Friday, October 08, 2010

10 Things CEO's Need to Know about Design

Jason Purtoti was lead designer for If you want to know the key design decisions that affect visitors and generate a 'call to action' then this is the place to start. The transformation of the American Airlines site is one of the best User Experience (UX) stories out there.

This presentation doesn't have sound, but take your time to think about what each slide is saying. For the best experience, click through to SlideShare.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Web Site Makeovers - Case Studies

How do you get visitors, how do you keep visitors returning and how do you convert visits to sales? If you want real-life practical demonstrations of how to do this, then do I have the video for you!

In this recorded presentation, Andrew Fingerman spoke to the folks at Telluride about Extreme Makeovers of Photography Websites. Using dozens of live examples, Andrew shows photographers how to turn a photography website into a more powerful marketing tool to attract new visitors, turn them into customers, and keep them coming back for more... but it applies to much more than photography websites.

His examples of how blogs are an integral part of the site, and examples of how web site owners have made them relevant are core demonstrations of the 'new' way the web works. This is no 'casual' presentation. It uses real life examples and works through what has changed and why it matters. It's worth putting aside some time. The 'technical difficulties' mean that sound drops occassionally, but persevere.

Andrew isn't a 'big name' outside photography, and this isn't some 'flashy' speaker on a podium. He's a coffee addict whose livelihood depends on doing.

Passion can see Beauty and Share it

Making a promotional video beautiful and captivating. This brilliant (no pun intended) video from laughing Squid shows how it can be done - a pleasure to watch. Set to Alfred Brendel's lyrical Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major, it shows the process from top to bottom of how ink is made. The vivid and even balletic video captivates us with beauty - the lush yellow ink folding into itself at the beginning is the hook that keeps us watching - the whole video - completely enthralled. Enjoy - and learn.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Best Collection of Development Links I've Seen

The best current collection of links on developing a major project or website has come out of the OzIA conference It is the beginning of a toolkit that offers an overview of the methods and techniques which can be used throughout the user-centered design process.

This is the first release of the toolkit, which is assembling the resources. Next we can expect more context information - but what a wonderful collection. For more information contact Bas Leurs (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences,

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Can Yahoo be Saved - A Strategy for failure

Know what your website does .. and does not do. A clear Vision or sense of purpose is a key factor that separates websites that succeed versus those that fail. A clear vision underpins all our design decisions. It helps us decide what functionality to include or exclude. Just because [insert trendy web site here - Apple, Microsoft, Google or Digg] does [insert fancy widget] is reason to be aware of a capability, but does not make it essential. Conversely, there are things your website HAS to do to win over your target market. When you don't focus, you will regularly fail to recognise what's essential. This is the situation Yahoo! seems to have been for the last several years.

It saddens me to write about Yahoo! in this context. I've been a member since March 1998, and a paying member for most of that time. It's apparently unbelievable to new web adopters that Yahoo! was once one of the great innovators. "Once upon a Time" they were leaders in tools we now take for granted - task list on same page as calendar, synchronization of data with the phone (or PDA in those days) and they developed a brilliant desktop search tool (that indexed USB drives and maybe even network drives - but my memory is unreliable here - it was a very long time ago).

The decline has been obvious for a long time, the missed opportunities, cost cutting the wrong things. So what has prompted this outburst (and planned, painful separation). The final straw seems trivial perhaps: Plaxo ( has stated that they will no longer synchronize their data aggregation tool with Yahoo! because it has become too hard.

So what? Well let's look at why I used Yahoo! for so long, what did a paying customer like me join Yahoo! for. I'm a consultant operating a small to medium business looking for a low cost online place to centralize my personal and business information. It needs to be available to my phone, and any other application that uses my core contact, to do and calendar information.

Yahoo! was originally ideal. Each contact page has a unique URL so I can place that in, for example, a project management tool - click on the name, up comes the contact details, use it in a mind map of something - click on the entry and I can dial/email without having to interrupt workflow. Same with Notes - click on the URL and I can update the annotation. No PC-based package can offer that.

Now ... see what I almost, but don't quite, have - a low cost CRM. All the components are there - calendar, Notes, Tasks with due date and Contact details - all with unique hyperlinks. All can be synchronised to the Phone. Plus email with aliases (for paying customers). A centralized, accessible anywhere, collection of the information I need to run my life and my business. All wasted because while Google worked and worked to make synchronization of their data easy and pervasive throughout the web, Yahoo! have been tardy in making our data available to us. All wasted because they dropped the focus on paying customers and failed to do the next stage of development and connect the systems they already had.

Today, it is much easier to be assimilated by the Google Borg than remain in the Yahoo! camp. Google has, with focus and dedication, made it easy. But why is it so? Ease of data exchange is a priority with anyone that has the disposable income to use a smartphone. Isn't that the demographic to aim for? Which demographic contains IT journalists, bloggers, those who make recommendations to new users? Now look at your own websites - have you ignored Smartphone users or made data hard to get at?

As a sidenote, this is not a universal truth - just a general one: I've sometimes had to design websites for Indigenous or Rural and Remote communities where Smartphones are just not a priority - as always - know your audience, know your purpose.

Desktop search was another sad episode. I don't know the full story, but it looked to me as if Yahoo! bought in a package. One that I tried a couple of times and uninstalled each time. One that wasn't as function rich as the original Yahoo! product. One that doesn't touch USB drives (last I looked, I gave them a second chance before I installed Google desktop - that's it). The USB function isn't just important for me. Lots of people would overflow their local drive. However, for me it is crucial - I have 2 Terabytes of supplementary material I want indexed - training courses, white papers, coding examples and - if it's my turn to cook - recipes. Google desktop on my Mac still is nowhere near as good as the old Yahoo! desktop search, but it's reliable. Yahoo! started to lose me from the moment I had to install Google desktop search.

Increasingly, I'm even using Google Search for work. I don't want distracting news items or social 'stuff' distracting me when I have a task to complete. Surely this is something that Yahoo! could let me personalize.

Yahoo! continues to do some excellent things in small areas. Yahoo! Pipes is a great tool. However, the bright spots of excellence don't seem to be treasured and disappear in the surrounding smog of directionless missed opportunity. I'll keep my email addresses - I've had them a long time - but my contacts have moved to - you guessed it - Google as my central repository. How the mighty are fallen. All we can do is observe, learn and apply to our own websites. The web is always dynamic, and there is no place for complacency. So .. is there really a clear vision for each of your sites? If not, prepare to lose your visitors. Even a Yahoo! can fail.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We Lose our Self-Discipline when tired or Hungry - but why?

Why do we go off our diets, or exercise programs, at the very time we need them - when we are tired or stressed? If we want to retain control of our lives, then we need to understand about the Biochemistry underneath these changes - and some of it is quite basic. Self-discipline needs glucose to the brain. Exercising self-discipline takes energy. Therefore we need to keep ourselves properly fueled, fit, and refreshed by proper sleep. It's so easy to enter the self-harm spiral, where we miss out on any one of these because of the pressure of life. I'm finding it hard to take time to exercise because work is urgent right now. It's the old conflict between what's important and what's urgent. Today, however, I'm just back from a break. Energized, not fit but fitter, and ready to write. Take a minute to read more about the science behind it so we can all manage our lives better.
Scientists have long argued that delaying gratification requires a sense of "self." Having a sense of personal identity allows us to compare what we are today, at this very moment, with what we want to be--an idealized self. Aspiring to this idealized self is what fosters uniquely human self-control powers.
Well maybe--or maybe not. New research is now suggesting a much more primitive explanation for our powers of self-discipline--one that brings us down a notch or two in the animal kingdom. Indeed, it appears that, even with our lofty aspirations, we may rely on the same rudimentary biological engine for self-discipline as our four-legged best friends. Here's the science.

Psychological scientist Holly Miller and her colleagues at the University of Kentucky knew from previous research that human self-control relies on the brain's "executive" powers, which coordinate thought and action. It's further known that this kind of cognitive processing is fueled by glucose, and that depletion of the brain's fuel supply compromises self-discipline. But is this a uniquely human fuel system? Or do less evolved animals rely on sugar-powered executive functioning as well?

Wray Herbert: Dog Tired: What Our Hounds Can Teach Us About Self-Control

Friday, April 23, 2010

Linux for Serious computing

For those of us that are still wondering if open source has a role for mission critical application, the business site Focus has put together an impressive collection of examples.

It was not long ago when Microsoft Windows had a tight stranglehold on the operating system market. Walk into a Circuit City or Staples, it seemed, and virtually any computer you took home would be running the most current flavor of Windows. Ditto for computers ordered direct from a manufacturer. In the last decade, though, the operating system market has begun to change. Slightly more than 5% of all computers now run Mac, according to Linux is hovering just beneath 1% of the overall market share in operating systems. And although that might sound like a small number, Linux is far more than just a fringe OS. In fact, it's running in quite a few more places than you probably suspect. Below are fifty places Linux is running today in place of Windows or Mac. For easy reading, they are divided amongst government, home, business, and educational usage.

For full article go to 50 Places Linux is Running That You Might Not Expect

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reading on the iPad - how to get your books across

Laura Miller from Salon has been waxing lyrical about the ebook reading experience on the iPad. Well, more than just ebooks, drafts, blog posts as well. It looks like her printer savings could save a minor deciduous forest. I've included this snippet because Laura notes two utilities she uses to load content.
My chief complaint with the iPad is that while it's the perfect way to read a collection of assorted documents in a variety of formats -- an assemble-it-yourself magazine, in effect -- it's not easy to figure out how to get this material into the device in the first place. Someone who's reasonably comfortable fiddling with computers can manage it, but if the iPad is supposed to be an especially friendly tool for the digital non-native, it needs improvement in this department. Here is what I can recommend:

Instapaper Pro: You know those interesting longer articles you keep stumbling across on the Web but don't have time to read right away? This app allows you to collect them in one place -- in your account on their Web page, but also on your iPhone and now on your iPad. It downloads the text so that you don't have to be connected to the Internet to read. The home page even features editors' recommendations, with stories from Vanity Fair, the New Statesman, the New Yorker and other publications. There's a free version, but give them the five bucks, you cheapskate, because God knows they've earned it.

GoodReader: If you want to read text or PDF files on your iPad, you'll need an app to load them into. This is a good one, and reasonably priced at 99 cents, but like all the rest, it has terrible support documentation, and figuring out how to use it is needlessly arduous. There are a couple of ways to load documents, including a pretty arcane method for doing it wirelessly. I prefer this much simpler option:

For article and instructions go to The iPad is for readers - Laura Miller -

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leadership Failures under iPad pressure

The NYTimes has reviewed the way the market is responding to the iPad launch. From what I can see, the market was stirred from the first speculation. Therefore we expect significant announcements over the next few months. For those of us that make technology choices, I noticed two quotes.

“We’re living in extremely exciting times right now,” said Olli-Pekka
Kallasvuo, the chief executive of Nokia. “It’s quite challenging to
define what industry we are in because everything is changing.”

The clear picture of a competitor that's lost direction and lost its strategic vision. Wondering what industry we are in? and admitting it? I won't be betting big on Nokia until they sort that out. The other perspective comes from the company that Microsoft's Ballmer relied on to help defuse the iPad launch - the HP Slate. The challenge for big Enterprise is to recognise turning points in their technology area and respond vigorously. HP has the people and the capability to compete ferociously. Unfortunately the following quote sounds just like the complacency that nearly took IBM under.

"H.P.’s version of the iPad is expected to be released by midyear. Notably, it will have a camera, as well as ports for add-on devices, like a mouse. Also, it will, the company says in a promotional video, “run the complete Internet,” including videos and other entertainment.

Phil McKinney, the chief technology officer in H.P.’s personal systems group, said in a recent interview that the company had been working on its tablet for five years. It delayed releasing the product, he said, until the price could be lower.

The company’s marketing department has been trickling out online videos of the device. This kind of early marketing is a change for H.P., which rarely talks about yet-to-be released products. Mr. McKinney, however, said H.P. had felt little pressure from Apple’s early move and would release its slate when it was ready.

“I have one sitting on my desk,” Mr. McKinney said. “We don’t react or respond to competitive timing and those types of issues.”

So .. is that two competitors down already? - perhaps. The article also implies that Microsoft is slow out of the starting blocks.

full story After
iPad, Rivals Offer Hybrid Variations -

Sunday, January 10, 2010

USB Drives have Security Hole has posted this article on a hole in USB encryption. The AES encryption remains secure, but the routine that determines if the password has been entered correctly can be bypassed. Manufacturers have issued updates for the software. Check your drive now.

Pssst. Your Flash Drive Isn't Secure
SanDisk Corp. and Verbatim Corp. have joined Kingston Technology Inc. in warning customers about a potential security threat posed by a flaw in the hardware-based AES 256-bit encryption on their USB flash drives.

The hole could allow unauthorized access to encrypted data on a USB flash drive by circumventing the password authorization software on a host computer.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

GSM Calls cracked with $1500 and OS Software

In news that should concern any Government Agency or business person darkreading has published news of a planned presentation on just how easy and cheap it is to crack GSM phone calls with current technology. GSM is an encryption that 80% of mobile phone companies relies on to keep conversations secure. Maybe that was appropriate when the standard was adopted, but increased computer power and algorithm development has overturned that view.

Researchers Prepare Practical Demonstration Of GSM Encryption Cracking Technology - wireless security/Security - DarkReading
"GSM has been considered insecure for some years -- however, it is a huge development that the theoretical attack on the GSM encryption cipher is now a reality," says Stuart Quick, operations manager at Henderson Risk Ltd., a London-based security and risk management services firm. "There is now a very real and imminent threat that GSM voice communications will be compromised, and users must start to consider how they can increase the security of their valuable/commercially sensitive calls they make."

The demonstration could also cause some companies to consider separate encryption of cell phone calls, according to one vendor that offers such technology. "Our research shows that 79 percent of organizations discuss confidential or sensitive information at least weekly on mobile phones," says Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO Cellcrypt Ltd. "The news that GSM has been cracked will be very worrying for anybody who discusses valuable or confidential information over their mobile phone."