Posts tagged ‘web design’


Facelifting the Lucire licensing site after 13 years

30.06.2021

After 13 years, it was time to facelift the Lucire licensing website.
   It’s a very familiar template, similar to what we used for JY&A Consulting a few months back. The home page copy we already had from a flier that we created late last year that Susan Ninan and I worked on; and the ‘About’ page’s text was mostly carried over (though it still needs 13 years of updates).
   I am surprised the old site still netted us enquiries but it was looking extremely dated. The 2008 design was positively archæological in internet terms. However, I’m not sure if the new one is particularly interesting, because the web design convention is to do something very simple at the moment.
   The old one was created with consideration for those who didn’t have mouse wheels, whereas these days it seems to be all right, even fashionable, to scroll away.
   Hopefully everything is more fit for purpose though, and the links are more useful. We’ve kept the code very light.
   And if you do want to license an international fashion magazine with an independent, authentic and engaged firm, you know where to come.



Above: The old and the new Lucire licensing sites—to my eyes, the old appears more creative, even in 2021.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology | No Comments »


Fixing Wordpress’s problem of fake bolds and italics

11.06.2021

I haven’t been able to find anything on this bug online, but it’s very common.
   As far as I can recall, all of our online publications that use Wordpress have themes designed or modified by yours truly. However, Lucire Rouge has a mostly bought-in theme, where my changes have been limited to a couple of CSS rules. The theme developer actually came in and helped us with a few modifications, which shows the extent to which he does follow-up for paying customers.
   But there was one thing he was never able to crack, and I don’t think it’s his fault, since it happens on a lot of websites, including Medinge Group’s (also a theme I did not design, though I did earlier ones). On both these sites, there were no bolds and italics. There still aren’t on Medinge’s.
   There are <strong> and <em> codes in there, but the bolding and obliquing are done by the browser. The font files actually aren’t loaded, so what we see are false bolds (the browser attempts to “overprint” the roman, duplicating the outline and shifting it marginally to give the illusion of a heavier typeface) and obliques, not italics (it’s the roman file pushed over 15 degrees or so). The former is particularly bad, as the outlines clash, and the result can be hollow glyphs, something that any font developer will know when one outline winds up accidentally on top of another in Fontographer or Fontlab.
   These Wordpress themes rely on Google Fonts (another sin, in my opinion) so I don’t know if the fault lies with Google or Wordpress, or the developer. If Wordpress does indeed power 70 per cent of websites, then I have to say the bug is awfully common, and I probably do see it on a very high percentage of visited sites.
   The themes allow us to select the font family, but the selection only calls a single font file from the family.


Above: A graphic clipping text from Lucire Rouge that I sent to the developer.

   The solution, as I discovered after months of toing and froing with Lucire Rouge’s theme dev, was to do your own font-linking rules in the CSS file and upload the fonts themselves to the relevant directory on the server. I must note publicly the ‘months’ were not his fault, but due to my own delay. I should not expect computer programmers to be typographers, either.
   It is something that one needs to watch out for, as the fake bolds and italics are horrible to look at, and must look amateur, even to the non-professional.



Above: Fixed at last by yours truly.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, media, publishing, technology | No Comments »


Facebook fooled us into thinking we were being creative

11.02.2021

My friend Keith has been away from Facebook for six weeks, for work reasons, and hasn’t missed it. And he asked, ‘Was it all really a waste of time?’
   I know you think you know what I’m going to say, but the answer might surprise you a little.
   Fundamentally, it’s yes (this is how you know this blog has not been hijacked), but Keith’s question brought home to me, as well as other work I’ve done this week, the biggest con of Facebook for the creative person.
   It’s not the fact the advertising results are not independently checked, or that there’s evidence that Facebook itself uses bots to boost likes to a page. The con was, certainly when I was a heavy user around the time Timeline was introduced, making us feel like we were doing something creative, satiating that part of our brain, when in fact we were making Zuckerberg rich.
   How we would curate our lives! Show the best side of ourselves! Choose those big pictures to be two-column-wide Timeline posts! We looked at these screens like canvases to be manipulated and we enjoyed what they showed us.
   Before Facebook became ‘the new Digg’ (as I have called it), and a site for misinformation, we were still keeping in touch with friends and having fun, and it seemed to be the cool thing to do as business went quiet in the wake of the GFC.
   And I was conned. I was conned into thinking I was enjoying the photography and writing and editing—at least till I realized that importing my RSS feeds into Facebook gave people zero incentive to come to my sites.
   This week, with redoing a few more pages on our websites, especially ones that dated back many years, I was reminded how that sort of creative endeavour gave me a buzz, and why many parts of our company websites used to look pretty flash.
   The new look to some pages—the photo gallery was the most recent one to go under the knife—is slightly more generic (which is the blunt way to say contemporary), but the old one had dated tremendously and just wasn’t a pleasure to scroll down.
   And while it still uses old-fashioned HTML tables (carried over from the old) it was enjoyable to do the design work.
   There’s still more to do as the current look is rolled out to more pages.
   Maybe it took me a while to realize this, and others had already got there, but most of my time had been spent doing our print magazines lately. But designing web stuff was always fun, and I’m glad I got to find that buzz again, thanks to Amanda’s nudge and concepts for jya.co, the JY&A Consulting site. Forget the attention economy, because charity begins at the home page.



Photo galleries, old and new. The top layout is more creative design-wise than the lower one, but sadly the browsing experience felt dated.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, technology | No Comments »


When fashion magazine websites begin looking the same

08.02.2021


Above: Vogue Korea’s website follows the æsthetic of a big lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

This started as a blog entry but took a tangent about 500 words in, and it was better as an op–ed in Lucire. Some of the themes will be familiar to regular readers, especially about Big Tech, but here I discuss its influence on web design trends and standardization. The headline says it all: ‘Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?’. Browsing in the 1990s was fun, discovering how people coded to overcome the limitations of the medium, and, in my case, bringing in lessons from print that worked. Maybe it’s an age thing, or the fact I don’t surf as much for leisure, but in 2021 the sites I come across tend to look the same, especially the ones that were in Lucire’s ‘Newsstand’ section.
   I do know of great sites—my friend and colleague Charlie Ward has his one, which does everything you would expect from a great designer’s web presence. So many others look like they’ve bought a template. As to those of us in magazines—I’d love to see something that really inspired me again.

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


Branding ourselves in the 2020s: a revamp for JY&A Consulting’s website, jya.co

05.02.2021

Last night, I uploaded a revised website for JY&A Consulting (jya.co), which I wrote and coded. Amanda came up with a lot of the good ideas for it—it was important to get her feedback precisely because she isn’t in the industry, and I could then include people who might be looking to start a new venture while working from home among potential clients.
   Publishing and fonts aside, it was branding that I’m formally trained in, other than law, and since we started, I’ve worked with a number of wonderful colleagues from around the world as my “A team” in this sector. When I started redoing the site, and getting a few logos for the home page, I remembered a few of the old clients whose brands I had worked on. There are a select few, too, that I’m never allowed to mention, or even hint at. C’est la vie.
   There are still areas to play with (such as mobile optimization)—no new website is a fait accompli on day one—and things I need to check with colleagues, but by and large what appears there is the look I want for 2021. And here’s the most compelling reason for doing the update: the old site dated from 2012.
   It was just one of those things: if work’s ticking along, then do you need to redo the site? But as we started a new decade, the old site looked like a relic. Twenty twelve was a long time ago: it was the year we were worried that the Mayans were right and their calendar ran out (the biggest doomsday prediction since Y2K?); that some Americans thought that Mitt Romney would be too right-wing for their country as he went up against Barack Obama—who said same-sex marriage should be legal that year—in their presidential election; and Prince Harry, the party animal version, was stripping in Las Vegas.
   It was designed when we still didn’t want to scroll down a web page, when cellphones weren’t the main tool to browse web pages with, and we filled it up with smart information, because we figured the people who’d hire us wanted as much depth as we could reasonably show off on a site. We even had a Javascript slider animation on the home page, images fading into others, showing the work we had done.
   Times have changed. A lot of what we can offer, we could express more succinctly. People seem to want greater simplicity on websites. We can have taller pages because scrolling is normal. As a trend, websites seem to have bigger type to accommodate browsing on smaller devices (having said that, every time we look at doing mobile versions of sites, as we did in the early 2000s, new technology came along to render them obsolete)—all while print magazines seem to have shrunk their body type! And we may as well show off, like so many others, that we’ve appeared in The New York Times and CNN—places where I’ve been quoted as a brand guy and not the publisher of Lucire.
   But, most importantly, we took a market orientation to the website: it wasn’t developed to show off what we thought was important, but what a customer might think is important.
   The old headings—‘Humanistic branding and CSR’, ‘Branding and the law’ (the pages are still there, but unlinked from the main site)—might show why we’re different, but they’re not necessarily the reasons people might come to hire us. They still can—but we do heaps of other stuff, too.
   I might love that photo of me with the Medinge Group at la Sorbonne–CELSA, but I’m betting the majority of customers will ask, ‘Who cares?’ or ‘How does this impact on my work?’
   As consumer requirements change, I’m sure we’ll have pages from today that seem irrelevant, in which case we’ll have to get on to changing them as soon as possible, rather than wait nine years.
   Looking back over the years, the brand consulting site has had quite a few iterations on the web. While I still have all these files offline, it was quicker to look at the Internet Archive, discovering an early incarnation in 1997 that was, looking back now, lacking. But some of our lessons in print were adopted—people once thought our ability to bring in a print æsthetic was one of our skills—and that helped it look reasonably smart in a late 1990s context, especially with some of the limited software we had.

   The next version of the site is from the early 2000s, and at this point, the website’s design was based around our offline collateral, including our customer report documents, which used big blocks of colour. The Archive.org example I took was from 2003, but the look may have débuted in 2001. Note that the screen wouldn’t have been as wide as a modern computer’s, so the text wouldn’t have been in columns as wide as the ones in the illustration. Browsers also had margins built in.

   We really did keep this till 2012, with updates to the news items, as far as I can make out—it looks like 2021 wasn’t the first time I left things untouched for so long. But it got us work. In 2012, I thought I was so smart doing the table in the top menu, and you didn’t need to scroll. And this incarnation probably got us less work.

   There’s still a lot of satisfaction knowing that you’ve coded your own site, and not relied on Wordpress or Wix. Being your own client has its advantages in terms of evolving the site and figuring out where everything goes. It’s not perfect but there’s little errant code here; everything’s used to get that page appearing on the site, and hopefully you all enjoy the browsing experience. At least it’s no longer stuck in the early 2010s and hopefully makes it clearer about what we do. Your feedback, especially around the suitability of our offerings, is very welcome.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, design, internet, marketing, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Have we stopped innovating in online publishing?

22.07.2020

For a while, we’ve been thinking about how best to facelift the Lucire website templates, to bring them into the 2020s. The current look is many years old (I’ve a feeling it was 2016 when we last looked at it), which in internet terms puts this once-cutting edge site into old-school territory.
   But what’s the next step? When I surf the web these days, so many websites seem to be run off one of several templates, and there aren’t many others out there. After you scroll down past the header, everything more or less looks the same: a big single-column layout with large type.
   I know we have to make things responsive, and we haven’t done this properly, by any means. The CSS will have to be reprogrammed to suit 2020s requirements. But I am reminded of when we adopted many of the practices online publishers do today, except we did them nearly two decades ago.
   Those of you who have been with us a long time, and those who might want to venture into the Wayback Machine, might know that we provided “apps” for hand-held devices even then. We offered those using Palm Pilots and the like a small, downloadable version of the Lucire news pages. We had barely any takers.
   Then Bitstream (if I recall correctly) came out with tech that could reduce pages to a lower resolution and narrower pixel width so those browsing on smaller devices could do so, and those of us publishing for larger monitors no longer needed to do a special version.
   So that was the scene 20 years ago. Did apps, no one cared; and eventually tech came out that rendered it all unnecessary. It’s why I resisted making apps today, because I keep expecting history to repeat itself. I can’t be the only one with a memory of the first half of the 2000s. As a non-technical person, I expect there’d be something like that Bitstream technology today. Maybe there is. I guess some browsers have a reader mode, and that’s a great idea. And if we want to offer that to our readers, it can’t be too hard to find a service that we can point modern smartphone users to, and they can browse all sites to their hearts’ content.
   Except I know, as with so many tech things, that it isn’t that easy, that in fact it’s all so much harder. Server management hasn’t become easier in 2020 compared with 2005, all as the computing industry loses touch with everyday people like me who once really believed in the democratization of technology and bridging the digital divide.
   Back to the templates. I wrote on NewTumbl yesterday, ‘Remember when we could surf the web pretty easily and find amazing new sites, and creative web designs, as people figured out how best to exploit this medium? These days a lot of websites all look the same and there’s far less innovation. Have we settled into what this medium’s about and there’s no need for the same creativity? I’m no programmer, so I can’t answer that, but it wasn’t that long ago we could marvel at a lot of fresh web designs, rather than see yet another site driven by the same CMS with the same single-column responsive template. Or people just treat a Facebook page or an Instagram feed as their “website”, and to heck with making sure it’s hosted on something they have control over.’
   And that’s the thing: I haven’t visited any sites that really jumped out at me, that inspires me to go, ‘What a great layout idea. I must see if I can do something similar here.’ My very limited programming and CSS design skills aren’t being challenged. This is a medium that was supposed to be so creative, and when I surf, after finding a page via a search engine, those fun moments of accidental discovery don’t come any more. The web seems like a giant utilitarian information system, which I suppose is how its inventor conceived it, but I feel it could be so much more. Maybe the whole world could even get on board a fair, unbiased search engine, and a news spidering service that was current and didn’t prioritize corporate media, recognizing that stories can be broken by independents. Because such a thing doesn’t really exist in 2020, even though we had it in the early 2000s. It was called Google, and it actually worked fairly. No search engine with that brand name strikes me as fair today.
   I am, therefore, unsure if we can claim to have advanced this medium.

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


A warning to those with rivers.pro tagcloud code in their Tumblr themes

31.01.2014

Does anyone have the rivers.pro tagcloud code in their Tumblr theme? If so, it’s time to remove it. The code forwards to a website which McAfee SiteAdvisor labels dodgy. It is very hard to remove from a customized theme, since every time the page loads, the forwarding takes place. You’ll have to find a way to stop the loading, then edit your templates.
   The code looks something like this:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://tumblrtags.rivers.pro/jquery.js"></script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://tumblrtags.rivers.pro/widget.js?css=default&minsize=80&maxsize=180&order=alphabetical"></script>

   I’ve advised Tumblr of this. Maybe they have some way to help Tumblr users.
   Incidentally, you may be asking, ‘Why is he warning people on his regular blog and not on Tumblr?’ The answer is simple: I am not allowed to.
   Every time I tried posting this message, this is what I got:

Tumblr warning on tagcloud code

Maybe Tumblr has already blocked the code?
   Regardless, if you have friends who use Tumblr, please get them to check.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


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!)

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


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 …

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No 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.

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