Monday, January 30, 2006

Babyname Wizard

Please let me introduce you a little java tool that symbolizes for me what infographic can be: is an example how 'boring' statistics can be transformed into an exciting, funny and also informative experience.

It's really easy to get the point and to use and 'understand' this tool. Of course, names are not really boring, but the fascinating point for me here is the composition of the following three things, which symbolize for me the success of

  • color coding (boys vs. girls :)
  • lightly animation and
  • hard facts (statistics)

The color coding of course is nice but it is also informative, because you can separate on the first look between boys and girls. The color coding also is selected very fine, it reached very exactly this 'baby-feeling' :)

And especially the lightly animation brings some aspects of 'Spannung' (excitement) to the user ("How far will it grow?"). We can also find this kind of animation at TV presentations of election results, where the 'Balken' of each party grow from the ground to the finally reached end result. And this is really exciting for me each time :)

Though the whole tool is really simple, I also found some disadvantages on the usability side.
  • no back button

    Instead of the back button you can use the DEL button on your keyboard, but for my opinion this is not enough. What if you first type in 'Esmeralda', then you type in 'Emanuela' and then you wanna go back to 'Esmeralda'? It's not possible, and that's a pitty.
  • no support of the browser back button

    Beneath the missing back button the site also does not support the browser back button. Why? The whole site is contained in a Java Application, so if you type in 'Emanuela' (concerning to the former example) and wanna go back to 'Esmeralda', what you then get is the former visited page(!) - Google for example. So that's really terrible, and every time you are going back to again the site has to load the Java App again. Of course it is in the cache already, but the system everytime starts loading the Java App again and again. :(

    The really terrible point for me here's that people are usedto use the browser back button and the system 'bestraft' ('hurts') them every time they do what they are used to do. (Bad developer ;) So I do not get around that this strongly reminds me on Stop Smoking attempts in the seventies, where you got 'electronic shocks' every time you grap for a cigarette :D

  • no zoom functionality

    If you type in e.g. "Ja", the result is a huge amount of names, which cannot all be displayed. So you have to reach every entry with your mouse, which of course is not always possible. I could not detect any zoom functionality but I am wishing one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Front Row

The most amazing thing at Front Row for me is the remote control. It's funny that a company like Apple at least had to come to design the first remote control for home entertainment that is easy to use :) The question is, how could they realize that and why did so many other companies fail?

I think the first important point is that Apple reduced the features of Front Row to a minimum (and that is quite not so easy as it sounds). And then they adapted the user interface of an already established tiny, little piece of hardware, the iPod. That's interesting, because that interface was designed for a hardware tool, but also works on a computer as well. (Speaks for their designers :)

And in such a way Apple created it that not the remote control, but the software carries the functionality, and that is much easier to handle. Based on that they were able to get this typical sexy Apple look. (The picture I like mostly is where S. Jobs compares the Apple remote control with several others)

But let's take a closer look. What does Apple's Front Row really provide?
  • Menu
  • Play/Pause
  • Skip
  • Rewind
  • Volume up
  • Volume down

That's it. Looks quite simple, doesn't it? So there is no need for more than 6 Buttons on the remote control, which now looks really revolutionary.

The 3D main menu offers these really big 'icons' and does not even seem to be a typical menu, so I think I had no problem sitting my grandma in front of this and let her use it.

For my opinion, the only 'problem' on the whole home entertainment srory is that you always have to run a computer. That also means that you have to start up a machine, even if you just want to hear music or something. Currently I am used to shut down my computer, if it's not needed anymore, and that means you have to turn it on again. That's not really a 'problem' but it makes the usage a little bit more complicated.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

itunes - Today it happened

No, I'm sorry, this will unfortunately not be a review of itunes - it would take me days to review an almost perfect app, but... today it happened - I bought a title at itunes I didn't wanted to buy. =:-0 So how could this happen and why should it be interesting? Let's see.

I wanted to buy an album which I already dropped in my shopping cart weeks ago. So all I had to do was clicking the "Buy Album" button. But instead of this I hit the "Buy Title" button below the title I wanted to buy. Hm. The confirmation dialog popped up where I entered my password (I do not select the "Remember my Password" option). The only thing I missed was the next confirmation box "Are you sure you want to buy...". But anyway, after I entered my password I went away.

After coming backing to my computer I opened the Purchases section and looked for the album... Nothing. What happened?! The first question that appeared in my head was, "Did they charge my credit card?" Okay, I trust Apple, so I started over with my daily work and after a while I forgot the whole thing.

Sometimes later in the evening I discovered the mistake. There was a new song under Purchases I could not remember buying. So I started to take a closer look at itunes purchase process.

  • Per default the Price column is on the last position, where it is quite difficult to follow the line from Title to the button "Buy Album". iTunes offers the opportunity to move this column - but not to the first position (before the title), where I think it could be placed.

  • The second point is that iTunes does not open a confirmation dialog ("Are you sure ...") when you buy only a title. That's confusing for me because I always expect a confirmation dialog if I spend money.

  • And I think that maybe the font in general could be a little bit bigger and the lines higher.
Well to be honest it's real fun to review such a cool tool as iTunes and I think it could be worth to write a review about it. But as you see there not much movement from my side on this blog, because it is so time intensive to write a high quality review, especially for bigger applications.

"So please be gentle I'm still learning..." :) and please write some comments, because it makes much more fun to hear what others think about ones own work. Thanks in advance.