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

Swine Flu Dynamic Infographic

Posted: June 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

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: , , | 1 Comment »

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.


URLs without ‘www’

Posted: June 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Recently a trend has started to represent website URLs without the preceding ‘www’ sub-domain, short for ‘world wide wed’ and indicative of a web page. For example this site can be found both at www.isuseful.com and isuseful.com, but by default when I talk about the site address I drop the ‘www’.

Personally I find the ‘www’ to be distracting residue from the old days of the web, and advocate removing it wherever possible. This can now be seen in a number of print and TV ads for popular brands, where the ‘www’ is now rarely used – interestingly for less well known brands the ‘www’ is still in full effect. However there is a danger for existing website owners here – most people when they set up their wonderful, new website will do the obvious checks from their home page for missing content, typos and the like. However most site owners rarely think what might happen to people coming to their site from sources other than clicking on a link. Mis-typed pages are generally captured by a 404 Page Not Found error, which on well built sites results in a helpful page that allows the visitor to search and find what they want. However in the case of a mis-typed of missing sub-domain (ww.example.com or example.com) the user will be presented with either a missing site error or a long wait, depending on their browser and the default behavior of your host’s web server. Either way this could make the visitor think your site has gone away, unless they’re canny enough to try adding a ‘www’ to the front and reload.

So my advice is to ensure, at the very least, you support no sub-domain for your website as well as the traditional www – and make sure you test this when creating new websites for yourself or your clients.