DigiGuide, keyboard failure and usability updates

If I receive another copy of that rotten Jacquie Lawson cottage christmas card I think I'll go mad. Decided at the weekend to clean my Dell Inspiron laptop keyboard. Mistake, now have a broken keyboard and am desperately scouring eBay for one - screws included as I was a bit over enthusiastic in getting it out. Mental note, leave to the professionals.

Updated my DigiGuide [http://getdigiguide.com/?p=1&r=4235] subscription today too. At £9 a year it's fantastic value for a piece of software I use on a daily basis, click the link above to get a copy.

Also in the past few weeks I've started building a few slideshows in Windows Movie Maker. That's been a revelation too. Very handy little program (if a touch unstable) and I've made a successful personal addition to a christmas present in no time.

Before Christmas - and depending on how my laptop fares - I'm planning on uploading all the recent banter surrounding the banner blindess debate [see previous blog] which extended on to the london-usability and uk-usability mailing lists. This has fed in to our design brief and is - in part at least - helping drive the concept development with our selected agency. Furthermore, I'm going to get round to posting screen grabs of various usability practitioners' desktops - do we practise what we preach?

Final tip is to use url shortening service TinyURL! [http://tinyurl.com] - helps to avoid all those irritating .jsp, .asp and php addresses that wrap and break in emails.

More soon.


Surprise Delivery / Banner Blindness / Forthcoming

Somewhat surprisingly I got a phone call this morning to say that the Panasonic was on its way. Despite being quoted 10-14 working days I find it's in my house within 3. Impressed.
Spent this morning having a think about online marketing. Specifically newsletters and banner ads. I'm shortly going to be required to assist on a banner ad project and I'm really cynical about their usage. I can't help projecting my own personal browsing interpretation on the experience. Personally I don't actually recall ever clicking on an ad - even if it's presented in a search engine. This kind of approach is affectionately termed 'request marketing' and the theory goes that you effectively sought out some information ('requested' it) and therefore you're more likely to use the ad to complete your goal. I think this model is wrong. I resent anyone telling me that their information is more relevant than someone elses or more useful than someone elses simply by virtue of the fact that they've paid for their ad to be optimised to a search request. I value Google's approach of page-rank (though I can't think of any users that actively vote on each page they visit) and web-designers that use META tags to optimise their page findability. A lazy effort to produce a pop-over or banner that glares in my face will not make me click.
But does it make other people click? Not according to Nielsen and the other supporters of the theory of banner blindness (and here). Users still follow the laws of cognitive primacy and Geshtalt ordering where the most important and relevant items are placed at the top and in semantically ordered groups. Imagine a 'real world' analogy where you're reading a paper. If someone was to throw an advert on your page and obstruct your view you'd be irritated and screw it up surely? This happens all the time on the web and you're forced to look around for the X or 'close window' button. The proliferation of pop-up blockers and the like are indications that users want to get back in control.
Trouble is. the client's going to want a banner ad - because they've had them before - and all they'll want to know is the click through rate. I'll have to start talking about loyalty and how much time the user is investing on the site and suddenly the issue swells. Perhaps it's time to take Jakob's advice (again!) and direct them towards a text based low-fi model and start thinking about click-through rates in a smarter way.
Anyway, future topics coming up include accessibility vs. usability (are they mutually exclusive?) and 'ho-hum' - how the web is becoming 'same old, same old'.
Have a good weekend. Oh, take a look at this link for some amusing management-style de-motivation pics.


Empirical Evidence

Disappointed today as I'd hoped to be able to purchase my new TV ... a Panasonic TX28PM11C from Empire Direct. They quoted me a decent enough price but delivery time of 10-14 working days. Shocking. I thought these warehouse places held massive amounts of stock. Still not sure whether I'll use the power of Kelkoo to source one cheaper and sooner - there's just something not quite right in my mind about using the less well-know online brands. It's a trust issue and I can't really put my finger on why I wouldn't but there you go.

Went and saw the chaps (Mark and Alex) from Creative Sponge on Friday. They treated us to a few beers and a decent chat about all areas of marketing and branding including some real down-to-earth perspectives on the future of the web and e-marketing. Their website's now advanced to a less embryonic state and gives a good taster of what's to come. Just as impressive as their hospitality and enthusiasm was the building they reside in. Andrew Gibbs' netherconesford development is incredibly welcoming. The history of the building is echoed throughout with original features but the place feels incredibly contemporary and worthy of such an aspirational and creative set of tennants. I can't wait until the rest of it is developed - including the wine bar.


staring at the white dot

The story broke yesterday but I've only got round to blogging it today. It might lose its novelty value quickly but while it lasted it might just be amusing to head in to John Lewis and kill every screen in the department with this little device: The TV-Be-Gone cycles through hundreds of standby codes to switch TVs off. The inventor tries to make some crass point about freeing the world from media but everyone knows this is just a comic-book style joke item. In terms of usability I guess it's quite apt, empowering the consumer and all that. Of course your actions might not have universal appeal. The flip side of the prank element is dealt with quite acerbicly by Gizmodo . The website to buy these things is - unsurprisingly - down due to bandwidth issues, try for yourself. There's a European version and a US-Pacific version apparently. I think £10 was the quoted price.

Anyway, in other news, I'm off to visit a new e-marketing and design agency in Norwich this afternoon Creative Sponge. Having taken a wander past their trendy King Street offices on a daily basis and taken an interest in their embryonic image via their site it seemed only right that I should meet the team behind them and find out more.

Right, time for a quick scoot round the web. It is Friday after all.


location location location

Having been asked to add a link to the theusabilitycompany on my main website smorgasbord-design.co.uk, I felt that now was the time to turn the corner and make the s-d site (an ageing workhorse of free usability information and one-time portfolio of my previous work...) into something a bit more up-to-date and content-managed. It used to be that I had time to update the site - it was, after all my only role. However, having secured more profitable daytime work I found the chance to chase my freelance dream was limited and I lost touch with the industry as a whole. This is the first chance to correct that mistake and start a blog where I can pass comment on usability I see around me and experience day-to-day. A little like Jakob but perhaps a little less learned? A work in progress.