Thursday, 28 February 2008

A new era: Rich Internet comes to your desktop!

A lot of people will say it has been there for years/awhile, but I think that with the launch of Adobe AIR 1.0 in combination with Flex 3 and products like Mozilla's XULRunner, Rich Internet is coming to your desktop.

In fact, that is a funny thing! Over the last few years desktop applications have moved to the internet, loosing richness but gaining reach. The next move was gaining richness with the introduction of Rich Internet Applications.

But now!

By bringing Rich Internet to the desktop, we complete the circle and combine all those things. It adds the availability of local data to the whole thing. Things like this have been there for a bit for a time already, but now these big players like Adobe and Mozilla truly believe in the future of bringing web applications to your desktop, a new era has truly started. And not forget Google Gears.

Read the article by Technology Review on Adobe's Kevin Lynch about Offline Web Applications. Check the O'Reilly blog about Mozilla, part 1 and part 2.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades...

P.S. I'm very curious who will extend the picture above to support these new technologies.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Are users getting more experienced? Should we drop Usability Design Guidelines?

Jakob Nielsen, the famous Usability guru, wrote an article about Usability enemies and the counter arguments they have against design guidelines:
  • "You're testing idiots — most users are smarter and don't mind complexity."
  • "You were right in the past, but users have now learned how to use advanced websites, so simplicity isn't a requirement anymore."
In a recent research, they concluded that user skills are improving, but slightly. Still a lot of guidelines still apply...

(Quote) For now, one thing is clear: we're confirming more and more of the old usability guidelines. Even though we have new issues to consider, the old issues aren't going away. A few examples:
  • Email newsletters remain the best way to drive users back to websites. It's incredible how often our study participants say that a newsletter is their main reason for revisiting a site. Most professional users are not very interested in podcasts or newsfeeds (RSS).
  • Opening new browser windows is highly confusing for most users. Although many users can cope with extra windows that they've opened themselves, few understand why the Back button suddenly stops working in a new window that the computer initiated. Opening new windows was #2 on my list of top-10 Web design mistakes of 1999; that this design approach continues to hurt users exemplifies both the longevity of usability guidelines and the limited improvement in user skills.
  • Links that don't change color when clicked still create confusion, making users unsure about what they've already seen on a site.
  • Splash screens and intros are still incredibly annoying: users look for the "skip intro" button — if not found, they often leave. One user wanted to buy custom-tailored shirts and first visited Turnbull & Asser because of their reputation. Clicking the appropriate link led to a page where a video started to play without warning and without a way to skip it and proceed directly to actual info about the service. The user watched a few seconds; got more and more agitated about the lack of options to bypass the intro, and finally closed down the site and went to a competitor. Customer lost.
  • A fairly large minority of users still don't know that they can get to a site's homepage by clicking its logo, so I still have to recommend having an explicit "home" link on all interior pages (not on the homepage, of course, because no-op links that point to the current page are confusing — yet another guideline we saw confirmed again several times last week). It particularly irks me to have to retain the "explicit home link" guideline, because I had hoped to get rid of this stupid extra link. But many users really do change very slowly, so we'll probably have to keep this guideline in force until 2020 — maybe longer. At least breadcrumbs are a simple way to satisfy this need.
  • People are still very wary, sometimes more so than in the past, about giving out personal information. In particular, the B2B sites in this new study failed in exactly the same way as most B2B sites in our major B2B research: by hitting users with a registration screen before they were sufficiently committed to the site.
  • Non-standard scrollbars are often overlooked and make people miss most of the site's offerings. The following screens show two examples from last week's testing.

(End Quote)

Read the whole article "User Skills Improving, But Only Slightly", by Jakob Nielsen.