Archive for June, 2008

The “end of point and click”?

June 26, 2008

Hopes for future technology sometimes seem desperately romantic. It’s
easy to feel slightly uneasy when IT experts talk about the increasing
role of automation or robotics, for example.While it’s clear the continued evolution of technology is likely to
lead to the increasing pervasiveness of IT, a healthy dose of
scepticism is always sensible – especially when people start talking
about robots replacing humans.

This brings us nicely to touch-sensitive technology – because much
like robotics, the potential for innovation appears boundless.

Most users still rely heavily on the keyboard and mouse, devices that
take up a lot of desk space when they are used in combination with a
PC.

But despite limited portability, the combined interfaces of mouse and
keyboard have been the interface of choice for three decades-or-more.

Potential alternatives have always been by constrained by
technological limitations. Until now, that is.

Get ready to forget the mouse – because when it comes to interaction,
users will increasingly be dependent upon a broader range of gestures.

Because individuals have spent the last twelve months-or-so getting
used to new ways of controlling their hardware – whether they’re
waving their Wiimote to control in-game characters, or gently
massaging their iPhone screens to select favourite songs.

The revolution took a significant step forward recently, with
Microsoft’s announcement that its next operating system will come with
touch-sensitive features.

The announcement is representative of a significant step change in
direction. In the near future, users will control devices with all
manner of different gesture – including speech and facial recognition.
Think about how you could increase the speed of data input through
sign language recognition or shorthand tablets – and then think about
you will be able to push a dramatic reduction in the number of
applications that require a full QWERTY keyboard.

And while at an early stage of development, Cyberkinetics
Neurotechnology Systems’ BrainGate technology shows how humans – and
quadriplegics, more specifically – can control computers by
mind-power.

So, that’s the mouse replaced. Now to consider those human-replacing robots…

 


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Web design with the customer in mind

June 16, 2008

Web designing with the customer in mind

 

Every business leader knows the customer is king – which means it’s strange that many firms still fail to pay enough attention to the customer experience. For those not aiming to compete on price, customer experience will be the key differentiator amongst your competition.

 

Just think of your own interactions. How often have you visited a web site, only to find the experience tainted by poor navigability, lack of options or less than intuitive structure?

 

It’s time for a wake up call. Firms should think of their web presence as they would their physical presence, such as shops or factories.

 

It would be anathema to clutter such locations, or to provide leisurely and unhelpful customer service. So, why not take a similarly hard stance to web design?

 

You must recognise that a concentration on usability during web design is absolutely vital if you really want your customer to feel special.

The key here is making the application invaluable to your customers through valuable content, services and most of all usability.

 

Think about the development tools you will use and how the right IT professionals and line-of-business executives will be able to create an effective design.

 

Also think hard about the presentation layer. Different customers will make different demands on your business. Try to avoid a “one size fits all” approach to your users and don’t implement too many personalisation options that can defeat the purpose of the application.

 

Such differentiation can make your job complicated, so concentrate on the following rules.

 

Simple is best and content should be easy to find. Just as new elements can improve a web design, some elements will be extraneous and should be removed.

 

You will, therefore, need to continually refine and test your ideas.

Do not assume a finished design will always be appropriate because user requirements can change.

 

Finally, as you modify your web design, do not impose technology.

Think about what your users need and then apply new technologies and methods.

 

In short, always keep the customer at the forefront of your mind and your web site will be a pleasure to use.


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