Desire lines…

Behind the offices I work in is a retail park. It doesn’t contain anything really useful for the workers in my work (the only place to buy food is Boots, which can be expensive) but at least it’s a change of scenery, and being able to nip out at lunchtime to get batteries, shaving foam, or even order a new sofa can be useful.

However the really interesting thing about this retail park is how people get to it from my work. We don’t follow the road, instead most people walk through a broken fence down the side of a carpet factory behind our offices. This is a shortcut, and takes us through some trees and onto the retail park in a few seconds. The shorcut isn’t particularly nice (in fact la inamorata refused to go that way once) as it gets muddy, and quite often there is broken glass and other signs of inner city life there. But the worn path throught the grass proves that people use it.

Reading this article from reminded me of this shortcut. Apparently, and I didn’t know this before, landscape architects take notice of where people want to walk, rather than where they laid the paths, around an area so they can redesign according to the users needs. It’s a revolutionary idea, and one that has massive potential implications for web designers.

What if we could do the same? Allow people to click anywhere on a page to get the information they wany, then collect those click coordinates and from the data redesign the site so it meets the users desires? I’m not sure if that would be technically possible, but it does seem an interesting idea to explore. Of course I’ve always tried to think as a user rather than developer when creating websites – even more so with web applications. I don’t like text that is too small, colours that don’t give enough contrast, unintuitive navigation and all the other bugbears of “normal” users, so I try not to put them in my systems. Hopefully I get it right more often than I get it wrong.

So, next time you’re going from the kitchen to the front door, try going the way you want to go rather than the way the path tells you to. If you partner/kids/mum asks why you’re clambering over the sofa rather than going around it you can say you’re just following your desire line.

Supporting open source software…

There’s been quite a bit of broo-ha-ha recently over the slightly dubious use of hidden articles to generate some cash for WordPress. WordPress
is pretty much the number one free “personal publishing software”, used
by many people as a simple and powerful blogging tool. The story is a
bit complicated, but the response from WordPress head honcho Matt brings to light a problem that will become more prevalent over the coming years.

How are people that give away stuff for free going to keep the wolf from the door? Open Source,
and therefore most of the time, free software is – I believe – going to
become more and more important on people’s desktop computers, just as
it has been on servers for many years. How the business model would
work to make that commercially viable I don’t know.

I’m pretty lucky as I have a good job and a wonderful family that together allow me to support myself and spend time doing the things I enjoy. Hopefully that situation will continue for a long while.

Edited at April 6, 2005, 10:14 am by geektimes

A labour of love…

Well, it’s finally happened. The monster I’ve been threatening for a while is here among us. Yep, the all-new
has finally been launched. Present at the official launch were: me,
although I missed the wild after-launch party. Anyway, take a look and
let me know what you think (although not using the contact form on the
site … it doesn’t work yet).

Edited at April 5, 2005, 11:25 pm by geektimes

The Cult of Userism…

I was a little shocked to read this article from Mr Zeldman regarding how web designers and developers go about building a system. He says that the question “what do users want?” isn’t asked enough. While I would agree with that, to a certain extent, I don’t believe it to be typical at all. After all, who are we building these systems for? The people that pay the bills, of course, but also the end users.

I couldn’t possibly dream of writing a system without putting myself in the driving seat, as it were. Designing for designings sake is nothing more than graphical masturbation, and developing for developings sake is … well, it’s just sad. Mind you, I shouldn’t be too surprised about Zeldman saying what he said in that article – he is known for having a cynical attitude towards design in general.

In other news… I had an interesting conversation with someone called Dave (I think) who I bumped into at my local bookshop. We (la inamorata and I) had just finished our very large and very fattening coffees, and I decided to look for a book about advanced DOM scripting. Dave was sat on the floor in front of the shelf I need to look at, and we got chatting. It turned out that he is a graphic designer with a particular passion for typography, who is starting to get into web design. Like a good web standards evangelist I encouraged him to learn about CSS, and gave him my card with a few useful web addresses that would help him. Hopefully he’ll be in touch, as I’m very interested in getting to know more designers/developers in the local area. Perhaps there’s a nearby group which I could join?

Anyway, because that’s yet another time I’ve passed on the same links to yet another person just getting into web design, I thought I’d put all these links into a useful reference page. So when my new website goes live – which shouldn’t be too long now – I’ll add a link here.