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.

MSNBC Redesigns

MSNBC

MSNBC recently unveiled a new design a few days back and it seems to address the perrennial problem of portals: How do you optimize what’s “above the fold?”

If you compare it with the old design, the new version extends the horizontal space (which is a nod to higher resolutions) and it makes use of the horizontal menu for pull-downs. The vertical pop-up menu, the thing that annoyed me in the past, is still there, but streamlined. I’m also impressed about the clean, web standards-compliant code the ste has.

However, the search function still uses the old template and the home is a long scroll. But I do like the new design and over-all, the site got a Web 2.0 make over.

November 8, 2007 is World Usability Day

World Usability Day

World Usability Day, the event that advocates the easier to access and simpler to use of services and products important to life, is today November 8, 2007. This year’s focus is Healthcare.

This year, 40 countries will celebrate this day by having usability-related events. From Graz, Austria to Montevideo, Uruguay, usability communities will tell the public about the importance of usability. Here in Manila, we will be having a small forum about usability at the University of the Philippines Information Technology Training Center.

Does Web Participation Need to be Location-specific?

I was surfing and visiting Movies.com and when I came upon a movie I wanted to put a comment on (in their case, a “tidbit”), I was prompted to login. So I dusted off my 8 year old Go.com account and proceeded to the post a comment page.

However, the big surprise is when I got to see this message upon clicking the post link:

We’re sorry – we have detected that you are visitng movies.com from a location outside the United States.

We invite users from all over the globe to explore all the content on movies.com, but, unfortunately, we have to limit participation in our community and user-generated content features to US visitors only.

Thank you for your understanding, and for being a fan of Movies.com.

If I really wanted to, I could spoof my location, but that’s not my point. Isn’t this whole “US-only” an anachronism? Well, Movies.com isn’t exactly what you can call a new school Web 2.0 site, but shouldn’t participation be more open?

Top 100 User-Centered Blogs

The Virtual Hosting Blog recently had a feature on the Top 100 User-Centered Blogs and the very comprehensive list includes Standard Web Standards at #31 in the list.

I’m honored to be part of the roster that includes Signal vs. Noise, 456 Berea Street, ./with Imagination, Functioning Form, This is Broken, Adaptive Path, Boxes and Arrows and A List Apart.

The Top Ten User Experience Gurus

2007 seems to be landmark year for definitive lists. There’s the New Seven Wonders of the World, The AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies, and then there’s the Top Ten User Experience Gurus from the the Usability and User Experience Report 2007 from E-consultancy and Bunnyfoot.

The list goes in order of survey responses:

  1. Jakob Nielsen – The Ulitimate Usability pundit and author. He virtually brought usability mainstream. He also contributed to heuristic evaluation and usability evaluation methods.
  2. Steve Krug – His book “Don’t MakeMe Think” is the easiest to use and read. His approach to usability is more layman-oriented.
  3. Jared Spool – Co-authored “Web Site Usability: A Designer’s Guide.
  4. Donald Norman – Usability research pioneer. He wrote “The Design of Everyday Things” and “Emotional Design.”
  5. Jeffrey VeenAdaptive Path co-founder and author of “The Art & Science of Web Design.”
  6. Jesse James Garrett – Information Architecture guru. He also coined the term “AJAX”
  7. Louis Rosenfeld – Information Architecture consultant, co-author of “Information Architecture.”
  8. Jenifer Tidwell – Top Interaction Designer and author of “Designing Interfaces.”
  9. Seth Godin – Best-selling author and advocate of user-centered marketing.
  10. Bryan and Jeffery Eisenberg – Acclaimed authors of best sellers “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?” and “Call to Action.”

The list is arguably definitive, but it’s too bad a personal fave of mine Peter Morville (of Information Architecture distinction) is not on the list. To be honest I’m not all too familiar with the Eisenberg Brothers’ body of work. So if you ask me, I’ll plug Peter Morville on that list.

When Online Democracy goes Wrong

They say that if you take an infinite number of monkeys with each having a typewriter, there is a chance that some monkey will produce a work by Shakespeare. But let’s say you have 50 million people with each having a computer, what do you get?

The answer: Add One Word.

The site’s premise is Digg-like in nature: users create a story by adding one word at a time, but only if that word gets 15 votes (it used to be 5). The idea is very interesting and has full of potential, but if you visit the site, the “story” is nothing more but an incoherent mishmash of bad grammar, made-up words and expletives. Here’s an excerpt:

Yesterday is the day after two days before today.

That piece of work won’t win the Pullitzer any time soon.

Where did Add One Word go wrong? If you ask me, they gave too much power to the user. This would have worked if they narrowed the site’s user base to writers or literary enthusiasts. Or another option is have a writer write a story, then present the words or phrases that writer is considering for voting. That way, the writer acts as moderator to the inputs of the users. The fact that they introduced a word dictionary a few days ago showed the oversight of the website’s creators.

The key thing here is maintaining a check and balance– have users or community members the power, but also impose certain restrictions to keep thing interesting and fun. You have to admit, reading a sentence like

Now, yesterday a balloon named after Vanilla Ice Tea (c) floated towards the moon .

on a website over and over again really gets boring.