It’s time for your favorite web development article roundup in podcast episode form of the week! Because we know there are so many of those, naturally. Anyway, start things off with a look at things you shouldn’t be doing on your sites in 2019 (or now, or last year, really). Jared Spool has a piece looking at Agile and UxD after that. Our third spotlight is on an incredible piece looking at why websites look more the same than ever – don’t miss it. Finally, we wrap up looking at fictional sites and some advice on creating usable forms.

Followup Resources

  1. 8 Things Your Website Better Not Have In 2019
  2. Agile Isn’t Supposed To Be UX Hostile
    1. Manifesto for Agile Software Development
  3. Why Do All Websites Look the Same?
  4. 9 Fictional Websites Reviewed
    1. Everything you need to know about the SimianFlu. Brought to you by OPHA – Office of Public Health Awareness
  5. How to build an online form that converts

Transcript

What do cats and programmers have in common? When either one is unusually happy and excited, an appropriate question would be, “did you find a bug?”

This is Real-Time Overview for Wednesday, November 7th, 2018, and I hope all your election results went the way you were hoping. If you’re a data visualization nerd, I might recommend you run by everyone’s favorite forecasting site fivethirtyeight.com, they have a boatload of different charts, graphs, and interactive tools to check out if you do a lot of work with numbers and presentation. And besides that, it’s time to get on to this week’s article roundup.

If you’re planning ahead for your design goals next year, there’s no better way to start than heading over to Line 25 and starting off this week with their post on 8 Things Your Website Better Not Have in 2019.

In all fairness, these sorts of posts are kind of funny and a little throwaway, but they still offer some good review on user experience design and where it’s at. I think most of us would argue you shouldn’t be doing these things now, let alone in 2019, and some of them you probably got away from before that.

That being said, it’s still a good run down. There are some interesting call outs among the list, too. Like horizontal scrolling. They’ve pegged it in their second spot. The reason I say this is interesting is because there is some heated debate about UI design and horizontal content areas. Not necessarily causing the whole page to scroll horizontally, but certain areas. I’m not going to say it’s right or wrong, because it’s very scenario driven in my opinion, but still, a fair point to avoid it if you can.

That’s followed up with commentary on link usage where one pretty controversial suggestion is made: ensuring external links open in new windows. Bold advice from them, and I’d be interested to see if you agree. The lesson for years has been to never target a new window unless absolutely necessary, and allow the user to decide how they want a link to open. But maybe now, headed into 2019, those trends are changing. What do you think? Target equals blank, or no?

They go on to hit on several other recommendations ranging form search to media to whitespace. But you don’t have to wait until 2019 for any of it. Start thinking about what you can do now to update your pattern libraries, style guides, and techniques so that you’re always iterating to remove design elements that can negatively impact your users.

Now, this is where you come in, shoot us a message on Facebook or Twitter and let us know what you think designers should be focusing on in 2019. And will you be targeting all your external links into new windows?

Everyone’s favorite user experience expert, Jared Spool, makes it back into our round up this week with an article over on Medium about the tension between Agile methodology and user experience design.

This is a pretty interesting article from a philosophical standpoint, and one that caught my ears pretty fast. To quote his first paragraph: “These processes seem to leave no opening for design to influence the product, creating poor user experiences when the team delivers its products.” That to me is interesting commentary, as my experience with Agile has been that there is a decidedly specific emphasis on design and UX iteration alongside development.

But, I also know that’s my experience at our company, and everyone deploys Agile a little differently from place to place.

And to be clear, his point, as implied in his title, isn’t that Agile and UX are at odds with each other. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s not the process that is the problem, but rather how we internalize it and execute on it that needs work. Agile itself is built on process concepts that are 100% as useful in design as they are in code, and they work best when all of those people are working closely together, instead of trying to hit a tennis ball back and forth to check off product requirements. An idea, that itself, isn’t Agile.

I’m reminded of a joke I heard a while back, though I can’t remember now where I heard it at, but it basically came down to the idea that every organization that uses Agile always seems to qualify it as “they’re using a ‘type’ of Agile.” This idea that organizations cherry pick parts of methodology and claim to be Agile even though they really aren’t. And I think this is what’s at the root of Jared’s article. Design suffers in Agile environments when the process itself isn’t being treated the way the methodology would demand.

If we take the time to really look at the Agile Manifesto, which I’ll leave a link to in the shownotes with this article, and take the time to build our processes to properly iterate while including stakeholder review and feedback along side design and development, we’ll find that Agile and UX can work incredibly well together to create products that work, and work well.

You can read all of Jared’s comments on Agile and UX in this post in his blog over on Medium.

Anchoring the middle of our roundup this week is a must read piece from Professor of Interaction Design Boris Muller. His article, Why Do All Websites Look the Same, is an honest look at why, in a time where we have some of the most incredible and dynamic tools at our disposal for executing design, our websites seem to be getting more boring.

The initial reasoning is actually very simple. To quote Boris, it’s containers in containers in containers. Containers, all the way down. We think in right angles, and then abstract that thinking into our tools for building sites. And in a way, it reflects our curse of abundance. All this technology, all these tools, platforms, and design systems, but we try to distill them down into basic, reproducible components, stripping away the things that make them special and different.

Boris’s first lesson looks ahead by reaching back. In the late 90s and early 2000s, we were fearless in our attempts to create bold and avant garde site layouts. We didn’t know what the limits were, what worked, or what should be avoided. He uses this as a teaching method in his classes, and this article pulls aside some of those assignments as examples.

He includes 4 of the projects specifically that teams in his class came up with, where they redesigned existing sites without limitation, be that usability, technical, or anything else. The point was to express something, and push your thinking and imagination to come up with something that would stand out. I see it sort of like a concept car. Concept cars frequently look bizarre and unfit for any sort of real, day to day driving. In some cases, they don’t drive at all, and are just shells that reflect a general style idea.

Yet, that’s the point of the concept car, isn’t it? We don’t expect it to go into production, rather, we expect it to influence production. Elements and ideas will carry forward and influence the future of those automotive designs. I think that idea being applied to web design is brilliant, frankly.

He ends with another point that I have to read to you, because it’s just that good. He wraps up by saying: “Legibility, usability, responsiveness, and especially accessibility are essential qualities of the modern web. But they should not define and limit its visual repertoire. If you equate stereotypes with usability, you have understood neither visual design nor human-centered design.”

If you’re going to read one thing this week, make it this article. The examples are fantastic, and the philosophy underpinning his methodology is fascinating. You can find the link in our shownotes at drunkenux.com.

The misrepresentation of web technology in movies and television can be a pain point for anyone in our industry that cares about how we’re portrayed. For what it’s worth, don’t get too bent out of shape about that. Go talk to a lawyer, cop, or firefighter about the TV procedurals in their industry sometime.

That said, there’s also an interesting opportunity here, and Ezequiel Bruni looks at it over at Web Designer Depot in an article, 9 Fictional Websites Reviewed. What Ezequiel does is pull up the web pages for several recognizable fictional web properties and uses them as a teaching tool to pick apart.

The fun side of this article is that while these are fictional sites, they are also very much real – in that you can go look at them yourself. They’ve been created posted so that you can go see them for yourself in an actual browser.

Some of the reviews don’t go terribly in depth, and are mostly tongue in cheek. For instance, the review of the Save Walter White page comes down to: “It’s awful, it’s ugly, that’s appropriate.”

Still, the article touches on some other usable bits of information, like element height, media autoplaying, and it considers things like what makes a site feel, well, real.

I like this as an exercise though, and it makes me wonder what other fictional websites might be out there that could genuinely be used as a starting point for a small case study in usability. In fact, I like the idea so much, I’m going to put a pin in that for a future episode of the podcast maybe.

What about you? Is there a fictional site out there you think is surprisingly impressive? I’ll toss one out there to get you started: check out simianflu.com.

Closing out the week is a tutorial from Noupe Magazine on How to Build an Online Form that Converts.

Forms are, after all, the window into our users’ souls. Or, at least, their inboxes. Form UX design is a field that is intensely researched and pretty well understood, yet I find I frequently still learn new things from these sorts of tutorials, and I always find cases where we’re using a form in our business that isn’t necessarily positioning itself in a way encourage conversion.

Some of the form advice is straightforward, but never hurts to have it restated. For instance, shorter forms convert better than long ones. Targeting them for a specific transaction makes them more effective, and keeping inputs as simple as possible for the task at hand reduces cognitive friction. These lessons have been learned through the years, and they’re nearly immutable enough to make up part of the 10 Form Commandments. You know, if we had those. And now I have an idea for a T-shirt design.

There are also a lot of ways to approach field design so that it helps the user along. The way we use and place labels, including visual elements to reflect words, and pre-filling or autocompleting fields are all ways to speed up a transaction and encourage a user along in filling out the form.

And aside from a lot of other suggestions, they wrap up with the most important piece: the best way to figure out how to build an effective form is to, wait for it, talk to your users. If you have a form where you collect contact information, then contact a few. Reach out and ask how their experience was with your form. Find out what was confusing for them, or what they had difficulty with. There’s literally no better source of information than the people you are asking to use it to begin with.

Stop by Noupe Magazine for the full run down of suggestions on how to improve your form, and drop us a comment and let us know what you’ve done to improve forms in the past. What’s worked and what hasn’t? We’d love to hear your experiences.

Thanks for checking in with us on Real-Time Overview today and we hope you found these selections helpful for whatever it is that you are working on this week. For the Drunken UX Podcast, I am Michael Fienen. If you want to get the links to any of the articles from today’s episode, be sure to swing by our website at drunkenux.com, we’ll have them all in the shownotes there. I hope you’ve been enjoying Real-Time Overview this year, and if so, there’s a couple things you can do to help us out. First off, make sure to smash that share button in your podcast app so that you let others know how useful our segment is for you. Then, if you can spare just a minute, go to iTunes or podchaser.com/drunkenux and leave us a rating or review. It only takes a second, and we would appreciate the heck out of it. Stay tuned to the Drunken UX Podcast this coming Monday, where we’ll have a brand new episode on the way talking about CDNs and object storage.

Until next time, keep your personas close, and your users closer.

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