Web vs. Naive Apps - Auto-updating would be nice

I agree with John Gruber that "There are no absolutes in either (Web vs. Naive) of these arguments.", but there's one point in his argument that is overstated. 

But app stores are mostly only a pain in the ass for developers, not users. Installing and especially updating apps through app stores is obvious and easy for all of the modern mobile platforms. 

App updating is easy, but it occurs way too often and is dependent upon a good connection. On average, I have to update 3 apps per week. Often I'm on the train from NJ to NYC which has a spotty connection at best. By the time I get to the office I forget and the updates start piling up week after week. I wish there was a Google Chrome like model that just updated the app in the background. 

Do I really need to confirm the download and updated for every app on my phone? Given Apple's rigorous approval process, I would have thought that all updates are stable and would not affect my iPhone or app data in any way. Is it a terms of use or some other legal issue blocking automatic updates? 

Someone please release me from the red circle hell!

Christmas analogy for web development

When you are getting Christmas gifts for your friends and family, do you get the boxes, ribbons and wrapping paper first then purchase gifts that will fit in them? I'm sure you would said, "That's crazy!". So why is it that people still approach web development by designing the layout before creating the content?

The best apps are ones the creators use

I never understood how you create an application that you ourself would not actually use. It doesn't have to be a one-to-one, but the designers and developers should have experience using similar applications. Case in point is this recent article on The Verge about Apple's iCloud troubles. This part of the article really stuck out for me:

Keynote must work, so Apple keeps a close eye on Document-based syncing functionality. And when it does rely on Core Data, Apple’s software has no more luck than third party developers. Apple’s simple Trailers app uses Core Data to sync, and periodically loses track of user Favorites. "The best Apple technologies are ones they use themselves," one developer told me.

Seems like acquiring Dropbox might be a good plan for Apple.

Trust + Space = Creativity

David Heinemeier (37Signals), No More Remote Work at Yahoo, on Yahoo's recent decree:

What this reveals more than anything is that Yahoo management doesn’t have a clue as to who’s actually productive and who’s not. In their blindness they’re reaching for the lowest form of control a manager can assert: Ensuring butts in seats for eight hours between 9-5+. Though while they can make people come to the office under the threat of termination, they most certainly cannot make those same people motivated to do great work.

Well said. While I believe in the power of working face-to-face, everyone needs to break out of the group, remove the static and concentrate on making connections and new creative patterns. 

Bruce Nussbaum (Co.design), 3 Paths Towards A More Creative Life, on creativity:

We are all so connected these days and distracted by constant interactions. Our time is spent responding, reacting to others or absorbing, taking in new information. But we often lack the space, the time, the moment to integrate that knowledge, connect those dots, generate that creativity.

My Favorite UX Links

Start with the content, not the...

"Start with the content, not the device."

Jeremy Keith, Adactio

Start with the content, not the channel

Start with the content, not the technology

Start with the content, not the security

Start with the content, not the content management system

Start with the content, not the user interface

Start with the content, not the user experience

Start with the content...the content...the content...

Performance, performance, performance

Here's an old sales joke:

What are the three most important things in real estate? Location, location, location.

Here's my updated version for the web:

What are the three most important things in a website? Performance, performance, performance.

I love beautiful fonts, photography and animations as much as anyone who works in a creative agency, but if it increases your site's load time, you might want to scale back.  

Steve Lohr for NYT, For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait

People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).

“Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web,” said Harry Shum, a computer scientist and speed specialist at Microsoft.

The performance of Web sites varies, and so do user expectations. A person will be more patient waiting for a video clip to load than for a search result. And Web sites constantly face trade-offs between visual richness and snappy response times. As entertainment and news sites, like The New York Times Web site, offer more video clips and interactive graphics, that can slow things down.

But speed matters in every context, research shows. Four out of five online users will click away if a video stalls while loading.

Good Minecraft Project


As a testament to the extreme population density in Hong Kong, the walled city of Kowloon contained 33,000 residents and was unplanned and uncontrolled by a number of drug triads with names like "14K" and "Sun Yee On". 

Seems like an awesome Minecraft project.


Responsive Wireframe

I put together a responsive wireframe with the help of Axure to show clients what they need consider when they make the off-handed request that a site needs to support mobile browsers. Even with this simple layout, there are still a ton of things to consider especially when it comes to image aspect ratios and resizing. The worst break point for me is the transition between 1024px to 768px. The grid column situation gets tricky. It's not dead on, but close enough for a wireframe.

Note: The iPhone landscape viewport is useless for web browsing so I stuck with the portrait view for both and center aligned everything.

Drag the browser window to change the view.

 Responsive Wireframe

Responsive Wireframe

Pages, Screen and/or States?

I'm often asked to estimate the size of a web project by the number of web pages I think are needed, but the explosion HTML5 is quickly making the term "pages", not obsolete, but not enough. Yes, there are "page templates", but the number of "states" for a particular page is what really drives design and development. To add further confusion, we also have to contend with multiple view ports (e.g. mobile, tablet and computer) often referred to as "screens". If I could cast the deciding vote, I would abolish the term "pages" and make everyone use "screens" and "states".

Create an album cover

Here's the instructions:

  1. Go to Random Article on Wikipedia.org. Use the first article as the name of your band
  2. Go to Random Quote on TheQuotationsPage.com. Use the last four or five words as the title of your album
  3. Go to Explore Last 7 Days on Flickr. Use the third image as your album cover.
  4. Put them all together and you get something like below.

Things I don't like about Basecamp

Some of these gripes that to do with the fact that I'm the Basecamp owner so I see everything. Basecamp is either showing it's age or my agency has just out grown it. The ability to apply a single function (edit, remove, delete, assign, etc.) across multiple projects, clients or people can be very frustrating. Can't wait to see if they address some of these issues with Basecamp Next.
  1. Can't easily assign multiple projects to one client
  2. Can't easily assign multiple users to one project
  3. Can't easily sort, filter or search users
  4. Can't alert team when I upload a new version of a file
  5. Can't later add team members to discussion thread
  6. Can't tag Writeboards (ala Files)
  7. Can't attach files to Writeboards (ala Messages)
  8. Can't import images into Writeboards (ala Backpage Pages)
  9. Email alert subject lines should have the subject first, then the project name (I hate those brackets)
  10. Switch to a different project drop-down menu. The recently access projects is not initiative to me. I would rather just have an A-Z order.


To App or Not to App

Some high level questions to ask before decision to build an app:

1. Will a user ever come back to your app?

The trenches of the iTunes App store are a bit like the Island of Lost Toys. "Play once and delete" is the name of the game. An app should provide a service that users couldn't perform without the phone in their hands. Just delivering copy and images isn't going to cut it; the common web browser has that covered. If your app doesn't entertain, inform and provide some type of utility on a daily basis, it will be added to the towering heap of the forgotten.

2. Will the app use any built-in iPhone features?

The most successful apps utilize a combination of features built inside and outside the iPhone in unique and surprising ways. iPhone users are intimately familiar with how these features work, so why take advantage of them? Instagram, the top-selling camera app, allows you to apply cool, retro filters and flash settings to photos taken with your iPhone. It also integrates with email, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr so you can easily share and order prints. To do a quick check, go to "Settings" on your iPhone and run through the list of native iPhone features and think about which services you can use.

3. How will this app use motion- or touch-based interactions?

The finger swipe is the most common interaction, but there are many more motion- and touch-based gestures to consider. The physical act of touching, shaking or tilting an iPhone to perform a task is the number one reason why it's the most popular phone on the market. Physical interaction is at the core of how humans discover and learn. It's also a lot of fun.

It’s the rare app that keeps its place on the “front page” of your iPhone home screen. Figure out how to make something useful entertaining, use the phone’s features to the fullest and optimize physical interactivity…and you’ll be three big steps closer to a permanent position next to Messages, Calendar and of course, Angry Birds.

If it's good, charge for it

Fascinating rant from Google developer, Steve Yegge  who was pervious worked at Amazon. His basic point is that Google doesn't develop with a platform in mind. According to him, every product is developed in a silo with little or no accessibility built in for external developers. This is an amazing insight given Google's constant use of the phrase "open" in its communications (especially within the Android vs. Apple scenario).  However, there is one point in the article in which he explains that there is no funding for platform projects and there in lies the rub. Getting funding for internal projects is nearly impossible unless you have a real visionary (aka Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos) in your company. In a former life, I was a product manager on a search marketing application which used Google, Microsoft and Yahoo web services for reporting and campaign management. By far Google was the best out of the bunch, but there was an arrogance in the way they rolled out changes. Little warning and short time frames were the standard operating procedures. I guess they thought I had thousands of developers at my disposal.  To add insult to injury, they begin actually charging for their services. My immediate reaction was, "You are going to charge me for this crap?", but after a year the quality did improve. Roll outs began to be scheduled on a regular basis, documentation improved and service outages went down.

My hypothesis as to why the serviced improved is the fact that they didn't look for internal funding. Users were already finding value in the service so why not charge for it. If there is real value, people will pay for it. The challenge is not finding funding (internal or angel) because you think to have a great idea. Great ideas are worth nothing. The challenge lies in determining at what point is the value is enough to charge customers. It's a lot easier to make the case for resources when there's money flowing into the bank.