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Three interesting web apps June 12, 2009

Posted by Michael Kowalski in design, webapps.
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Recently seen:

Hemlock: Flash/XMPP-based framework for building multiuser real-time apps (well, games). Clever stuff.

Layers: Another crowd-sourced website annotation tool. It’s not that I think this kind of thing is a terribly good idea, but it is rather smoothly executed here.

Wagn: mutant love-child of wiki and Hypercard. Execrable design, though oddly they don’t seem to think so; and rather ludicrously, it claims to be a CMS(!) but still, it’s an interesting idea.


Dipity timeline streaming January 20, 2009

Posted by Michael Kowalski in design, user interface.
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This is pretty neat: a continuous scrolling timeline of aggregated content culled from the usual suspects (twitter, flickr, etc). The UI looks a little fussy at first glance but works well in practice. Clicking any bubble in the timeline pops more detail (eg. a video player) in an overlay. 

I expect we’ll soon see a number of retrospective lifestreaming tools taking this kind of approach. So rather than requiring you to consciously push input into some lifestreaming app, the app will just discover it from the “pixel trail” you’ve already left across the web (and maybe your desktop too).

Why is power boat design so evil? September 13, 2008

Posted by Michael Kowalski in design.
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I don’t mean bad or antisocial or anything like that: I mean power boats are designed to actually look evil. Slanted black glass windows, sinister lines, etc. It’s as if the boat manufacturers go to their product design guys every year: “You know, we really liked last year’s model. But how about if you see if you could make it a bit more, you know… evil. We want people to look at it and think drug barons, maybe even criminal masterminds.” And the designers nod, and say “OK” and go away and cook up a refined design.

Maybe they’re right, and they’ve merely correctly identified their market demographic. Bit weird though.

Paypal is the Lotus Notes of the web August 31, 2008

Posted by Michael Kowalski in design, user interface, whatever.
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It has the suckiest user experience of any web app I know. I’m talking about the merchant UI here – the buyer experience is merely ugly, but the merchant UI is completely broken.

The navigation makes no sense whatsoever. The documentation is farcical. The language is incomprehensible, full of jargon they just made up for no good reason. It’s just really really hard to work out how to do something, or even if you can. 

Support sucks as well. It can take days to get a response, unless you want to queue for telephone support from somewhere where English is very much a second language. The support staff either don’t know anything, or don’t bother to read your query properly. Usually both.

I realise there is a lot of complicated stuff around online payments, to do with avoiding fraud and fulfilling legal requirements. But this isn’t where they’re failing: it’s user experience and service. The UX at least could be fairly trivially fixed. 

Why hasn’t somebody come along and eaten Paypal’s lunch yet?