« October 2005 | Blog home | December 2005 »

November 2005

John Allsop's paper on the state of Australian web development is work a look.


In a way, I found the results somewhat depressing. I had expected quite a bit better, to be frank.

In terms of validation, structural and semantic HTML and accessibility, there is little evidence that the significant majority of sites are doing things any differently than half a decade ago.

But on reflection, if we had done this survey or five years ago, we would have found little if any CSS, few if any doctype declarations, even fewer alt attributes, even more use of images for text.

He doesn't look at any education websites, so we escaped scrutiny.


--------

0 comments |

Finally

1 comments |

I've been working towards writing something about the effect 'Web 2.0' is having on how I design sites. So, when I saw Dan Brown's article on the brand-spanking-new UX matters site I thought why bother? In Information Architecture 2.0 he's summed it all up very well and no doubt better than I would have done.

If you fancy yourself as an IA it is essential you read this article. I think that is a strong enough recommendation...

--------

0 comments |

Sorry, I'm being lazy, just a few links today:


--------

0 comments |

QUT are looking at how they could use mobile phones, PDAs and iPods to support the learning experience.


QUT may soon be able to shrink the typical uni student's 5kg+ backpack into a 150g iPod and turn the pesky mobile into teachers' pet learning device.

These are just two uses of the ubiquitous personal communication devices used daily by students being trialled or researched for their teaching potential by Queensland University of Technology's Teaching and Learning Support Services (TALSS) in collaboration with a number of faculty partners.

--------

0 comments |

Karine at collegewebeditor is posting some superb round-ups of speakers at the HighEdWebDev conference currently underway in the US. Of particular interest:


--------

0 comments |

Today, some light reading via Boing Boing: history's worst software bugs. Including:


November 2000 -- National Cancer Institute, Panama City. In a series of accidents, therapy planning software created by Multidata Systems International, a U.S. firm, miscalculates the proper dosage of radiation for patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Multidata's software allows a radiation therapist to draw on a computer screen the placement of metal shields called "blocks" designed to protect healthy tissue from the radiation. But the software will only allow technicians to use four shielding blocks, and the Panamanian doctors wish to use five.

The doctors discover that they can trick the software by drawing all five blocks as a single large block with a hole in the middle. What the doctors don't realize is that the Multidata software gives different answers in this configuration depending on how the hole is drawn: draw it in one direction and the correct dose is calculated, draw in another direction and the software recommends twice the necessary exposure.

At least eight patients die, while another 20 receive overdoses likely to cause significant health problems. The physicians, who were legally required to double-check the computer's calculations by hand, are indicted for murder.

--------

0 comments |

A nice little post about usability testing of tabs in Firefox:


Here at Google, we did some usability studies on the tabbed browsing feature. Our usability analyst designed a study to see how well people responded to tabs and how easily they were able to switch between them and close them.

One of the things they are experimenting with is putting close buttons on each tab. Safari already does this and I have to agree, it's a much better way of handling tabs, rather than having the one close button on the right, distanced from the tabs themselves.

--------

0 comments |

Last week they received some interesting criticism of their new look, this week the SMH has responded to the complaints.


Whenever we redesign the site or introduce a change to the layout, weve come to expect a shellacking from our readers.

This time is no different. We've been swamped with emails and public feedback about the changes, many of them highly critical

I am particularly interested in this 'fix':


4. Why do you need to spread stories out over multiple pages?

Many sites use this pagination method. However, we've heard you loud and clear on this one and were looking into a fix that we think will solve the problem. Stay tuned for more details.

--------

0 comments |

So, we've been hearing a lot about AJAX recently (but if you haven't, Wikipedia is always a great place to get up to speed) - another addition to the arsenal of strategies for creating Rich Internet Applications (there are plenty of others - Flash Remoting, Java Applets, XUL and XAML to name a few). A lot has been toted recently about AJAX, and RIAs in general as a phenomenon that will transform the way we work and even ultimately kill the desktop. Although this vision is perhaps a bit optimistic (at least for the time being), there are a number of other cool things this approach can offer in the meantime. In particular, in addition to the much-debated improvements in user interaction there may be some real architectural benefits to developing with AJAX.

1. It separates presentation logic and business logic in a way that few other technologies can. In a nutshell the way AJAX works is to have a server spitting out raw XML, which is then formatted and adjusted by a HTML page in real-time. This means that those who like to focus on data can deliver the former, and those who perfer to build goregous apps without caring where the information comes from can work on the latter - no more mishmashing of HTML and PHP (or JSP, or PERL, or whatever your poison is). Also anyone who's been thinking about service oriented architecture recently should also be pricking up their ears at the idea of the idea of having lots of XML-driven data sources floating around.

Because of this separation of concerns, the ability to build end-user functionality is put in the hands of designers (provided they get comfortable with JavaScript, and can convince their programmers to give them some useful XML to work off). They don't need to worry too much about what's serving up the data or or where it is - as long as they can get at it with their JavaScript code.

2. If a few different services on the same domain use AJAX, and therefore have XML feeds in the background serving up all the core data, the gateway is open to build some really cool services that combine all those feeds together. Imagine a search engine where you pull up not only an academic's phone number, but also their web page, their current publications and last 5 blog posts. All without any server-side code. Not that I'm pre-empting anything here...

3. By using client side Javascript to offload all your presentation logic to the client, and reducing the data sent between requests to a small amount of XML, you're freeing up precious CPU cycles on the server for more important things, like more customers.

So quite apart from any benefits to user interface design, there are some quite significant architectural benefits from an AJAX approach. But before we get too excited about this nirvana of stateless web applications all harnessing interoperable data sources, it has to be asked - can we actually use this yet? Confidence is growing as high profile sites like Google Maps and GMail push AJAX into the mainstream, but even these sites still offer non-AJAX equivalents. The standards around several components of AJAX (notably, the XMLHttpRequest object) are yet to be defined - IE and Mozilla of course implement it in entirely different ways, while the WC3 is proposing (and is yet to accept) something different again. Not all browsers support it, and users who turn off JavaScript, or who are using a PDA or mobile to view the page will almost certainly be prevented from acessing the service as well. And don't forget, there are plenty of competing technologies that may win out instead.

Personally, I think the debate is still wide open as to the extent developers should embrace AJAX. There's a strong argument in my mind, that if it works now, on the majortity of browsers now, then it should be used now, even if you can't make everyone happy. But maybe I'm missing something? Is there anyone around the Uni who has already had a crack at it (even better, if they've done it within CMS)? We'd love to hear from you.

1 comments |

As many of you will have noticed, the Sydney Morning Herald launched a redesign of their site this week. They went live with the new look in the entertainment section of few weeks ago. It has now been rolled out to the entire site.

Some very interesting comments have been made on the SMH redesign on their news blog. I have to agree with a lot of them, especially the pagination and the treatment of ads.

One very interesting thing was the negative feedback about moving to a drop down navigation and removing the left-hand navigation completely. As we are planning to add drop down menu items from our tabs I think we have done the right thing with retaining the left-hand menu. Obviously some people find that if you can�t see it, it�s not there.

1 comments |

Apparently only 5.7% of 280 government websites in New Zealand are standards compliant (in terms of valid HTML). Still, that's better than those in the US. Anyone know of an equivalent test of Australian govt. sites?

--------

0 comments |

A glimpse inside the workings of the BBC: an account of the BBC's annotatable audio project.


This post concerns an experimental internal-BBC-only project designed to allow users to collectively describe, segment and annotate audio in a Wikipedia-style fashion...

The project we undertook was focused on Annotatable Audio (specifically, but not exclusively, of BBC radio programming) - and we decided to look in an unorthodox direction - towards the possibilities of user-created annotation and metadata. We decided that we wanted to develop an interface that might allow the collective articulation of what a programme or speech or piece of music was about and how it could be divided up and described.

--------

0 comments |

Richard MacManus on zdnet:


Microsoft is leaping into hosted applications big time. InformationWeek reports that Microsoft plans to offer hosted implementations of SharePoint, CRM and ERP applications. But the best quote in that article was left till last. A "Microsoft insider" was asked which other products and services Microsoft would host and the reply was: "Everything. Hosted Office. Everything hosted."

Ahem, can anyone say Web 2.0 Office? Exactly a month ago I wrote what turned out to be a very popular post entitled The Web-based Office will have its day. My main focus in that post was all of the small start-ups that are currently building web-based office apps. I forgot to mention that of course there's nothing stopping Microsoft from building their own Web 2.0 Office! Perhaps that's their only option to head off Google, because Google Office has been rumored to be around the corner for 1-2 years now.

--------

0 comments |

About the Blog

Know and love the templatedata
More