When the iPhone first came out it was a game changer; we could finally have a real full web experience from a small hand held device and it was pure awesomeness. Others quickly followed suit with big players like Android and Blackberry using the same WebKit browser engine used on iOS devices to power their devices too. Then the iPad and other tablets came out giving us an even larger mobile experience that has trimmed time spent on traditional desktop computers substantially. Somewhere along the way some people have forgotten how amazing this breakthrough really was by taking our incredible mobile experience and substantially dumbing it down. Not everyone has got it wrong though, in fact some are delivering incredible mobile experiences, but for the rest, it’s time to stop serving less to mobile users.
There are many things that web designers do (or are forced to do) that are just plain wrong or annoying and should be avoided if possible. Some items listed here are subjective and will of course depend on your demographic, but over all if these practices are avoided it will make your website better. If you disagree feel free to post in the comments section. Top sites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter etc, tend to avoid most of these practices.
I’m seeing much less full on flash sites than I used too, but I seem to be seeing more flash portfolios. If your only goal is to be a Flash developer than that’s fine, but if you want to be seen as a web designer / developer and your site is 100% Flash, you’re probably not going to impress anyone.
Why Flash sucks — most of the time
Flash usually sucks because it is used in places where it’s not needed, breaks usability basics, or tries to deliver a rich media experience to people who don’t care. Lets face it, most of us are not coming to a site to see Flash animations, flashy enter pages and load dialogues; sure this was impressive 5 to 8 years ago, but most of us are over it now. I remember animating menus, playing with collision and elastic algorithms I found on the web and drooling at the newest Flash in the Can awards which are still pretty impressive. It was really cool and fun, and there are a lot of places where this will still fly if done right, your website may not be one of them.
Electronic paper, and e-book Readers are all based on a pretty cool technology that is truly something you have to see to believe. E Ink is the brand name manufactured by E Ink Corporation and it really does look like paper. The first time you see it you realize that it has a completely different feel to it than your standard LCD display. You can check out an E Ink display at the Sony store or anywhere that sells E Ink based readers.
Lately E Ink has been getting a lot of press. Earlier this month Esquire showed off the worlds first ever E Ink magazine cover. This brought visions of the science fiction film Minority Report to many people and an environmental disaster in the making for others. There are also many e-readers being released with iRex to introduce a 10.2-inch E Ink reader next week. Although I love the technology, I think the current vision of E Ink by the press and blog sphere is somewhat flawed.
I have been reading about this new search engine Cuil that is supposedly the biggest search engine on the web, even bigger than Google. It has been billed by some as a “Google Killer”. I think one of the reasons it’s getting so much publicity is because it is run by a team of former Google employees.
The first thing you will notice about Cuil is its unorthodox appearance. The main page is black and the search is centred in the middle.
User friendly error messages are an important part of good site usability, especially if you do not want to scare away a lot of your less web savvy users. A 404 page not found error message is one of the worst kind because if it is a new visitor there is a high probability they are going to click away to the next best site. If you have a friendly 404 you might be able to salvage the situation.
A 404 error message means that the server was successfully contacted but could not retrieve the file requested by the client (browser). This can happen because of an outdated or expired link, a linking error on the site itself, or a user typo.
Last night I saw an ad for MeeMix while on Facebook. The ad was engaging enough to get me to click it, but that’s usually where the engagement stops. Not so in the case of MeeMix, an online social radio site. You are immediately thrown into the application. It asks you to enter a song name (I must admit, it almost lost me here as it was not finding any of my first songs) and then either starts playing it or suggests a list of possibilities.
Okay, I seriously don’t understand what people have against the browser back button; especially large corporate sites, what did the back button ever do to you? Today I was looking at wireless plans. There was a huge list of plans so I started clicking on them to find out more, I click back, see the page for a split second only to be forwarded back to the page I have already finished reading. I look around the page and oh, there’s the tiny button that will take me back to the list of plans. Why would you invent new functionality that already exists and is very familiar to the user? Okay, maybe it’s for users who don’t know what the big backwards facing arrow at the top of their browser is for, but the vast majority of us do know how to use the back button and it is much faster than looking for a web graphic back button which could be anywhere on your page.
This is an extremely basic good usability practice. The best part about this one is you don’t even have to do anything to have this functionality. In fact you actually have to go out of your way to annoy your users. There are some instances where a form may need to break back functionality, but I see it in places where it isn’t necessary at all.
Okay, lately more and more I’ve been noticing that my middle click doesn’t work. Why do so many website developers and designers insist on breaking basic usability? Why on earth would you ever want to annoy your users and take away an expected browser behaviour?