October 2008 Archives

Look At All The Lovely Users


I think that it is necessary to say that all of the sucess that a website could ever get is through happy users. The only way you can know about a user's happiness is through usability testing. There is nothing wrong with testing, think of it as a form of constructive criticism that all of us must endure. Krug describes how usability tests are an "iterative process", like a revision of a manuscript. However, I think that we have a luxary that professional web desigeners do not have. We have the ability to make a coalition of testing forces through the sake of education. When out in the real world, these tests churn out a lot of dollars, even at the discounted price of $300 will cause problems for us. That is how important opinion is to the web. Without it, the would not be a clear standard when it comes to websites.

I was really curious about usability testing and how it affects designers in creating their websites. What I'm confused about was the table under number 2 (Plan to Quantify Your Results). I do not think that it is possible to add a quantitative value on the usefulness of websites. I do not see the necessity for using quantitative value on the usefulness of websites. Is it just for the measurement of improvement? Is it for something more? I really don't know how numbers can help HTML and homepages. Is this the "move beyond opinion" that I need for the usability testing?  

All I need is answers to these questions that haunted me all weekend.



"Bad Homepage, Naughty Homepage!"


The fact that we don't have total control of the most fundamental part of our websites gave me a new perspective. While reading this chapter, I understood that because of this reason we have to make a homepage accessible to all. Web designers attitudes on the real audience "getting it" is one of the prime reasons why people don't get it.

Sometimes, a designer just has to go back to basics in order to truly see sucess in their websites. Krug said it himself: "I need to be able to answer these questions at a glace, correctly and unambiguosly, with very little effort." (99) We get entranced with our ability to create the best website that we forgot that it has to mean something. The homepage not only boils the whole website down to simplicity, it will work against the designer if he/she fails to do their job. It's like a dog biting its master for placing his hand in its food bowl. You would think that a person with common sense would play with a dog while it's eating. But you will be surprised how many people do it often. Your website loves you, but it has to do what it is design to do, to portray the information that you give it. And if you give it unclear thoughts and details, it will bit you (by that I mean the users will reject it). 

The California Queen herself said in her blog that "if something is unclear to the user, it might be possible that the user will misinterpret something and/or get frustrated."

Why on earth should they stay on your website if they are confused on the homepage?

I think back to the advice that I remember from writing class that I have taken: "kill your darlings". Harsh, right? But we should break out of our little bubble if we want to make sure that our readers get it.


Mindless Wandering

These chapters really hit home with the title of the book. The more someone thinks about a webpage, the more problems a reader can run into.

I really enjoyed Krug's Second and Third Law of Usability

The Second Law states that "It doesn't matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambigous choice."

Exploration of a website isn't exactly a bad thing. As long as users know where they are, confusion won't be a problem. In a world of choices, a designer should think about eliminating those choices. That eliminates the chance for a new user to make the wrong choice. To be truthful, I really don't think about those things much but maybe the designers knew what they were doing.

The Third Law states that we should "Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what's left"

As writers, we should learn how to communicate using as little words as possible. Most websites, with exception of news sites, aren't appealing to most people. Since we've been writing HTML, we've been taught less is better. Krug describes what exactly we can cut out. I always feel the need to give an introduction, which is unneccessary in this particular case.

I think all of these facts are essential to perform one goal...to please the user. As long as the user is happy, the website will thrive.

Trying to Reinvent the Wheel


According to Krug, simplicity is key. Yet, many designers out there are out to make a name for themselves as they design flashy websites. Most people get lost in the murkiness of the design or conventions that the designer choose to use. Krug stated that these designers do not take advantage of what is already there for them (conventions) and "feel they have been hired to do something new". That begs me to ask this question:

What is more important? The presentation of the website or the presentation of the content of the site?

Since the content is something that the user has to force themselves through, then the content should be as clear and as porcise as possible. I found it interesting of the truth of the statement "We don't read pages. We scan them." In this extremely fast paced world of ours, designers (especially of news websites) forget that a user will NOT read every single word on a page, but instead will look for the things that will catch their attention (and no not making every word attractive will help). Because we live in a fast paced world, we seem to settle with what is CLOSE to what we want. The websites are the same way, and by making the choices clear, we can make sites not as confusing as they sometimes are.   

In A 16k World...

When I read the blog entry, I noticed how critically you had to think when playing these games. Adventureland, show the point on how gaming technology had started. These game were orginally created for home computers, not technology geeks (even though they probably enjoyed it.). I thnk I can understand why there was such an emphasis on what verbs and nouns you used in the game. In a 1998 interview, Adams was asked what was his dream as a child, and he simply answered: be a writer. That interested me. I was really interested to know the writers place in the gaming industry. An article in WritersResources.com stated that:

One skill that is crucial, besides writing ability, to success in the game industry is passion. If you don't enjoy games or are unfamiliar with the latest technology, then you'll find the gaming world unfriendly. If you want to learn more about video games, buy or rent a console and a few game magazines. Don't try to break into this industry if you're simply looking for work; most video game writers take the jobs , first and foremost, because they enjoy the work.

Writers are thrusting themselves in the corners of technology. The need for them is just as great as in past years.   

In The Fall of the Site of Marsha, an actual website goes through horrific changes as the fears and the tragedies of its creator, Marsha, are realized. The readers of her website, in some way, see the unconscious mind of Marsha. Since the mind of Marsha can be easily tied to the website, each of the three parts of the website could be the stages of psychoanalytical theory; the spring of ’98 as the ego, the summer of ’98 as the superego, and the fall of ’98 as the id.

I noticed how an extreme love of angels defines her ego. She uses this love to hide from the pain and the anguish of the loss of her father. If you look at certain parts of the websites, you can see a normal person talking about her life and her husband on the web. However, as in Fortune's Wheel, one's life could end up on the bottom.

As the months go on, the website goes through erratic changes. It could be a litany of things that could be responsible for the "hackers", but it matches the mood of the creator. You may notice the clouds getting darker in the background and obscene phrases scratched. Marsha is haunted by the death of her father, which may imply that she was somehow involved. Her anger must have hit a tipping point when she was unable to see the picture of her husband cheating on her with Bits. There must be a swarm of hatred and problems around her her head and the webpage reflects that notion. Her superego are now links turning into pockets of guilt and discoveries of betrayal.

Now the irrational, wild meltdown of the creator is seen in the fall of that year. The "hackers" now are in control of not only the website, but her entire life. The fact that she gave up with the website could mean that she gave up on her life in general. One part of this theory is if one looks at the threads of the Private Door, Marsha's response to Mike are becoming erratic. Each part of the website, each beatiful image is becoming distorted and confusing just like the Id of the human mind. Freud had dwelled extensively on this subject:

It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learnt from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of this is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We all approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations ... It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle

The beastly actions of human nature cannot be translated to a sophisticated art form such as web design. Therefore you cannot see an order within the website as the reasoning began to wash away.        

The Devil in the HTML

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One of the "e-lit" that caught my attention is The Fall of the Site of Marsha. A visual spiral of a woman's life in turmoil. Marsha's love of angels is only matched by the happiness of her life. However, as her website gets more distorted, her sorrow seem to materialize into another character that is actually controlling the website. Marsha's angels turn into demons as her father died and her husband cheated on her with her best friend. Messages are plauging as if they are in her head themselves, due to the fact that those nasty quotes are crossed out and not erased:

Leave my website ALONE! nice try, marsha

I can't take it ANY MORE! I DID NOT hurt my father!!!! you don't get off the hook that easily, marsha

This is also an online struggle of self, as well as a struggle against the supernatural. We never find out who exactly is hacking into Marsha's website and it makes it all the more creepier. 


Get Clickin'

Sidenote: Sarah Palin has convinced me to drop the "g" from verbs.

Back to the topic at hand. I've dipped my hand into some of the electronic literature and I have to tell you that it is a unique experience. I believe that this form of literature is meant for the abstract. I mean that I probably have a felling that not a lot of people are going to get the messages of some of these stories because they are not presented in a linear format. Some of the "e-lit" are presented without the luxary of text, such as Deviant. Others are given to us as phony websites, like The Fall of the Site of Marsha. And then we have the one, like Tao, that basically gives one us statement. Nevertheless this sites have meaning that we have to plow through to enjoy. If we can do that, we can understand any medium of art.


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In order to understand some stories, the reader must it break down to basic elements (plot, characters, etc). In this case, it is a woman's body that is being broken down for the purpose to be examined. The stories of each body part also works like a body part. Each story contribute to the larger story, the description.

By breaking this story down the body, the reader knows the character using the body. This way, there is a change in the character. She is able to understand herself and to accept her body for what it is. She accepts every quality of her body, but sometime goes back to revulsion:

I was induced to shave my underarm hair by my mother, I think, though I don't remember it. It was high school, I was playing sports, and I reeked. My dry, stainless, odorless child body had shivered all over and metamorphosed into a stinking, sweating, oozing hulk sprouting hair. I found myself disgusting.

As the character opens her body to examination, the reader in turn must examine themselves, that is if they intend to scrutinize the body.

Dichotomy of Sanity and Insanity

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In the University of Yellow Wallpaper, each link represent a feeling or thought that manefest from others. The site itself is a breakdown of structure, breaking all conventional rules of linear storytelling. This quote explains that approach:

A return is generally a going back; yet in this case the detour was already a going back, so that the return is a coming forward once again.

White uses the website to question how we read stories. It's similar to the movie Pulp Fiction, time is no longer an issue because the plot itself is scrambled. The audience is force to watch each scene, bit by bit, to get the gist of it at that particular moment.

The narrator is "getting mixed up" and therefore mixing the reader up with various links to other thoughts. "The pattern is torturing" to some who see fiction as a catalyst to real life (events happening in chronological order), instead of a world by itself. However, our minds when processing certain events seems to trancend time. People sometimes notices how time stops when they're in love or speed up when an unwanted scheduled event approaches. Those people are so suc in the moment, chronolical factor does not apply.