Archive for April, 2012

Thirty – the end and looking back to the beginning

As a final blog posting, I am answering questions that in part were asked at the very beginning. This is also a reminder of the length of the  journey to which I departed three months ago: What product, object or thing comes to mind when thinking of the words “good design?” How does that product, object, or thing embody the design ideal? By good design I still mean a content-specific wrapping. An outside appearance that further emphasizes on the content that it presence. If I think back to the websites I visited during the past several months, Nespresso’s is one of those sites I think of as good design. It is very clean, elegant, with a strong color-palette. Despite the fact that the site constantly expands, more products by Nespresso are introduced, and more and platforms are getting involved in the advertisement campaign, the design remains the same. It is a living classing because it has a very strong sense of standard and every new element is harmonized with the existing ones. Why is it important for you to become successful at web design? What is your history in the field and where do you hope to go with it? It was important for me to understand and learn web design, I did not think of success when I started the course. Success is being capable to implement what I learned, and I see with my final design that there are many things that I learned, and even more that I learned about and I still haven’t learned. But this is not unique for my experience in this course. It is the same with many other things. This course, however, gave me the possibility to see how my knowledge and capacity to create changed at a very high pace. In no other field I saw myself implementing and realizing information that I just gathered so quickly. It is a very satisfying experience. What’s the main thing you learned this semester? (It doesn’t have to be class-related. Sometimes we learn most outside of a classroom.) What’s one thing you still wish to learn? The most interesting thing I learned this semester is the thinking of visuals and looking at pictures in a different way which, nevertheless, did not affect my taste. I still like the same things as before, but to a certain extent, I learned to analyze. The coding was also an important experience, but somehow it did not feel that new. I think, the main thing I became very tuned to is the teaching style of the instructors. They inspired me and I look forward to integrate what I learned from them and to what they inspired me.

Twenty-ninth – my mother’s sentence…

In this assignment I need to comment on designer-client interaction recorded in Clients from Hell. This site lists short conversations between designers and their clients. Reading these conversations I have the feeling, I have already read them or a version of them before. I just cannot tell exactly from where or why they sound so familiar. Maybe because they resemble dialogues in an average+ tv comedy or because they make me associate to Central European Jewish jokes. In fact, there is one that uses one of my mother’s trade marked sentences. So this is what I chose to reflect on.

The situation is that a divorced pair of parents and their son requested portraits. The mother refused the designer’s (photographer’s?) original suggestion to take one photo together in complimentary outfits. After the pictures were taken separately of all three family members, the mother complained that the pictures needed to be retaken because the three are not seen together and she did not like how her breast looked in the shirt she chose to wear for the shooting. The first thing that I do not understand from the little conversation is what was exactly the job to be done. I collect that beyond taking those photos, the designer was also expected to do something with them and that he or she reminded the client that photos could be retouched, however for additional fee. We can gather from the conversation that before the shooting, the mother refused to have the pictures retouched. Hence, the mother’s complaint about the shirt she wore and her suggestion to “draw” another piece of clothing on her contradicted the previous agreement. This is the point where the designer introduces my mother’s sentence “Do you own a mirror?” and where I think, the question could be phrased a little differently. And I think, the answer to the designer’s next question, in which he inquired whether the client understood why he was interested in knowing whether she owned a device in which she could see her own reflection, justifies my comment. The divorced mother who only after seeing her own photo realized that she looked improperly did not understand what role could a mirror play in making her look on the photo better.

So again, I go to my mother’s example. I think this sentence is justifiably trademarked by her. She uses it in a much more effective way. She does not address it to those who, in her opinion, dressed up and left their homes as if they did not look into the mirror before closing the door behind them. She uses it rhetorically and only quietly when she points out to me people on the street. She knows that these people would not understand the correlation of appearance quality control and mirrors, hence she does not bother to stop them on the street to ask them. (It would be very weird to do so, but this is another issue.)

I hope, the above referred conversation between the mother and the designer ended on a positive note, and there was a mutual understanding of each other’s needs and tastes. I do not think that by merely pointing out to the client that they had no clue what they wanted can be helpful. I think, though it was not mentioned in the readings, a designer might not be in a position to get into the client head, but is definitely in the position to look further than the client and try to prepare for – I think, obvious – situations, where the client might not like the photos the designer was going to work with. It is part of experience in both design and people. While the first can be acquired while drawing and sketching and interacting with coffee and computer screens, in order to acquire the second one needs to get involved in the real world, which for the entertainment of the readers of Clients from Hell resembles television shows.

Twenty-eighth – size matters

 

During Spring break we met a family. The two children, I assume in elementary school, 3rd-5th graders, have both tablets and iPhones. Both kids had both of the two devices. Their grandmother was sitting on a bench and reading something on her iPhone while the two kids were playing on the playground. She must have had their mobile devices next to her, otherwise I do not know, how they managed to climb, jump, run around with a tablet and an iPhone on them, wearing a short and a t-shirt – regardless how small these devices are. And this is very much in connection to this assignment asking how I would make a mobile version to my site. Concerning that buttons require 40*40px, I need to think, how my website would work on a tablet or an iPhone.

Going back to my spring break experience, just like this assignment, it reminded me that I need to make my site work on mobile devices. But instead of thinking if a 40*40px button will work or not, I am more worried about other things: like how the site will shrink once put on a screen than is smaller than its actual size. First I should learn how to code so that the size of the page is flexible. Then I worry about the buttons. Because if I see that the shrinking is not working, then I need to think of another solution, like new style sheets, and then I will be considering those button sizes as well. And why I am insisting on the flexible size: because I set the size of the pages 1024*800px thinking of the average computer screens used in schools. I aimed at creating pages that the users need not to scroll. But tablets and smart phones are all about scrolling. So flexibility could give me the first hint or work as a compass where to go from the point my site appears on the screen of a tablet.

This is the worst time of this process. The deadline is coming up, my site is almost complete and now I see the problems. And now I am not sure, if I am built to rethink the code. And this is very frustrating since I am aware where my code could be better: more efficient, elegant, succinct. Yet, knowing it, does not make me able to fix it.

Twenty-seventh – Marc Ecko

This assignment asks us to go back to a website we talked about at the beginning of the semester. We are asked the same question that we were asked then: is it cool or unusable? I need to discuss whether the navigation serves the site purpose or could double as a user torture mechanism.

I would start with noting that the site moves when I move the mouse. Therefore I need to adjust my movements in order to properly operate the navigation. It is a little surprising at the beginning. (I guess, few like to be reminded that a movement so familiar needs to be relearned. However, having a dancer-background, I could cope with this easily.)

Going to the navigation. The concept is quite straightforward: this is the homepage of an artists, the navigation shows him leaning onto a wall on which pictures of different sizes hang. Each picture leads to another interior page. While the whole page keeps moving. Everything is black and white and in the shades of gray, except for the yellow highlights. Very tasteful but not elegant. Regardless, the homepage testifies to Ecko being a contemporary visual artist. This includes the design of the navigation, which makes one dizzy while fulfilling its tasks completely. The navigation is designed as an integral part of the whole Ecko site-experience, thus I would suggest to rephrase the question whether the navigation is cool or unusable. It should not not be an either-or question. It is usable, but I am not sure if it complies with the consensual notion of cool. According to the Merriam-Webster, among many things, cool is something “marked by deliberate effrontery or lack of due respect or discretion, for example a cool reply” or in slang it is used to describe something “very good, excellent, and fashionable, hip, for example: ‘not happy with the new shoes … because they were not cool(Celestine Sibley).

I think, the navigation is very conceptually designed, which is not surprising from an artist like Ecko. It requires a different attitude to the site that from visiting a news portal, internet banking, or social media. In fact it creates a viewer situation, and forces the visitor to move along with the homepage itself. I am not sure, how his artistic vision would come along had his navigation not took the marine-experience literally and kept the site from moving back and forth. Thinking of he navigation without the movement, does not seem to introduce much difference to the user experience. Hence, the claim that the animation does not add much to the site while makes navigation a little harder, does not sound baseless. Therefore, I would argue, the navigation is not cool, yet important from the artist’s point of view, despite the fact that it does not enrich much the user experience.

Twenty-fifth – the carousel

This assignment puts me on an imaginary carousel. (Both because I mixed up the dates and I am completing this assignment after I mistakenly jumped over it and for last time I completed the assignment that was due now – though I am posting it under the correct serial number – and also because of its subject.) Supposedly I am a web designer, who read the relevant article on Yahoo! Development Network and has a boss who asks to add a photo carousel to my final project site. I need to elaborate an answer, both positive and negative. How I would implement a carousel and if I’d rather not, what arguments would I bring up.

On my site I highlight three news articles on the pages of the International, the National, and the Local News. I designed those pages static, in other words, the pictures do not change, each has its own place, and by clicking on them or on the headline underneath, one can read the whole article on a pop-up page. I also inserted a button for more news, which leads to a news page, from where additional news articles can be read as well. A carousel could be a natural evolution from here and would also allow me to highlight more articles. However, I’d rather not change my original static design for several reasons (in addition to that it was previously approved and I hope to finish it by the deadline):

  • I would like to keep the site as small as possible provided that I would like to have it used in a classroom and that schools not necessarily have the latest hardware with the fastest processors, etc.
  • Also, I would like to make the site accessible on the simplest way and by doing that, it is easier to have a class looking at it in a coordinated manner
  • By making the site the simplest possible,and keeping the content in a rather static frame, for its target audience, that is elementary and middle school-aged children, the design will further underline that this site is less about clicking than reading and writing.

But because I respect my boss’s experience and that s/he is up-to-date on web design matters, I did think about the benefits of adding a carousel to the site. The Yahoo! article makes a good job in repeatedly articulating the advantages of a carousel: economizing on limited “page real estate.” However, my site does not suffer from lack of space. But because I read the assigned literature – again: by mistake – in reversed order, I had this idea: what if I could eventually attract advertisers and insert their advertisements into a carousel. This way I could really minimize the surface of the site that will be hopefully dedicated to commercial usage and hence provide revenue to be turned into further site development. I hope, my boss will like this solution.

Twenty-sixth – ads on the site

This assignment is about advertisement on the site. On my site. I need to think not whether I would integrate ads into my site but how I would do that. I was thinking earlier if my site would ever be attractive for advertisers and what kind of advertisements I would agree to appear on the site. In the ideal state I would welcome ads for websites or products that further enrich my audience and complete the experience my site provides to them. So I would definitely feel honored if the BBC children program would view my site as a place that it is worth to place an ad or if DOGO News would have asked to cross link the two sites. (If they do not, I will do that once my site is fully developed.) But I am less certain about any large toy merchant’s ad. And if I think this question one step further, I become even less confident whether I can think all the ramifications of advertising through. After all I have similar experience in designing web marketing as in web design itself. But in an ideal world I would not need to contemplate about economic sustainability, and my decisions about advertisements would be based solely on principles and questions of content.

Shifting the focus from the whether to the how, I think, first and foremost, I would integrate the ads into the picture that I drew. They could be elements of the picture and by clicking on these elements viewers would be exposed to the advertised product or service. In other words, even by complying with the IAB guidelines, I would prioritize the visual appearance of the site and surrender the IAB guidelines – without breaking them – to my design.

I guess, this answer betrays that I took a web design and not a web marketing design course. I assume that having more experience in both would have made the wireframing process easier. I can imagine the situation where not only designers, ideally with  experience in coding, but also marketing experts and PR people are involved in the design process from a relatively early phase. They can offer useful input about placing, coloring, sizing ads on the future site. But again, this would be the world of professionals, and not the reality that I face now: to make my site functional till the end of the semester.

Twenty-fourth – the critic’s critique

This assignment asks to discuss the feedback we received on our design just a few hours ago; whether we think it was helpful or not relevant. We are asked to evaluate how effective the site was with a fresh user.

In order to make things clear, first, I need to describe the setting. We had 3-5 minutes to present our sites through the main and an interior page design. Then, the assigned critic had to discuss the two screen shot-like pictures seen previously. I could not tell all the details I wanted to about my website and the response I got could have been more helpful had I made some additional comments. But maybe not. However, I do not know what to make of the comments: I was told that my search icon, which is red, but not the only red on the drawing that is dominated by blues, grays, and greens, attracts the eye, and thus draws attention away from the logo.

Is it something subjective, I mean the red attracting the eye of the viewer, or does it work for the whole humanity in the same way except for me? I see the red spots in balance all over the drawing. And I am not sure why the attention should go to the logo and not the drawing, i. e. body, on the first place? I got a suggestion to change the letters of the logo to red, which would make the picture more balanced, i. e. attract more attention. (The logo is in the upper left-hand corner, the search icon is opposite, on the right.) Not to me. Than, I feel, I need something red on the bottom-right corner as well, since I have the red mail box on the left.

I think, what the site needs is to enlarge the fonts. But I was not told this.

Overall, I think, my site does not look like the other sites, at all. (Though there are some common points with some of the sites I saw today.) My navigation is inside a very primer drawing. And the site is not about me or something I create or try to sell. It is about others doing things. My whole concept of what the website is about is different. It wishes to create a world around events occur all over the globe. Having such a different approach might or might not justify such a different approach to design this website. But this was not discussed today. Only the colors. Which I do not know what to make out of, as I mentioned earlier.

Summing up, I am not sure, if this short discussion can be described as user experience. My viewer could not actually use the site, only look at it. She could not discover the different functions, navigate, and listen to the sounds of the site.

Though, tonight was not the best experience for me, it was less than what I expected, I have another chance when I will show it to teachers and hear from them how they view the site. They are also more knowledgeable of the target audience, who might have other ideas of the color red, the function of the logo, and the order of importance of the elements of the website.