Posts tagged ‘redesign’


Sounds familiar? Works on all browsers, except for IE8

29.12.2013

I’m sure this is familiar to anyone who has done web development. Lucire has a new home page and the tests show:

Firefox on Mac, Windows, Ubuntu: OK
Chromium on Windows: OK
IE9 and IE10: OK
Safari on Mac OS X, Iphone and Ipad: OK
Dolphin on Android: OK
A really old version of Seamonkey we had at the office: OK
IE8 on Windows XP: not OK

   All the roman text is showing as bold, and as usual this is not a bug that I can find reported (I even looked on Google). I have found bugs about italics showing instead of romans caused by installation issues, which don’t apply here as we are using webfonts. There is another common bug about faux bolds and italics, but I’m having the opposite problem: a true bold showing up where romans should (and bold italic instead of italic).
   Annoyingly, this bug may have been with us for over a month—when we changed our body type.
   Given that IE8 was never a good browser to begin with, and anyone who cared about their surfing experiences would not have touched it, it makes me wonder if we should invest any more time trying to get things to work. It does mean that just under a tenth of our readers (or is it just over a fifth? Depends who you want to believe) won’t be able to experience our website the way we intended. I realize older IEs are more commonplace in China but our readership this year in the Middle Kingdom had dipped.
   The good news, in some ways, is Microsoft’s announcement that it will cease support for the venerable XP platform in 2014. If trends continue based on the first set of stats, the well obsolete IE8 should dip below the five per cent mark this coming year.
   It’s a toss-up between leaving it and fixing it, given that we don’t know why IE8 is misinterpreting the linked fonts (theory: are the character sets of the roman and italic too large for it to handle?). If we knew, then fixing things would be a no-brainer. (Clues are welcome!)

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Posted in business, design, internet, media, New Zealand, technology, typography | 2 Comments »


Tinkering time

19.02.2013

I’m hoping no one has noticed that we are shifting servers, because seamlessness is the sure sign that it’s all been done properly without any effect on our clients, their clients, and our audiences.
   Thanks to Nigel Dunn at Xplosiv.ly—Nigel and I have worked together both at this firm and, now, between our firms—all our websites are at a new home, running Nginx.
   The tricky ones were Lucire and Autocade, the latter needing a bit of surgery since I hadn’t bothered to update Mediawiki properly since I uploaded the software in 2008. Instead, over the years, I’ve patched it to ensure that viruses and spammers didn’t get in there.
   The wise thing to do is to make sure everything is running the latest versions, so Autocade was upgraded to the newest Mediawiki. As the original skin wasn’t compatible (nor was one of the extensions), the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed some minor changes to its look.
   Over the next week, you’ll see this website change. I’ve been wanting to tinker with my personal site since last year, when I realized the look was six years old. Two thousand and six in the internet world is, in human evolution, roughly when we started to walk upright.
   It’s not finished yet—far from it—but I’m still playing with the theme here on WordPress. Right now, the larger type should be clearer to read, and if there are no issues, I’ll roll this look out to the rest of the site, which runs static HTML pages.
   I will say it was easier this time than it was in 2006, so I must have learned a thing or two in that time.
   Your thoughts are welcome, as always.

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Posted in design, internet, technology | 1 Comment »


A fresher Lucire (the web edition) for 2013

05.01.2013

When Lilith-Fynn Herrmann, Tania Naidu, Julia Chu, Tanya Sooksombatisatian and I redesigned Lucire in 2012, we went for a very clean look, taking a leaf from Miguel Kirjon’s work at Twinpalms Lucire in Thailand. I’m really proud of the results, and it makes you happy to work on the magazine—and just pick up the finished article and gaze at it.
   But the website—where it all began 15 years ago—was looking a bit dreary. After getting Autocade to 2,000 models, and updating various listings to reflect the 2013 model year, it was time we turned our attention to Lucire.
   Like all of these things, the mood has to hit you right, and we needed a quiet news day—of which there are plenty at this time of the year. We knew where things were with the web: because of improved screen resolutions, type had to be larger. There may be—and this is something we don’t have any research on yet—people who are familiar with on-screen reading that some of the rules about line length might apply less. And some of the successful publications have multiple sharing—in fact, there are so many links to like or Tweet or pin something on each page that you can be left wondering just which one you press.
   The last big overhaul of the Lucire look online was in 2009, and the updates have been relatively minor since then. But it was looking messy. We had to add icons for new things that were creeping up. One Facebook “like” button wasn’t enough: what about people who wanted to become Facebook fans? Surely we should capture them? Maybe we should put up a Pinterest link? That went up during 2012. We had 160-pixel-wide ads for years—so we kept them. The result was tolerable, and it served us reasonably well, but did people still browse Lucire for fun? Or was it just a site where you got the information you needed and left again? Bounce rates suggested the latter.
   While some of these things were noted subconsciously, we didn’t have a firm brief initially. We simply decided to do one page with a new look, to see how it would go. We had the print editions in mind. We knew we wanted clean—but we still had to eat, so advertising still had to take up some of the page. We also knew that the lead image should be 640 pixels wide, and that that would have to be reflected on the news pages.
   I’m glad to say we got lucky. The first page done—a redesign of Sarah MacKenzie’s BMW X1 first drive, which originally went up with the old look on January 1—worked. It had all the features we wanted, even if it meant abandoning some things we had had for a long time, such as the skyscraper ads. The callouts could go. In fact, we could remove the central column altogether. And the ‘Related articles’ could be moved to the bottom, where they used to be. And we stuck up plenty of sharing tools, even if good design says they introduce clutter, so we could capture users at the start and the end of an article—but we used different templates for each one. All the social networking pages we had could go to the top of the page in a row with ‘Follow us’.
   The trick was then to repeat the look on other pages.
   The ‘Volante’ index page is the only one so far to be brought into line with the new template, just to try some different layouts. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, though fashion ed. Sopheak Seng believes it’s clean enough. Practically, it is where it should be, but I want some visual drama in there. We’ll see—I think Sopheak might be right given the function of the index page, and it is heaps cleaner than how it used to look.
   The home page, of course, is the biggie, and I’m very proud to note that there’s been some great DIY there. While the slider and Tweets appear courtesy of programming that its authors have distributed freely, it’s a nice feeling to be able to say that they are on there because of in-house work, using Jquery (which we last used internally at JY&A Consulting’s website), and not a convenient WordPress plug-in. Time will tell whether it will prove to be more practical to manage but I think it already is.
   I’ve summarized in Lucire some of the features, but there were just sensible things like getting rid of the QR code (what’s it doing on the website, anyway?), the Digg link (yes, really), the Nokia Ovi link (not far from now, kids will be asking what Nokia was). We have removed three of the six news headlines and grouped the remaining ones in a more prominent fashion—which might mean people will need to scroll down to see them, so I can foresee them being moved up somehow. But, overall, the effect is, as Sopheak notes, so much closer to the print title.
   The slider has solved some problems with Google News picking up the wrong headline, too. I realize the big omission is not doing a proper mobile-optimized version but we need to do a bit more learning internally to deliver that properly. The news pages, which are on WordPress, have the default Jetpack skin. We have made some concessions to mobile devices and Sopheak tells me it is more browseable on his Samsung.
   And today, the look went on to all the news pages.
   I mentioned to him today that it was very 2002–3. That period, too, saw Lucire get a redesign, standardizing things, making the pages cleaner, and in line with a print style (although at that point, the print edition had not been launched—though when it did, we adapted some of the look from the site). That look lasted us into 2006, perhaps longer than it should have been, given that we had some internal issues in that period.
   It’s only natural that some clutter will be reintroduced as the years wear on—in Facebook’s case, it only takes a few months—but, for now, we’re hoping that bounce rate goes down, that the team, as a whole, feel far prouder of the work that appears online where it’s seen by more people, and that we have future-proofed a little.
   So what were the lessons? (a) You need to keep on top of developments, and, even if you’re not the richest company in the world, you need to have someone thinking about how you look to the public. If smaller companies can manage teams more effectively, then they need to ensure there’s strong loyalty—and that the feedback about things like the website are collated, either online or kept with one team member who champions the change. When a redesign happens, you’ll need to solve a lot of problems in one go. (b) There is no substitute for doing—and even getting it wrong on occasion. What we’ve done is to phase things in—just so we can learn from any bugs. (c) And after the job is done, take some time to enjoy it.
   There’s probably no surprise when I say that this site is next. I know, it has links to different blog readers. It looks very mid-2000s. Which is no surprise, considering when it was designed 


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Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Less Tumblring, less Facebooking—are email and blogging back?

03.01.2012

I’ve been noticing my Tumblr usage drop, and judging by the count here, my updates to this blog have fallen to a bit of a low this year. But, as Tumblr drops, this blog seems to be rising. I imagine 2012 will bring with it another change in how we all share our thoughts online.
   I can’t say for sure why we change from one medium to another. Maybe it’s boredom, maybe it’s due to the things we want to share, maybe the technology has provided us something new. Maybe it’s the need to get back to business after a bit of a lull during the recession: our 2011 billings were up over a relatively quiet 2010, and success breeds success.
   Novelty was the case with Facebook Timeline when I switched over to it in September, but with all its changes recently—such as the nearly endless scrolling we have to do before we get to the month’s summary—the cleverness has worn off.
   To me, what was ingenious was seeing how Timeline chose its selection for the month. I didn’t need to scroll back eight days to see what I wrote just after Christmas. But, someone at Facebook decided we needed that function—as well as a second friends’ box that duplicates the first, but with people’s names next to their photos. Facebook: they are my friends. I know their names.
   In other words, it’s turned into the old Facebook wall, but an untidy version of it. No wonder some people hate Timeline (to the point of Facebook shutting down its own Timeline fan page?): they never got to see the ingenuity of it.
   I made this analogy before, but it’s like the first Oldsmobile Toronado: a pure design in its first year, getting more ornamented with each model year, so much so that the purity is lost. So why even bother changing?
   And, of course, there was Facebook’s predictable failure to recognize any time zone outside the US for the fourth time. In fact, as with October 1 and November 1, Facebook once again thought that its entire 800 million-strong user base resides in California. With Timeline now open to the general public, you would think that they would have remedied this very old bug, but, remember, 11 months ago you couldn’t even restrict your friend search to Paris, France. Paris, Texas, Paris, Arkansas, and Paris, Illinois, sure. Since for a while those pommes frites were called freedom fries, the geographical geniuses at Facebook saw fit to remove the French capital. Did they hire Kellie Pickler as a consultant?

Or was there an edict inside Facebook that it isn’t 2012 till Mark Zuckerberg proclaims it is 2012?
   The difference was, this time, I wasn’t the only schmuck complaining about it on Get Satisfaction. Thanks to the larger audience affected over 21 time zones on the planet, Facebook received plenty of complaints. Once January 1, 2012 hit the US east coast, the number rose even more dramatically, if Twitter is to be believed.
   So if I’ve got tired of Tumblr, and I’m not happy with Facebook forever introducing bugs on to what was quite a clever concept in Timeline, then that leaves this place.
   I’ve grown accustomed to the look since I first created this template in the mid-2000s. I forget which year it was (which is unlike me) but I believe it was 2005. This blog dĂ©buted in 2006 after I stopped blogging at Beyond Branding, and at that stage, the template was already done.
   I mentioned that I felt it had dated in a Tweet last month, and found agreement. Friends, if you think it’s dated, you are allowed to tell me earlier! The whole personal site needs a rejig, and that might be something I work on in the New Year (my one, not Pope Gregory’s one).
   On that note, ideas are welcome. I already have a few for its look and feel, and I may simplify the structure to cover my key interest areas. And if I like the new look, then it may render the other places redundant as I toy with how my future posts appear.

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Posted in design, humour, internet, marketing, USA | 5 Comments »


Facebook Timeline gets rolled out: here come the complaints

16.12.2011


Above: My Facebook Timeline, as it appeared in October.

As more of the planet gets on to Facebook Timeline, it’s been interesting to watch reactions.
   When Facebook went to a new layout three years ago, plenty of people—myself included—went to an anti-new Facebook group. Most were there because they didn’t like change, threatened to leave, and failed to carry out their threat. It was like those who said they would stop reading tabloids after the Princess of Wales died—as circulation rose the following year.
   I joined not because I disliked the change—I thought the redesign was quite good—but because Facebook never did any testing and we were the guinea pigs. The new design was about as reliable as a Wall Street banker, and given it kept failing, I joined to voice my opposition.
   No such issue with Timeline, at least not till regularly. Having been on it for two months, I haven’t come across the concerns the majority have—at all.
   Here are a few I’ve heard, including in the mainstream media.

My privacy is compromised. How? Timeline has exactly the same settings as Facebook had, prior to Timeline’s introduction. I didn’t like these new settings when they were introduced in mid-September, because I was used to shutting my wall off to certain people (e.g. those having a company name on a personal account—yes, I did want to hear from the company, but no, I don’t know who runs the account), but I could see the merit of having public posts which rendered such a setting irrelevant.
   If there was a time to complain, it was three months ago. If you’re complaining now, you’re well late. I doubt Facebook will make any changes since relatively few of us made any complaints when the privacy settings were changed last quarter. Those of us who knew were probably spending more time figuring them out and protecting ourselves.

People can now see what I posted x years ago at an instant. Among the changes was a setting that allowed you to restrict all past posts. That was a new privacy entry that wasn’t there before September. Use it and restrict them to yourself, or yourself and your closest friends. I never had this problem, since Facebook always had different classes of friends—at least since I joined in April 2007—and my statuses were always customized to different audiences.

People can now go back to a particular year and find out more about me. True, but see above.

It’s ugly. This is one I have some sympathy with. Design is subjective, and there is some merit to the argument that Timeline introduces extra elements on to the page (see below). The rule of good design, in my book, is the reduction of elements. So in some ways, I can understand this complaint, but, I rather like the idea of a “timeline” going down the middle, and I can see why Facebook used the two columns: to minimize the need to scroll.

I can’t go back to the old Facebook. I always thought it was clear that when you changed, that was it.

   As usual, my problems with Timeline seem to be different to those of the general public.

Two friends' boxes

Why two friends’ boxes? When Timeline was introduced in September, it was actually cleaner than it is now. There was one friends’ box: in the header. Last week, when it was rolled out to New Zealand, a second box was introduced that was completely superfluous.
   I joked that this was typical of American design. They start out with a clean design, like the original Buick Riviera or Oldsmobile Toronado, or even the Ford Taurus, and then they add unnecessary stuff to it and clutter it up. That’s what’s happened with Facebook.
   This second box is probably not helping people understand what Timeline is about, and it does contribute to its clumsy look. Amazing how one thing can ruin it, but that’s how design sometimes works.

The location settings. When Facebook allowed friends to tag you at a location, it also gave us the option to approve each tag. Problem: this has never worked properly if using Mobile Facebook. Even when you change the settings to allow automatic tagging, they don’t tend to stick and the tags plain disappear regardless.

Timeline doesn’t work on the 1st of each month. If you’re in New Zealand, tough luck. Your Timeline will stay frozen on the last day of the previous month for most of the day, because the new month doesn’t start until the Americans say it starts. Prior to that, the new month wouldn’t start till the Californians said it starts. Presumably, this is why the New Zealand roll-out didn’t happen on December 1. The error has been there for three months now.

You can no longer use the lists properly. This was a huge surprise, when Facebook stopped me from selecting ‘Limited Profile’ in any privacy setting, be it a status update or a photo album. This has still not been fixed. I traced the bug to Facebook’s new inability to add fan pages to your lists. It still allows you, but beware: adding a fan page to any list will render it inaccessible for your privacy settings.
   Not many people seem to care about this one, though there are complaints about Facebook’s ‘Smart Lists’ on its fan page. The majority doesn’t use them, or was unaware they even existed till this year, calling Facebook copycats for taking a Google Plus feature. As mentioned above, it’s certainly been there since the mid-2000s, so I’m unsure how Facebook in 2007 managed to copy Google in 2011.

I’ve got to scroll down a long way. At the time of writing, I have to scroll down six days before I can see my December summary. Before the roll-out, Facebook had this fixed at a number of posts. I preferred it before—again, this lengthy scrolling is contributing to the public’s concerns about Timeline’s concept and their privacy.

The Friendfeed and Tumblr plug-ins no longer work the same way. Facebook will gather up a series of posts before it puts a summary into a Timeline “box”. The Tumblr ones have totally disappeared. (Tumblr has been notified.)

   Despite my many misgivings about Facebook, especially about its privacy changes over the years and the imposed defaults that it got a lot of flak about, I have increased my usage at the expense of Tumblr and other services. I now make public posts for the subscribers—those I choose to have outside my friends’ list. When Facebook killed my Limited Profile last week, I spent some time doing a cull—I’ve cut my list down by about 80 people, including those I was on a business club with but who never shared a single Facebook post with me in two or three years. (‘I must have killed more men than Cecil B. de Mille.’) In my mind, these have all been healthy moves.
   Popping by others’ pages is a bit more enjoyable, seeing what graphics they have chosen for their headers, although I have spent very little time visiting. I have spent some time “filling in the gaps” over November with pre-2007 statuses and photographs for me, and adding locations to other statuses.
   In most of these cases, only my real friends know them: that’s the beauty of having availed myself of the privacy settings since day one—and keeping an eye on them on a very regular basis.
   Facebook never took a step back, so I’m afraid no matter what our complaints are, they’ll fall on deaf ears. Even after posting the solution to their newly introduced lists’ bug on to Facebook’s Lists’ Team page, they haven’t lifted a finger to fix the fault—but, then, since it doesn’t affect the boss, it might never get fixed.
   As long as their member numbers keep growing, Facebook might think itself impregnable, even if I like Timeline. Altavista once thought it would remain the number-one website in the world, too.

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Posted in business, design, internet, New Zealand, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


How I’m consuming social media: the October 2011 edition

29.10.2011

I realize I’ve blogged less in general this year. Once upon a time, when I blogged less here, I was over at Vox (when it worked), writing personal, cathartic posts, sometimes directed at a limited audience. But now, and I never thought I would say this: Facebook seems to be where I’m directing some of my activity.
   The big attraction came on September 25, when I upgraded to Facebook Timeline. Since I’ve worked in visual communications for most of my life, Timeline’s look appeals to me, and, like others who favoured the revamp, I spent some time experimenting with it. Naturally, I also rechecked my privacy settings—a must whenever Facebook makes a change. And, I am sure Mr Zuckerberg will be happy to hear, I began sharing more.
   It’s that human trait of wanting instant gratification from what you’ve shared. Vox was good for that: you regularly got feedback to the limited-audience posts from your closest “friends” (many of whom have become real-life friends). Facebook, which has, since I joined in 2007, allowed us to share different things to different audiences (I’m surprised when people think that this was a recent addition to the service) offers something similar, but till recently its user interface did not appeal to me.
   Tumblr was one of the few places that was more graphically driven, but there’s such a culture of reblogging there, and I never felt too comfortable sharing anything more than a few original photos and some pithy thoughts.
   Facebook became the service between writing long blog posts (here) and pithy reblogs on Tumblr. I could share photos with select audience members. If I had queries, I could direct them to one of the circles of people that Facebook, this year, encouraged everyone to set up (my five haven’t changed since Facebook allowed us to set up groups of friends beyond ‘Limited Profile’). And the feeling of instant gratification was there for things you wanted people to know about—that strange human need of knowing that you were heard.
   I wound up putting some things on Facebook that I would have put on Tumblr a year ago, even if it was to a closed platform, and even if it was to a limited audience. It was “my” limited audience, after all, a group which I knew would appreciate the content. It wasn’t that personally knowing the audience seemed to compensate for the cowardice of not putting something out there publicly—it was the knowledge that it would be seen, and “liked”. We humans need so little to get a kick.
   I know there’s Google Plus, but it’s just not for me. That has been covered elsewhere, but the smaller contact number there has no appeal. Of the 50-odd who have added me to their circles, I have a few real friends, all of whom I can reach more easily through email.
   This seems to be a round-about way for me to advise people that you can catch me on Facebook. For non-friends, I have opened up my account to subscribers, and occasionally write public status updates, or share public photos and links. I’ve also taken the backward step of setting up a fan page, where I record some of my business and political thoughts which are a bit more in depth than the minutiĂŠ of life that form Facebook status updates.
   Then, there is Twitter, which I found myself using a lot less of since everyone went to ‘New Twitter’. New Twitter means an extra click for everything, and it’s far slower and buggier. Only this week have I switched to Twitter Mobile, even for my desktop and laptop, just so I can make a quicker judgement about whether to follow back a follower, and Tweet more reliably without an ‘Oops! We did something wrong’ message.
   I’m not so bold as to proclaim that Facebook is “it”, given the criticisms I’ve levelled at it in the past. I still have concerns over its privacy, just as I have concerns over Google about its terrible record. But, credit where it is due, whomever was responsible for Timeline seems to have understood the needs of some of its users. I know it’s annoyed some people—I have heard of one Facebooker who has used his account less since Timeline, because it turns him off—but, for me, it seems to be one of the better thought-out changes in the nearly half-decade I have been on the service, and fattened their wallets with my private information.

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Posted in business, culture, design, internet, media, technology | 12 Comments »


New Twitter, less utility?

16.12.2010

I might have to go on to one of those Twitter clients, when “new” Twitter is forced upon all users soon.
   When it eventually began working (it didn’t initially), I liked the new Twitter’s overall look. It was only missing one feature: telling us what the last Tweet of the person was at a glance. I didn’t want to click on each person to see what their last Tweet was.
   Knowing what the last Tweet was allows me to make a judgement call about whether I follow that person back. Sometimes you can tell if the Tweeter is actually a spammer, sending automated Tweets that you have no interest in following. For instance, these are my newest followers (sorry, folks—but since anyone can see you, I’m sure you won’t mind being used for this exercise):

Latest Twitter followers

In each case, I already have an idea who is worth following back, and it saves me some time. (I won’t comment on whom I have followed back out of these four.)
   The new Twitter is a little slower because it loads so much more—yet I don’t get any more utility from it, based on my usage.
   We all adapt, just as we did with wholesale changes to Facebook and other services. But I wonder whether it will be like Digg or Technorati, or, for that matter, Infoseek and Altavista (remember the portal gag? I think Google does), where changes scared people away.

PS.: Based on Twitter’s own ‘Help Center’, the bug I reported three months ago is still present for a lot of users. While the bug disappeared for me around six weeks ago, I’m now dreading the change, being one of the first people to encounter it when the new Twitter was launched.—JY

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Posted in design, internet, technology | 2 Comments »


Anyone else with a new Google results’ page?

25.02.2010

Google results' page

Anyone else have a different results’ page layout for Google? Only began happening this morning (NZDT) to me, though I imagine others must have this by now.
   Despite my fairly regular moans about technology, I seem to be among the first to get some features. I remember getting the Digg Toolbar about two or three weeks before it was mentioned on Mashable or one of the tech guides; ditto with YouTube when there was a layout change there; and I managed to get the Twitter lists on the first day. Have I been among the early ones this time?
   I’m pretty blasĂ© about the whole thing. I think I’m suffering from Google fatigue after spending much of the last few months dissing them and their failings. This change doesn’t really annoy me, especially after all the other dodgy things that have been happening at Google.

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Posted in design, internet, USA | 1 Comment »