Top 10 Useful Bookmarklets

Top 10 Useful Bookmarklets.

Bookmarklets are a great way to add functionality without writing a full-blown browser extension.  They should work in all the major browsers (even Opera which I love).

I have created simple bookmarklets to adjust screensize.  It works when only one tab is open, but I can check the responsiveness of my design quickly.

Open source moving toward individual vision, away from design by committee

An economics podcast is an unusual place for a discussion of UI design, but this conversation with Eric Raymond (The Cathedral & the Bazaar) includes the usability of open source software.

Open source development works when,

  1. Capital goods required to do the work are cheap.
  2. The limiting factor on the work is human creativity and attention.
  3. The work is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. There is an objective metric for success that everybody in the hive mind can agree on without too much effort. Without that condition you get thrashing.
  5. Zero-cost communications.

Any designer knows Item 4 is a problem: different types of users with a wide range of experience, conflicting goals, etc.  The open source community is starting to recognize that UI design requires a single vision. They are appointing “UI dictators” within each project who “get their way.” “It’s better to have a flawed individual vision than try to do it by committee.”

EconTalk: Eric Raymond on Hacking, Open Source, and the Cathedral and the Bazaar
(program notes and audio)


Agile 2008: Personas and XP

I have recently returned from the Agile 2008 conference in Toronto.  I had a great time, and met some great developers, as well as some people I have only known vicariously through email lists.  It was nice to actually see some of these individuals face to face.

I am making my presentation available here as a download.

This link is a PDF file, but if you want the original, please just let me know and I will get a copy to you.

Using Personas with XP at LANDesk Software, An Avocent Company


Scott Berkun on Innovation

Scott Berkun has put together a small article on how to innovate right now.

He mentions that every innovator’s tool kit includes these three things:

  1. Questions
  2. Experiments
  3. Self-Reliance

Key points include:

  • Borrowing ideas from the Past – look at ways others have solved the solution before you then try variations on them
  • Ask a lot of questions
    • Why is it done this way?
    • Who started it and why?
    • What alternatives did they consider?
    • What are my or my friend’s biggest complaints about how it is now?
    • How has this been done in other locals, cultures, or throughout history?
    • What assumptions were made or constraints did they have?
    • How can I apply any of the above to what I do?
  • Try things yourself
    • There is no substitute for first hand experience when trying things
    • Don’t be afraid of risk – the bigger the innovation, the greater the risk
  • Try, Learn, and Try again
    • This could be called iterating your design
    • Remember what Edison is attributed for saying "I haven’t failed, I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work"

Is the Printed Newspaper Obsolete?

Buckmaster of Craigslist doubts that we have seen the end of the printed newspaper.  He mentions, in an interview with Tom Keene from Bloomberg, the usability requirement to meet the needs and wants of the customer:

“The number of employees required to meet the requests and needs and wants of users turns out to be startlingly low.”

Buckmaster of Craigslist Doubts Demise of Newspapers Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) — Jim Buckmaster, chief executive officer of Craigslist, spoke yesterday with Bloomberg’s Tom Keene about the company’s strategy to allow more free postings of advertisements on its web site.

And yet, so few companies try to do it.


Building Software will always be hard

Recently, Brian Kernighan gave a lecture at Princeton talking about “The Changing Face of Programming”.

(Warning: PDF Link) The Changing Face of Programming – Brian Kernighan


(Warning: MP3 download) The Changing Face of Programming – Brian Kernighan

At the end he references Fred Brooks and his 1986 article “No Silver Bullet”

No Silver Bullet

Kernighan quotes:

“There is no single development, in either technology or management technique, which by itself promises even one order-of-magnitude improvement within a decade in productivity, in reliability, in simplicity.”

Brooks also states that he believes the hardest part of developing software is always going to be the design/conceptualizing stage.  He says:

I believe the hard part of building software to be the specification, design, and testing of this conceptual construct, not the labor of representing it and testing the fidelity of the representation. We still make syntax errors, to be sure; but they are fuzz compared with the conceptual errors in most systems.

If this is true, building software will always be hard. There is inherently no silver bullet.


Embrace the Sketchy Prototype

We tend to really like paper prototypes in our line of work.  We often find that by just doing three or four prototypes that we have significantly increased our knowledge of what the client needs up front.

Techniques and tools are discussed at introspectiveH.


We think it’s worth examining.


Creating Advanced Web Application Deliverables

User Interface Engineering (UIE) has an interesting podcast discussing some of the problems when using wireframes for complex designs. They cover issues like preserving context, explaining why interface elements are there (or not), and setting priorities for what can be cut.  Keith Robinson call his solution the Page Description Diagrams which describe what the wireframe is trying to accomplish.

The UIE Podcast


Example at Keith Robinson’s blog