“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ― William Morris

IE6 – The browser that wouldn’t die

Posted: July 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design, Technology | Tags: , , | No Comments »

For all of us who work in the front end of the Internet world we are constantly amazed and enchanted by the new developments that arrive every day. New ways to interact with technologies such as AJAX that enable better user experiences, new ways to share with our friends through social networks and new ways to access services wherever we want via the iPhone and the slew of competitors that arose in its wake. But for all these exciting developments there’s been one thorn in our side for many years now – the continued presence of Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) visiting the sites we build.

It was late August 2001 when Microsoft released IE6 to the world. At the time this was a life changing browser, releasing us from some of the earlier pain that IE5 held. Adoption was rapid, mainly due to the lack of competitive browsers at the time and IE6 being bundled with the Windows XP update. At its peak, it was estimated that IE6 accounted for upwards of 80% of all internet browsing. Now, with the ascendency of Firefox and other browsers including other versions of IE, its estimated that IE6 still accounts for between 15-25% of all global internet usage. A huge figure for software that is now eight years old and superseded by two new version now – both of which are free upgrades.

The reason for this persistence is widely attributed to corporate installs of IE6. Businesses are slow to change desktop software, justifiably so one can argue due to the costs involved. For those of us who build sites and applications that target business users that means the pain of developing browser applications in IE6 will stay around for a while yet. All web developers know that supporting IE6 with its vagaries and non-consistent behaviours leads to a large extra effort in development and testing. Thankfully there are plenty of sites that help us all get round this issue – such as the excellent Quirks Mode.

Now youTube is striking a blow against IE6, they have released a statement saying that support for IE6 will be phased out shortly. Now, if you browse to youTube with IE6 you are presented with a gentle prod to upgrade to a more modern browser, either Chrome, IE8 or Firefox. Of course being a Google service, Chrome is the first suggestion. I’m sure we can expect to see more of this now that a major site has made the first visible step, in perhaps what is the start of the death knell for IE6. May it rest in peace.


Swine Flu Dynamic Infographic

Posted: June 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , | No Comments »

As cases of the, now pandemic, swine flu breach 1,000 in the UK, the BBC has run a great dynamic infographic to show the spread of cases globally.

BBC Swine Flu Infographic

The animation is run using the slider along the bottom, showing both the increase in cases of the flu and the related deaths – in the light and dark circles respectively. Thankfully at this time the death figures are still low, and we can only hope that the preparedness plans in place around the world will keep it that way, but still the BBC graphic is a wonderfully simple yet effective illustration.


Helpful Hints on Designing Websites to Sell Products

Posted: May 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Internet Marketing | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Smashing Magazine has an interesting article on the key points to consider when designing a website that has to sell a product. The suggestions range from the subliminal – putting pictures of happy people to welcome people in, through the theoretical – such as the Guttenburg principle of how our attention moves across and down a page, to the practical – always provide a next step for users to move to. Definately worth a read.


Ambient Feedback – Re-inventing the Feedback Wheel

Posted: March 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design, Technology | Tags: , , | No Comments »

A few years back an American company, Ambient Devices, came up with an idea. They thought to themselves that if people could see how much electricity they were using, they would know when they are using a lot of it and then decide to turn off a few hair dryers, etc to cut down. Hmm.. but how to let people see how much magical, invisible energy they are using? Surely we just can’t know these days because so many things just use electricity in a non-obvious way, such as being on standby!

energy-orbs

Ambient Devices’s answer? The Energy Orb, a small sphere that sits someone in your house, and glows different colours depending on your energy consumption. Using a lot of juice? The orb glows red and you know to cut back. Even with all the lights off you may be surprised to see how much the sphere still indicates you’re using, and that is its genius – it takes an invisible, dynamic system and presents it to you in an easily accessible manner.

This is all a very clever and engaging use of modern technology. Bright colours. Saves money on your electricity bills, and consequently the environment. Now a few more companies have jumped on the band wagon, producing more functional devices that give you up to the second energy usage in a manner that’s easy to absorb without really having to look for it.

Ambient Feedback is a great concept, and one that’s close to my heart, but is it actually new? Not really, it’s just a necessary evolution as we move further from the physical world to the less visible world of the internet and micro-electronics. In the days of my youth we already had a feedback mechanism that told us we were using too much electricity.. it was called the electricity meter. We knew immediately how much energy was being used by how many precious 50 pence pieces were going into the slot, and how empty the 50p bowl next to the meter had gotten since we last topped it up. Simple, and very easy to understand!

Of course there were times when this mechanism failed as no 50 pence pieces could be found anywhere in the house in the middle of the night, so I’m certainly not suggesting we move away from the wonders of Direct Debit, but it’s worth remembering how these things used to naturally be represented to us in a way that we never appreciated at the time. Then this knowledge can be used to make better, more relevant and useful interfaces to solve problems in our modern lives.


Getting People to Complete Registrations

Posted: August 4th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

ReadWriteWeb has a good piece about how different sites get their users to fill in their profiles as completely as possible. They cover LinkedIn which uses a progress bar going to 100%, along with suggested next steps (such as ‘Get a recommendation’) to move you to the completed state, and this is one of my favourite approaches. Other techniques they’ve observed include having an embarrassing default photo – in some cases of George W Bush.. and who wouldn’t quickly move to put something less irksome in its place.

Years ago I had a conversation with a marketing friend who took the approach that people enjoyed filling out forms once they’d started. To that end she would always advocate adding in relevant, but somewhat random questions at the end of registration forms as this would add colour to our understanding of our guests. It’s an interesting idea, and for some demographics this is likely the case, however in these days of signup overload it’s a practice that most of us would avoid.