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. 😡

Mozilla Labs Design Challenge Summer 09 Best in Class

A couple of months ago, I blogged about the Mozilla Labs Design Challenge Summer 09. This was Mozilla Labs’ sponsored competition that aimed to reinvent and reimagine the tabs in browsers.

The competition raised the question : Reinventing Tabs in the Browser – How can we create, navigate and manage multiple web sites within the same browser instance?” And several groups heeded the call and proposed solutions. Here are the very interesting design submissions that got the Best in Class:

There was also a People’s Choice award and it was given to CubeZilla.

Among the Best in Class awardees, I personally like the Wave Concept. Here’s the video of the presentation of the Wave Concept:

Wave Concept from Darby Thomas on Vimeo.

Looks very interesting and I like the preview aspect of it. It’s like a remix version of tabs and the “Speed Dial” feature in Chrome and Opera. 😀

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 tocreate, 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.

Mozilla Ubiquity: Hacking the Web User Experience

Mozilla Labs announced the alpha prototype launch of Ubiquity, a plugin that essentially adds some depth to the user experience in using the web. Here’s the video of the demo for Mozilla Labs’ Ubiquity:


Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

If you watched the video, you see that the Mozilla firefox plugin is introducing a novel way of interacting with Web 2.0 applications. It links together a pseudo-programming langauge based on natural human language in creating little mashups in your email, calendar, or even with Twitter and Wikipedia.

I see the potential of this new way of interaction because it will pave the way for voice commands in browsing. Imagine, if I find something inersting on the web, I could just select the URL utter “Twitter this!” and the url will be converted into a TinyURL URL and, Voila!, that’s my new Twitter status.

I mentioned before that participation will be a success factor websites, and this plugin will help websites “talk” to the Web 2.0 apps.