/** Outputs the WordPress header. */
require_once(ABSPATH . 'wp-head.php');
In a succinct post for Fast Company, Lo Min Ming demystifies some of the terminology of the contemporary web industry, covering terms such as UX Design, UI Design, Visual Design and Interaction Design.]]>
From a UX perspective, many of these technologies had their issues. The ‘dumb’ terminals connected to thin client services, and network speeds in general, were too slow for the average user to adopt them as a replacement for the desktop, although virtualisation has gone on to become an important aspect of hosting and enterprise server management. Netbooks suffered from underpowered processors, lack of memory and storage and poor battery life, which added up a poor user experience.
Web apps do work well, are popular and universally accessible, but many users report that they prefer desktop and mobile apps because they are generally faster, have more features and offer a more reliable user experience than their web-based alternatives.
Mobile devices such as smart phones have, in recent years, become the first potential successor to desktop productivity, largely due to their ease of operation and ubiquity. But the experience of using small, touchscreen-only devices is still considered by many to be too restrictive for productivity beyond simple actions, such as messaging, to-do lists or note-taking. The efforts of manufacturers to improve the experience by offering larger devices or latoptop/tablet hybrids has been only partially successful.
That said, the popularity, usability and ubiquity of mobile devices means many users will put up with their limitations, particularly if they can bring their work back to their desks in the form of companion desktop applications. The recent trend of the big manufacturers to provide desktop ‘app stores’ has helped to ensure that users discover the benefits of the new world of multi-screen productivity.
“When we talk about being in a mobile era, we mean a multi-screen era”
Mailbox is a good example of a mobile-first application moving to multi-screen. It was launched first on the iPhone but soon also became an iPad app, since it was clear users were also using their tablets for productivity. Now, the company is working on a native desktop application which will integrate seamlessly with the existing mobile apps.
“With something like mail, efficiency and consistency of experience are really important,” says Underwood. “A native app lets you have a first-class experience in every way: an icon on the dock with a badge, dedicated UI that’s tailor-fit to the app’s purpose, multiple windows that can interoperate easily, and the speed of an interface that doesn’t have to be delivered over the network via html.”
Going forward, it seems that the convergence of mobile and desktop connectivity will only get stronger. Both Apple and Google are working to build cross-platform functionality into their application platforms. For Google, that means seamless connectivity between mobile and web apps, while for Apple that means building “continuity” between its OS X and iOS development platforms.
As connections between desktop, web, and mobile development platforms continue to converge, we’re likely to see even more mobile developers bringing their applications back to the desktop. And those apps will continue to get more useful, the more screens that they’re available on.]]>
ZenGobi’s Curio is a ‘digital notebook’ which has just the right balance of tools to manage tasks & activities, collect ideas & samples and integrates one key process I aways use which nearly all PM tools ignore; mind mapping.
It also supports a vast range of document and file formats, including:
It also integrates with several services I find essential, including Evernote, Google Docs and Subversion.
If you’re looking for a visual PM tool which is easy to use but has great complexity just a few clicks away, then give Curio the once-over.]]>
A lack of contribution is often attributed to well-known issues, such as lack of resources, lack of time or the usability of the contribution tool (e.g. the CMS) but there are other, sometimes more fundamental barriers, which can be harder to diagnose, including:
Given the right advice, even these issues can be resolved fairly easily with straightforward measures.
Contact us to find out more.]]>
MovieAssetMaterial class allows you to apply a library asset as a material, complete with any interactivity the asset contains. However, dynamic items within an asset (dynamic text fields, movieclips, etc.) are not directly accessible from the main AS3 class, as the property type of items within the MovieAssetMaterial is defined as
DisplayObject rather than
Sprite and are therefore not visible to AS3 using standard reference notation. I was able to solve this problem by creating variables which store the paths to the movie asset’s dynamic items and then referencing the dynamic items through these variables. Here are some examples:
var myMaterial:MovieAssetMaterial = new MovieAssetMaterial("[library asset name]", true, false, false, true) // Set the library asset as a MovieAssetMaterial in PV3D
var myClip = MovieClip(myMaterial.movie); // create a variable to store the path to the asset
// Add text to a dynamic text field within the asset
var myText = myClip.getChildByName("[text field name]");
myText.text = "Here's my text";
// Load something into an empty clip within the asset
var myItem = myClip.getChildByName("[dropbox Label_mc]");
var myLoader:Loader = new Loader();
var itemPath = [path];
Thanks to Ryan Robinson of Infinite Array for providing the majority of this solution.]]>
First an foremost, an intranet is a communications tool. We are all taught that good communication lies at the heart of every successful business – however, all too often, communication via intranet is limited in large organisations to ‘top-down’, corporate-style news articles which do little to foster open communication amongst employees.
Successful intranets provide users with easy to use tools and an open, friendly environment in which to conduct discourse with their colleagues. Some of the features we’ve introduced which provide for these requirements include:
Don’t underestimate the power of your intranet as a communications vehicle. Get it right and you will reap the many benefits that good communication brings to your business.]]>
We get accessible design. There are a host of good reasons why designs should be accessible to disabled visitors and, in some countries, strict laws which enforce accessibility as a legal requirement.
However, accessible sites requires a different design mindset to rich-media, interactive designs. This is because accessible designs hinge primarily on clean code and ordered content, rather than visually engaging themes or interactive elements.
During planning, consider the question of accessibility first. If the site should be accessible, follow the principles of progressive enhancement and build a basic, clean design which can be enhanced in non-obtrusive ways, whilst respecting user preferences.
A truly usable design is customised to its audiences. That customisation should be based on facts about those audiences.
If you are lucky enough to be working for an organisation which has already defined its target audiences in their communication strategy, don’t assume that their assumptions about these audiences are correct. Do some research of your own with focus groups composed of members from your customer’s target audiences and learn about them from the horse’s mouth.
Many ineffective sites are based on assumptions about target audiences, rather than the hard evidence of interviews and focus groups. Such measures are sometimes considered unnecessary or expensive, but stick to your guns and explain to your customer why they are the key to understanding users and their needs.
Testing measures the success of a design and there are many rounds of testing that must be undertaken.
systems testing engineers will run functional and system-level tests, infrastructure engineers will run load and balance tests on their web servers and you will need to conduct usability and acceptance tests with users.
Conduct these tests directly with your focus groups. Get them to use the design and observe them while they do it, preferably using non-intrusive techniques such as video cameras or software like Silverback rather than some of the more traditional approaches, such as one-way mirrors, which we find place users outside their comfort zone and make them feel ‘observed’ which, in turn, makes them less likely to operate normally.
We also find it better to run tests with users in groups rather than individually, as your users will be less self-conscious if they can confer with their colleagues. We find this generates better quality data from which you can draw your conclusions.
Finally, test your designs regularly and especially during early development. Early testing helps to identify potential issues before designs become ‘baked’.]]>
ICT departments can be funny creatures. You ask them for help they’re always willing and able to provide you with valuable advice on operating systems or software applications. However, if you return the favour during requirements gathering or on usability matters related to platform selection, it’s not always well received.
In some organisations, ICT departments have been relied upon to provide all solutions to user needs and don’t like it when some fancy pants UX guy/ess turns up on their doorstep and starts telling them how to do their job. This is understandable when you consider that they are probably well versed in the foibles and vagaries of their users. However, this does not mean they can design user-centric systems, since their selection criteria are based primarily on technical architecture and leveraging economies of scale, rather than usability.
As technical practitioners, ICT are best versed in the available/possible technical options and, as a UX practitioner, you’re best versed in usability.
You can illustrate this by pointing out some of the core differences between functional and usable systems:
When it comes to tool selection, open source applications are often inherently more user-centric and can represent a viable alternative to big business brands where the expertise to maintain them already exists in-house. You should, however, steer clear of labouring over the merits of open software, since it is not really your role to argue this point as a User Experience practitioner. It certainly doesn’t hurt to put your point across, however.
Overall, don’t be deferrent but neither be arrogant. Don’t labour your points too heavily, especially when they are conceded but cannot be implemented for technical or budgetary reasons. Treat ICT with respect and they will show you the same courtesy, leading to a successful project rather than one fraught with arguments.]]>
A variety of projects are ongoing, including a brand new website and a number of satellite launches, for which our continued services are required.
As you’ll know by now, there will be no degradation of service for our other customers, but feel free to get in touch if you have any concerns over our extended absence from the UK.]]>