User Experience

Vice: We're Getting Rid of Comments on VICE.com

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 12/22/2016 - 11:05

As we all know, the comments section of many sites is simply an open sewer.
 

We don't have the time or desire to continue monitoring that crap moving forward. Besides, there are plenty of other ways for you to publicly discuss our work and the personal worth of our staff. We'll still be reading your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and we legitimately do enjoy getting IRL mail (no bombs) sent to our offices in Brooklyn.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/were-getting-rid-of-comments-on-vice

Seth Godin: Omotenashi and the service split

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 12/15/2016 - 11:02

In the age of self-service website building, design and marketing, how do professionals add value?

…offer human service that's even better than the customer could provide for herself.

By doing so we can show our clients that they will gain more by working with a professional than by cutting corners with DIY tech.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/12/omotenashi-and-the-service-split.html

Dries Buytaert: How can Drupal web applications compete with native apps?

Submitted by Sam Moore on Fri, 09/16/2016 - 11:12

In the longer term, client-side frameworks like Ember will allow us to build web applications which compete with and even exceed native applications with regard to perceived performance, built-in interactions, and a better developer experience. But these frameworks will also enrich interactions between web applications and device hardware, potentially allowing them to react to pinch-and-zoom, issue native push notifications, and even interact with lower-level devices.

http://buytaert.net/can-drupal-outdo-native-applications

A few notes about The Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights site

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 14:14

CGSHR Homepage

The new site for
The Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
had its "soft-launch" yesterday. The site is live and usable, but the owners still have a few things they'd like to tweak.
Little do they know, web sites are never really finished - so for all intents and purposes, this is the real thing.

Probably the most interesting part of the project from my point of view was the heavy customization of Apache Solr search results, and the whole search experience. This was mostly accomplished via templates in the site's theme. I'll share a few details in case anyone's interested.

To begin with, this is a Drupal site - specifically D7. The owners had an initial design and a sort of prototype site built by a previous developer in D7, which they handed off to me. That work was done cleanly and competently, but it was clear the client wanted to go so much further than the original builder was prepared to go. I'm not sure what transpired, though I did have a friendly chat with them, but in any case they were out of the picture by the time I got involved.

When I received the site, the first thing I did was to stage it on my Drupion server. Drupion are like family to me, and I've trusted them to help me grow my Drupal business, so it was an easy pick. When the client agreed to host with me for production, that made the decision that much more rational.

Drupion got Solr and Tika set up right away. Solr is a much more powerful search tool than the built-in Drupal search, capable of handling a very large number of indexable items. More info on that here. It runs as a separate server process, and needs about half a Gig of RAM. Tika is an add-on to Solr, which allows searching inside documents such as Word, PDF and other files that are not normally presentable on the web. The client has quite a number of academic research papers and other documents in these formats, so the ability to search inside them was essential.

Once Solr was running and had started indexing the site's content, we looked at what Facets to use for searches. Facets are basically filters - they allow you to limit searches to, say, one content type, or a particular taxonomy term.

Solr_Search

Above, you can see the some of the facets for the overall site search Here we've searched for "Gender" - a term guaranteed to return lots of results on this site.

On the left are check boxes that allow the user to narrow down the search to a particular Country, Region, etc. There's also a facet for Content type. On this site, content types mostly correspond to the type of document or media being shown - Citations, Research, Films, etc.
But you can restrict your search to one content type equally well by using the tabs along the top of the main content area - Films, Lectures, etc.
Clicking one of these will retain the same search terms, but narrow your results down to a single content type (if you want to search 2 content types, you'll have to use the checkboxes on the "All" tab).

In order to get these individual tabs implemented, I set up a separate search environment for each of the key content types. This allowed me to set facets and Bias for each (which we may want to leverage later).

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 07 15 PM

Next, I made pages for each content type. Each Page has its own title, and most of them (except "All") are limited to a particular Bundle (bundles are essentially content types, at the machine level. Check out D7's Entity system for more info). Because they all have paths that look like /search/--bundle--, they're showing up as tabs on the /search page. Neat :-)

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 09 53 PM

In my next post I'll show how Facet blocks are set up, and talk about theming the search results. Finally, I'll show some of the Views on the site, which offer more of a browsing experience, which I think complements the Search pages nicely.


Link

Ashkan Soltani introduces MobileScope, an innovative approach to online privacy | TechRepublic

Submitted by Sam Moore on Fri, 05/11/2012 - 19:51

Ashkan Soltani introduces MobileScope, an innovative approach to online privacy.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Marketers are tracking smartphone users through "apps" - games and other software on their phones. Some apps collect information including location, unique serial-number-like identifiers for the phone, and personal details such as age and sex. Apps routinely send the information to marketing companies that use it to compile dossiers on phone users.

More, including a data visualization animation, here.

Now one of the researchers involved has announced MobileScope.

MobileScope is implemented as a web service - not as an app on your phone - I'm liking this approach.

Mobile Scope

Why is this kind of service necessary at all?

First off, most users probably do not realize their information is being transmitted to third parties — who they’ve never heard of or had a relationship with. Since there’s little transparency on these platforms, it’s unlikely anyone would know.

Second, these third parties often receive extremely sensitive information, such as your precise location information (latitude/longitude) and your device identifier, which is persistent for the life of your device and can often be tied to your actual identity.

I'll be signing up - see link below - and we'll see what turns up.

(Via Bruce Schneier.)

Signup Page

Gerry McGovern on Surviving information-seeking sickness

Submitted by Sam Moore on Fri, 10/09/2009 - 14:59

Screen shot 2009-10-09 at 2.57.59 PM.png
A cute post from Gerry McGovern, illustrating the fallacy of flooding website visitors with information when all they really want is to get something done:

It took time. Lots of counseling. I had many relapses. The doctors told me that I had spent too much time with too many web teams who didn’t live in the real world. These web teams built websites full of information without any real understanding of what their customers actually wanted. These web teams thought people came looking for information, when in fact people had specific tasks that they wanted to solve. Information was only a means to an end. It was not the end.


Full post

B.L. Ochman's blog: Dear Corporations: Nothing Else Matters if Your Customer Service Sucks

Submitted by Sam Moore on Mon, 08/17/2009 - 16:05

Picture 1.png

B.L. Ochman has a pointed, if brief, article on why customer service is where your business will be won or lost.

When you come right down to it, it's almost always the hourly employees who have actual contact with actual customers who create your bottom line results. It makes great economic sense to empower them to solve a problem with one phone call...
In case some companies haven't noticed, we are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Customers count. Treat us like you know that. We'll all be a lot happier. And more prosperous.

Full article

I've come across a few other instances of this kind of thing in the last few days. A friend on a music site I'm part of noted that the Intellitouch tuner company cheerfully replaced his broken tuner, even though his kids had stomped it - not the company's fault at all.
As a counterpoint to Ms. Ochman's experience, you can't beat this kind of story. Intellitouch has made a customer for life - more so, an evangelist.
Here's a snippet of a similar, if more widely read, account, from BoingBoing, detailing KitchenAid's remarkable service:

The operator asked for my serial number, asked me to describe the problem, then asked if I could be at some address the next day to receive my replacement unit and ship back the defective one. I gave her my office address, and yesterday at around 2PM, a DHL guy showed up with a brand new espresso machine in its package. I lifted it out, replaced it with the defective one, watched as the DHL guy slapped a return sticker on it, and then he left, leaving me a shiny new coffee machine that I brought home in a cab (two people on the street and the cabbie all stopped me and asked me about this beautiful coffee machine and whether it worked as good as it looked and where they could get one of their own). This morning, I enjoyed a perfect cappuccino with breakfast, and ruminated on just how damned good the customer service from Kitchen Aid had been, and I figured, man, that deserves some public approbation.

Now, that was worth it for KitchenAid - BoingBoing's readership is enormous, and everyone now knows how good KitchenAid is. All because their CS team "got it". Now, what happens in the opposite case? Do you really want some widely-read blogger telling the world how atrocious your service is? Wise up, everybody.

Information Architecture of Social Experience Design: ASIS&T Bulletin

Submitted by Sam Moore on Sat, 08/15/2009 - 00:26

ASIS&T_local.png
The American Society for Information Science and Technology has an in-depth look at user experience in social applications. While probably no one will agree with every point here, they certainly do raise some good questions. At least they've articulated many of the issues.

Their article promises "Five Principles, Five Anti-Patterns and 96 Patterns (in Three Buckets)". It's a long read, but worth it for anyone who has responsibility for - or advocates for - better UX in social media applications.
Here's the first bit - the principles:

Five Principles

Of the myriad principles we've unearthed so far, five cut across the entire experience:

  • Pave the Cowpaths
  • Talk Like a Person
  • Play Well with Others
  • Learn from Games
  • Respect the Ethical Dimension

Here's some detail on the "Pave the Cowpaths" principle, in this case touching on something I've butted heads against myself:

The second application of Pave the Cowpaths comes later in the lifecycle of your site, when you’ve got a user base and they start doing things you never anticipated. Often the impulse is to stamp out these rogue behaviors and enforce draconian rules requiring only the behaviors you had planned for. This course of action really only makes sense if the behaviors you are trying to stamp out are truly destructive or evil. There are many anecdotes about thriving social sites that killed themselves off by legislating against fun and forcing their users into exile to find the activities they had been improvising “incorrectly” in the site they had to leave.

A better plan is to support the behaviors your users are engaged in. Let your users tell you what the best and highest use of your interface may turn out to be. Don’t be so arrogant as to assume you know everything about how the social dynamics you’ve unleashed need to evolve.



I have this same beef with the owners of an educational site I'm part of - though the issues are better articulated here than in my rants on the subject.

Basically, they insisted on obscuring the ways in which their students could download their video content and watch it while offline, slow it down (it's a music education site), take it on the train, etc. The owners went so far as to delete posts offering tips to other users, and reprimand the posters.

My contention is that you're never going to stop people from doing this (hint: Video Download Helper for Firefox is your friend) - you're just going to make it more difficult for the people who are less technically adept.

Instead of fighting your user base, why not learn from them? Maybe they really are smarter about what you're building than you are - there are certainly more of them, and they use your application more than the owners typically do.

When your customers are coloring outside the lines you have two choices - yell at them for being messy and not following the rules, or re-think where your lines are.

Or, as the quote above says, "Don't be so arrogant."

Full article