Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Limitations and Guidelines

I've been working on a project where one of the personal goals I have set for myself is to try and maintain a consistent user experience. I'm well aware that "user experience" is often used quite loosely and if I were to ask a dozen people, I'd receive a dozen different answers. Regardless, I do think it's necessary to bring to light some of the things that have been surfacing in my head lately about online software development.

I'll first start by saying that I feel it's always necessary to maintain standards. Just as much as the iPhone has a consistent "swiping" animation, these visual aids --whether they're animation, behavioural or even just an underline on a text link-- need consistency. A user should be able to predict what happens when a cursor hovers over a button or when it is clicked. Intuitive design requires a level of predictability.

Even though the creative team has been rather reluctant with setting "limitations" to creativity, I've been trying to set guidelines. These guidelines are rudimentary at best, but they include standards for CSS, animation and behaviours on a per-project basis. Perhaps this may prove to hinder our designers, but I can't comprehend how ten different button rollover animations will help the end-user other than confuse them.

Friday, November 13, 2009


An interesting thing occurred just now. I wandered onto a Flash-based website and when I was about to start browsing, Mac OS X displayed a warning telling me that the application (Adobe Flash) was trying to access a specific font in my system. I'm conflicted. In terms of security, this feature is great. Yet in terms of usability, I think this is horrible.

This is the hypocrite in me speaking. I absolutely love the security features that Mac OS X has and have no reservations in tending to a few additional burdens provided that they are required. However, if I were a Flash developers with the intention of building an online Flash application, it would be upsetting to know that a portion of my audience base would get a security warning concerning them about a particular font.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

iPhone multitasking

I'm constantly ridiculing friends and coworkers over the fact that their iPhone doesn't support multitasking. Can you adequately keep an instant messaging application consistently "on" with the iPhone? No, at least not easily. Yet even though I'll callously joke about it, I do agree with Apple's business decision on locking out the feature.

On a purely technical level, allowing the iPhone to support multitasking means the possibility of applications being "on" all the time. Poorly developed apps with memory leaks will consume the phone's memory after prolonged usage, causing the OS itself to become unstable and the phones to be unreliable. The app store fuels this problem in that a lot of the popular apps are not built by Apple.

By supporting multitasking, there is a high degree of risk for these phones to crash unless adequate quality assurance is made. What happens without it? When a phone is mysteriously restarting, will a normal cell phone user understand that the third-party app is the source of the problem? Or will these users just immediately blame Apple for a faulty product?

In terms of branding, Apple's products have never been about being a highly-configurable, feature-rich workhorse. Their products have constantly been revered as devices that "just work". What does this entail? A reliable product that doesn't crash.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Third party warranty damages your brand

I walked into the nearest Future Shop yesterday evening with my friends to purchase an Xbox 360 as a gift for our buddy. During the purchase, the sales guy started telling us about the horror stories he had "heard" with Microsoft and the "terrible hardware" Microsoft was putting out.

It should be known that I own an Xbox 360 and it did fail once before. Less than one week after sending my defective unit to Microsoft, I received a replacement. Their expedient service was stellar, as was the experience I've had with Apple and Dell products. However, the sales guy at Future Shop painted a very different story, one which included:

  1. When the warranty expires, Microsoft will charge me $100 dollars to fix a defective unit and charge me for shipping.
  2. If I choose not to fix it they will charge me to dispose of the device.
  3. The sales guy "heard" from his friends about people who have had nothing but grief when dealing with Microsoft.
  4. The sales guy stated he would "never trust any Microsoft product" without additional warranty coverage.

I think it's pretty obvious that this sales guy gets a commission for every warranty package he is capable of pushing onto customers. However, for the sales guy to spread lies and conjecture, thereby making the product sound utterly unreliable, what sort of confidence should I have with Microsoft?

A more valid question: If Future Shop is partnered with Microsoft, should FS employees be ruthlessly destroying their partner's reputation?