for 40 years". Now I know this sticker was supposed to be a political statement, but the statement is wrong and the person using it as an example should get the facts straight.

Listening to the "bush" started on on the path to the promised land. There was nothing bad happening there and no disagreements about it outside of some impatience. Here we have a leader, someone who stood up to the current government and said "We'll be leaving now". Nobody wanted to stay in slavery, for that fact no one was compelled to leave if they wanted to stay. The trouble started when they got to the promised land. If they had listened to the "bush" their troubles would have been over. Then sent in the 'spies' to scope out the land, and the majority of spies came back with all kinds on exaggerated reports of conditions and developments in the promised land. They now started second guessing the leadership that had gotten them this far, simply refusing to go forward with the plans they were all for not more than a couple of weeks earlier.

Get your facts straight. I doubt the people writing the original bumper sticker would want to correct it, but here are some more accurate versions of the sticker they might want to consider:
  • "The last time we didn't listen to the Bush, we wandered in the desert for 40 years"
  • "The last time we had bad intelligence, we wandered in the desert for 40 years"
I don't think they give the same political message as the original, but do you want to get a reputation for twisting the truth to get your point across?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Coffee with a view, eew!

Coffee is somewhat of a cultural thi9ng here in the Pacific Northwest, home to such companies as Tullys, Starbucks and Seattle's Best (now owned by Starbucks). Although it's busting out everywhere else. When I vacationed outside of Atlanta last year, I found a Starbucks to go to, though not as easy as I do here in Seattle. Here, you can have two Starbucks in the same building, on opposite corners one would server 4th avenue, while the other served 3rd. Both would have lines in the morning and be busy all day long.

However it doesn't stop there, here we also have many little coffee stops, you can't drive 2 blocks without seeing a drive-thru coffee stand. Although I guess from now on I better be careful where I stop with the family for coffee. A recent article in the Times has served notice that some people are expecting and getting a little more than coffee in the morning as an eyeopener. A few coffee stands have taken to serving their drinks in their underclothes. I will accept the title of old fashioned here, maybe even a prude, but I want my coffee barista to be fully clothed when they serve me my drink. Heaven help us!