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. 😡

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.

Web Fonts & Typography: The Good & The Bad

A few weeks ago, there was some minor buzz about fonts and typography on the web. The story centered on the new updates on Firefox to support the @font-face rule in CSS. This rule can enable fonts from a remote location to be downloaded and rendered by the webpage calling it. (The status quo is that the fonts must reside in the user’s local machine in order to be used.)

To be honest, I’m over the fence over this development.

On one hand, I’m really looking forward to the use of new fonts as a native capability of web designers. The potential is just immense– designers will no longer be captive to the likes of Verdana, Georgia, Arial, and Tahoma, work-arounds such as image replacement techniques will be a thing of the past, and this may even open up new opportunities for font foundries. Accessibility-wise, tons of images as text will give way to properly styled text.

On the other, there are two main issues that keeps me from doing cartwheels all over the place: a) The potential misuse of the fonts, opening a Pandora’s box of new usability problems and even security issues; and b) the DRM of the web fonts. (How will people pay for the fonts & bandwidth?)

These two issues have the potential to be deal breakers but there are possible solutions to them.

For the usability issues, this puts the onus on browser makers to put better font override features to turn-off #font-face rendering. Designers must also anticipate the use of standard fonts as a replacement to the non-standard fonts.

The DRM issue is a little trickier. I seriously doubt that foundries will just give up their fonts– unless there’s a sponsor involved. Perhaps a company like Adobe or Google can sponsor fonts for designers. Another possible model is licensing where the company’s font servers can allow/disallow access to the typefaces based on a registry of licensed websites.

I’m pretty sure that the direction of web fonts & typography will go towards the @font-face direction, and I do hope that the stumbling blocks will be overcome.

Mozilla Labs Design Challenge Summer 09

“How do you improved tabbed browsing?”

This is the fundamental question the Mozilla Labs Design Challenge Summer 09 is trying to answer. More specifically, the design challenge is how to find new, innovative ways to create, navigate and manage multiple web sites within the same browser instance.

The context of this challenge is the inherent weakness of tabs: it can work for a few items (around 9-10 tabs), but it falters when the number of tabs goes beyond that. (Imagine tabbed browsing for 50 windows). I think the challenge is really to now go beyond tabbed browsing because I believe tabbed browsing has its place, its just that the environment & experience of web browsing is changing.

To join the design challenge, any person can submit an idea (that could even be scribbled on napkin) and a video uploaded in the major video sharing sites explaining the proposed solution to the tabbed browsing problem. The deadline for submissions is on June 12, 2009.

function() & .class Web Design Conference

I’m pleased to share the launch of the Philippine Web Designers Organization‘s big event for 2009: the <form> function & .class Web Design Conference.

The event will on July 10, 2009 at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City, Philippines. The conference aims to get every web designer in the Philippines, experienced and beginning, together and spend a day of learning and networking. The event’s program is as follows:

  • 8:00am-8:45am – Registration
  • 8:45am-9:00am – Opening Remarks and Introduction to PWDO by Sophia Lucero
  • 9:00am-9:45am – Design 101 by Rico Sta. Cruz
  • 10:00am-10:45am – Interaction Design by Nap Lara
  • 11:00am-11:45am – Web Standards, Accessibility and Usability by Regnard Raquedan
  • 12:00nn-12:45pm – Lunch
  • 12:45pm-1:15pm – Disabled Friendly Awards by Jojo Esposa
  • 1:15pm-2:00pm – Sponsor Talks
  • 2:00pm-2:45pm – Workflow by Marco Palinar
  • 3:00pm-3:45pm – Industry Tips by Gail dela Cruz-Villanueva
  • 4:00pm-4:45pm – State of the Web by Luis Buenaventura II
  • 4:45pm-5:15pm – Panel Q&A

We’re now busy marketing the event and looking for sponsors, and we need all the help we can get. If you know of a company that will benefit from reaching 400 young & tech-savvy folks in one single venue, please direct them to the event website. I guarantee that it will go a long way in helping the Philippine Web Design community. 🙂

Facebook’s New Design

Facebook's new design

I opened Facebook this morning and I was greeted by a new user interface. The site owners did send a notice a few days back about an impending change on the layout and interaction design of the social networking site. But for some reason, the design has left me scratchign my head.

On Facebook’s redesign last year, I thought it was a more gradual change and a better transition. When I saw the new interface last year, there more tooltips and helpers that guided users on the new layouts.

As for the user interface itself, it marked the return of the three-column layout in the user’s home page. (3-column layouts are utilized in other sections of the site). This move could have been a response to an insight that user’s monitor resolutions are getting bigger (or it might have been a response to the whole “Facebook copied Multiply’s design” issue that have festered since last year).

Either way, Facebook’s new design could disorient a great deal of users. For one, the site now mashes together the status updates, link sharing, note writing, and photo & video posting into one “Share” box. This could help power users, but the hidden labels could cause some user frustration.

Another is the combination of application events, photo comments, event announcements on the right column and calling it “Highlights.” Again this is another form of a generalizing strategy where Facebook thinks that the main column is better used with more status updates and less “noise” by default.

In my opinion, the most useful feature of the new interaction is the use of the right column to filter the stream appearing on the main column. It takes some getting used to, but it’s powerful, in terms of making the main news stream more relevant.

Over-all, Facebook could have made the transition a little smoother. The generalization philosophy and filtering mechanisms are great, but could be frustrating without the proper introduction.