Gowalla My Dreams

What if Gowalla and Foursquare could communicate seamlessly with Address Book? What if Google Maps contained the postal address, company names, and primary phone numbers of every pin on the map? All this information could be marked up in Microformats and standard HTML on optional detail pages you could visit with a click from your web browser or phone. Heck, while we’re at it, let’s add Bump, an iPhone app that lets two people share contact data the same way they share DNA—except that in this case they bump iPhones.

What if every time you used Gowalla to check into or found a spot, you had the option to add that spot’s street address, company name(s), and so on to your Address Book? Imagine meeting a potential client for the first time in an unfamiliar city or neighborhood. No longer simply a passive repository of spots you create, Gowalla or Foursquare could function as a guide, helping you locate the unfamiliar address to make your meeting on time.

As you check into your meeting in reality, you could notify not only Facebook and Twitter (as you can today) but also Basecamp, which would optionally check off a radio box, marking you as having arrived at your meeting.

Something like this (and much more than this) will surely happen soon, thanks to APIs and ubiquitous standard platforms. You just feel, when you’re around people developing the best new web software, that something new is happening, and that many strands are coming together.

We used to imagine a dystopian future in which Big Brother knew everything you did. Later it was the machines that knew. We’ve been talking about ubiquitous computing for years, and we’ve pictured it happening somehow without necessarily addressing the how—that is, some of the brightest and most inspiring futurists have concerned themselves more with the ethical and cultural transformative dimensions of ubiquitous computing than with the technical nuts and bolts of how it’s supposed to get done.

I’m thinking the nuts and bolts are here. To me it seems that it is already happening. The web is the platform. HTML, CSS, JavaScript/JQuery, Ruby, and PHP are the tools. I’m thinking an uplifting (non-dystopian) ubiquitous computing is going to get done with the stuff we already use every day. Am I dreaming?


Fold, Spindle

Another generation of technology has passed and Unicode support is almost everywhere. The next step is to write software that is not just “internationalized” but truly multilingual. In this article we will skip through a bit of history and theory, then illustrate a neat hack called accent-folding. Accent-folding has its limitations but it can help make some important yet overlooked user interactions work better.

Accent Folding for Auto-Complete by CARLOS BUENO in A List Apart Issue No. 301

Illustration: Kevin Cornell for A List Apart


A List Apart 300

Issue 300 of A List Apart for people who make websites solves password-related usability problems with a dash of JavaScript, and employs content strategy to help your site do the right thing at the right time:

The Problem with Passwords

by LYLE MULLICAN

Abandoning password masking as Jakob Nielsen suggests could present serious problems, undermining a user’s trust by failing to meet a basic expectation. But with design patterns gleaned from offline applications, plus a dash of JavaScript, we can provide feedback and reduce password errors without compromising the basic user experience or losing our visitors’ trust.

Words that Zing

by COLLEEN JONES

When someone consults a website, there is a precious opportunity not only to provide useful information but also to influence their decision. To make the most of this opportune moment, we must ensure that the site says or does precisely the right thing at precisely the right time. Understanding the rhetorical concept of kairos can help us craft a context for the opportune moment and hit the mark with appropriately zingy text.

Mandy Brown

Our 300th issue also marks the debut of contributing editor Mandy Brown. Mandy is a Creative Director at Etsy. She worked for nearly a decade at the venerable publishing house W. W. Norton & Company, where her work involved everything from book design to web design to writing about design. She writes about the reading experience at A Working Library. We are thrilled to add Mandy to our creative team.


Illustration: Kevin Cornell for A List Apart

A Feed Apart

Live from San Francisco, it’s An Event Apart, for people who make websites. If you can’t join us here today and tomorrow, enjoy the live feed, designed and coded by Nick Sergeant and Pete Karl.

Also:


Composed at The Palace Hotel. Short URL: zeldman.com/?p=3208.

Less babble, more learning

Issue No. 295 of A List Apart emphasizes words and experiences that communicate.

Can You Say That in English? Explaining UX Research to Clients

by DAVID SHERWIN

It’s hard for clients to understand the true value of user experience research. As much as you’d like to tell your clients to go read The Elements of User Experience and call you back when they’re done, that won’t cut it in a professional services environment. David Sherwin creates a cheat sheet to help you pitch UX research using plain, client-friendly language that focuses on the business value of each exercise.

You Can Get There From Here: Websites for Learners

by AMBER SIMMONS

“Content-rich” is not enough. Most websites are not learner-friendly. As an industry, we haven’t done our best to make our content-rich sites suitable for learning and exploration. Learners require more from us than keywords and killer headlines. They need an environment that is narrative, interactive, and discoverable. Amber Simmons tells how to begin creating rich content sites that invite and repay exploration and discovery.

Illustration: © Kevin Cornell for A List Apart

Short URL: zeldman.com/?p=2851

Myths and Warnings

A List Apart Issue No. 294. Illustration by Kevin Cornell.

In Issue No. 294 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: learn what usability testing is and isn’t good for, and discover the five warning signs of a bad client relationship (and what to do about them).

The Myth of Usability Testing

by ROBERT HOEKMAN JR.

Usability evaluations are good for many things, but determining a team’s priorities is not one of them. The Molich experiment proves a single usability team can’t discover all or even most major problems on a site. But usability testing does have value as a shock treatment, trust builder, and part of a triangulation process. Test for the right reasons and achieve a positive outcome.

Getting to No

by GREG HOY

A bad client relationship is like a bad marriage without the benefits. To avoid such relationships, or to fix the one you’re in, learn the five classic signs of trouble. Recognizing the never-ending contract revisionist, the giant project team, the vanishing boss and other warning signs can help you run successful, angst-free projects.

Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart.

Short URL: zeldman.com/?p=2725

Chicago Sells Out

An Event Apart Chicago, two days of design, code, and content.

An Event Apart Chicago has sold out. If you wanted to join us in Chicago on October 12–13 for two days of design, code, and content, we’re sorry to announce that the show has completely sold out. There’s not a spare seat to be had.

That means, if you don’t already have a ticket, you won’t be able to watch Jason Santa Maria, Kristina Halvorson, Dan Brown, Whitney Hess, Andy Clarke, Aaron Gustafson, Simon Willison, Luke Wroblewski, Dan Rubin, Dan Cederholm, and your hosts Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman share the latest ideas in design, development, usability, and content strategy.

We’re sorry about that.

But, hey. If you can’t be with us in Chicago next week, please join us in San Francisco later this year. Or come see us in 2010 at any of these fine cities:

Tickets for all our 2010 shows go on sale November 2nd, 2009, and are first-come, first served.

To keep up with the latest AEA doings, become a fan on Facebook, join our Ning social network, or subscribe to our mailing list.

Short URL: zeldman.com/?p=2651

Search Party

A List Apart No. 292

Triple Issue No. 292 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, is all about search.

Testing Search for Relevancy and Precision

by JOHN FERRARA

Despite the fact that site search often receives the most traffic, it’s also the place where the user experience designer bears the least influence. Few tools exist to appraise the quality of the search experience, much less strategize ways to improve it. But relevancy testing and precision testing offer hope. These are two tools you can use to analyze and improve the search user experience.

Internal Site Search Analysis: Simple, Effective, Life Altering!

by AVINASH KAUSHIK

Your search and clickstream data is missing a key ingredient: customer intent. You have all the clicks, the pages people viewed, and where they bailed, but not why they came to the site. Your internal site-search data contains that missing ingredient: intent. Learn five ways to analyze your internal site-search data—data that’s easy to get, to understand, and to act on.

Beyond Goals: Site Search Analytics from the Bottom Up

by LOU ROSENFELD

Top-down analytics are great for creating measurable goals you can use to benchmark and evaluate the performance of your content and designs. But bottom-up analysis teaches you something new and unexpected about your customers—something goal-driven analysis can’t show you. Discover the kinds of information users want, and identify your site’s most urgent mistakes.

Illustration by Kevin Cornell.

Brighter Planet beta

The Happy Cog-designed social network for Brighter Planet is now in public beta. Come on down and kick the tires. Brighter Planet helps you take control of your environmental footprint: measure your climate impact, discover simple ways to reduce it, track your progress, and share your experiences with other people who who want to make a difference.

Happy Cog‘s New York office developed this project. The team:

This truly collaborative project could not have been conceived or completed without the brilliant and generous work of Brighter Planet team members including:

  • CTO Adam Rubin (bio, blog, Twitter)
  • Co-founder and Product Design Director Andy Rossmeissl (Twitter, bio)
  • Senior Systems Engineer Seamus Abshere (bio)
  • Rails developer Rich Sturim (Twitter, bio)

Not only is this young, passionate team dedicated to reducing climate change and all things green, they are also marketing kingpins, shrewd user experience designers, and badass developers.

We love our clients. These folks and this project are dear to us. And it’s a fun way to make a difference. I hope you’ll check out Brighter Planet’s new beta social network.

[tags]brighterplanet, climatechange, beta, site, launch, launches, webdesign, projects, work, happycog[/tags]

.net interview

There was a point in the 90s when I felt like a sucker for doing HTML and CSS.”

The .net Zeldman interview is available for your downloading pleasure (4.2 MB PDF). For more of the best in web design and development, visit netmag.co.uk.

Update, 27 May 2009

An HTML version of the interview has now been posted on .net’s website.

[tags]webdesign, webdevelopment, magazine, interview, .net, netmag, interview, interviews, zeldman, jeffreyzeldman[/tags]