Interested in quick, three-minute digests on topics relating to design, typography, user experience, development, branding, marketing, and search engine optimization? Then you're in the right place as long as you can handle the writing of a dude from Minnes(now)ta who grew up climbing trees, playing hockey, skateboarding, snowboarding, and nearly every other arm-breaking activity.

Notes from Jeremy Keith’s, Paranormal Interactivity

Here are a few notes that Luke W. has shared from Jeremy Keith’s presentation, Paranormal Interactivity, at An Event Apart in San Diego, CA.

A lot of these notes should be common knowledge, but since a lot of websites still break these rules on a regular basis, I figured I’d share them with the rest of the world:

  • The biggest leap in our ability to interact with people was the advent of speech. We vibrate the air to transmit ideas between brains. But in order to communicate with speech you had to be in the same space and time as someone else, representational art allowed us to cross that barrier. Iconography (as representational art) has a wider reach than language (because of different languages) but it is more prone to misinterpretation.
  • Once you use language, you can inject personality and more precise information. As human beings we anthropomorphize many things including objects. You can add personality to objects which changes how people interact with them.
  • Software programs can appear sentient through their use of conversational tone. On the Web, however, we tend to use the same personality over and over again (your best friend!) instead of genuine people personality. Like paranoid or concerned, etc.
  • On the Web, hypertext is not limited by scale like it is in choose your own adventure books.
  • When we talk about interactivity on the Web -we are talking about links and forms. We often forget how powerful the link is. The main interaction you get from a link is clicking on it to go to some other resource. But you also have the ability to add interactivity through hover/mouseover actions. But mouseovers that hide important functionality should be avoided. Where you use hover, make sure you use focus as well. This is important for people that navigate with a keyboard.
  • We used to use Javascript for mouseovers but now we use CSS. This is a pattern that has happened a lot. We’ve moved from things that were procedural (Javascript) to declarative (CSS). This has also happened with media queries. Procedural is harder to implement than declarative. If a pattern is popular enough, it needs to move to declarative.
  • In the real world, forms are rarely used for pleasure. So why do we adopt the same interface on the Web? People loved the “mad libs” style form on Huffduffer. It added some personality and removed the feeling of doing your taxes. Think about making your forms different –how can you give them some personality?
  • Form validation and UI elements: we are moving from procedural to declarative languages. Moving from Javascript to HTML5. Have a whole bunch of new input types to validate inputs and display UI widgets. This moves these behavioral interactions to the browser.
  • Progressive disclosure: something is hidden by default and on click something is revealed. This is a common procedural pattern that is likely going to become declarative at some point.
  • Javascript is like electricity for the Web but you need safe defaults for when the power goes out. People still need to get things done.
  • As soon as Ajax gets thrown in Javascript safe defaults are usually missing. It’s on or off. If you want to build an Ajax website, build a non-Ajax Website first. Go back to links and forms. Then use Javascript to hijack the links and forms. Then Ajax can be used to communicate with the server without refreshing the whole page.
  • The hard part about Ajax is not communicating with the server it is the design decisions. Up until now the browser has given people feedback that something is happening. With Ajax, the browser doesn’t do this. Now you need to provide the user with instant feedback.
  • We can learn and be inspired by other mediums but we should not copy from other mediums. It’s about inspiration not emulation.
  • The web is not bringing us to something new, but bringing us back to the beginning. We can now interact at a distance and over time. That’s the difference. Just like representational art did for language.
  • Allowing people to interact is the important part. Not the technology.

From Luke W’s notes from a speech given by Jeremy Keith

The Importance of Work

I found this video on my friend’s blog and I loved it so much that I had to share it as well. Thanks for sharing Andrés.

Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe on the subject of work.

WordPress 3.0

Finally, the WordPress team has a released version 3.0 which includes a bunch of new features, and, of course, bug fixes. I had no clue what to expect out of this version, but honestly, I’m a little disappointed.

The new, default interface is lacking a lot of contrast — the same contrast that the previous interface did really nicely. It is also still lacking some basic features like, allowing WordPress users to upload a profile picture, without any need for a third-party plugin.

But for those if you who are curious, here’s a quick video highlighting a few of the features:

Design Lessons Learned from Rock Climbing

Over the past year and a half, I’ve devoted most of my free time to rock climbing. What started as a simple, late-night, after-work activity, quickly progressed into an obsession. I don’t really know why I love the sport so much. Maybe it’s simply the feeling of being a kid again — climbing and building forts in the trees in my backyard.

As my climbing skills progress, I learn new techniques, skills, and lessons that are often comparable to the world of design. Rock climbing is constantly challenging your mind to make quick decisions, but stay calm and collected at the same time. Often, the more difficult routes have forced me to lunge for the next hold, and the second my fingers touch the rock, I think, “Crap. This one is not very good.” This forces me to make a crucial decision very quickly. Do I look find a new hold or work with what I’ve got? More and more, I am choosing the latter.

How does this apply to design? It’s taught me to make important decisions, in a short period of time. Today, as I relaunch my portfolio, I’ve had to let go of a few things which I considered to be must-haves. I’d love it if you could leave me a comment, or share your feedback with me, but that’s going to have to wait just a little bit longer.