Category Archives: Web

Friendster Revamps: Now What?

Friendster just launched a new look and feel that makes it look more like a site that belongs to the new decade. But is it enough?

Friendster’s steady decline decline and getting leapfrogged by competitors MySpace and Facebook are well-documented and this latest move can be seen as a way to increase its value since there are talks that Friendster is about to be acquired by an Asian firm.

Now, what about the redesign?

The new design sports a 3-column template, changed from a 2-column design. From my perspective, this decision was sparked by better advertisement placement. The new design is able to place a large rectangle ad in a more prominent position in the right-side column. This change seems to be a nod to Facebook’s 3-column layout.

Another thing worth noting is the addition of the “Activity Stream,” or the list of updates presented in reverse chronological order. This feature is quite common in major social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) but it feels more like the one in Multiply.

Visiting the other sections of the site, there’s little departure from the original design as the photos, friends, and profile areas looks very much alike the old design. The addition  of an expanded games section may be hint to where Friendster is going.

As the grand-daddy of social networking sites, Friendster is trying to play catch up with Facebook in terms of the look & feel and features. But given Friendster’s prominence is South East Asia, it remains to be seen how the folks from the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia would react to the redesign.

3 Ways to Improve Your Web Usability Mojo

In cult favorite films like Rocky or The Karate Kid, the hero underwent a training regimen that improved their skills that enabled them to succeed. (Well, Rocky in the first film lost). But thank goodness that it doesn’t take a massive training like that to improve your knowledge on web usability.

Web designers and developers can do three simple steps to improve their working usability skills:

  1. Know Your Users – This step puts almost everything into context. By using any available method to elicit feedback from the target users, you can have a better what they really need to do effectively on the website.
  2. Design For the Users - Upon having a better idea what the users need,  the next step is to make it more easy for them to complete their tasks. Let’s take an online store for example: Place critical links in easier to access areas and make prioritized buttons like checkout or emptying the cart more conspicuous.
  3. Test! – A wise man said that simple testing beats zero testing any day, so try to test your design. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate lab set-up, but having an open mind get weird and unexpected from a user helps.

By doing those the simple things, your web usability will definitely be better. How much better? Well, that’s up to you. :)

Book Review: SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate

Joel Postman’s SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate may be lightweight in terms of pages (it’s under 200 pages), but the contents pack lots of good content for companies trying to get on the Social Media wave.

As the title suggests, the book is targeted to corporations who would like to put a Web 2.0 spin to corporate communications. The tone of the book is not technical– as a matter of fact, there is no code anywhere in the book. This makes it accessible to managers and executives that know something about the internet and marketing. One theme the book touches on is “Going for it,” that is, allaying some of the fears most corporations about social media (e.g. lack of control, unauthorized information, chaos, etc.).

There are easy to read case studies of how companies implemented social media to their advantage.  From corporate blogging, Twitter, and social media ethics, Joel Postman showcases the wide array of online tools in a practical and concise manner.  Also, the book touches on the fudgiest part of social media: measurement.

If you’re looking for a play-by-play guide for implementing Social Media-powered corporate communications, this book may disappoint. Postman gives a pointers approach to showing the way to the promised land of SocialCorp and chooses his words carefully to to avoid confusion. But if you ask me, SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate is a great starting point to begin the Social Media journey for companies.

My Y4IT 2009 Talk: Web Usability & User Experience Design

As I said in my previous post, I was invited to speak at the 2009 Y4IT Conference held at the University of the Philippines – Diliman in Quezon City and my talk was held yesterday.

Although it was my third year in a row to speak, it was my first time at the big stage. My talk, “Web Usability & User Experience Design,” was held at the University of the Philippines Theater and that capacity of that venue, by my estimate, is 3,000. Last year, I was at the UP Film Institute’s Cine Adarna, a place with at least 1,000 seating capacity. But regardless of the venue, both places were crowded and extra seats had to be provided to accommodate all the attendees.

As far as my talk went, it was pretty OK. I didn’t get nervous since there as an intermission my Pinoy Dream Academy finalist Liezel Garcia before I went on stage. The energy of the crown was pretty positive as I started. And this was helpful as I wasn’t feeling 100% at that time.

One thing I learned in presenting to large audiences is that the start has to be great. And with a crowd that was at least 3,000, I knew my start had to be better than great.

So I started to loosen up on stage and addressed the audience very casually (the attendees were primarily college students in their junior and senior years). Interestingly, I started off by telling the crowd that my talk was about, gasp, love.  Anyways, I got their attention and proceeded to transition to the meat of my talk: web usability and user experience design.

The most frustrating part about my talk was that when I asked the audience who did web projects in school, a very small, and I mean small, amount raised their hands. I could only see the negative in this. Either a) the audience wasn’t listening to me, or b) Information Technology students in the Philippines today are NOT into doing any web design or development. If the reason was the first, it meant I failed to do the necessary research about the audience and if it was the second, it meant that the future of web design in the Philippines doesn’t look good.

I also got feedback from a blogger who was part of the audience that the slide deck in Powerpoint that I used was great. (Although he was not convinced the audience was ready for my talk). But in anycase, any type of feedback is welcome. :)

Over-all, the experience of speaking before 3,000 people about usability was a blast. I hope the audience learned a thing or two about web usability and user experience design and I get to do this again next year. :D

Speaking at the 2009 Y4IT Conference

I’ll be speaking again at the Philippine Youth Congress in Information Technology (aka the Y4IT Conference). I’ve had talks in Y4IT 2007 and Y4IT 2008, and for the 2009 edition, I’m going back to basics.

The themes of my last two talks were about Web 2.0 (Social media, user generated content) and I figured either I take the notch up or blaze a new trail and I chose the latter. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about Web Usability and User Experience Design– two topics that I know pretty well and topics that are closer to my heart.

To be honest, I avoided talking about usability in the last two years because I felt I wanted to stretch my wings a bit, but now I feel that I need to remind the young IT college students again about the value of web usability.

So, for everyone who’ll be attending the Y4IT Conference tomorrow, expect the same nice talk from me on a very interesting topic. :)


This year’s Y4IT conference is full of very interesting topics and catchy titles and here are some that caught my eye:

  • Developing Web Toys - Mr. Luis Buenaventura II
  • Marketing Through Social Networks - Mr. J. Angelo Racoma
  • IT in the Early Grades- Ms. Sabrina Par
  • The 7 Habits of an Effective Developer - Mr. Chuk Munn Lee
  • The Next 5 in 5: Predicting Innovations  - Mr. Lope Doromal, Jr.
  • Love in Cyberspace - Prof. Cherrie Joy Billedo
  • Creating Dynamic Web Application Using ASP.NET 3.5 - Ms. Alezandra Nicolas
  • Democratizing Innovation Using the Web - Mr. Mark Ruiz
  • Empathic Computing: Innovations and Challenges – Dr. Merlin Teodosia Suarez
  • Innovation on the Web -Mr. Jay Trinidad
  • Internet Romance - Mr. Jayvee Fernandez
  • To Tumble, to Twitt; to Twitt: Perchance to Plurk: Ay, There’s the Rub - Mr. Juned Sonido

How NOT to Run an Online Store

I’ve been on the look-out for a nice wireless presenter for the last few weeks since I’m having several talks and classes in the coming month. I shopped online for my brand of choice (a Logitech Cordless Presenter), and I looked at several options online.

My search for the wireless presenter brought me to known sites like eBay, Amazon, and even Alibaba.com. I would have finished my quest for the wireless presenter earlier had a) the shipping costs were not more than the item cost, and b) the online retailers were shipping to the Philippines. (Argh!)

After weighing the relevant costs and my urgency to get the item, I decided to buy from a local retailer. So I looked at a few online stores and found that PC Express, one of the big PC retailers in the Philippines, carried the Logitech Cordless Presenter. I was quite happy when I saw that they had a stock of the presenter in their online store, so I proceeded to put it in my online shopping cart.

However, my fortunes took a bad turn after I clicked the “Add to Cart” button:

usability-fail

WTH?!? This is the reason my eCommerce hasn’t hit mainstream in the Philippines– the retailers themselves can’t get it right. :mad:

Microsoft-Yahoo!: Consolidation in the Search Business

The long-delayed partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo! is now a reality and this could mean one thing: it’s now a virtual two-man race in the search business.

This partnership between the two online giants would now have approximately 30% of the search engine market. The Microsoft-Yahoo two-headed monster is now pitting itself against the dominant force in the field– Google.

It’s pretty clear from the deal what both parties are getting: Microsoft is trying its darned best to make a dent in Google’s search business and Yahoo is in need of a big jolt to make up for its recent misfortunes (The company took a beating since rejecting Microsoft’s acquisitionn bid last year). Yahoo! Search will be powered by Bing and the company will be selling ads for the Redmond-based Microsoft.

From the customer point of view, it’s not much of a difference as Yahoo has never been known as a search company but a content-oriented company. Placing “Powered by Microsoft Bing” on the search pages will have little effect on the user experience as both Yahoo and Bing have emulated the look and feel of Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs).

If you ask me, Search Engine Optimization folks are probably the most affected by this development. Reducing the Google-Yahoo-Bing trinity into a Google-versus-Bing means less sites to optimize for, and this could result in easier work and fewer projects.