Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

Web 2.0 Design – Keep It Simple, Stupid!

July 20, 2010 4 comments

Following on from my previous blog, discussing Web 2.0 philosophy and the paradigm shift in internet use, today’s effort will address what Web 2.0 means to web site design, layout, navigation, and interactivity.

When surfing the web, you probably come across sites that make you wonder what the designer was thinking, and not in a good way! It seemed that for a long time, web designers and developers were simply making sites for themselves, showcasing their skills, or trying new scripts and effects for the sake of it. While that might be okay for your personal site, those “effect of the week” styles spread like wildfire through business sites too. Web 2.0 design isn’t about the underlying technology, or what’s cool this week, it’s about providing the simplest, cleanest, and most effective interface for the end user, your customer.

Design Considerations

Consider the following site, for the Twitter software MarketMeTweet. There are very few extraneous elements here. Strong, bold colours delineate sections, and walk you through the story being told. Fonts are large, easily read, and are hard to ignore. The call to actions are clear and simple. Design elements double as navigation tools and visual guides. The layout is central, scales well to all resolutions, and works in all browsers. The whole layout is visually accessible, and means little effort is needed by the user to find what they want.

Another excellent example comes from, – a pet insurance provider. Again, bold colour choices make the site look great, but they are not just for effect, also providing a visual aid, separating the various elements. A strong, persistent header means the user won’t easily lose their way, and provides  a consistent visual anchor for the user. All the activity happens below the header, but it’s all seamless to the user.

Unfortunately, this site wasn’t tested in all browsers – the two red buttons don’t display side by side in Chrome, like they should, and do in IE. It takes a lot of effort to make something look simple and work well. Don’t get complacent.

Web 2.0 design is about getting back to simplicity, focusing on the message, and always keeping the end user in mind. Back at the outset of the world wide web, web pages had to be simple, we didn’t have the tools to make them interactive, or do much of anything! Gradually, as the tools became available, the focus was lost – the message was lost.

So what can you do to make your site more “Web 2.0” ?

Focus on simplicity of design. It’s like the old story of how to sculpt an elephant – you just chip away anything that doesn’t look like an elephant! During the design process, keep asking yourself if elements serve a purpose, and whether that purpose serves you, or the end user. Make every pixel count. Strip away any elements that don’t make your site more visually accessible or easily navigable. Give the user the least possible choices to reach the most information.

Use technology wisely. Whether you are coding from scratch, or using libraries and code snippets, what’s under the hood of your site can make a big difference to the user experience. As with the design and layout, ask yourself if that few hundred lines of Javascript or new CSS3 element is adding something useful, or is it just cool? The technology should be invisible to the user wherever possible.

Be a user advocate. Try and see your site from your user’s perspective, and make sure you analyze your web traffic to identify patterns of behaviour that might reflect a problem with the layout or navigation of the site. What path are users taking through the site? What pages are seeing the highest abandon rates, and why? Is there anything you can do to make your site react to your users itself? Buying patterns can alter the choices presented to users, perhaps showing them what others bought at this stage, or in conjunction with specific items. Find out what the user wants and needs, them give them it. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.

In the next blog, I’ll be discussing some of the tools and technologies that have contributed to the rise of Web 2.0 – and how Social Media has influenced the internet landscape.


What does “Web 2.0” mean to you?

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I had a discussion recently with someone that claimed to be a “Web 2.0 expert”. First of all, I am always skeptical of anyone that declares themselves to be an expert, or a “guru”, I think it’s my job to decide if it’s warranted. Secondly, he steadfastly believes that Web 2.0 is really just a collection of technologies and software (e.g. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook etc.), displaying a decidedly social media bias.

This inspired me to re-evaluate my thoughts on what exactly I thought Web 2.0 was. It’s almost a throw-away term now, often bandied about by marketers, but is there a single answer to “What is Web 2.0?” I don’t think so. In coming up with some notes on the subject, I couldn’t narrow it down, so decided to do a series of three blogs, each addressing one aspect of what Web 2.0 means to me. This is the first in that series.

My feeling has always been that the term Web 2.0, which has really only been around about 5 years anyway, reflects a paradigm shift in the way The Internet was perceived and is now being used. Back in the days of Web 1.0, for the sake of a better term, users accessed the internet in much the same way they read a magazine. It was a very passive pursuit, and pretty much a one-way conduit. Yes, we entered information, but usually only for the benefit of the site owner, not for our benefit.

With Web 2.0, the philosophy changed. No longer were we passive observers, we were actively contributing. Our visits and habits drove search engine rankings; our videos and blogs meant that we were also providing content; our need to be engaged led to more interactive content, tailored to our needs and wants; and Social media meant that we were using the internet for our own purposes, not just as a means of driving business to online retailers. Businesses are of course harnessing social media, and people are still monetizing blogs, but at the core, they are still our tools, and represent our collective consciousness. Webmasters use web analytics to determine our every move, how we interact with their sites and services, and whether they meet our needs – but the fundamental shift is how quickly that data now leads to change. In many cases, interactive sites change content on-the-fly based on how we use the site. Perhaps more than anything else, the Web 2.0 shift means that the tail is now wagging the dog.

In response to this Web 2.0 shift, web site designers and developers have gone back to grass roots, with principles and practices that reflect a more simplistic approach (I’ll address this in more detail in the next blog in this series). No longer is design meant to show off the capabilities of the designer, or the sophistication of the platform, but it is meant to make our life easier, by allowing us to navigate, learn, and act more quickly. Granted, many of the technologies required to make our lives easier require great underlying sophistication – but that’s their problem! Internet marketers have also been forced to re-evaluate how they reach their audience. You can’t simply rely on a single medium to tell your story, or to reach your audience. Strategic plans are now required that integrate many styles and communication channels, and if you don’t unify your message across those channels, it simply won’t reach your audience – it won’t rank highly enough, and it will just be more noise.

Marketers and internet users are no longer adversaries, they are partners in the new Web 2.0 revolution, each driving the other. The last five years have been an exciting time for those of us who work in the internet industry, but much more than that, it has been a Golden Age for the user. Now, Web 3.0 ?

go directly to the next Web 2.0 blog …

Its been a long road, getting from there to here!

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

For anyone paying attention, you’ll notice it’s been just over a month since my last blog. You’re probably expecting me to apologise, and trot out the usual excuses – “life intervened”, “too busy”, “haven’t had time” etc etc … well I’m not. I had plenty of time, just check my Raptr gaming profile, or my Twitter feed.

So why just stop for no apparent reason? Why indeed. Last night was the season finale of Stargate Universe (SGU), a show I have really enjoyed, but one of those that took a pointless mid-season break. Get it now?

I can understand the summer break in TV shows, it is all about money after all. I could even understand a short Christmas break, but a couple of months? Or longer – SGU was off the air for about 4 months here in Canada! They are just taking the piss.


Caprica next on the block?

I don’t recall how many shows I’ve lost touch with, and just lost interest in, over the years due to day and or time changes, or just due to them taking the dreaded “hiatus”. My wife and I used to love Boston Legal, but after it took an extended break, switched times and days etc, I lost touch and didn’t even realise it was back on. Caprica looks set to become the next victim of my apathy. Nine brilliant episodes, then poof! That show was advertised, prior to its debut, for longer than it ran!

It doesn’t help that PVRs, TV on DVD, services like Hulu, and on-demand have changed the way people watch TV. Personally, I don’t watch live to air TV anymore, or very rarely. My PVR is my best friend, and I often wait for entire seasons to be done, just so I can watch them back to back. I don’t watch ads, so I doubt any TV folks care what I have to say, but I don’t believe I’m alone in my viewing habits.

Stargate Universe

Are they taking the piss?

TV on DVD has really complicated the landscape, and I am really worried that we will see more and more mid-season breaks. Why? There is big money in TV on DVD. SGU took the opportunity to release a half-season DVD set (Season 1.0) … WTF? Was it really a case of taking the opportunity, or a planned move to gouge the fans? Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I don’t like the direction in which the industry is developing it’s new model. The rest of the SGU Season 1 (called Season 1.5) is due for release July 27th – which, coincidentally, is my birthday!

Don’t get me wrong either, as I stated in previous blogs, I love TV on DVD. We are currently working our way through The Sopranos, and I’m dropping (not so) subtle hints that the Chuck Season 2 DVD set with the 3D glasses would be a great Father’s Day gift… Yvonne Strahovsky in lingerie, IN 3D… now that’s entertainment!

My concern is that the window from air to DVD is being artificially manipulated just to get the cash in more quickly. Yes, it’s a cut-throat business, and I hope someone on the inside comments on this blog. I would love to be shot down here, and have all this paranoia devalued, but sadly I don’t see that happening.

Anyway, rant over, I have to go watch SGU: Incursion Part 2 … I have it on my PVR from last night.