Monday, March 13, 2006

> Ruby On Rails: Permission To Fail Faster

OK, two disclaimers here: 1) You need to be kinda nerdy to appreciate this stuff but if you are interested and invested in what is possible, you will want to pay some attention to Ruby On Rails.
2) A few years back Fast Company published an article entited, Fail Faster and the premise was that making mistakes and failing was actually good, we just need to do it faster.

Karl Long authors a blog called Customer Experience Strategy and in it he asks a very good question, "Does “rails” contribute to a better customer experience?"

Karl writes, "Now, I’m not a programmer by any stretch of the imagination, but I have taken a few tutorials, and viewed a few of the video screencasts of “rails” in action, giving me some limited insight. It seems that the “rails” “write once” philosophy forms an incredibly tight relationship between the User Interface and the database. In other words you write one piece of code and it creates all the UI elements and database stuff automatically. The “creating a weblog in 15 minutes” screencast provides a great example where the programmer creates an item in the program called a “post”. A post has a title and a body that contain text, and as the programmer specifies this, a web view of a post is created, with a title and a body. Not only that but the functions for creating, deleting, and viewing lists of posts are all there as well, with the requisite “create”, “edit”, “delete” buttons.

In 15 minutes, we go from scratch to complete weblog engine: with comments and an administrative interface. But since the actual application only took 58 lines to complete, we also have time left over to do unit testing, examine the logs, and play around with the domain model. What this illustrates to me is really the “power of patterns” on customer experience, and the value of consistency."

Simon de Haast posted this response to Karl's thoughts and I just think it is spot on...

It just doesn’t matter. Check out this blog entry from 37Signals that reinforces their “focus on keeping it simple.
“I think that statement embodies what makes a product great. Figuring out what matters and leaving out the rest.”

Sage advice for web design...and life: Figuring out what matters and leaving out the rest.

> Real Estate Advertising That Is Actually Useful.

Unityworks has lauched a service that is actually making the web a more valuable place. When my wife and I were looking for a house last year it was astonishing how much information the real estate agent was keeping from us. Not necessarily intentionally, but asymetrical information IS what has kept the real estate and car sales industries humming along for many years.

Now, if I want to know about a neighborhood, I'll go to .

And if I want to get a good feel for a specific house, I will look for something like Unityworks is offering.

Years ago I worked at a big global ad agency and a burning desire involved putting their television commercials on the internet. This was 1996, mind you, so bandwidth was a huge buzzbuster, not to mention the immutable fact that people didn't much want to see a commercial on the internet.

Much of that has changed. Bandwidth has increased and people really do go to the internet for information that they can use. Unityworks joins companies such as Productorials who are combining (arguably) high production values and internet marketing. If this is done well, with excellent production values and dead-on usability, it can be a great way to inform, educate, entertain...and make a sale.

> Cedar Briefcase: Art For Your Science

According to the Museum of Modern Art, "Takumi Shimamura delivers this unique briefcase made of ecological thinned Japanese cedar."

I confess that I have no idea what ecologically thinned Japanese cedar might be although I suspect that it might be close to the "rich Corinthian leather" that graced the Chrysler ads decades ago. In any event, a 17" Powerbook would fit in this and could not help but imagine walking into a client meeting, placing this stunning briefcase on the table and then pulling out a sleek 17" Apple Powerbook.

Now, that would be making a design statement!

More blogs about design.
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> CrazyEgg: Seeing Is Better Than Wading Through a Roiling Sea of Data.

When it comes to web statistic and usage reports, for my money, seeing is better than wading through my body weight in analytic reports that confuse thud-factor data dumps with understandable, actionable intelligence.

Come to think of it, cataloguers could use this also...not in regards to web activity but rather for historical sales data, square inch analysis, and return rates...all things that would be best viewed via a dashboard approach.

But I digress, back to the web.

Crazy Egg has taken a different approach where you can measure and actually see what your users are doing when they visit your site, and from these results you can immediately optimize your site based on your visitors usage patterns.

And while I am a visual person, I do prefer the "overlay" view that gives me numbers as opposed to the "heatmap" view which makes me feel like I am reading auras or something.

I suppose the biggest "Ah-Ha!" to Crazyegg is that business people have complained/screamed/bellowed that they have been drowning in a sea of data. Crazyegg adresses that very real business need.