ARCHIVE: June, 2005

Knemeyer Controlled in Response

Dirk Knemeyer has written a thoughtful article Beyond the pixels: consider the entire experience in response to my recent post: Give up Control or You’ll Lose it Forever: Experience Designers Beware – Web 2.0 Interfaces Change Everything. My post, of course, was in response to a conversation that Dirk and I had in the comments section of an article he recently wrote on Digital Web: Completely Rethinking the Web.

I see the issue of control as crucial in the current landscape of design. There is a constant struggle between designers controlling their content and users using technology (RSS) to wrest control themselves. I don’t think that Dirk and I are necessarily disagreeing here: this issue may always exist. What I think is in question is the point at which designers can/should control their designs, and the point at which users have control…

More on Navigation Habits within Feed Readers

Yesterday I wrote about how I noticed a lot of folks using their feed readers as navigation tools to my site instead of using the navigation that I provide directly on the site. I feigned sadness at my loss of control, and I pretended that I was upset about it. Today I’m going to explain […]

Continue Reading: More on Navigation Habits within Feed Readers

Navigation Habits Within Feed Readers

I’m really surprised at what I’m seeing in my web server logs. This morning when I was inspecting them, I noticed several people who were coming over from feed readers, over and over. From what I can tell, they are using their feed reader (in this case Bloglines) to inspect my feed, coming over to Bokardo to read those posts that they find interesting, and then going straight back to their feed reader to do it all again. So the logs look like this: a visit to one post at 4:53 am, to another post at 4:56 am, and to another post at 4:58 am. All from the same IP address (presumably the same person).

What is interesting about this is that they don’t just come and stay, like I would think they would. More to the point, I’ve created a navigation scheme on my site, and I would think people would use it, but in some cases they aren’t using it. Instead, they’re using their feed reader as navigation, or more specifically my feed links within their feed reader.

This is both good news and bad news for me. As I anticipated back in November in Home Alone? How Content Aggregators Change Navigation and Control of Content (on Digital Web magazine), the rise of aggregators will change navigation. The good news is that this change is somewhat of a confirmation that navigation is really being handed off to aggregators like I imagined. The bad news is that the person who is losing control in this case is me. Now that I’m seeing it directly in my server logs, and realizing that people are ignoring my navigation, I’m starting to think that maybe now I’m getting what I asked for, and it isn’t all roses.

There is, however, evidence that people are doing both: either staying in their feed reader and using it as primary navigation or they’re coming and staying on the site. So there are still many different sorts of behaviors out there (probably about one for every person). But since I’ve seen it now in my web server logs, I’ll be watching with close interest how it develops.

Google and Yahoo Interfaces (via Functioning Form)

Luke Wroblewski has written a good overview of the differences/similarities between the interfaces of Google and Yahoo. Luke’s side-by-side layout makes it clear how stiff the competition is between these two companies. By the way, Luke’s feed is here.

Google Creating Information Architecture XML format?

Via the Google blog: Google is trying out and releasing to the world (via Creative Commons license) a new XML format for site maps. This new format is an XML representation of your web site that Search Spiders would read upon entering your site, much like they read the robots.txt file now.

Several things are very interesting about this:

  1. This is the #1 Search Engine company doing this.
  2. This is Web 2.0 in all its semantic markup glory.
  3. This could be the beginning of a web site discovery format with which we could build simple tools that search for relevant content (without having to go through a search engine!). Obviously, though, Google sees an opportunity to leverage this format to improve their own Search.

I’ve had conversations in the past in which I’ve discussed this idea with others. In most of the conversations, though, we focused on an “IA” XML format and not a sitemap, but the basic idea is the same. It is all about exposing structure, not through explicit linking but designer purpose, and all the pitfalls that that entails.

Going further, this is almost like a feed for the permanent content on your site, that grows with time and doesn’t lop off the oldest entries like RSS does. Instead, it keeps the old entries and even gives valuable metadata about them (like when they were last changed). This is interesting to me because we would then have a feed into the latest changes to your site, not just the posts/articles/content published lately (as in RSS). That would let us discover, say, when someone updates an old web page, a feature we don’t don’t currently have.

These ponderings aside, Google freely admits that this may bomb or it may win the day. What do you think?

Update: Dave Winer has an interesting take on the role of RSS in this Gillmor Daily podcast. He says that RSS is very good for news: information that we want to keep up to date with and that changes quickly. He says that most information is not news, and doesn’t change very much. As a result, static information needs a format that is different than RSS, and Dave says that format is OPML, which he created. So, the issue becomes what formats (RSS, OPML, and Google’s SiteMap Protocol) are doing what work, and is the work they’re doing necessary?

Just What Exactly Is an Interface? (definition)

The word “interface” is one of those words that is thrown around a lot without much discussion. I say “interface”, you say “interface”, and we pretty much get where we need to go. Lately, though, when people ask me what I write about on my blog, I say “interface design” and I then have to define what I mean by that. So, to make my life easier as well as to make sure we are all on the same page, here are several definitions from around the Web.

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Continue Reading: Just What Exactly Is an Interface? (definition)

Interview with Web Standards Queen Molly Holzschlag

I recently got the chance to interview web-maven Molly Holzschlag about web standards. As usual, she cuts right to the issues and addresses real-world problems that teams have had implementing web standards, including the biggest hurdle of them all: workflow. I’m happy that Molly is going to be speaking at our conference again this year (with the CSS-minded Eric Meyer, of course). If you’re familiar with their books, or have seen them at the event in the past, you’ll know that they used to break down the UI Conference web site and then rebuild it with web standards, showing every step of the process. Very interesting and worthwhile, but a tad embarrassing if you’re the developer of the web site like I am. Well, I couldn’t let that go on forever, so we’ve taken steps to make sure that they have to use a different web site for their examples in the future. ;) They had their fun, though! Needless to say, interviewing Molly is always a delight.

Zeldman’s Ten Years

Jeffrey Zeldman celebrates 10 years on the Web. Zeldman was one of the first voices I listened to way back when as I discovered web design. He’s always been a community leader and an outspoken people-first person. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, he’s always got interesting, thought-provoking things to say. And he’s somehow done it for 10 years. Wow.

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