Archive for the ‘fowdlondon08’ Category

Review: Adria Airways and NLB

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Recently two more big and very frequented Slovenian sites relaunched and I think they too deserve a mention.

Adria Airways

The first page I want to put to the test is the new page of the first and the biggest Slovenian airline. It was recently launched by my ex colleagues at Parsek as the second version to be made there. The first edition was designed and prepared in another agency and Parsek only did the backend while the new version is all Parsek. To be fair the biggest and the most important part — the reservation module — is still made by the french company Amadeus.

The new design tries to incorporate a leaner navigation with less elements even though it became wider, almost reaching the 1000px mark. The front page is much more sales oriented, displaying a lot of useful information. I can’t get past the color scheme that is really too dull. There are quite a few validation errors, the ones in HTML mostly due to non–escaped ampersands, while those in CSS are just sloppy coding without checking the validator.

I was surprised to see that some stuff doesn’t work well with Firefox 3 and Safari 3 even though the first one isn’t released yet (will be tomorrow) and the second one doesn’t have a lot of users in Slovenia. I’d still stick to what Yahoo! has to say in their Graded Browser support table for browser support.

I was positively surprised at how well some inside pages are designed down to the last dot and icon and negatively how bad the pages that “only” present CMS content look. I don’t know whose fault this is and I don’t even care, it doesn’t matter for the end user. I’m sure the guys at Parsek will check these pages out and try to make changes that will make them better. When I first saw the design while I was still at Parsek I wasn’t sure if the title on the right would work but now that I’m surfing the page I actually think it does. There is one problem there though – if you visit this page (screenshot) you’ll see that you can see its title “About us” four times in a very small area. It’s nice to know where you are but isn’t this a little bit too much?


The next big redesign is the biggest Slovenian bank which redesigned their site after quite a while. I don’t really know what to say about the redesign – the last one was horrendous so this one is easy on the eye. It too got wider and restructured so people can find relevant information easier. The home page lists all the products for residents and businesses so you can access them directly.

If the design got overhauled the backend didn’t — if it did it got it fashion tips from the 90s. Validation returns a lot of errors and — prepare for a shock — the encoding is iso-8859-2. The number of non semantic elements is significant and inline scripts are there too (<SCRIPT language=JavaScript>).

The most interesting thing about the new page is the fact that it now uses “friendly URLs”. And how utterly broken they are. You could also say this page is a textbook case for how wrong things can go when you don’t think about them. So you’ll have two pages, one at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje and the other at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje1. I have no idea how that tells you anything about how the content behind these links is different. It would tell you more if the first was prefixed with /residential and the second one with /businesses.

Another funny thing I noticed is how banners are designed to look as if they weren’t images but rather just HTML parts of the page. The reason I noticed is that I was on the Mac while checking the page and since font rendering is different it looks really weird. I think I might have seen the same difference on Vista with ClearType on.

Zemanta Pixie

FOWD review

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

ChattingImage by adactio via FlickrSo I’ve come home from London where I visited the Future of Web Design conference. I decided to only visit the conference on Thursday, not the workshops on Friday. The reason for this is that I like to learn stuff by myself or by talking to other people – I’m not into group therapy.

This was my first Carsonified conference, the makers of web apps which help you send large files and match advertisers and newsletters and also a resource for web developers, designers and entrepreneurs.

Their conferences happen often and I’ve thought of going to a few of them before but I’ve usually been too busy. I decided to go this year and I’m not sorry I did – even though I heard some harsh comments about the program. I liked the conference – most of the talks were thought provoking enough even when what I already knew most of what the speakers presented. I must agree with those that complained over the sponsored talks – the first one was weird to say the least and the second one seemed more pristine (or I was just in a more naive mood).

The venue was ok – it was big enough for the 850 crowd but the lounge was way to small. The food was lacking, another problem being drinks – fortunately one of the sponsors was kind enough to give out water at the beginning and me being smart enough to take one then since it ran out even before the conference started. I was surprised at how the breaks were set – I would have expected them to be shorter and the lunch break to be longer – there was a huge crowd that had to find something to eat and be back in 30 minutes.

The pre-party sponsored by Media Temple was held in a pub with an open bar. It was great, but I was tired as hell so I left quite early. The after party was a completely different story – the free drinks ran out in the first 40 minutes, the club was way too small and the music was way too loud. I ran into Andy Clarke and invited him to Slovenia to speak at Spletne urice – I hope he’ll have time to come this year and share his views on the future of the web.

All-in-all it was a good conference with a few shortcomings and it’s well worth buying the conference in a box package.

I’ll also be speaking about the conference this Wednesday at Spletne urice with some of the other Slovenian attendees.


FOWD presentations, part 3

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

The last batch of presentations:

Unconventional ways to promote your site

Paul Farnell

A really amazing talk that started out by saying that SEO, AdWords are conventional and talked about unconventional means of promoting your site / service / app. The first point being satellites – small freebish stuff that doesn’t need much work but are a constant drivers of visitors to your main site / service (examples: Litmus CSSVista, 37signals Ta-da Lists). Another valid proposition is to join social networks and forums that cover similar stuff your app does – a link in your signature can also make a lot of visitors. A big driver is the word “free” but since you can’t have only free stuff the guys at Litmus decided to launch every payable product/service with a short period when it’s free to use – they’re counting on the buzz since you can test the app without lock-in. This is a different approach to giving 30 days of free service when you register since it creates a bigger buzz when you launch. The main lesson is that you need to be human – you need to show enthusiasm (toward technology and your product) in order to build trust which will in turn give you access to passionate users (if they trust that you can solve their problem they will ask).

Evolving the User Experience

Daniel Burka

There are numerous ways of designing stuff – building complex stuff or building a modular structure. The first will give you a great solution if you know most of the parameters and the second will give you building blocks so you can build whatever you want. The thing is that even the first solution gives you possibilities to change – a nice example are older buildings that are now used for something they weren’t designed for. The web is also a good place to follow the users – what they’re doing is a direction for design and feature list and there is no excuse not to listen to this important feedback (you can also do this in architecture for setting up paths – set them where people walk, cause that’s the user pattern that evolved with the use of the park). Subtraction is also iteration – don’t be afraid to add, remove or just change small thing in the design – if you are you can always only deploy such new features to a limited number of users to see whether it works or not. Fixing things doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch – realigning the design is much more difficult but will land better with the users. There’s also no need to innovate to do something better – stuff that is out there works and you need to find out how it can work in your site. You also need to think of the iteration process – how often you’ll realign the page and how fast you can deploy and roll-out changes.


FOWD presentations, part 2

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I was surprised at how big this conference is – according to a JavaScript that counts rows in the attendee list there’s 879 people in this hall.

Getting your designs approved: 12 Simple Rules

by Larissa Meek

A representative of the big agencies world (works for AgencyNet) Larissa delivered a nice checklist of what you need to think about when working with a big client. What I missed is possible solutions for this but this would probably require a dialogue and a day or two. The thing is, and it seems to be the theme here, that everything depends – on the projects, the client, the team,…

Photoshop battle

Jon Hicks, Elliot Jay Stocks, Jina Bolton, Hannah Donovan with commentary from Andy Clarke

The contenders were split into two teams – men and women. Women started the Photoshop battle and while the guys were chatting created the beginning of the final picture. After two iterations a weird image of Andy Clarke was the result. The chat was interesting and the result of the battle was hilarious.

Print and the web

Elliot Jay Stocks

A nice session about how web design relates to other stuff we know – print design, drama – and what the main meaning of design is. While print design has different limitation and different dynamics it’s a valid source of inspiration and technique copying for web designers – it should be the only one though.

From Design to Deployment

by Jon Hicks

Displaying how to change a design into a deployed page on the case of Cheesophile we got a few great tips from Jon. A technique I haven’t used before but I will try from now on is basic.css that is loaded in all browsers and sets the content for older browsers. What you do here is only add some color, maybe try to size fonts and of course add the background image that notifies the user that they’re using an older browser. An interesting proposition is also to allow users to tab to the “skip to …” menu – even though it’s hidden you could show it when people use tab to navigate through the page using the :focus modified in CSS. Another neat idea is to use some sort of framework for development and when you’re finished just go and set specific CSS rules to semantic class names.

Another thing Jon mentioned is how different font sizes are for different fonts – I had this problem a while ago when I was first starting to use the Vista ClearType fonts that are much smaller than your regular Arial font. So I created a script that would determine what font a certain tag is using and add a class name to that element so you could target that font directly. It’s a JavaScript enhancement so it’s not a perfect solution but it will help 90% of the people using XP without the new fonts. The thing is I never really finished that script so it’s not online yet – I’ll find it when I come back and put it online so the typophiles can use it to give a better experience with different typefaces on different platforms.

FOWD presentations, part 1

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

The first three presentations were great.

Finding Inspiration For Design

by Patrick McNiel

There are many ways of getting inspiration, what you need to know is that it’s an ongoing process. And the weirdest thing is that it comes from various places – so look for inspiration not only in your field but in other fields, adjacent or not. When looking for inspiration in your field use cataloging publications, so you can see how other people solve similar problems – for websites you can use Design Meltdown. You need to remember though – don’t copy!

User Experience vs Brand Experience

by Andy Clarke and Steve Pearce

The thing is that good experience is actually merging the two, not have them as opponents. If you think of these as opponents you’ll only get one thing when both are needed to create a good experience. This will hurt your client and your reputation so it’s important that you try to find the right point where you get the best from both worlds. You need to know that experience is like an iceberg – you only see a part of it (the part that branding wants to change) while most of it is below the line. And that’s the part that people will talk about when it’s good or bad.

While there are many ways to design stuff, some completely methodological, there is another way – genius design, where the designer does a design based on their experiences and try to think what the best way for a user to interact is. This kind of design doesn’t need (want) to be analyzed – either it’s right or wrong. They don’t need to be safe to be usable – you can do amazing and weird stuff, your experience as a designer will tell you how far you can go. If you fail that’s only a way to learn where that line is.

Designing the User Experience Curve

by Andy Budd

A great talk about how people experience stuff and what stays with them. With a lot of examples and great slides I can’t put my finger on a single thing that he said that really stood out – the whole talk was great so you really need to find a way to listen to it, the slides aren’t going to cut it. The keywords – first impression, usability, personalization and customization, attention to detail, feedback, fun, experience.

FOWD conference

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

MacBook ProImage via WikipediaI’m at the conference and going to conferences without a Mac is obviously a weird thing to do – everybody else has one. The irony being that I’m sitting in the Microsoft lounge and there’s a bunch of people sitting on Microsoft Expression and Silverlight beanbags using Apple computers.

The first thing to disappoint me was that they got my name wrong. I know I have a “weird” (non Latin1) letter in my surname but I thought that Unicode / UTF-8 managed to spread enough for it not to be a problem. Currently my name is “Mrdjenovi_” – yey.

The next thing was that we only got an Adobe plastic bag with a brochure of what’s going on in it. If we got a real bag with a bunch of stuff most of us would have to carry two bags around. But then again the invitation did say that we only need to bring ourselves. If I came with nothing on me I’d be pretty screwed.

Fortunately I found the cloak room and an O’Reilly stand. I left my coat and I now own Ambient Findability.