Definition of a great user experience? No one notices it…

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 05-03-2015

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I’ve been using a range of different content management systems and data management engines over the last few years (well, actually over 10) and have a pretty good eye for a good user interface vs a bad one.  I think the one thing that really differentiates a good one is the ability for the user to use the system without having to really think about what they are doing.  The best uses of technology are the ones where the user experience is so good that the user is almost unaware of them having an experience, they are purely focused on what they are doing.  Take a mouse or a keyboard, or Photoshop, these user interfaces are so good, that they are ubiquitous and rarely questioned as being the best.  It’s a bit like where film producers choose to put Computer Generated Imagery Animation in films; this is another good example where, if done right, the viewer will not be aware of the vast amounts of technological expertise and hours of rendering that were required to make the scene of a dinosaur chasing a jeep through a forest or a building collapsing, they will just be immersed in the experience.  If you are looking to define the best user experience from the perspective of the user, then unfortunately, you should make it so good that they don’t even notice it is there…

The web carousel image

Web Project success carousel

Above is a diagram i put together which i thought i would share with everyone, it’s just a carousel of some of the key things to take into consideration when undertaking digital projects.  It’s a diagram, not a board game btw… :-)

Choosing a CMS

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 21-10-2010

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Choosing a CMS for your business is often overlooked as a pre determined piece of software that will do A, B and C.  Design agencies often spend many days, week and months getting the front end user experience right whilst they completely forget about one extremely important user group – the content editors.  These content editors will use the CMS all the time, and if they aren’t happy, then no amount of great front end user experiences will cure the fact that if content editors don’t like the CMS, or don’t understand it, they won’t use it, and the content will become dated.  The use of a tailored user experience for the back end user is as important as the front end in today’s competitive CMS environment, ignore this at your peril.

A great article on why choice of CMS is a very important piece of the puzzle for a successful web presence.  http://www.alistapart.com/articles/strategic-content-management/

Naymz.com is it actually any good? No.

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 05-07-2010

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Naymz Logo

I have been subscribed to Naymz for some time.  I don’t know why, someone once sent me a request and i did it.   I don’t like the interface, i don’t like the way that adding new people requests some random reference from them, and i don’t like the way that it does stuff without asking me.  It’s like a spam machine that i signed up for.  I do like the functionality that lets me know when someone has browsed my profile and i would pay money for that service if i liked the Naymz site and trusted it not to misuse my credit details like it misuses my personal details.  For example, I found out the other day that it has requested a reference from everyone who is on my friends list…  Did i ask for this?  Of course not.  Do i think that this is unacceptable.  Yes.   Would i like to know exactly who was looking at my profile – oh yes, i certainly would.

It also infuriates me that my naymz listing is occassionally higher than my linkedin or my twitter listing, they have obviously done their SEO homework, which is good to see.

LinkedIn have realised this and have now got a feature which tells you just the job titles of people who have viewed your profile, and if you pay for the premium service, then you can know their names too.  Most of the time you can work it out from their title though, not many companies have more than one SEO.  On that basis i think i might have to close my Naymz account… http://www.naymz.com/mark_boniface_1032868

New WordPress v3.0 – some interesting new features

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 11-05-2010

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WordPress 3.0 is now very close to being released.  For anyone who has been using WordPress 2.x for the last few years now, you will have been used to using the extensive blogging features, adding pages, adding your twitter feed, adding categories and tags.  It’s a powerful system and has obviously been extremely successful.  The new version of the software is going to take the software into a new era where you could use wordpress to create, rather than a blog with features of a website, a website with blog and social networking functionality.   I think this will open up the software to a much greater audience and greater potential.  I have frequently been frustrated by how the system which handles blogs so effectively, yet you can’t really use it to power a website that requires much complex navigation.

One feature that addresses this is the new navigation manager, which allows you to manage a multi tier navigation system in an intuitive and typically wordpress user interface.  The items are created and then the user can drag and drop an item either up or down the navigation tree, or to any other different level within the navigation structure.  This is a welcome change.  The handling of navigation structure is always difficult, only a few really manage a proper drag and drop structure, Alterian CMS for example is quite easy to use (if non open source and quite pricy at 20-30K) and Concrete5 makes a good effort at the drag and drop intuitive style,, so it remains to see if the wordpress one can work as well as this.

The next major addition to the 3.0 release is the ability to create pages with custom post types. In the past you could create a page as a post or as a page.  You will now have the ability to add any type of post as you see fit.  If you need News, Case Studies, Projects, biscuit profiles, anything you want, you can set these up and format them nicely.

Next big feature is – Taxonomy.  Not something oft used by your casual user, but in the world of the large organisation taxonomy is important.  The bigger CMS providers will sell you a taxonomy module for 10,000 GBP plus, so it’s an expensive feature.  It is the ability to categorise your content against either a standard or bespoke list of hierarchical terms.  Government organisations have standard taxonomies.

Another feature to hit version 3.0 is the ability to manage multiple sites from the one installation.  This means that the if your organisation have a number of blogs that you need to manage, you don’t have to log out and back in again and remember a thousand different passwords.  It may also give the ability to share content across different blogs, for example, being able to share items and media, which would be useful.

Which feature are you looking forward to the most?

Google Analytics – All my viewers are in London, UK… apparently.

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 19-04-2010

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Google Analytics

I’ve just been taking a look at my google analytics stats for Bonimedia. A lot more of you than i thought are actually reading what i say, which is kind of nice to know that there are people out there that do read this (although you all seem quite keen to not leave any comments!).

Google Analytics, UK Map

Google Analytics

After looking at the geostats, i seem to have a few fans in the US, some in Australia and a few across Europe, but over 90% of my viewers are based in London, UK. I guess this is understandable, i have worked there for over 9 years. I love Google Analytics and the way you can use it to get so much fine detail on who your audiences are. If you are reading this and you aren’t in London, please post a comment and let me know where you are reading this!!

Another interesting statistic, if you are into the demise of Microsoft’s horrific browser IE6, is that only 1.7% of all visits to my site were through IE6.  I like to think that my readers have got good sense, so thanks for proving me right and not turning up in some beaten up old browser from the dark ages!

Prevent failure – Stifle success

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 30-03-2010

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There are many ways to run a business. A design agency can for example be run in a variety of ways, either with no strict process, but just relying on the abilities of the team members and common sense to find a route to success via problem solving and entrepreneurial ability or to have a strict process that all project managers have to follow to the ‘T’, which gives them little freedom. It gives them very little ability to make any real mistakes, but also limits them in their ability to be problem solvers, to be creative and to be entrepreneurial and successful. The ideal situation is somewhere between the two. Enough guidance on the core process to make sure that the process is adhered to and that company standards are maintained, but with enough leeway for some creatitivity and for the ability for good individuals to flourish. If the process is too strict, it becomes a leveler allowing the worst client managers to deliver , but frustrates the best client managers as they feel like they are walking in treacle and they leave and go to somewhere they have more freedom.

Do you have the right balance?

Running a web agency is very much like…

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 23-03-2010

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I was in the gym the other day, watching James Martin making a very tasty looking plate of food, and i thought to myself that running a web agency is very much like running a fine restaurant.  You have to use the finest ingredients and the finest talent to tailor exquisite creations that keep a highly discerning and critical audience satisfied.  All of this to a budget and in a very defined timescale.  Take too long with your starter and the client might disappear.  The finest ingredients are the right technologies, the right kitchen talent is the right designers/ development team and the chef in charge of it all is the Client Services Director.  If the chef doesn’t rate the food then he shouldn’t let it out of the door, same with Client Services Directors.  The highly discerning audiences will sign off the design and user research/ information architecture in the same way as you consume a good starter.   The delivery of templates and prototypes are the main course where the user gets into the meat and 2 veg and is reassured that the presentation is excellent and that the meat is of good standard.  Then it’s onto the dessert, which is the build, and the User Acceptance testing is the coffee and the mint.  Next time you go to a restaurant or commission a website, think about the similarities…

Next time you talk to your web agency, try to work out if they are Michelin starred.

The future of TV.

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 06-03-2010

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I love technology. I only employ people who are passionate about technology. We are in a time when technology can help us to work better, to work smarter, to improve the environment we live in, to travel less and to communicate more. In the last 10 years we have seen a move from some people having broadband, to everyone having it. We have seen mobile phones become more numerous than people are. Everyone has skype, so a video conference with the other side of the world isn’t special anymore, it’s just normal. Physical media is becoming a thing of the past, so the CD, the Minidisc, vinyl etc are irrelevant.

MiniDisc logo

The only physical media that makes sense at the moment is blu-ray, as it allows the large amounts of data that are required for 1080p Hi Def playback with full dolby 5.1 surround sound, as our broadband networks are not quite up to streaming that yet. I can see it coming though. Take a look at the Vimeo HD channel and you’ll see that you can quite easily stream high quality content over your broadband connection, and it looks and sounds great.

In the next 5 years, i predict that traditional terrestrial television will become obsolete.

Broadcasting really only works when there is a small volume of content available and large numbers of undiscerning viewers. (undiscerning historically because they have so little choice).  In the future, you’ll be able to decide that you want to watch programs on any subject for as long as you like. Sky, Virgin, the BBC, all the main US networks and content repositories like Vimeo and Youtube will allow users to categorise content and tag it with keywords which means that the ability for anyone to find the content that they are interested in becomes easier and easier. The only problem at the moment is that 99% of the content that is user generated is utter rubbish. Have you tried watching Youtube for more than 30 minutes? You become frustrated at the number of 60 second low res mobile phone clips which are neither well lit, well shot or well structured, and are overlaid by thrash metal. Not my idea of viewing pleasure. i want to be able to find good content, easily and fast. At the moment i am at the mercy of what has been on Sky HD in the last month, but i can’t see the broadcast and record locally system lasting much longer… I look forward to being able to watch Hi Def content on whatever subject i like whenever i like…  I just need a way to filter out all the UGC 320×240 camera phone videos of some peasant trying to burn his rear tyres off overlaid by thrash metal…

Shame really, i liked physical media, i particularly liked the MiniDisc and the ZipDisc, may they rest in small shiny pieces.

Like the Honda advert, but better…

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Digital, Tech | Posted on 04-03-2010

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This too shall pass

This is a pretty cool, it’s like the Honda Cogs advert, but it goes on for ages and ages.  It must have been quite a feat to set this up, and it was a one take only mission.

Pretty cool.  I might just have to watch it again… Thanks to Clive Garrett for this.

Product: Keep it simple

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Posted by Mark | Posted in Tech | Posted on 13-02-2010

Swiss army knife image

This is one of the best features i’ve read recently.  All product design is based around the product doing what you need it to.  Other people might need it to do other things.  If you give in to everybody, you make your product impossible to use for everybody.  If you are strong and decide to focus your product on a particular type of user, or split it into different products, then users are happier.  In the situation that the product has been allow to grow with every request, the product will be obese with features and of little use to anybody.  Read Lukas Mathis full article: click here