Archive for the ‘Information Architecture’ Category

Is your site iPhone ready? 3 Questions to ask yourself.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Apple did an amazing job of making the iPhone Safari web browser work with existing sites. But there are many sites it won’t work with. If you have a site that’s useless, or even hard to use on the iPhone, you should ask yourself the following questions:

a) What are the odds someone with an iPhone will view my site?
b) What will I lose if I don’t accommodate that user?
c) What is the cost/benefit of making my site work with the iPhone?

What kind of content do iPhone users access on their li’l web browsers? I, for one, mainly wait to look up sites until I have a nice big screen, unless there is an immediate need. I think it’s safe to assume this is typical. I’ve looked up restaurants and lodging. I’ve looked for particular retail stores (where can I buy a bottle of Advil at 11pm), and I’ve looked up attractions like parks, museums, trails… But you know better than I do, if you fit that list. If you do, it might be worth an investment.

What will you lose? If the transactions you handle are small, and the odds of finding customers this way are small, the cost/benefit may not be high, but don’t stop reading…

The other half of cost/benefit: What will it cost?
It might take a good developer all of 2-5 hours to make your site better, if not ideal, for iPhones. What should change?

Alternative home page: Got flash? You need alternative content for iPhone users. Even if the iPhone adopts Flash soon (we all hope it does) likely your Flash presentation will need rethinking given the scaling issues, and readability.

You don’t need to redo your whole site… Likely the user is just trying to find your contact information. IF you need to work on the cheap, just put your logo, what you offer (sales and/or services), contact info, and a link to Google Maps. You might also welcome them as iPhone users, so they know they’re looking at a special site, just for them. Why Google Maps, and not Mapquest, et al? Simple: the iPhone has a specially-developed Google Maps interface. It’s easy to use and navigate on the iPhone. When the user clicks the link, it’ll go to that map browser, automatically.

What else can you do?
If you have a modern XHTML site without Flash, it might work just fine. But there are little tweaks that might be worthwhile. Consider how the iPhone does web pages:
A double tap zooms into chunks of content on a page, and rotating the phone makes the browser wide, instead of tall. Links and buttons work pretty normally, but forms do some unusual things.

a) Put some line spacing in, so text is easy to read. This is called “leading” in the print world. I usually use 1.2em for small body text.
b) Put some padding between your buttons and links, so its easy to click the right link, not the one next to it.
c) Don’t make people click tiny icons.
d) Use <div>  tags with zooming in mind.
e) In forms, drop-down menus become scroll wheels. They might be a good choice over “Radio Buttons”.
f) Make frequently-used form fields (like login areas) widely spaced and easy to zoom. Try to limit typing, whenever possible. If someone types their information once, keep it in a cookie to automatically fill later fields (like the e-commerce fields).

These suggestions are just a start. Please comment below if you have other ideas! And if you have other questions, contact me.

The iPhone doesn’t do Flash (yet) and it also has a rather small screen.

Now my twitters show up in my blog sidebar, and my blog titles go out on twitter…

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Is this perpetual motion 2.0? Redux

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Back in early 2007, I did a site for John O’Dell called This was a good project, and it got me started doing fairly elaborate content-managed websites. It was done with a subcontractor who assembled it with Django, which is not a CMS out of the box, but a Python framework.

We recently rebuilt it, at the same domain, using WordPress.

In recent years, WordPress has developed a huge following of users and developers. One of the best things about it is the semi-automatic Search Engine Optimization features (SEO). It even integrates with Twitter.

In the last few months I’ve done sites in Concrete5, Drupal and WordPress. WordPress is ideal for people who need to GET FOUND. Drupal is great for large newsy sites. It has lots of plugins, but it isn’t as tightly conceived as WordPress. It predates Web2.0 so has not accommodated that thinking, throughout. But it might be better if you’re managing a site like a Newspaper or Magazine.

Concrete5 is very new, with all the Web2.0 buzzwords: Model View Controller architecture (MVC) being the key one. It also is the nearest thing to a wysywig (What You See is What You Get) editor. In some ways, it feels like a throwback to old-fashioned site design, but in a good way. In the template or Theme the developer (like me) whips up a nice page design, with several editable areas (called “Blocks”). Editors can insert a variety of different content types into the blocks: Navigation, images, video, forms… etc. The number of types of blocks will grow over time, if the developer community embraces C5. To add more to a page, you can simply edit an existing block of content, or add another above or below (or between) — No painting yourself into a corner with sort order… in other words, it basically breaks the pattern of “content management by database query” although that’s still what is going on, in the background. It’s very refreshing… but still a bit limited. You won’t find SEO features here, yet.

But the state of the art of WordPress is actually quite remarkably good and useful. The hard part, it turns out, is getting the client to understand how it works. John O’Dell, a bright fella by any standard, took two years of experiencing his blog, rebuilding it (largely on his own, with my coaching and coding) and exposure to several outside “experts” declaring the magic of blogs, to get it. Now he does, and his traffic is climbing steadily.


Saturday, March 21st, 2009

These animated diagrams are great to visually show how economics works. He should switch to Flash, so the images are clearer, and larger, without the download time. And a professional voice-over would be good. But this is by far the clearest way to explain economics.

And people need to understand economics, badly.

This is Information Architecture approaching it’s highest potential.

Memetic Heretic

Friday, November 10th, 2006

I just had the pleasure of talking with a grad student from University of Toronto. She included me in a survey of “meme makers” regarding media, society and the Internet in a “post 911 world”.

My li’l meme is the “worst president ever” logo.

It’s a little disturbing talking about memes, mainly because the meme-master of the universe has been Karl Rove for the last few years. The key to a meme is to get it repeated so many times people accept it as a defining “wrapper” around whatever cultural, political or business dogma is floating down the river of collective consciousness. The Repugnicans had one for every occasion from “it’s too complicated” which they all repeated to kill the Clinton Health Care plan, to the “FlipFlop” meme for Al Gore or the Swift Boating of John Kerry.

Memes run like wildfire through the conservative community… they dribble through the liberal/progressive community. Free thinkers don’t trend well. Go figure.

For awhile, it seemed the biggest meme about Democrats among Democrats was that they were too disorganized — not “unified” enough to defeat the Repugnicans. That, in fact, is the one thing I like most about Dems. They are free thinking, non-unified debaters. That, ladies and gents, is what democracy is SUPPOSED to be. If everyone just dittos the leadership, that is NOT democracy. Get that meme through your head: unified is NOT democratic.

So some of us decided to take certain weak memes floating out there and amplify them. Not cynically, mind you. I do think history will reflect on the Bush administration as among the worst in history. So, I made a design supporting that, and tweaking the noses of those pickup-driving dudes with the oval “W04” stickers.

To me, the last 10 years should be known as “the great American stupid” (this won’t catch, people won’t admit to stupidity – especially semi-smart people who were caught up in the big stupid). We threw out everything that was creating progress and flushed it, became addicted to fear, and lost our claim to being the greatest nation. Economically, socially, environmentally, we’ve declined. At least a dozen other nations have better economies, better health care, better education, better salaries, better vacations, fewer people in jail, and more respect in the world than the USofA, and that’s just a fact. No matter how often the liars try to create the meme “greatest nation in the world” we just aren’t any more.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we can come back. But to get there, we have to watch, and learn, and experiment, and yes, spend tax dollars on people, before weapons systems. Let’s start with clean energy/energy independence, and diplomacy. Let’s move on to create universal healthcare. Let’s create open and free curriculum for every subject and every grade, and improve teacher training – it’s for our common good, lets put it in the creative commons. Let’s treat drug addiction as a health care problem, rather than an excuse to lock people away forever. Let’s realize these people are self-medicating. If they didn’t have problems to start with, the drug problem would never have gotten a foothold in their miserable lives. Mental health care has a long way to go, but rapid progress is being made.

Let’s divert the military space budget to peaceful ocean studies. That’s where we can get all the water and power we need, without environmentally disastrous damming and burning and nuking. Let’s disassemble the nuclear bombs and the nuclear power plants and stop manufacturing by the ton the most toxic substance known to man, so we don’t have to find a place to store any more than we already have. Think how long 10,000 years is, folks. That’s a long time to store anything, much less something as lethal as nuclear waste.

Conservatives have labeled environmentalists as crazy, extreme, anti-business. Crush that meme. We all eat: we need healthy food; we all drink: we need clean water; we all breathe: we need clean air. It’s that simple. Companies can make as much money serving these purposes as they do spewing waste — probably more. What’s more, workers won’t be staying home on “spare the air” days taking care of their wheezing kids (10% of children in most cities in America have asthma, and emergency room visits radically increase on bad days). Allergies and asthma are skyrocketing: partly because of our diets, partly because of the amount of toxic materials in our lives, partly because of antibiotic abuse, and partly for reasons no one knows yet. I’ve lost 3 out of the last 5 years of my life to this. If my house hadn’t doubled in value, I’d be bankrupt because of this. Pollution costs us real money, people.

Progress is starting again… I’m hopeful.