It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. Mostly because I’ve been busy on zillion projects. I’ll soon write an update to my cascades queuing post. For a recent project of mine, flexivo.tv, I’ve been researching an efficient way to get rid of Amazon’s Simple Queue Service (SQS) service for one main reason, I needed simultaneous queueing capabilities. One message being in multiple queues at once, that is. My experiments with file system and MySQL queues, even when cascaded with memcached wheren’t performant enough. I found my answer in NoSQL. But now, enough for the intro, now the rant
I’m writing this while watching Stephen Graham making a statement as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire. So I shall make one too. Now about that fellah’, the INFAMOUS Internet Explorer 6. A friend of mine recently showed me a site of his making where he directs the IE6 users to a deadend page where he encourages them to upgrade. Sweet. I totally agree. Then he tells me that IE6 is a plague. It sure is, still agreeing. Then that it’s been alive that long because of all the conciliatory developers like him and me that worked, harder an harder as new standards like transparent PNGs came along, to ensure IE6 compatibility. And that’s where I disagree.
The HTTP protocol is quite simple. But many of us under-use it, programmatically speaking. There are many very simple performance mechanisms that are often forgotten. Many developers go for disabling HTTP caching completely, as they often don’t understand how to use it, and because it can cause weird bugs when used incorrectly.
Efficiently using caching translates into:
- Better response and loading time
- Decreased load on the server
- Better user experience
This article aims to present a simple explanation of the HTTP protocol and proper use of HTTP caching.
Getting back to good habits, here’s another issue of the usability review of the week. I should actually be called usability review of the day, as all the good stuff I came across was published on April 3rd.
- Big impact, small changes on Amazon (04/03/2008)
- Effective text only emails (04/03/2008)
- A Refreshing Take on Usability (04/03/2008)
Shall you stumble on great usability pages, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll give it a look.
Another crazy week, and not so much good usability articles appeared on my radar. Yet, there’s a few, and here they are.
- Is Customer Experience Recession-Proof? (03/14/2008)
- eCommerce Usability Review: Advanced Search Pages (03/13/2008)
- 11 Ways to Fill Your Shopper’s Cart (03/12/2008)
- Google to start to implement site performance metrics in SEM Quality Score (03/07/2008)
Here’s what I stumbled upon this week, on the web, about usability. The reviews are quite brief as this has been a crazy week for me.
- Jakob Nielsen’s reports usability ROI decline(03/04/2008)
- Yahoo Automates Usability Consulting (03/03/2008)
- Study: Introductory Paragraphs and Tabs Don’t Aid Reading Comprehension Online (05/03/2008)
- Measuring satisfaction: Beyond the usability questionnaire (03/03/2008)
I found an article about static web design workflow by Josh at Tutorial a day. While his process is great for static web sites, it isn’t adapted to dynamic web design, with a PHP/ASP/DotNET/JSP/ColdFusion (yuk) backend that is.
I’ll try to briefly cover every step we — at Quantik Solutions — do to ensure the delivery of a web site that meet the client and the user needs. This being an overview, I will try to develop each step in a separate post later on.
Step 1. Market, history and present situation analysis
This basically consist in look to the client’s past and actual web site, and its competitors. The objective is too get a list of do’s, keepers and don’t, either from the functionalities of the analyzed sites, or from functionalities that are missing from the sites. We analyze available web statistics to get quantitative information about what informations the visitors seek the most and the less.
This step also consist in finding the characteristics the major personas:
- What are their demographics? (age, sex, education, revenue, etc.)
- What is their internet knowledge? (often based on their demographics)
- What information do they look for on the site, in the first 30 seconds, in first 2 minutes, in the first 10 minutes?
Step 2. Needs and requirement gathering
Usually — but strange enough not always — the redesign or refectory of a site is triggered by new requirements or new needs. The objective of this step is to get a list of all of them, but also to discover latent needs and requirements, or to convert requirements to strategies. We also try to get an idea of the client’s budget.
For example, a client could require to improve its web sales by 10%.
- A latent requirement could be that the checkout process is simpler, as it has 10 steps right now ;
- His 10% improvement requirement could be converted to an immediate or delayed up-selling strategy.
It might look like rocket science, but all the answers usually come quickly and easily after the market analysis at the previous step.
Most web applications in this World 2.0 target international users distributed among many different timezones. It is pretty simple to ask the users what their timezone is when they registered to your site. This article aims to solve the case of unregistered users who you can’t ask in a usable way. The solution isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
In theory and technologically, we could determine what timezone the user is in by:
- Using a geo location database to guess their longitude and latitude, and then find the probable timezone from it ;
Geo location, while pretty simple nowadays with free databases floating around, leaves us with a problem: the free databases are often not good enough to pin point a precise longitude and latitude, which will cause garbage in and garbage out when trying to translate it to a timezone. Moreover, the non-free and precise databases are pretty expensive compared to the added value of timezone detection, and are most likely not worth buying just for this purpose.
Why re-invent the wheel? One of the principles of usability is to make your functionalities work the same way that most people do, so you’re visitors will be in “known territory” when they come across your site.
Check out Factory Joe’s examples of everything from tag clouds and video players to headers and footers.
Founds on UE&D blog (see blogroll).
Have you been looking for a cool wireframe kit (template and stencils) for Visio? I’ve been, and tried many. This is the one I prefer, from the guys at User Experience and Design. Give it a shot, and let me know if you came across a better one, as I’m always open to improvement.