This weeks lecture which was taken by Chris was all about doing work in the real world. Helpful tips and tricks on how to get client work, how to manage the work, contracts and basically everything we would need to know. This was a very beneficial lecture and seemed to come at the perfect time.
Happy Monday Podcast
This week was the start of a new side project for Sarah Parmenter and Josh Long. The launch of the Happy Monday Podcast was designed to cheer people up that have just started their hard working week, although in Dubai the working week starts on a Sunday, so maybe theres a gap in the market for a Happy Sunday Podcast. The site itself is very basic and focuses clearly on who the special guest is that week and of course downloadable links and play options for the podcast itself.
This week Tim Van Damme was the special guest, I have been a keen follower of Tim’s for many years now, especially looking back at Gowalla and now Instagram. I also got a chance to hear him speak at Build Conf in 2010. His designs are inspiriing and a part of our everyday lives, this surely for a designer is anyones goal.
There was one occasion where I was having my regular Starbucks Frappuccino in Dubai with friends and one of them turned to me and said have you seen that Starbucks have a middle east website now – needless to say this made my day that I could turn around and say yeah I designed/worked on it, however I’m sure Tim has the opportunity to brag a little more often!
Throughout the podcast they talk about different discussions and different factors that affect his designs and the three of them in general. Tim was asked about inspiration and he said that he does regulary check Dribbble, however Sarah was giving the point of view that she doesn’t really do this anymore and actually prefers to design on her own and keep away from the “trends” as such as there ends up being too much similarity.
I think personally there are two ways to look at it, Dribbble is a game changer in our industry, something has never reached out to such a broad range of designers offering a chance to gain feedback and direction on a project and also a major way to promote your work for external people to see. There are many different stories you read on Dribbble where the dribbbler actually gets offered his or her dream job at the likes of Google / Apple etc. This is because the clients know exactly where to start looking to get the best of the best. The other side of Dribbble is yes it is mainstream and a wide variety of ideas are duplicated with a slight change and people claim it to be their own.
I personally find myself looking at dribbble, however I have a line that I do not cross – if I’m scanning trying to find shots that are similar to what I have done I will look at them as soon as I open Photoshop or before I begin sketches, I never look back at the previous shot, its quite a simple rule and requires a lot of discipline however I feel it is necessary not to steal ideas and to be unique of course you are still taking there ideas in cases but your putting your own flair on it.
The happy Monday broadcast I think is a great idea however I am not sure how different it will be from previous shows such as the award winning Big Web Show. Sarah and Josh presented very well for there first time doing such a show however at times me as the listener felt some awkward silence or conversation breaks that just didn’t go the way they had hoped I think most likely this is where the big web project will be more successful as they are all using webcams.
Recently I have been using Google Hangouts to talk to my friends in Dubai. It never fails to amaze me at how advanced webcam technology has become today and that it is all through your browser and not a native app.
The design keeps the obvious Google feel to it and keeps the design consistent throughout right from the icons, sidebars and to the where the webcam feeds are presented. This I think is very important for any product especially Google, I looked at some previous releases of hangout where they feature a dark bit along the bottom and it features the icons based on it as can be seen here. However I think the much more minimilstic approach they have now took works much better and doesn’t take away from the main feature itself which is of course the webcam conversation.
I will now go into talking about the features of google hangouts as a whole and why it is different from other applications such as Skype and iChat;
Up to 10 webcams
The purpose of Google hangout was to combine people with a tool that they can have multiple people in one conversation talking simultaneously. The application does not require an install and is a click of a button to start a hang out. You can also change the settings to private or public hangouts meaning it is perfect for the likes of video conferencing and private conversations. At any point you can change who is the main feature on the screen this makes it very useful for listening directly to the person that is talking – something that could maybe be implemented further on this is that when someone talks it automatically switches to them on the main screen.
If the hangout is set as public then anyone with a Google account can join and it will feature on your Google plus account that your in a hangout.
Screensharing has always been an offer for webcam applications such as iChat or Skype however Google Hangouts allows it within a browser. There is one downside to this though when screensharing is selected you only really have control of one windows in any application that is selected by the person sharing their screen – for example if you wanted to edit a word document whatever screen is active is the one that will be controllable accessing things outside this window doesn’t work unfortunately however it is still some very advanced programming to get it to do that.
My favourite part of Google Hangoust by far is the ability to view YouTube videos together, so when chatting to friends you can be like did you see this video, then paste the URL into the browser app and it will play the video to all viewers. This also then mutes all microphones to make sure its uninterrupted viewing. I feel the successful integration of this works so well and leads the way in webcam sharing as we see it today.
Amazon this year launched their new website a few months ago and it features a responsive template however has a twist to it there is a certain point just beyond iPad screen size that it stops and doesn’t drop the whole way down to mobile while rescaling in the browser. However they do have a mobile version and also many apps for Apple and Android etc, which the user can buy off.
The nicest part of the responsive design is it doesn’t hide or take away anything it only adds if you have a bigger screen. For example on my 15inch Macbook I have 4 products in a row however on my brothers 27inch iMac he has 8 products in a row giving him more variety that is visible but it doesn’t subtract from my experience just improves his.
The design of the website is uses white space to their advantage and utilises the key point of sales which they want to promote. From the start the user is directly shown the Kindle (amazons number one product) then if you choose to use the slider they have done something quite different from other websites usually the slider would start from 1-6 but amazon actually start at 4 of 7 meaning 3 on each side can be switched to plus the importance of each product either way the user goes is of same importance. This is a really smart way of displaying the information and means the user will always be interested in something. Another interesting factor on the slider is that they do not feature any navigation buttons to “slide” through each thing or have an automatic changer. Its up to the user to click on the other links in the slider to see the information. I see this design point as both an advantage and a disadvantage.
Advantages being that it gives control to the user and makes them make the decision whether to click it or not. Now if a user clicks on the title to see more information and they like what they see chances are they will continue on and click on the view more links.
Moving past the main slider dependent on whether the user is logged in or not will decide what the next content is. If logged in then it will show related to previous searches or purchases however if not logged in then will show individual sections according to popularity.
Amazon in its side bar focuses its advertisements and pushes its current deals however they still have a few MPUs promoting other products which I assume the clients pay for to drive them to there assigned products for example I seen a MPU which promoted Logitech and instead of going to the Logitech site it brings me to the search results for the product within Amazon.
The content from there on is row based as discussed above this then scales depending on the size of monitor something that they do well is change the layout based on image sizes. For example when viewing down the different rows if the columns were all the same size I as a user would simply loose interest however with the use of images they keep this interest there and the usability. By showing me the latest 5 books in a portrait image format or 4 related products in a landscape image format it breaks the website up and stops it from being too repetitive changing scanning a page to reading.
New Google Maps App for iPhone
This week was the launch of the new google maps app for iPhone and I can say that google did not disappoint the users. I actually have a lot of respect for what Google have done here in making such a quick turnaround of this app and offering it for free because realistically after the way Apple just dropped their current maps and the two companies being such rivals at the moment in the phone market Google could just never release an Apple maps alternative and Android would take over that market completely as a unique selling point.
As discussed above with Google Hangouts the design is keeping with Googles new style, minimalistic and a traditional white colour scheme with grey icons. They have made the map the map the feature and have a simple search bar along the top which then along the bottom have the various different options to route a location when search has been enabled etc. The only flaw that I have with the app is the small 3 dots to the very bottom right of the app now they are visible however I find them quite hard to press as the hit box of it is quite low this then in turn opens a navigation on the right hand side. This I think is pretty bizarre because after learning about its location I then closed the menu and instantly swiped the right hand side thinking it would open like many different menu variations where I have learnt to do this, however it simply didn’t open and moved the map instead. Main thing is that Facebook and other apps do their main menu on the left hand side and activated by a button or a swipe and users have learnt this to take this feature away seems quite strange to me as it is a trend that is already established which they are going against.
Apart from this usability flaw I think the application works very effectively and as an Apple fan I can still admit is a lot more usable, reliable and effective than Apple maps.
Finally the icon design for the app I think is very fitting it keeps in google’s new approach to the logo (g+ orientated) and then features a road, grass, water and disserted land this is as broad as a spectrum as they will get and they are able to combine it all subtle coloured icon.
Team Tree House
I have been using Team Tree house for a few months now I find it very useful. It consists of video courses and exercises that help teach different skills dependent on what you want to learn. These range from simple HTML, CSS to Android App development.
It makes learning interesting and the ability to get badges keeps me hooked trying to get more. At the end of each exercise it will then ask questions some based on multiple choice some on input the answers to these will then decide if you were listening / paying attention and can continue to the next stage and receive your treehouse badge for that topic.
The main feature of treehouse is usability, having experience with tutorials websites before it is quite unique to find a clean interface to these type of websites. A bad example of how not to do a tutorial website would most likely be something Lynda tutorials however team treehouse have put a lot of effort into making the style usable and beautiful.
They have got the learning process down to 3 stages with very clear selections the whole way through with chunky clear buttons.
- Firstly you select the topic which you want to study
- Select what lesson you want to learn if not locked
- Watch video and begin learning
This simple process has been refined greatly and works effectively.
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