Archive for the ‘Google’ Category


Intelligent defaulting, responsive clarification

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Checking the weather on a gorgeous spring day in London (ostensibly to see how long the beautiful weather will last), and this is the experience documented from the BBC Mobile site:

After clicking weather, I was then prompted to search for my location. I entered London. I was then presented with 15 options for London — the first two in South Africa. BBC Weather is usually pretty good with geolocation, but for some reason on my mobile it can never work out where I am.

That’s not so bad; but seriously, if I enter ‘london’ into any site (let alone the BBC), surely London UK is a far more likely match than East London South Africa or London Canada?

What percentage of users would benefit from defaulting London to London UK (population 8,174,000) and making users from London Canada (population 366,151) and East London South Africa (population 135,560) then change to their London? An awful lot.

Google Maps does this very well: it contextually defaults to the closest geographic match and gives the option of ‘did you mean a different x?’

Intelligent defaulting, responsive clarification: it’s really not that hard.

Life would be so much easier if more sites did this properly; I look forward to the day when I don’t have to see insanely stupid screens like this (thank you journey planner):

Apple, iOS and how screenshots help build experiences

Monday, November 28th, 2011

I’m an Android user. My HTC Hero is looking a bit worse for wear these days and I’ll probably upgrade it soon. The iPhone is a great phone and all, but rarely do I feel Apple envy: except for when I was try to take screenshots on my Android for a previous blog post. In fact, I resurrected my old iPod touch from the depths of my ‘gadget box’ — and it performed the task splendidly.

Apart from this being inconvenient, it struck me that being able to take screenshots — and more importantly sharing them — really adds a lot to the experience of a device.

Damn You Autocorrect! is a perfect example of this: people collecting examples of the iPhone’s quirky autocorrect and sharing them.

On Facebook many of my friends share screenshots. I often do as well when I see something worth sharing. For instance, last week I saw this bizarre image on the Malaysian Airways website and put it up on Facebook:

Oh, men! Yes we’re so trying, but you women still love us!

Had I not been on my desktop, I would not have been able to share this given the capabilities of my Android phone.
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Gmail Zombie Feedback pop up: personal annoyance or nagware?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Gmail launched a new look a few weeks ago. In my mind it was nothing particuarly revolutionary, just a general tightening of the design. Still, in essence, the same old Gmail.

Since this launch, I’ve noticed that Google is keen to hear my feedback on the new design.

Really keen.

At first I just hit the close button. The second, third and possibly fourth time I did the same. Possibly the fifth time it appeared, I actually gave them feedback, telling them not to worry — the new design was fine, but please stop pestering me with the pop up.

Gmail feedback

Yet it kept coming back. It’s like a zombie: it won’t die unless you shoot it in the head. But the problem is, I don’t know where the head is.

Resident Gmail
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Puns and The Art of (Dis)Enchantment

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Last weekend I started reading The Art of Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki. I’d heard a lot about this book (and Guy) in general, so had fairly high expectations for it. The book is just as the title suggests: how to enchant people, either personally or with a product and so on.

From the outset, to be honest, I found it hard to really understand the hype. It’s by no means a bad book, but just not as — well, “enchanting” as one would expect. But I kept going, until I hit this point: speaking about the concept of being a “mensch” (based on the Yiddish expression for being beyond just a human), Kawasaki ends an anecdote about actor James Garner with these words:

…in other words, Garner was saying, “Don’t menschion it”.

Ugh. Really Guy? I instinctively slammed the book shut at that point. A book on enchantment had actually made me feel so disenchanted I slammed it shut because of an appallingly cheesy pun. For me, the book’s credibility had just vanished.

But aren’t all puns appalling and cheesy?

By coincidence, shortly after reading that pun, I saw this wonderful video from comedian Rich Hall:

I’m not cuing the video to the pun: watch the whole thing, you won’t regret it — it’s genius (but the pun is at 2:19 if you can’t wait or missed it).

Rich Hall’s pun? Now that’s enchanting and funny.

Humour is a powerful thing. Even with design. Google is a great example: the “I’m feeling lucky” button through to many Google Doodles. Twitter’s Fail Whale is another great example. It can lower the tone, relax and even amuse people in otherwise frustrating situations.

But it’s a dangerous approach: if the fail whale wasn’t so cute, it might not work. And this is the problem with puns: they are the riskiest form of humour. I disagree that they’re the lowest form of wit: instead I think they’re hardest form of wit to execute. For every Rich Hall that makes a genuinely funny one, there’s a thousand terrible ones being made by your uncle and member of senior management no one likes.

So sorry Guy, but for me you’re now in the same category of wit as the latter two examples.

I think I’ll move on to my next book.

Google +/- ?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Three days in to using Google+ and it’s clear the platform is really well executed and highly polished.

However, the few threads going on in my stream are all related to Google+ itself — almost like a meta social network. As one friend remarked:

‘Right, since it seems Google+ is the place to talk only about Google+, i’ll continue the trend: Create a Circle, and then delete it…. enjoy the animation :-)’

Since it’s currently invite only, it’s understandable that activity on the network is fairly light. But what’s a social network without the social side? I wonder if Google are restricting sign ups just to ensure the service doesn’t collapse under the influx of users?

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TED Translations: free to the world

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

TED Talks are wonderful. Yesterday I watched this fascinating video by Eli Pariser, entitled Beware online “filter bubbles”:

While watching the video (on the TED website) I noticed the subtitle options. TED has a fantastic translation scheme where users can transcribe translations for videos — a staggering 18,265 translations so far. But user experience-wise, this scheme has some critical issues.

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Why is Flash so lousy at localisation?

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Originally I intended this post to be a series of examples demonstrating some of the hassles involved when dealing with multi-lingual content in Flash. But it occurred to me that the issue isn’t so much that Flash is difficult for this purpose, it’s more that it’s lousy. It’s way behind the curve considering where the rest of the web is today in this regard, and incredibly the situation was far worse not much more than twelve months ago (before Adobe released Flash CS5 and the Text Layout Framework).

The rationale for this post came after attending a talk at SXSW 2011 — ‘Flash is Dead, Long Live Flash!‘. The presenters, Elliot Chong and Toby Miller, gave a great overview of strengths and weaknesses of both Flash and HTML 5. However, one point of debate they missed was localisation. Not that I expected to hear it, but I feel strongly about such things considering this is a big part of my day job. During the Q&A session, I brought up the point of localisation — but explaining technical trivialities on the spur of the moment in front of a large crowd of peers can be tricky: hence this post.

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Accessibility guideline #1: Don’t claim it if you’re not

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

The Google Blog has a recent post entitled ‘Overview of our Accessible Services‘. Last time I looked at Google’s search code (which was only last week actually) I remember it being a particularly messy mix of invalid HTML and table soup (but this is Google: who for some reason are exempt from producing structureless mark-up on their main website in the 21st century, unlike almost everyone else on the planet).
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Yahoo! 7? I have been out of Australia too long

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Yahoo! Australia and Channel Seven seemed to have teamed up to create Yahoo! 7. To me that sounds like an Enid Blyton-esque series about a bunch of seven young hooligans who like drinking Bundy on the gold coast. I wonder when this happened? I only left Australia in November! Of course it makes sense for Channel Seven to hook up with Yahoo! to compete with Nine MSN.

What’s next — Ten Google? I seriously doubt that, but surely Channel Ten will follow suit soon. The Big Brother site is currently hosted by 3, perhaps Ten plans to focus more on the mobile market rather than the broader web market? Considering that Big Brother was previously partnered with iPrimus, the shift in sponsor could well indicate this strategy.

Google Calendar

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

Another week, another new Google product, another new post about Google product.

Google Calender has finally been released to the public, and it looks very slick. But one surprise with it is that the developers behind it have actually created some valid HTML. Google Calendar even has a doctype! Perhaps the days of Google’s notoriously bad HTML is behind them.

Douglas Bowman was involved in the project, which may have had something to do with it. (Possible quote: "by the way guys, c’mon — your web apps are awesome but your HTML sucks!").

On the functionality side, I’m not sure how much impact Google Calendar will have until it synchs with handheld devices. I’m sure they’ll attempt this in the future, and then along with Gmail, Google might actually give the likes of Outlook a real run for its money. Outlook is hardly the be and end all of desktop communication and organisation — but even Doug Bowman sings Google Calendar’s praise over iCal, which is always getting praise from the Mac camp.