WebVisions 2009 in review: Part one

Thursday, May 21, 2009

WebVisions 2009 On Thursday and Friday, May 21-22, I am attending the WebVisions 2009 conference at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Below is a quick overview of all five sessions I attended on Thursday, with links. Many of the slides from these sessions and others are available at SlideShare. See Twitter updates using #wv09.

(Also see my reviews from WebVisions 2008 and WebVisions 2007.)

Cooking Up Gourmet User Experiences on a Fast-Food Budget – Jared Spool (User Interface Engineering)
(9:00 am to 10:15 am | session details)

#wvc11: Started with Julia Child (gourmet food) vs. fast food . . . how to make a hamburger or hot dog a gourmet experience. He talked about blindly following dogma of methodology . . . TSA regulations (three oz. liquids and plastic bags) were mocked in particular.

Study results: The best teams didn’t have a dogma or methodology they followed. The best teams focused on increasing the techniques and tricks for each team member. There is NO evidence that templates result in quality designs. By the way, all university websites feature “girls under trees.”

The three core UX attributes of great experience design are Vision, Feedback and Culture. The three questions:

  • Vision: “Can everyone on the team describe the experience of using your design five years from now?”
  • Feedback: “In the last six weeks, have you spent more than two hours watching someone use either your design or a competitor’s?”
  • Culture: “In the last six weeks, have you rewarded a team member for creating a major design failure?”

Showed the “five-second page tests” technique for evaluating web pages. Also, showed “paper prototype” testing for mocking up design ideas and getting feedback.

Learned about IN-N-OUT Burger’s secret menu and Inuit inukshuk.

For more information, see the User Interface Conference site (uiconf.com) and the UIE blog (uie.com/brainsparks) and site (uie.com).

WebVisions 2009 Universal Design is Sexy – Molly Holzschlag
(10:30 am to 11:45 am | session details)

#wvc16: Designing a universe with open web technologies. Communication is key. Semiotics . . . visual semantics . . . it is important to be precise in the words you use to communicate. Scalability is the sexy part of open web and universal design.

Core principles:

Universality is: egalitarian, flexible, intuitive, perceptible, tolerant of error, physically empowering.

Universal design: transcends “accessibility,” is natural and necessary, is core to Web Standards, is key to an Open Web.

Transcending accessibility: The shite box theory (we have to stop looking at the suffering and negativity), TABs (Temporarily Able-Bodied), focus on ability (inclusive design).

Natural and necessary: What is for many can be for one; what is for now can be for tomorrow; what is for now can be for yesterday.

Web standards: Web standards principles (anyone, anywhere, any agent); Universal design requires standards; Follow the standards, then break the rules.

Open web: Open specs, open tools, open process. It is about communication. It is the meta process about standards and universality. Equivalency and equality . . . there’s a reason there is an equality movement, a web standards movement, etc. The experience and opportunity for all is not equal.

Accessibility should be “baked in” to the process. We can have beauty in design that is practical and useful for all people; universality is doing away with the “special” and we all still know what to do with it. “Disabled people don’t want dedicated facilities. What they really want is to live seamlessly with everyone.”

Internet Explorer is, as always, used as an example of what not to do . . . it’s still the bane of web developers . . . quirks mode. Versioning is antithetical to everything the core Web ideals express: backward compatibility; future growth. Versioning creates a disability for every user on the web.

  • Build to standards, not to browsers
  • Tweak for specific browsers as absolutely needed
  • Use non-proprietary solutions whenever possible
  • Progressively enhance
  • Ensure backwards content compatibility

Molly says: “The Open Web Platform is idealistic and yet, all within reach.” She evangelizes for open standards for everything . . . you can help by thinking universally, following standards, breaking rules and opening the web.

Future of Mobile: Native Apps vs. Mobile Web vs. Hybrid Apps – Jason Grigsby
(1:15 pm to 2:30 pm | session details)

#wvc18: iPhone application development by Cloud Four for Obama campaign. Chose not to become an iPhone-only development shop.

Mobile: “It’s about usage. Not units.”

Web 2.0: Web-based apps, services & mashups, software as service, cloud computing . . . but this focus shifted in 2008 to the Apple App Store and iPhone platform . . . the iPhone Gold Rush is on. It’s where the money is. The mobile handset manufacturers and carriers all want to have their own app stores now.

  • Ringtone apps . . . predominant price point is 99 cents. Very few are sold for above five dollars
  • Throwaway apps
  • Success determined by Apple top lists and features
  • App censorship examples: CrudeBox become PrudeBox, NIN app, Newber app (location-aware business number), AMBER alerts

3.38 billion is the global market for mobile phones. This far surpasses all other communication hardware.  SMS and MMS are huge and often not thought about in terms of combined revenue.  For mobile technology, Asia is two years ahead of Europe and Europe is two years ahead of the United States. There are over 100 different builds of Google Maps for mobile devices. Fragmentation: This is what the web is supposed to solve.

The mobile web doubled in 2008, and will continue to grow over the next two years despite the recession. Exponential growth and massive usage. Some applications (visually intense games) have to be native.

Five common reasons for native apps: Performance, Offline Mode, Findability, Device Attributes, Monetization.

Not for all applications; good enough for many applications; JavaScript performance improving; hardware accelerated CSS; web developers much improve.

JavaScript speed wars: WebKit, V8, TraceMonkey, SquirrelFish Extreme. We’ve become bandwidth gluttons, with AJAX-heavy web pages. Bandwidth is a big deal on mobile. See Yahoo’s 14 Performance Rules (now 34). Make fewer HTTP requests and use Gzip components for big performance improvements.

Offline support: HTML 5. Device support: geolocation API, camera, address book, accelerometer. Near Field Communication (NFC) (being able to buy physical products using your phone).

Hybrid applications: PhoneGap (a native wrapper for mobile apps using JavaScript, HTML, CSS), QuickConnect, Rohomobile, Big 5. Why is Apple now rejecting PhoneGap-built iPhone apps?

Mobile progressive enhancement: [content] to WURFL to PhoneGap (add functionality) to app stores.

Keys to successful hybrid apps:

  • Make the experience feel like a native application
  • Take advantage of the enhanced features
  • Don’t simply release a hybrid version of the mobile web
  • Optimize performance
  • Plan your marketing

Hybrid technology is an intermediate point until greater native support bridges the gap in mobile browsers.

For more information: CloudFour.com, UserFirstWeb.com and MobilePortland.com.

WebVisions 2009 Designing Our Way Through Web Forms – Christopher Schmitt, Kimberly Blessing
(2:45 pm to 4:00 pm | session details)

#wvc30: Web forms are like Phineas Gage. Why can’t HTML forms look more like Flash forms? Various browsers handle web forms in different ways. Christopher chose eight form elements and 20 CSS properties and tested how they display in browsers and operating systems. See WebFormElements.com and the HTML form look-up table at oreilly.com.

Form elements: radio buttons, input text, submit button, select (one), select (multi), file uploads, checkboxes.

CSS properties: margin, background color and width are well-supported.

Example basic form: PayPal in-line/stacked form for first-time users. This and a Bank of America form were the starting places for Kimberly’s extended demonstration on how to change the layout to make it more compelling to use. Clear separation of presentation, content and functionality. I liked the use of the phrases “graceful degradation” and “progressive enhancement.”

For more information and sample code, visit kimberlyblessing.com and christopherschmitt.com.

The Rise of Modern Making – Mark Frauenfelder (Boingboing.net)
(4:15 pm to 5:30 pm | session details)

#wvc31: The Dark Ages of DIY were from 1970 to 2000, when crap was really cheap. Plus, the rise of video games and computers captivated the time and minds of geeks. Being so enamored with computers, people had forgotten there’s also this real-life physical platform that’s pretty fun too. Mentions that women’s liberation movement may have negatively impacted the cultures of crafting.

Make Magazine was founded in 2004. Also see Instructables.com, Etsy.com, Ponoko.com, Shapeways.com, etc.

The future of making:

  1. Expansion of maker communities
  2. Improved and simplified design and fab tools
  3. New sources of free/cheap materials

The closing keynote for Thursday was a very interesting and compelling talk.

Continue to WebVisions 2009 in review: Part two »

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