Madison College Mobile App

As a current student at Madison College, the priorities that immediately came to mind for a mobile app are Student E-Mail, Blackboard, and myMadisonCollege. From there, I considered and tried to implement features that other students and non-students would often need or utilize. A major part of the creation process, was simply looking at what was already there, experimenting with it and reflecting on past experiences with it — not just the website but also the mobile app and mobile site.

Week 13 Reading / Videos

The Tesco virtual supermarket is a system I’ve been aware of for several years now (article is from 2011). The Microsoft video actually showcased exactly where I see our technology growing over the next couple decades, at least in terms of functionality (perhaps not cosmetically unfortunately).

Technology has grown exponentially over the last century, and I believe it will continue to do so for centuries to come. Futurama is simply another example of taking current top-teir technology of the time period (space, deep sea, highways, etc.) and stretching that technology to its potential extremes.

Perhaps the biggest contrast between Futurama and the Microsoft video in my opinion is the simple concepts of risk, reward, and cost. The cost and risk involved with deep sea and space colonization is obviously through the roof, while the reward itself is not currently a necessity compared to Microsoft’s vision of a world full of seamless and instant connectivity to complete day-to-day tasks and transactions.

Week 12 Reading

Chapter 8:

We tend to think that users are like us, but they’re not. All web users are unique; there is no “average user.” It’s not about whether someone might like this or this, it’s about creating a functional and positive experience; use common sense and plenty of testing.

Chapter 9:

There is a difference between usability tests and focus groups. Usability tests consist of one user at a time being shown something and asked to either figure out what it is or how to complete a typical task with it. Focus groups consist of a small group of people sitting around a table reacting to designs and ideas shown to them.

Test your site. Test your site. Test your site. Even if it’s just one person. Fresh, unbiased, unprepared eyes need to experience your work, preferably well-before the site is close to completion or launch. Testing shouldn’t be used to prove or disprove something; it should be used to inform your judgement, and it should continue to be tested well after your site launches.

Typical problems receieved through testing include: unclear concepts, unfamiliar categoration or naming, and simply too much going on. When analyzing feedback, resist the urge to add new features and additional instructions; often the right solution is to remove distractions.

Chapter 10:

Common courtesy on a website, much like in real life, can go a long way when it comes to interacting with people. Consider the main things people want to know when they visit your site and make it easy and obvious for people to find it. Simply show some effort and provide users with tools that will improve their experience (printer-friendly pages, FAQs, etc.).

Chapter 11:

Accessibility is obviously an essential part of web design — essential enough that it can often be intimidating to designers and developers. Will it compromise the ideal design of the site? How much time do I need to invest to provide acceptable accessibility?

Simply put, right now it’s harder than it ought to be to make every site accessible. Progress on this front requires continued support on mobile devices, government legislation, better technology and site building software, and motivational incentives.

Chapter 12:

It’s okay to bend (or even break) the rules of this book if you have a good reason. Bad designs can still be functional and usable under the right circumstances, and good design can end up unusable if not implemented correctly.

When it comes to the work place and providing good design, you can do as much as you want to make a site “look good,” but only if it’s not at the expense of making the site function properly.

Week 11 Reading

The beginning of this article focused on an ideal that I believe applies to many aspects of life: strongly consider what others want or need. Whether it’s online customers, viewers or simply having a conversation with the person next to you, putting yourself in the shoes of others is definitely one of the best ways to connect to people — regardless of whether you’re doing it sincerely or for your sole personal benefit.

“The 4 Second Rule,” on the other hand, is a new term to me but immediately makes sense in the world of Web Design.

Moving on, Contrast is something I’ve mentioned numerous times already in my blog and the course discussion board in regards to various web sites; it’s also something I recently studied and embraced in my Presentation Design course this semester as well.

Much like “The 4 Second Rule,” the section about not getting in the way of your sale, was another concept that never really dawned on me but also made immediate sense. I actually think that’s something I truly need to take to heart and keep in mind, because I occasionally get the feeling that I’m over-selling something, almost to the point of annoyance.

The rest of the article mostly highlights a lot of the do’s-and-don’t’s we’ve read about in our textbook thus far: navigation, text, content, etc., but it was enlightening to read a bit further into JavaScript, Web Standards, and Flash — all things I don’t have any experience with.

Week 9 Reading

This article reinforced something I’ve been practicing for a few years now with my communication skills: no one is an expert on everything, so be aware of what you’re an expert on and humbly and attentively listen to the knowledge of others. By pooling knowledge we can hopefully create or at least negotiate to a win-win solution.

The article did definitely enlighten me about the art of business negotiations and the right process to take with implementation, especially the importance of goals and deadlines.

Week 8 Reading

Chapter 4:

I thought the reading itself summarized the chapter very well: “We face choices all the time on the Web and making the choices mindless is one of the main things that make a site easy to use.” The examples/analogies used in the chapter (“Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?”, language choices, etc.) are rather straight-forward and make the topic easy to grasp.

Chapter 5:

Omit needless words and avoid “happy talk” and instructions. It will reduce noise, emphasize useful content, and make pages shorter and easier to glance at. See what I did here?

Chapter 6:

“People won’t use your Web site if they can’t find their way around it.” Whether it’s your first time there or a place you’re familiar with, looking for an item at a store is much like entering a web site. You can browse yourself or you can ask for help. Navigation tells us how to use a site and what we can find there. Sections, subsections, search bars and utilities  are all necessary parts of website navigation, and Breadcrumbs show where you are in the context of a site’s hierarchy.

Chapter 7:

A home page should tell what the site is, what it has to offer, and how it’s organized. Search boxes, promotions, shortcuts and timely content are all needs as well; there’s also registration/sign-in links. Make clear what the site is; taglines and “Welcome blurbs” are valuable tools for this and the rest of the site should help reinforce it. “Good taglines should be personable, lively, and sometimes clever.” From there, make sure you answer the question, “Where do I start?”

Bonus — Chapter 8:

We tend to think that users are like us, but they’re not. All web users are unique; there is no “average user.” It’s not about whether someone might like this or this, it’s about creating a functional and positive experience; use common sense and plenty of testing.

Week 7 Reading

I’ve never used Flickr before, but I’ve been aware of the site and its purpose (but not until several years ago). It’s fall from relevance is clearly no surprise; nearly all social media sites and apps nowadays have the ability to store and share photographs, and often that’s only a fraction of the sites features (and the upload/share processes are relatively quick and easy). As the article states: “It missed the boat on local, on real time, on mobile, and even ultimately on social—the field it pioneered.” This article was quite enlightening to me overall — I wasn’t aware of Flickr’s heyday, Yahoo’s purchase of it, or even Yahoo’s major faults that caused it to fall behind Google — and that’s just some of the headline news; learning from the mistakes of others (ex: Yahoo’s, Flickr’s) as well as your own, is a practice I definitely try to apply to all aspects of my life.

Week 5 Reading

Regarding both tablets and mobile devices, I think a lot of the user issues mentioned in the articles (May 2011) that are still prevalent today — accidental activation, low discoverability, too much navigation, and touchscreen typing. I’m still new to user typing (just bought my first iPhone three months ago); I’m definitely more familiar with it now then I was initially, but I’d still prefer a keyboard given the option (laptop or slide-out keyboard over a strictly touchscreen).

Despite these issues, I don’t think there is any need for significant change. A huge majority of apps I use nowadays are simply beautiful, smooth and easy to use. Sure, I’ve only used a minuscule fraction of the available apps out there (and I also try to ignore poorly rated apps), but most fulfill their purpose and do so with functional yet elegant interfaces, even the dozen or more shopping and social media apps I’ve used.

I should note that I’m currently very inexperienced with tablets — but I also have no intention of buying one anytime soon. I understand the appeal and usefulness, but I’m extremely happy with my current MacBook Pro and iPhone combination. I think they cover all the needs I could potentially have in the near future. If I had a desktop instead of a MacBook, I’d likely be more open to purchasing a tablet (portability), but I honestly think I’ll just keep buying MacBooks forever (although I am very impressed with the Mac desktops at MATC).

Week 4 Reading

Chapter 1:

The author emphasizes a “Don’t Make Me Think” rule to consider when developing a website’s design. How will viewers react when they arrive on your site? They should be able to know what it is and how to use it. The site should be obvious; buttons, clickable objects and search bars should all be obvious. Yes, this premise can sometimes be difficult, especially if you want to remain creative, but you should still strive to become self-explanatory. 

Chapter 2:

We shouldn’t craft our sites solely as if they were “great literature” or even a “product brochure,” because viewers often look at websites is if they were a “billboard going by at 60 miles per hour.” The author discusses 3 facts to consider:

1) We don’t read pages. We scan them.

Why?

  • We’re usually in a hurry.
  • We know we don’t have to read everything.
  • And we’re good at it.

2) We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice.

Why?

  • We’re usually in a hurry.
  • There’s not much of a penalty for guessing wrong.
  • Weighing options may not improve our chances.
  • Guessing is more fun.

3) We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through.

Why?

  • It’s not important to us.
  • If we find something that works, we stick to it.

This shouldn’t deter you from creating great and useful content; just be aware it and consider it when developing your site.

Chapter 3:

This chapter introduces the basic fundamentals of creating a scannable, yet understandable website. The author breaks this down into 5 things that can make a site easier to understand:

  1. Create a clear visual hierarchy on each page
  2. Take advantage of conventions
  3. Break pages up into clearly defined areas
  4. Make it obvious what’s clickable
  5. Minimize noise

To create a clear visual hierarchy, the most important items should be more prominent, related items should related visually, and items should be “nested” with the sections they belong to. Taking advantage of web conventions is also very useful, because conventions only become conventions if they actually work. Going against these conventions can often be temping, but only do so if you know you have a better idea and that idea in reinforced by all of your peers as well. Also be sure to avoid unnecessary busy-ness and background noise; everything shouldn’t be clamoring for attention at once or distracting viewers from the content they want.

Week 3 Reading

Article:

Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design

1) Bad Search: This wouldn’t have been one to immediately come to my mind, but I definitely agree with it up here.

2) PDF Files for Online Reading: Yep, I can’t stand these, so I  definitely try to avoid them; especially if I need to Copy/Paste something.

3) Not changing the color of visited links: This is another one that I wouldn’t have guessed but definitely agree with. Prior to this article, I was actually under the impression that the color change was solely due to the browser recognizing the visited link and had nothing to do with the websites themselves.

4) Non-Scannable Text: I agree with this one as well; I don’t go online because I want to stare at paragraph after paragraph of information.

5) Fixed Font Size: I figured font or text size would be on this list somewhere, and this is a great example.

6) Page Titles with Low Search Engine Visibility: Much like the font size mistake, this is another one that came to mind.

7) Anything that looks like an Advertisement: No one is a fan of being berated by advertisements, so the less there appears to be, the better.

8) Violating Design Conventions: Keeping sites accessible and easy to navigate is a must; although, I am a big fan of creative interfaces, as long as its clean, simple and low on animations.

9) Opening New Browser Windows: The MATC website does this a lot, and it always frustrates me.

10) Not Answering Users’ Questions: Anything to be more courteous and helpful to users or customers is a good practice, especially when it’s in a timely fashion.