drawing back the curtains on css implementation

[ SXSW Bios ] #sxcss

  • @mollydotcom
  • @fantasai
  • @tabatkins
  • @davidbaron
  • @sgalineau


In this session, representatives from major browser vendors including Chrome, Microsoft, Opera and the W3C will pull back the curtain revealing some of the challenges with implementation and interoperability. The goal is to have designers and developers get a glimpse into how CSS has struggled and finally gained its footing as the presentation layer in everything we do for the Web. Continue reading “drawing back the curtains on css implementation”

sxswi: stop listening to your customers

[ SXSW Bios ] #stopling

  • @trammell
  • @boltron


A common assumption among startup entrepreneurs is that listening to potential customers is the best way to find out whether your product or idea will succeed in the market. Honestly — don’t bother. In our ten years of user experience research for startups and big companies alike, one thing we’ve seen time and again is that it’s behavior, not opinions, that tells you whether people want to use your product. The main problem with opinions is self-reporting bias: Opinions are often inconsistent with behaviors or other attitudes, especially when discussing hypotheticals. Remember  Clippy, the little character that appeared in Microsoft Word years ago? That little bastard arose, in part, from Microsoft asking users if they wanted help working on their documents — everyone said, “Sure, sounds great.” But once people started actually using it in the real world, they hated it — it might be one of the most hated features in the history of computing. But Microsoft employs hundreds of researchers. So where did they go wrong, and how can you avoid making the same mistake? It’s simple. Never ask people what they think of your product or idea. Instead, I’ll walk you through the world of researching people, including what you need to ignore customers effectively, just like Apple and 37 Signals. I’ll go over examples from our research with Volkswagen, Electronic Arts, and Wikipedia, and show how to use remote research to construct behavioral scenarios and eliminate poor research. Continue reading “sxswi: stop listening to your customers”

it’s not my job — the ultimate content strategy smackdown

Panel [SXSW Bios] #notmyjob, #notmyjob2

  • @halvorson
  • @james_mathewson
  • @evany
  • @nathanacurtis
  • @lwelchman


OK. So let’s say your business has a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a blog (or lots of blogs), an email newsletter, some SEO stuff, and eighty bajillion landing pages you forgot about back when it was still funny to rick-roll someone. Who’s doing all this content? Are they talking to each other? Should someone be in charge? Who? Come feel the love as a marketer, a CMS wonk, a UX designer, and a typical SME are brought together (Jerry Springer-style) to discuss the joys of cross-channel content strategy. Continue reading “it’s not my job — the ultimate content strategy smackdown”

programming and minimalism — lesson from orwell and the clash

[SXSW Bio]

  • @jondahl


Programming is writing. A programmer’s job is to express abstract ideas in a specific language – just like the poet, the essayist, and the composer. But while writers and composers spend years improving their style, many programmers think style stops with “two-space indentation”. This needs to change. This presentation will discuss style in music, writing, and software. We’ll look at such diverse sources as George Orwell, Mozart, and punk music, and will find that much of art revolves around complexity and minimalism – just like software. Finally, we’ll look at specific patterns and tools for writing software that is not just effective and efficient, but stylistically beautiful. Continue reading “programming and minimalism — lesson from orwell and the clash”

In reply: “how to sell [web redesign] to senior management?”

I recently began working as managing director of the web department for an institution in dire need of a web overhaul. The institution is made up of about 20 colleges. Their sites – from the main website that serves as a gateway to the individual colleges sites – all need to be (re)designed and the content moved to a CMS. I’ve been doing research, developing a plan for moving forward but have run into tremendous resistance from senior management with regards to a realistic understanding of what needs to be done and the costs involved. Anyone have any guidance on what realistic expectations for a web redesign budget should be (per site, design and coding) and how to sell it to senior management? And/or least expensive options for a site redesign.

Have you read Kristina Halvorson‘s book “Content Strategy for the Web“? The process of building a strategy around the most important part of this endeavor—the content—includes tying in business/institutional strategies and goals. If you can show how this project will support the institution at a business/strategic level, you go a long way with senior admin.

Also, the warning is inherent: You can put all the money you want into Design and CMS and Coding, but if the content sucks, you’ve wasted their money. Show how you can insure that the design/cms/etc costs are worthwhile by showing how they support a content strategy (that you developed before beginning the entire process, right?).

Someone (probably on Twitter) said that content strategy is a business asset, not just a change to your web process. Senior admin like to make decisions about business assets. Once they see your strategy for their business web content, if you show them how producing this content supports their overall strategy, they will want to know how they can protect it.

Well, you protect it with editorial staff, good design, and a CMS to run it.

Surprise Value

Lack of a content strategy usually leads to stale content, unnecessary, useless, or uninteresting content. No one has been charged with its planning, care and feeding early in the process (only its generation right before launch). Information is separated from redundancy and noise due to its inherent “surprise value”. Richard Dawkins discusses the economics of information transfer:

“It rained in Oxford every day this week” carries relatively little information, because the receiver is not surprised by it. On the other hand, “It rained in the Sahara desert every day this week” would be a message with high information content, well worth paying extra to send. [American engineer Claude Shannon] wanted to capture this sense of information content as “surprise value”. It is related to the other sense — “that which is not duplicated in other parts of the message” — because repetitions lose their power to surprise. Note that Shannon’s definition of the quantity of information is independent of whether it is true. The measure he came up with was ingenious and intuitively satisfying. Let’s estimate, he suggested, the receiver’s ignorance or uncertainty before receiving the message, and then compare it with the receiver’s remaining ignorance after receiving the message. The quantity of ignorance-reduction is the information content.

Shannon’s unit of information is the bit, short for “binary digit”. One bit is defined as the amount of information needed to halve the receiver’s prior uncertainty, however great that prior uncertainty was (mathematical readers will notice that the bit is, therefore, a logarithmic measure).

— Richard Dawkins, The Information Challenge | Australian Skeptics

When web content carries no surprise value for the reader, is it ignored? Could surprise value be tied to purposeful seeking (user tasks)? Is the pleasure / accomplishment we feel when an interaction produces useful outputs related to this surprise value? How is this idea reflected in content strategy? Could one objective of content strategy be to create content that maintains the surprise value of information?

interactive infographics

Infographics try to convey large, complicated ideas in an extremely accessible, readable, and playful way. It’s data visualization in its most effective? accessible? controllable? dynamic? form.

[ session description ]

16 March 2010
Livefyre Conversation
Flowing Data
Hans Rosling
Eye Candy

Continue reading “interactive infographics”

web video thunderdome: branded vs. unbranded – you decide

Traditionally, tv events like superbowl allowed brands to reach a huge audience. Then came YouTube (141 million: number of people watching web videos in Feb 2010). Brands tended to start out thinking that Internet video was like a big movie theater that people will watch. Then moved into the area of “viral video”. But it’s not just a matter of aesthetics or a sure-fire style. It’s inherently something you can’t necessarily “buy”.


Mike Arauz
Bud Caddell
16 March 2010
web video thunderdome tumblr

Continue reading “web video thunderdome: branded vs. unbranded – you decide”