Posts tagged ‘web design’


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 »


Fifty minutes to file a bug report at McAfee

16.06.2011

Being a helpful netizen costs too much sometimes.
   I found a very tiny bug in McAfee’s latest version. In Eudora, instead of ‘McAfee Anti-Spam’ in the menu bar, the latest update has caused those words to read ‘%COMPANY_NAME_NEUTRAL%Anti-Spam’.
   To be a helpful netizen filing a bug report (and I am used to that taking two minutes all up), here’s the process I followed today.

11.30 a.m. GMT: Search for McAfee Support in Duck Duck Go.
11.30: Arrive at http://www.mcafee.com/us/support.aspx.
11.33: Unable to log in, despite being a McAfee customer.
11.35: Unable to create a new account, because it has asked for a ‘Grant number’. All the guys called Grant that I know are asleep.
11.35: Go to the ‘Contact Us’ page to give feedback and find a link to service.mcafee.com. I click on that.
11.36: I select the affected product. McAfee offers me the choice of ‘Free Technical Support’.
11.36: McAfee insists I download and run the McAfee Virtual Technician. I do.
11.48: McAfee Virtual Technician has completed its scan and claims all is well.
11.49: I am taken to the FAQs where I have to search for my error.
11.50: After finding that none of them fit the bill, McAfee presents two options: ‘Click the Continue button to go to Chat, or Finish to close this session.’ I select the former, as the matter is not concluded.
11.52: McAfee prompts me to enter my country and language.
11.52: McAfee gives me the options of chatting or emailing. I chose the former as it says the wait time is 2 minutes, versus 24 hours, plus the 11.50 a.m. prompt said the option was to ‘Chat’. I enter the bug report into the comment box, and expected a tech would get back to me within two minutes to confirm receipt.

Below is the transcript of the next 20 minutes, with one edit made for privacy reasons.

GoToAssist (11:54:29):
Thank you for contacting McAfee Consumer Support. An agent will be with you shortly.

Customer (11:55:11):
Hi there: I don’t actually need to be walked through anything. I wanted to make sure you got the bug report I just filed. The only button available after writing my report was ‘Chat’, so I pressed it.

Sangeetha (11:55:45):
Jack, thank you for contacting McAfee Online Support Center. My name is Sangeetha.

Customer (11:55:55):
Hello Sangeetha.

Sangeetha (11:56:23):
Your Service Request Number for this chat session is 700641817.
Sangeetha (11:56:33):
Is this your first contact with McAfee Technical support in this week, including today?

Customer (11:56:42):
Yes. I wonder if you received my bug report just now.

Sangeetha (11:57:07):
McAfee will communicate with you through the email … please confirm if this email address is valid.

Customer (11:57:16):
It is correct, thank you.

Sangeetha (11:57:33):
Thank you for confirming.

Customer (11:58:07):
Is there anything else you need from me to complete the report?

Sangeetha (11:58:10):
As I understand, you have sent the bug report and it prompted to chat?

Customer (11:58:25):
Yes, that is correct. I just want to make sure the report arrived there.

Sangeetha (11:58:30):
Thank you for confirming.
Sangeetha (11:58:38):
I apologize for the inconvenience caused. I will be glad to assist you with this issue.
Sangeetha (11:59:02):
May I know when you got the bug report?

Customer (11:59:19):
I sent it immediately before this chat session.
Customer (11:59:34):
I imagine that was 11.50 GMT.

Sangeetha (11:59:50):
When did you get the bug report?

Customer (12:00:06):
No, I didn’t get a bug report. I sent one.

Sangeetha (12:00:29):
Why did you send the bug report?

Customer (12:00:50):
To be helpful to McAfee so it could remedy it for its next update.

Sangeetha (12:01:44):
Did it prompt you to send the bug report while updating McAfee?

Customer (12:02:19):
No. I found a bug in McAfee. I then went to your website to tell your company about it. I simply want to make sure you received it.

Sangeetha (12:02:45):
May I know if you are using the same computer to chat with me?

Customer (12:02:50):
Yes, I am.

Sangeetha (12:03:00):
Okay, I would like to obtain system information from your computer. Please accept my request and grant me access to this.

Customer (12:03:12):
Sangeetha, I am not sure why you need to do this.

Sangeetha (12:03:34):
I just to check your system information.

Customer (12:04:00):
I think we have to stop there. I do not believe this is relevant to whether or not your company received a message from me.

Sangeetha (12:05:52):
You might have sent it to McAfee engineering team.

Customer (12:06:46):
I may have. I used your website and entered in the issue at: https://service.mcafee.com/UserInfo.aspx?lc=1033&sg=TS&pt=1&st=CHAT
Customer (12:07:11):
It is the only place where I could enter anything to report a bug, after the FAQs revealed nothing.

Sangeetha (12:08:53):
I would request you to send the report through email instead of chat by logging in to the same website.

Customer (12:09:31):
What is the correct email address?

Sangeetha (12:12:01):
There is no particular email address. likewise you did the chat.

Customer (12:12:14):
OK, how do I send this email to you in that case?
Customer (12:12:25):
Is there a web link that takes me to an email form?

Sangeetha (12:12:52):
Instead of chat you can select email option.

Customer (12:14:43):
I will look for it now.

Sangeetha (12:14:59):
Is there anything else that I can do to assist you with your McAfee products today?
Sangeetha (12:15:24):
You can contact us back if any issues further.

Customer (12:16:00):
Thank you, Sangeetha. Have a nice afternoon.

Sangeetha (12:16:32):
You may receive an email survey asking for your comments on this chat experience. Your feedback will help to ensure that I’m providing the highest quality service possible.
Sangeetha (12:16:38):
For all of your Customer Service and Technical Support needs, please visit http://service.mcafee.com Thank you for visiting McAfee Online Support Center. Have a great time.
Sangeetha (12:16:44):
Thank you for choosing McAfee. We appreciate your business and your feedback. Have a great time.
Sangeetha (12:16:53):
Good bye…..

Customer (12:17:19):
Good bye.

   I found the email link, and maybe I should have opted for that to begin with. I can’t fault Sangeetha for being polite and helpful—it has come a long way since the beginning of the century, when McAfee had pretty rude forum techs—but surely it can’t be too hard to give us an easy-to-find bug report form that would take a minute to fill in? All this nonsense with grant numbers, downloads and Virtual Technicians (which, I might add, does work quite well when there is a set-up cock-up) makes little sense, especially as all software has bugs and there should be room to report them.
   I want my 50 minutes back.

PS.: The email response has come from Nagaraj. Sounds he has exactly the same script as his colleague. Here we go again. What is the bloody point?—JY

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Posted in business, India, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Jack tries another Firefox beta—we all know what happens next

15.01.2011

Title says it all. Except this time, it’s not just the fonts. No link in a Google results page is clickable: in fact, Google hangs the entire browser (though I can still scroll up and down—yay). The program, after clicking on the close icon, stays in the Task Manager for at least 10 minutes (I force-closed it after that). The fonts are, as before, unresolved:

Firefox 4 Beta 9 display
Firefox 4 Beta 9 display
Firefox 4 Beta 9 display
Firefox 4 Beta 9 display
Firefox 4 Beta 9 display

   But, I hear you say, these are all sites that you have done, Jack, or which you’ve modified, so it’s obviously you being crap at web design. (Forgetting for a moment that these sites all work on Firefox 3, IE8 and Opera; Chrome has some difficulties with embedded fonts.)
   Fair call. Let’s look at some other sites, then, done by people who have collectively forgotten more about web design than I have ever learned. For this exercise I won’t pick sites that have specified Verdana and Georgia, because, for some reason, they work fine. Must be Mozilla cosying up to Microsoft or something.
   Aisle One. They know a bit about web design.

Firefox 4 Beta 9 display

Hmm. Or This Next?

Firefox 4 Beta 9 display

Now, Creative Review. Surely they will have a good choice of typefaces and have it all working.

Firefox 4 Beta 9 display

Maybe not.
   Or, you might say, it’s your fonts, Jack. You’ve specified fonts you’ve designed and they’re obviously not as good as the stuff from your competitors. (Ignoring that of the above, the text set in Lucire works on the This Next site, and my fonts appear in the embedded lines in our own company’s sites.)
   I thought Khoi Vinh, the former design director of The New York Times, would know what he was doing. Here’s how his blog looks:

Firefox 4 Beta 9 display

In fact, the only typeface that displays correctly is one of mine. Linotype Helvetica does not.
   How about Adobe Systems? They make fonts, and they use specify them on their own site.

Firefox 4 Beta 9 display

Ditto: my font appears, theirs doesn’t. (The Adobe home page is fine: its Myriad embedded font comes down OK; for the Reader page, I have Myriad installed, and I can’t see it in the top line.)
   I’m back on the crash-prone Firefox 3 and when I get a bit of time, I’ll send this feedback on to the developers. I hope they get the font issue fixed but in three betas, they haven’t. And I have to search on Duck Duck Go (no complaints there) because Google doesn’t work with Firefox 4.
   Given my concerns about Google over the last wee while, that’s one error I can live with—but I doubt if 99-plus per cent of netizens will.

PS. Here is the nearest bug I could find, and it has been going on since Beta 1. This user is seeing Neue Helvetica displayed as gibberish—not boxes, but random characters in the correct font. The advice from some Firefox users on the support forum is ‘delete Helvetica, use Arial’. This, to a design professional, is the same as ‘have toothache, pull out all teeth’.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, USA | 4 Comments »


Chrome’s dramas continue as it hits version 8

08.12.2010

It looks like Chrome has updated by itself, and as with all improvements to software, more bugs have been introduced.
   You can blame our programming skills, but here is how the home page of Lucire now looks (and it had looked like this on Chromium a couple of months ago, too):

Lucire home page on Chrome

Below is how it looks today on Firefox, but it looked roughly like this on old Chrome, as it does on Opera, IE8, and Maxthon, using HTML techniques that we had used since there was HTML:

Lucire home page on Firefox

   Here’s another regular Chrome bug, where it just misses text altogether (though the text usually returns on a reload):

Lucire home page on Chrome

The same bit on Firefox:

Lucire home page on Firefox

This is one annoying browser if it can’t even display basic HTML text.
   As expected, none of my reported bugs (incomplete font menus, inability for Chrome to switch character sets when encountering different languages on a page) have been fixed—but, then, that’s the Google way.
   Meanwhile, Firefox 3·6·12 has returned to its extremely crashworthy ways (four times per day), despite the tech help from two friends. One friend, Andrew, suggests I should call these Flash crashes, rather than Firefox crashes, because it could be Flash at fault. Certainly there are enough times when the plug-in container crashes just prior to the whole browser failing. On the Mozilla forums, there is another user who has a clean install of Firefox with no plug-ins, and he reports constant crashing, too.
   Browsing through the about:crashes in my Firefox reveals an error headed by:

nsGlobalWindow::cycleCollection::UnmarkPurple(nsISupports*)

in the majority of the last 10 cases. Here’s Mozilla’s page on that error which, if I read correctly, they haven’t a clue how to fix.
   I wish I could roll back to the stable 3·6­·10, and, as mentioned, 3·0 was one of the most stable releases Mozilla had till it got into the double-digit sub-subversions (it must have been around 3·0·12).
   Programs crashed as often 15–20 years ago, but usually that was due to memory or disk space issues. Code just seemed tighter, programmers were able to do more amazing things given the constraints, and the software more efficient. Now they crash on the oddest things and, it seems, every browser is anachronistic in some way. All I ask is for a browser that: (a) does not crash when you blink your eyes; (b) displays the complete font menu; (c) does not change font because you have used quotation marks or a ligature or other characters within the set font’s character set; (d) kerns and allows font-face; (e) changes font when it realizes that the selected one lacks glyphs for a foreign character set; (f) interprets HTML properly.
   Right now, here’s how they stack up:

  a b c d e f
Firefox 3·6·12   * * * * *
Chrome 8       *    
Opera 10·63 * *     * *
Internet Explorer 8     *   * *
Maxthon 2 *   *   * *

   Chrome is by far and away the quickest on the block, but when it messes up on everything else, it’s just not going to cut the mustard. It might crash less often than Firefox but it still crashes, and it does other things poorly. Someone wake me when Chrome comes out of alpha, because that’s where it belongs; or when Mozilla acknowledges the feedback that 375 people (and counting) are having with Firefox constantly dying on us.
   If Opera can sort out its font issues, then it has a real chance of being the best browser out of the lot.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, USA | 7 Comments »


Happy birthday, Lucire

21.10.2010

Lucire home page, October 20, 1997
Above The first issue of Lucire in 1997. Below right Lucire’s first iPad cover.

[Cross-posted at Lucire] An hour ago, we turned 13. Normally this wouldn’t have merited much of a mention, since 13’s not the sort of number people tend to celebrate. But I happened to be up, after a long day catching up on emails post-election, while head designer Tanya Sooksombatisatian sorted through our New York Fashion Week images.
   Earlier this evening, fashion editor Sopheak Seng and I attended a fashion show for La’ Shika Bridal, held at the Museum Hotel in Wellington, and had good chats to the bridal designers and jewellery designer Victoria Taylor, sister of Rebecca.
   I sat at a similar desk in 1997 when we started Lucire and uploaded the new home page, replacing a placeholder, at precisely midnight NZDT on October 21. (I even timed it.) That translated to October 20 at 6 a.m. in New York. At the time, the US market was the primary one online, so I tended to notice what the time was over on their east coast.
   It was a 386 running Netscape 1-point-something that displayed Lucire’s first edition here. The monitor had a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. We developed it on Windows 3·1, but tested it on various Power Macs. I coded the home page by hand and did the first graphics.
   We’ve gone through a lot—a print edition from 2004, a short-lived venture in Romania in 2005–6, and we now face 2011 with print in four countries and an iPad app that will go live any day. A cellphone edition has been around for a little while, though it never took off. I was in it for the long haul, but I really didn’t think specifics. We had a general direction, and we seized the opportunities as they came.
   There have been many times when I have publicly thanked the people who got us here, and many of those who I named in December 2008, when I celebrated 21 years in business, were responsible for getting Lucire to where it is. Since then, Andrew Matusik, Victoria Jones, Sopheak Seng, Rola Saab, Jon Moe, Seka Ojdrović-Phillips, Samantha Hannah, Joseph Ungoco, Leyla Messian, Ashleigh Berry and Sylvia Giles must be added to the list. The many Massey University graduates who have tirelessly helped—Roanna Bell, Uma Lele and Brigitte Unger come to mind—as well as Gemma Conn from Waikato Institute of Technology.
   I won’t say the journey has been easy: in fact, it’s been very tough. But I’m very glad that Lucire has been a medium through which many people have been brought together to do something we all love. We have been a change agent in the past, and that’s something I’m conscious we need to continue, through being on the forefront of new media. And we’ve introduced our fair share of labels, many of which have become big names. We’ve provided many people with coverage when others ignored them—discovering then that all they needed was that leg up to get to the next stage.
Lucire Ipad edition cover, photographed by Andrew Matusik   I still remember the fact that we were one of the first to interview Zac Posen and Kathryn Wilson as she graduated from university, and covered Rebecca Taylor at Gen Art. Lucire published the first series of sustainable style editorials in an international fashion magazine with Summer Rayne Oakes in the earlier part of the century.
   To all our readers, thank you for being with us on this journey. I am mindful that we are merely stewards of the Lucire brand, and that it belongs to us not in law, but in spirit. We’re going to keep engaging and we plan to be with you for many more anniversaries to come.

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Posted in business, design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, USA, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Beyond Branding Blog removed from Blogger today

23.02.2010

As of tonight, the Beyond Branding Blog, where I first cut my teeth blogging, is no more.
   The posts are still there, but no further comments can be entered on to the site. The nearly four years of posts remain as an archive of some of our branding thought of that period.
   The blog had a huge number of fans in its day, but as each one of us went to our own blogs, there seemed little need to keep it going. Chris Macrae and I were the last two holding the fort in late 2005. Since January 2006, no new posts have been entered on to the site. No new comments have come in a year.
   Google’s announcement that it would end FTP support for blogs in May spurred me into action, and I advised the Medinge Group’s membership this morning that I would take it off the Blogger service.
   I altered the opening message to reflect the latest change.
   I was very proud of the blog, because it was the first one I was involved in. It was also the first I customized to match the look and feel of the rest of the Beyond Branding site, which I designed in 2003. While the design is one from the early 2000s, it has not dated as much as I had expected.
   Beyond Branding’s core message of transparency and integrity remains valid, so while the blog is no longer updated, I think the book remains relevant to the 2010s.

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Posted in branding, business, design, marketing | No Comments »