15 Aug 2005
13 Apr 2005
8 Apr 2005
Someone should build a standard vocabulary of CSS elements for site customization. That has probably been said before, but for web apps to become even more integrated with user desktops, they need to be as easily themable as their desktop environment. This is not just a question of making everything pretty and slick, but a real usability issue. Needless change is distracting to users and makes new tools hard to learn.
I think this can be accomplished using the right blend of technology and advocacy. From the technology end, participating websites can include a stylesheet reference to http://usercss.org/my.css which would send the user's chosen theme (stored in a browser cookie). If the user hasn't yet registered with usercss.org, it should send the default theme for the referring site. Each site can provide a "choose theme" link that would display a co-branded, but consistently-designed configuration tool.
On the other hand, this usercss.org would also be in a great position to collect site viewing statistics and provide single sign-on, and thus subject to much of the same skepticism. Maybe it really isn't feasible.
17 Mar 2005
I keep on hearing good stuff about the Ruby on Rails web application framework. It's like the Republican party—one of the highest values of its supporters is to tout its greatness. But the Rubyblicans have evidence: cool projects like Basecamp and sibling Tadalist, wiki+hierarchy tool Hieraki, and the aforementioned Web Collaborator. Not to mention very nice documentation, such as this tutorial on making, guess what, a to-do list.
But I'll save the rest of the hype until you can actually visit and try voo2do…
9 Feb 2005
By the way, it would be quite nice if one way to add frassle categories was using a text field with autocomplete. You could type fragments of names and see what's already there, or simply type a new category to create it. No XMLHttp would be needed, because the user's categories are already listed on the page.
1 Feb 2005
David Weinberger points to a brilliant del.icio.us site integration hack by Matt Biddulph made with a Firefox extension called Greasemonkey. I wonder if it would make sense for sites to leave dedicated spaces for client-side DHTML extensions… <div id="__extendme__"/> anyone?
25 Aug 2004
Useful thread on MSIE's table and div width bugs/quirks.
9 Aug 2004
Easily generates multi-column layouts that are compatible with lots of browsers. Neato.
9 Jul 2004
The New York times has a Circuits piece on Amplify, a tool that lets you easily combine stuff from multiple websites on a single page. So you can create a tiled view of different wallpaper and furniture patterns, or combine info from several sites on the same topic. Here's an example.
Sounds like blogging, eh? Jeff Jarvis, Steve Rubel, and Rafat Ali deride it as a weak attempt to do blogging in a proprietary format. I guess they're right. But to the extent that Amplify is useful or successful, what can we learn from it? What can we learn from it suckage?
First the successes—or anticipated successes. The frames design is horrid for most things, like the Bushisms example linked above, but it is good for some things. Sometime you want to compare things side-by-side. Doing this with frames might work for some people.
Getting in the New York Times is good. Perhaps it's paid placement, but in any case it is a good way to reach out to thousands of people likely to be interested in a high-tech product.
Now the suckage. Frames-based design is usually bad. People are good at using scrollbars. The site has some classic design flaws, but the chief problem is that there are lots of links with vague feel-good titles that nobody will ever click on. Consider the seven things in the HUGE Amplify bar at the top of each amp page, from left to right:
- Cone-shaped doohickey. Turns out this just goes to Amplify homepage, as does the huge logo on the right. It almost looks like some sort of magical control widget that allows you to set the volume, but that metaphor makes no sense here.
- Back button. BACK button? What the fuck? It's just like the back button in my browser except it's in the wrong place and doesn't work.
- "What is Amplify?". Another link to the homepage. Brilliant!
- "Get Amplify". Download for MSIE/Windows. The most straightforward item of the bunch, though not something you'd click more than once.
- "Amplify Community". Links to a collection of hierarchically categorized pages by other amp users. This is a reasonable features, but if it said "see 5 other amps about animals having sex" instead of something totally generic maybe people could be interested enough to click on it. Comment links on every fragment of an amp page would be better.
- "Share this amp". Send a link via email. Useful enough, but why not just say "email this amp"?
- Huge amplify logo. Goes to, shockingly, the home page.
Oh, and I found out what the back button does. It takes you to the previous amp you were at. Rather than just letting your browser's back button work, it introduces a puzzling UI behavior by opening any amps on top of each other in the same window. If you use your browser's back button, it goes to some intermediate page momentarily and then forwards you to the page you were just viewing. Lame.
Well, I guess I turned from taking an optimistic look at Amplify to ragging on it hard Jarvis-style. Sorry Amplify, but maybe these suggestions can help you improve your interface. I'll leave you with some wisdom from Strongbad, whose love for scrolling could serve as a good lesson for the frames-addicted amplify developers.
Every day you come a-scrollin' back, scroll buttons gettin' ill like a heart-attack. Uh!
23 Jun 2004
OK, if you think frassle's current WYSIWYG editor is too heavy, you might like this rich text editor. Perhaps someday I'll add the ability for a frassle user to set a preferred editor: HTMLArea, this RTE, or a vanilla textarea.