Cleaning House

Well I finally got around to cleaning up the site here and upgrading the blog software. I had let things go for a while and pretty much had to start over with the site design. The fun thing is I got to try out some cool stuff that I have been using for some professional work, but did not have time to do for my personal site. I added a jquery image slider to the header. JQuery is really hot right now amongst designers because it makes adding powerful interaction and UI effects as easy as it can get. I also added a google font api for the site title text. This is really cool as it expands the fonts one can use in site design without having to resort to images. Google is offering these fonts hosted from their servers for free. If google ever turns that off, the CSS will degrade nicely using the other font family I have set for that particular design. Another good thing about this… It will not interfere with SEO rankings as your text is indexed with the emphasis of the surrounding tags. I hope to work on a couple of other designs shortly as I think it is really fun to make the site look completely different visually while still keeping the same structure and content.

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Google’s Chrome cr-48 Notebook

I signed up for the beta version of the Chrome OS notebook from google. I am not expecting that they will send it to me as I would be surprised if they have not already sent out all 60,000 beta models. Nonetheless, I would be very excited to get one as I think this is the future of computing and user experience. Between the google cr-48 and the Macbook Air the future of desktop/laptop experience is in these streamlined mobile/cloud based UIs. I think the one thing that google needs to port to the Chrome OS is the Android store. Just as Apple is releasing the App Store to the laptop/desktop, so should google allow users to run android apps in the Chrome OS. It is the perfect blend of an internet based experience and an app/platform focused experience.

I really love my iPad despite the numerous short comings and currently have a Macbook pro 15″ for work. However, I am really sold on the more portable computing functionality. Having transitioned from a desktop to a laptop to an ipad for most of my daily computing needs, it seems clear that the future will be more powerful yet more portable devices. The UI of these experiences will have to accommodate a variety of screen formats and sizes. If I don’t get a Cr-48 I will save my $ for a Macbook Air.

Section 508 – more than compliance

While you can use automated validators to measure whether you meet section 508 and WCAG accessibility guidelines, often making the interface usable for screen readers requires more. The validators simply tell you if you have violated one of the standard rules. It does not tell you if the user can make sense of whatever it is that has been written.

Also it should be noted that while section 508 seems mostly focused on users who use screen readers, there are a number of other disabilities that are covered as well including cognitive and other various forms of visual impairments. To truly satisfy users who need section 508 assistance you need to test with users who represent those types of users. Truthfully with many eCommerce sites failing at this, sadly the bar is set pretty low to meet their needs.

If your site has a global presence then you really need to meet the WCAG Level A or priority 1 requirements at the least. As WCAG is the standard set forth by the W3C it is best to follow what is set as a standard by this group. A great article on the differences between the two can be found here;
http://jimthatcher.com/sidebyside.htm

Other Accessibility resources are here;
WCAG
Section 508

Too many lofton dot something

So I thought I’d take a look to see what lofton domains might be available. Wow, pretty much everything is gone. I started doing web design in 96 and I should have registered the .com back then. It just did not occur to me to register a domain for my personal or professional needs. By the time I decided to register a domain the .com was gone. So I took the lofton.net domain in 2000. Since then, I check every now and again to see if lofton.com might be back on the market. I know it will never be available, but I check anyway. This time I thought I’d look into jimlofton.com. Gone! What’s worse, is it looks like some old guy has taken it and is posting yearbook photos and/or reunion photos. He is also keeping track of classmates who are deceased. Seems kind of odd to do on your personal site. There does not seem to be a way to contact him on his site so I checked whois and it came back with west virginia mailing address and a verizon email.

So here is the dilemma… Is it likely that someone may mistake this guy for me? On one hand I don’t think so, but because the guy has no info on the site it’s possible. The least he could do is put a regional location so that folks will know they have the West Virginia Jim Lofton and not the Chicago Jim Lofton. Actually there are two James Lofton’s in Chicago… I don’t know the other guy. I’m the Jim Lofton who started his career as a graphic designer and went to UIC and later Depaul. That should straighten things out… no? If you haven’t registered your name or have a domain that identifies you uniquely from all the other yous out there, you may want to check into that now.

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The Emotion of User Experience

Originally, I set out to write up the differences between user experience and graphic design as there are many web designers who promote themselves as experts in usability. I was enlarging it to cover pretty much all other participants in a web project, from product owners, marketers, to developers. Many of whom speak about the importance of user experience and usability, but do not understand how to actually ensure that it is incorporated into their process. Many more of whom who have never observed anyone using the product they create. However, I am going in another direction with this post as I find myself somewhat at odds with folks in my own profession, who after years of research have finally come to view users as people. The new buzz is creating interfaces/interactions that connect to a user’s emotions.

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The Fold Zone

More and more web designers are seeking to dispel the notion of the browser fold. Yet there is still the reality that users can not see all of a page’s content if it is taller than a browser window and they will potentially leave the page before discovering the additional content. There is often an email sent from the CEO or other senior manager stating that they want some graphic or link moved above the fold. This typically ruins the layout or requires major reworking to get things to fit.

I guess I should back up a bit and explain that the fold is an invisible line where the content of the page is not visible below the bottom of your browser window (and/or to the right side if there is also more content than can fit into one screen horizontally). It is borrowed from the print world where certain print formats such as newspapers and brochures are folded. The content that was most important appears on the front page before the fold to be sure that the consumer would notice it.

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Recording and conducting usability tests on the Mac

As of late I have been looking into what ways that I could record a usability session of an application on a Mac. Windows definitely has an edge here with the Morae application from techsmith. This is a feature rich application that captures a usability session as well as make it easy to produce some nice reports. It captures both the screen and if you have a web cam, the subject. There is nothing equivalent for the Mac. However, there are a number of tools available for Mac OS X that can perform most of the functions of Morae separately.

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