Delay your decisions

An article, posted about one month ago filed in , , , , , , , & .
Delay your decisions

I design very little upfront. Sometimes I need to make an estimation, I design a little more. Sometimes the project is hardly specced and there is a lot of exploring to do.

In this post I would like to give a demonstration of how a recent project developed.

Initial stage

> Client: “We want a fancier frontend for our data”.
> Me: “Sure, any limitations?”
> Client: “We give you 4 months”
> Me: “Can I use any tech I want?”
> Client: “Na, we want to be able to continue on what you’re going to create, so please use P, X, Y and/or Z.”
> Me: “Sure, P is not my favourite, but some time ago I’ve dealt with it, so ok, we keep it simple anyway.”

The plan that followed:

Initially I thought I could fancy up the CSS, but the old product was in a very bad state and not really maintainable. So I decided to create a thin API layer in P (yes of PHP), a modern front-end layer in JavaScript using a framework that I co-introduced in the organisation a few years ago (R…

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Variable fonts

An article, posted 9 months ago filed in , , , , , , , & .

Last decade the web has been catching up with print. The advent of better delivery formats for type (WOFF(2)) and the rise of services such as Typekit and Google Fonts made the web for typography as interesting as print. But now a new specification is gaining popularity, and it may make the web more interesting than print: variable fonts.

Some background: In word processors you can typically choose between a few basic type variants Bold, Italic and Bold Italic. Some types appear with a 'Black' or 'Light' version in the font list. More professional products for graphic professionals (think Illustrator, Indesign, QuarkXpress), paired with a complete font-family, are, however able set type using 'font-weight'. While CSS has a font-weight-property, offering 'variable' weights (typically rounded to the nearest 100) to a web page would make that page load much slower. …

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Bereik meer met toegankelijkheid: inclusive design

An article, posted more than one year ago filed in , , , , , & .

Meer mensen bereiken, waarom dan niet alle mensen? Een paar weken geleden volgde ik een cursus van Peter van Grieken van Frozen Rockets. Hij wees ons er op dat 300.000 mensen in Nederland slechtziend of volledig blind zijn. Daarnaast zijn er bijna 700.000 mensen die kleurenblind zijn en dan hebben we 825.000 dyslectici en 1,5 miljoen laaggeletterden nog niet geteld. Doe je veel met video of geluid dan is het belangrijk om te weten dat er ook nog eens 1,3 miljoen mensen slechthorend of doof zijn. En dat naast 1,5 miljoen lichamelijk beperkten. Dat zijn 4 miljoen mensen met enige vorm van beperking (bron).

Screenshot van het project "Wayfinding for the blind", een onderzoek dat ik tijdens mijn studie (2006) mede had opgezet op de TU/e.

Het was schokkend om te zien dat zelfs grote sites als die van CoolBlue eigen…

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Be careful with what you ask for

An article, posted more than 2 years ago filed in , , , , , , , , & .

Since we all seem to know that every other field in the registration form is another percentage of users failing to register*, we think of alternative ways to gather information. We gamify the user profile completeness by adding a progress bar to our user account, we present a full form after the confirmation link or we ask questions while using the application.

But there is another reason why we might not even ask all the questions. Ask the wrong questions and you may alienate your user.

It can be relatively minor things like picking your favourite colour, where the form just lets you pick one colour, while many have multiple. But it may also be more personal (or one could argue, more political): not everyone defines oneself as male or female, so why only present just these options (and do know that it isn’t particularly nice being referred to as ‘the other’ all of the time).

These issues are well discussed in this [talk by Ca…

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De principes van murb

Toelichting: Niet iedereen maakt applicaties op dezelfde manier. In de loop der jaren heb ik wat principes ontwikkeld waaraan ik mij probeer te houden wanneer ik oplossingen realiseer. Het zijn handvatten waaraan ik mijzelf probeer te houden. Ik hoop ook dat opdrachtgevers mij hieraan helpen herinneren mocht het, vergeef me, toch nodig zijn. Vandaar deze openbare declaratie.

Simpel

Het idee dat zaken veelal onnodig complex gemaakt worden? Het komt maar al te vaak voor dat IT-bedrijven oplossingen willen bouwen die geschikt zijn voor alles. Maar dat heeft een prijs: complexiteit. De minder complexe software van murb is eenvoudiger te gebruiken en ook nog eens goedkoper aan te passen aan jouw wensen.

De eindgebruiker staat centraal

Heb je het gevoel dat de gebruiker wordt vergeten bij lange lijsten met features? Er wordt door murb in de eerste plaats gewerkt aan gebruiksvriendelijke oplossingen. Met een duidelijke mens-machine interactie en interactieontw…

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Notes: How to Hack PR for Your Startup

An article, posted more than 2 years ago filed in , , & .

Just attended a free webinar (replay) from Founder Institute: “How to Hack PR for Your Startup”. Here are some of their (Adeo Ressi (FI) and Conrad Egusa (Publicize.co)) main takeaways:

  • Make sure you have a great design, no-one needs to tell you that
  • FAMOUS
    1. Formulate the announcement: Make sure you’ve got news when you approach TechCrunch etc;
    2. Amplify your dreams; Let’s go to Mars!
    3. Messaging: the press release; make sure to make it as easy as possible: $20 /article; E-mail pitch (sell), press release is the make it easy to write. Make sure you use social proof, interesting stuff that adds to an interesting tool. Link your LinkedIn, Twitter etc. “Hi I’m Maarten (LinedIn, @murb”.
      1. Make sure you follow up, but don’t spam …

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User vs usage friendly

An article, posted more than 2 years ago filed in , , , & .

In English usability folks typically talk about user friendliness. Literally translated, user friendly translates in Dutch to "Gebruikersvriendelijk". In Dutch "Gebruikersvriendelijk", however, is used interchangeably with “Gebruiksvriendelijk” (see also: Taaladvies) which translates literally back to “usage friendliness”. Not too fast: these might be two different concepts after all.

  English Dutch
User friendly / gebruikersvriendelijk 61,300,000 622,000
Usage friendly / gebruiksvriendelijk 5,930 250,000
Ratio 1 / 10.000 5 / 2

Table: Google’s frequency counts for the different languages

User friendly

User friendly is about being nice to the user. Making something user friendly may be about nice icons, nice words, nice visual design, but you can, strictly speaking, still be very friendly and not allow a user to accomplish a certain task.

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Lost identity: Facebook's Instant Articles

An article, posted more than 2 years ago filed in , , , , , , , & .

Admittedly, I was a sceptic from the start when Facebook announced its instant articles with its promise to deliver blazingly fast loading articles. The technology would be ideal for publishers who'd want to deliver the best experience to their end users on Facebook. I wondered: why couldn't publishers simply remove all third party clutter and make their own sites blazingly fast? But that is not what I want to discuss here. The Guardian was one of the first news papers to implement the new Facebook Instant Article technology. The thing that disturbs me is that the blazingly fast speed comes at a price: loss of identity.

In recent years the web has become more and more a place where design can thrive. HTML5, CSS3, web fonts… the possibilities are endless these days. Designs of the web outlets of major publishers are on par with their traditional paper-based designs. Which makes that even details in the article's mark-up …

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Save icon 💾

An article, posted more than 2 years ago filed in , , , , , , , & .

Not so long ago I was back in an organisation that was using Outlook Webmail. It may not have been the latest & greatest but I noticed this server (semi-cloud) based e-mailing app still used a floppy as a save icon. Being a mac user for years it felt weird…

As you can see the icon that the webmail client features is a floppy

I didn't pay much attention to the issue, until my friend lent me his Windows-phone:

Is that a floppy?

This total redesign (Metro-style) of how a phone could work and look still featured a floppy icon(!). And even though I'm not a skeuomorphism-hater, I prefer the simple label "Save" that Apple uses in iOS. The floppy icon on a Windows telephone is completely alien to the device. I guess you've all seen the joke about the 3D printed save icon somewhere?

Still, do a [simple Google image sea…

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Semantics before anything else

An article, posted almost 3 years ago filed in , , , & .

My first rule in styling websites or applications is to style semantics over anything else.

  1. First use as much of the agreed upon tags and properties that the latest HTML spec gives you
  2. Extend this with microformats or schema.org-vocabularies and what else you can find that is an (pseudo-)standard for semantic markup
  3. Finally, if no matching semantically rich descriptors can be found, try to think of future proof names for your elements that may be reusable. Think "metadata div(vision)”, "(search) result" (you may style result here and add another more specific styling for search results).

Style the semantical markup. Semantics is about meaning, and by defining your content's meaning in html and highlighting this meaning with your style brings you consistency from the start. This is not only nice to you as a maintainer of code, but also to your audience. It leads to consistent, predictable behaviors.

The counter movem…

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Waarom gaat de ERP installatie vaak mis?

Hoewel hierover veel geschreven is, is volgens Herb Krasner (2000) het grootste probleem dat de projecten veelal te groot en complex opgezet zijn. Hierdoor is het vaak onduidelijk of men bezig is met implementatie van software of het herinrichten van het bedrijfsproces. Terwijl volgens Krasner de meeste studies indertijd waren gericht op managementproblemen (denk aan o.a. beperkte integratie van de planning, slechte communicatie tussen mensen, een gebrek aan een formeel besluitsprocedure, een gebrek aan goede testcriteria en het negeren van eerder geleerde lessen uit eerdere implementaties) is het de vraag hoe deze management problemen voorkomen konden. Voor de hand liggende oplossingen zijn focus, teamwork, heldere scope, duidelijke business case, goede planning van training & support, waar mogelijk bestaande software slim aan te passen, een goede architectuur, doordacht pr…

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Foggy cloud

An article, posted almost 4 years ago filed in , , , , , , , , & .

> Customer: "I want to have problem x to be solved by a new cloud product y, can you make this?"
> Engineer: "Yes, of course, I'm an engineer. I can make anything, just pay me and give me sufficient amount of time."
> C: "Sorry, time & money are finite…"
> E: "Ok, so I guess with cloud you mean your data should always accessible, right?"
> C: "Yeah"
> E: "Like a website?"

When talking about The Cloud we're talking about making things invisible. Yet the implications of the actual technology chosen, hidden by that same cloud, matters a lot to most customers: should the application be up and running all the time? Does it matter whether where the servers are physically located (because of data security & privacy concerns)? Don't make it too foggy with labelling stuff cloud-computing.

Image is my own, so the terms at the bottom apply to this pic as well

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Invisible design

Wired explaining that the movement towards invisible design1 should be nothing new to desingers:

> In the early 1980s, Dieter Rams laid out his now canonical 10 Principles of Good Design. Rams taught us that great design is as little design as possible. It doesn’t draw attention to itself; it merely allows users to accomplish their tasks with the maximal amount of efficiency and pleasure. At its best, it is invisible.

btw: the link to a less secondary article was added by me, it is Ram's 10th principle

Wired is stretching Dieter Rams famous “less is more” design attitude to the logical max: nothing left (the extreme of less) is invisible. Hence follows: good design = invisible design.

Rams is popular among designers in de digital sphere. [Oliver Reichenstein, famous for his design agency iA and …

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ERP systemen en gebruiksvriendelijkheid

Blader door een blaadje voor ondernemers en er staan advertenties in van bedrijven die ERP systemen aan de man brengen. ERP systemen, in goed Nederlands: enterprise resource planning. Mooi natuurlijk dat dat kan, maar is het voor een klein bedrijf nu wel echt een voordeel? Zit je als kleine organisatie niet straks gewoon met een complex en ongebruiksvriendelijk systeem waarbij alles weliswaar digitaal en centraal is opgeslagen, maar de productiviteit niet positief wordt beïnvloed? In dit artikel ga ik in op de gebruiksvriendelijkheid van ERP systemen, en waarom het zo belangrijk is om daar op te letten.

Deze post is een vervolg op een alweer drie jaar oude post over ERP, MKB en nut).

Redenen om een ERP systeem te installeren zijn allereerst het verbeteren van de efficiëntie, ten tweede betere integratie tussen systemen en afdelingen en ten derde het reduceren van risico door verminderde fouten en het bieden van actuele overzich…

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Click me! Click what?

An article, posted about 5 years ago filed in , , , , , , & .

Well, iOS has gone flat. We've, as interaction designers/human-computer interaction-specialists, traditionally been taught that a button should look like a button. And as we heralded Apple for its great interaction design some tend to be a bit sceptic / pissed.

The idea that something you could click on should look like a button comes from the idea of affordances; a button should expose the affordance of click-ability (or tap-ability if you like). More or less like a chair exposes the affordance of sit-ability, like a lying tree trunk does.

Affordance is a concept introduced in human-computer interaction by Don Norman in the late eighties who derived it from James Gibson. Don Norman's original reading on the concept has been popularized quite a lot, whereas James Gibson's work hasn't (at least not in interaction design-schools). But Gibson's idea of affordance was quite different from Don Norman's simplification. Later Don Norman revised his original concept of affordance…

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