August 5, 1999
Oh. I'm "cool." Today I just found out that on
July 15 I was awarded "Cool
Site of The Day." I only found out because I got email
from them telling me this. Oddly enough, not one person mentioned
this to me--I'm assuming because nobody reads that site anymore.
Last night's scotch:
Look at that name! Sweet and strong, ending with a peppery finish.
Good middle-of-the-road scotch.
From the Yet Another
Picture of peterme
Department. Cool blurry pic
from Webzine99. From left to right: Me, Ryan
Junell (in the middle, looking off and up), and Lane
Becker, in the red and white t-shirt.
A small firestorm.
A couple days ago I ranted both here and on the CHI-Web mailing
list against the notion that you have to call a shopping cart a
"shopping cart." There's been a great discussion on the
mailing list under the subject line "Smiling
is Good User Experience."
Written by an old Voyager colleague, Illuminatrix' weblog
is among the better I've seen.
August 4, 1999
Compare and contrast. The
Black Hole and a
Gurp. Simply beautiful.
Read on, but make sure
you've got time to spare.
Blues is a compelling piece of web poetry about living in urbania.
August 3, 1999
Simple submitted http://www.easybake.com/
with the note "undulating snack-cakes are key," and Whit
Andrews chimed in with http://www.cheese.com/.
He offered no reason (he's too busy actually working to be bothered
which such details), but I can think of one--it's a whole site devoted
to CHEESE. The word "cheese" is all over it. "Cheese,"
by it's very nature, is funny. I'm not talking "cheeze,"
like "that's cheezy." We're all about pure and simple
fermented curd here. Cheese cheese cheese.
Oh dear, my head's
all full of thoughts. I've just returned from a wonderfully
engaging Noend meeting where
Jane Martin led a
discussion on the intersection of architecture and digital media.
Oof. Lots of topics were raised, paramount those dealing with The
Jane was interested in
what web designers think what they're working on will influence
the design of physical space. It got me thinking about how wherever
my laptop is (and, preferably an internet connection), I'm "at
Ideas of narrative and
constructed experience also arose, and led me to realize that both
physical and information architecture could learn something from
Disney--their theme parks are built around stories, and such stories
provide a cohering structure upon which to build. The narrative
becomes a backbone that helps ensure a more seamless, holistic (and
often escapist) experience.
This tickles a reminiscence
about something Kim told
me about filmmaking, and the importance of seamlessness in presenting
cinema. You never want people to realize they're watching a film;
you want them immersed in the experience on screen. There are formalist
tricks to accomplishing this, such as the 180-degree
rule (that the camera should be kept on one-side of the action,
as the brain experiences cognitive dissonance when people's positions
are suddenly swapped), but even such formalist tricks can be superceded
if there's a powerful enough narrative that pulls people through.
I consider scenarios
a key design tool, where you write a story about an archetypal visitor's
use of the site. A potentially innovative adjunct would be to construct
a story for the site, which provides personality and structure the
way Disney's narratives guided the development of Disneyland.
Making the Web dull
for democracy. In his August
2 "spotlighted links," Jakob Nielsen points out the
problem of naming an online store's shopping cart anything other
than "shopping cart." A winter sports site wanted to distinguish
itself, so it called it a "shopping sled." A usability test showed
that 50% of users didn't understand, and the other 50% got it.
Jakob's lesson: "Do
not try to be smart and use new terms when we have good words available
that users already know."
To which I say, WRONG
WRONG WRONG WRONG and I jump up and down and get mad.
Ironically enough, on
August 2 I discussed how Garden.com's "wheelbarrow" makes
me smile. It's a cute and clever departure from the norm. Sure,
it might take a little extra effort to "get," but once you do, and
you smile, you're hooked. And become a repeat customer. Because,
well, people like personality.
There's more to the shopping
experience than immediate transparency. The "wheelbarrow" might
be a little obtuse, but it's definitely a UI issue that is easy
to recover from. Now, I'm not saying everyone run off and rename
their shopping carts. Oftentimes, "shopping cart" is the best term.
But don't assume that you have to call it that. The Web is
dull enough, thank you.
More Amazon customer
And there was much
Not only is there a new essay on Stating
The Obvious, it's been redesigned, and features message boards!
The Good, The Bad,
And Some Stuff I Disagree With.
Ease-of-use consultants Creative
Good have written up a list of their top 10
Best Practices and top 10 Worst Practices of E-Commerce Implementation.
Good information and useful thinking are presented, but I take
issue with a couple of items on the current "worst" side.
I think that eToys checkout
status graphic is an elegant design solution. It innovates beyond
other checkout status markers by allowing slight diversions in the
process (say when you're sending to multiple addresses). As someone
who has designed many an order tunnel path, I can tell you that
the flexibility this signpost affords is welcome.
I'm suspicious of the
claim that people want to click it [Addendum
since I first wrote this: In email, Mark from Creative Good informed
me that the clicking came up in user tests, and so I'm no longer
"suspicious." However I still stand by what follows.],
and even if they do, they'll learn quickly that that's not how it
works. It's okay if people make an innocuous mistake when
learning a system, when the reward is a better experience once they
I also don't follow the
claim that it's bad that Gap.com
doesn't feature a search engine. A cursory trip around the store
shows at most 500 products, which actually is not that many. Applying
a search engine to this would do little to make the experience more
efficient, and could lead to host of other concerns--with so few
items in stock, it's more likely a search will return 0 results,
which is perhaps the worst response a store's customer can get.
The moral of this petermeme:
Be wary of what an expert tells you. Unless it's me.
August 2, 1999
Smiling is good user experience. This is a petermeme I'm
particularly interested in spreading. It occurred to me looking
at the Body Shop's "Happy"
page, and recurred to me tonight as I placed an item in Garden.com's
"wheelbarrow" (their term for shopping cart). What web
interface makes you smile?
(I'm interested in stuff on more corporate sites, not clever gizmos
designed solely for humor's sake.)
August 1, 1999
Ballsy. Full-bodied. Strong. Slaps your tongue around, forcing it
to pay attention! "Do you taste me? DO YOU TASTE ME?"
demands Talisker. Not for the meek. But damn good.
Knocked down a wall yesterday. Took some pictures. Please to be
starting with the BREAK STUFF GOOD box to the left.
More on Election.
I can't get
the movie out of my mind. Some other topics it touches on that I
overlooked include infertility and single motherhood. Considering
the range of issues, I was surprised that those most American of
all concepts, money and capitalism, didn't really enter into it.
But, thinking further, it occurred to me that the flick is a rags-to-riches
(and riches-to-rags) story right out of Horatio Alger. Young
girl with no dad and not a lot of money works really hard, applies
herself wholly to her goals, and succeeds. The wrinkle, of course,
is that she's portrayed as a manipulative, ladder-climbing, stomp-over-those-who-get-in-my-way
nutcase. After seeing the movie, this quote from the Horatio
Alger Association home page is particularly ironic:
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans has been
dedicated to honoring the accomplishments and achievements of
outstanding individuals in our society who have succeeded in the
face of adversity, and to encourage young people to pursue their
dreams with determination and perseverance.
July 30, 1999
The best film of the year. How come no one told me that Election
was so great? That's it's not only the best American feature film
in the last few years, but that it's the best film about life in
America? It's dead-on hilarious, and amazing in how it touches on
so many topics in a uniquely American fashion--adultery,
promiscuity, high school, parent-child relationships, lesbianism,
drugs, the acquisition of power, faith, atheism, pride, masturbation,
football (whoo!), joyless marriage, the sham that is democracy,
catholic school girls, cheating, getting caught, getting away with
it, starting anew in New York City, and so on. Every performance
is a gem, and the films literary qualities pack the plot densely
in it's scant 90 minutes. Unfortunately it's at the end of its run,
but if this is playing anywhere near you, see it. It's particularly
remarkable in that it's a study of current American society without
ever once resting on cheap pop culture references to get
its point across--it's a true original.
Two pseudo-documentaries. I'm too lazy to write full on reviews,
so here's some half-baked takes on a few more flicks. By now, everyone
has heard of The
Blair Witch Project.
I got caught by the hype and saw it this past week. And I seem to
be the only man in America who thought it pretty much sucked.
I was particularly disappointed with the sloppy documentary trope--no
documentary filmmakers would have done such a bad job scouting
out the film before shooting it--if you don't plan what you're doing
ahead of time, you shoot shit. Plain and simple. Well, this
whole movie felt like an unplanned escapade, and much of what I
saw on screen was shit. Also, it's a cardinal rule of horror
films to have at least one sympathetic character. That way you care
when they're threatened. Here, I was rooting for the bogeyman to
eviscerate these three self-absorbed obnoxious punks. Blecch.
Though not technically a pseudo-documentary, the Japanese film After
Life is directed by
Hirokazu Koreeda, a former doc film maker, and it shows. The
film's doc approach both works and doesn't work in this tale of
what happens after you die. It's great for making the subject believable,
but it tends toward showing talking heads, which aren't particularly
cinematic. The subject matter is subtly poetic in that slightly
off-kilter Japanese manner (at least, off-kilter for we Yanks),
reminiscent of Murakami's stories. It's no great work, but it's
worth a look-see.
July 29, 1999
ask "Whatever happened to..." if nothing has happened
to him He's still doing what he's always done![rw]
A happy blogger is a good blogger. Richard
pointed me to The Body Shop's Body'zine Happy
page. And I concur. Orange makes me happy. As does the missionary
position and ear fondling. One thing that makes a peterme
very happy is The Body Shop's seaweed
and loofah soap. Scrubby
Idea is a good design. The latest Emigre newsletter points to
a number of high-design
goodies to spur your object
fetishism. Of particular interest is the Codex
Series, promising to push
the interactive design envelope. Yum!
July 28, 1999
Narg. Need more time! To look at the potentially tasty Mappa
Mundi and Invisible
Worlds sites. They say
that want to create "new ways to build models for visualizing
complex relationships of information." Talk like that gets
me all twitterpated. I think. Anywho, thanks, Judith.
For all the 8 bit computer geeks in the house. This walk
down memory lane lists
a number of Infocom titles for sale, many in their original packaging.
The passion those old text adventures seem to spur in people
is palpable. And I don't think it's simple nostalgia. Some of it
is respect for brilliant design--the packaging was ruthlessly clever.
But the games themselves, well, they honestly have rarely been matched
by anything produced since. And, remember, they're up to twenty
years old. It's interesting to see what lasts.
July 27, 1999
Broadvision sucks. Due to popular interest, I've created a page
devoted to why.
Fido! Have the "Reservoir Dogs" special!
The mathematics of information design. Well, kinda. A friend
kindly gifted me with a copy of The
Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search
for Mathematical Truth,
which, after 50 pages consumed while drinking Fullers
ESB in my local,
is proving to be a great read. Mention is made of the Four Color
Map Theorem, which states that no more than four colors are
needed on any real or imaginary map to ensure that no two adjacent
regions have the same color.
I know I've come across this before, but never since I've been an
information architect. A large part of my job is creating site maps
(which never have adjacent regions anyway--they tend to be more
like flowcharts than geographic maps. Hrm. I have at times tried
more seemingly physical map models, but never went far with them.
The notion of information being designed in such a way, as with
SiteMap, and SmartMoney's
are particularly intriguing. They capitalize on our ability to immediately
understand spatial relationships.). And the notion that the depiction
of information is governed by some seemingly arbitrary mathematical
rules tickles my brain (and no, it's not just the Fullers).
The book puts forth the lament that the theorem's proof was woefully
inelegant, requiring brute force computation by high-speed machines.
A Google search pointed me to a newer
and more elegant proof
(that also well-defines the problem). For the math-averse, there
is this fairly decent, though at times condescending, explanation.
July 26, 1999
Presupposing prepositions. This has been something noodling
in my brain for a bit. At SXSW I participated on a roundtable discussing
interface design. In titling the session, a niggling detail cropped
up. Should it be "Designing Interfaces For Damn Near Everything"
or "Designing Interfaces To Damn Near Everything"?
I preferred the latter. "For" is a bit distancing; it
suggests an obvious intermediary that separates the user from what
is actually getting done. "To", while admittedly a tad
awkward, is more immediate; it intimates that the user is actually
performing the task, not simply interacting with something that
in turn performs the task.
Though a seemingly small detail, I think it speaks volumes about
In part because of this, Alan Cooper, in The
Inmates are Running the Asylum,
suggests "interaction design." However, it's still not
perfect, as one interacts "with," which still suggests
some mediating presence. I don't want to interact with a word processor,
I want to write an essay.
Which brings us to "experience design." It doesn't need
a preposition. You're not designing the intermediary, you're designing
the thing in and of itself.
Train of thought almost derailed. Head over to Alamut and read
July 1999 entry. Sinewy logic-leaping
Jealous? I've registered MEMETHERAPY.COM.
I've got some ideas for it. Have you?
Rats. Well, it's looks like I'm not going to work in London. At
least, not any time soon. Unless you've got a job for me there.
Trained in the Black Arts. Enjoy the adventures of "The
Available Temping Man,"
a rather, um, you know, silly cartoon.