jQuery UI 1.5

jQuery has just released version 1.5 of their user interface module called “jQuery UI”.  Maybe not the most snazzy of names, however, the module is a major leap forward for web developers and application developers.  You can see the details at http://ui.jquery.com although the high interest has crash the server, I think.  I can’t wait to try it out. 🙂

The blog post is extremely well written and gives a great high level overview of what the module does.  When jQuery first came out, it totally transformed the way I think about building websites.  With jQuery UI, I think a similar change would happen for applications.

I still love ExtJS for heavy duty applications like Marketo, but you do have to buy a license.  For an open source alternative, and a lighter weight version, jQuery UI is a perfect solution.  In fact, I am already thinking about how the Marketo Landing Page designer could be enhanced with jQuery UI.

Certainly, the tabs would be great to build those through the UI.  This would help users who want Microsites, but know that it is better to keep the user on the same page.  I will have to think about this more, but I think there is alot of potential there.

Check it out and see what you think.

Women!

Women!  Am I right?  yes, I am right.

Typically, I don’t find this sort of thing amusing, but this one really made me laugh.

It made me think of Katie.  She has so much crap around the house that I look at and think, “We don’t need this!  Seriously, we don’t need this.”  So I throw it away and she gets this look on her face like, “You hurt me so much, I can barely keep from crying.  But I won’t cry because you said you hate that.  Fine, I won’t cry.  You are mean.  A mean, mean man, but all I will do is silently be near you.”

You know the look I mean!  Don’t make that face now.  No, really, don’t…ahh come on!  Nooooo.

Last weekend, I threw away tons of crap from the garage.  This week we bought a dresser for the boys and are starting to re-arrange the bedrooms of the boys.  I think the change is giving Katie a nervious breakdown.

But it’s not her fault.  Women!  Right??  I wonder if Bill Clinton has these sort of thoughts about Hillary?  I imagine he does.  Katie, I love you.  Really!  No seriously.

FreeCreditReport.com

I can’t get this commercial out of my head.

Make it stop.

The UX of Firefox 3 (RC)

Mozilla just posted a Release Candidate of Firefox 3.  I had installed a beta a while back but things have changed much.  The browser doesn’t crash on me anymore, but more importantly, everything that uses JavaScript launches twice as fast.  Gmail is really zippy.  So is Marketo.  EXT apps are wiked fast.  I am very pleased.

The big back button on the top left is a nice design feature.  In general, it is clean, fast and pleasing to the eye.  I think they did an excellent design job both technically and visually.  My plugins work (for the most part).  The only thing I see a flaw (and it is really minor) is the spinning dots all the way on the top right.  I am staring at them now.  Whay are they still spinning?  The page is done downloading.  Stop!  Maybe it’s an ajax call?  Firebug doesn’t say anything is asking.

Additionally, that spinner is a little off center, too high.  I would suggest that they put a different thing there. Or nothing.  They have the progress bar at the bottom right.  What is the point of that spinner?  It’s too small to be seen by average users and too annoying to be ignored by anal people like me.

Why am I obsessing about a silly little spinner?  Because the rest of the application is really strong and I am picking on them.  A+ guys.  Great work.  If we are very lucky, the whole world will choose this browser, so I can develop faster.

The Office (US v UK)

The Office is a funny show. Started in the UK, it has since been redone for a US audience. I have been watching both on Netflix through the web. There is a fascinating difference.

In the UK BBC version, the main character David Brent (Ricky Gervais) is a total dick. There is nothing likable about him. He is rude and obnoxious. He will spread rumors because he doesn’t like someone. I hate David Brent. He makes me not want to watch the show. However, he is funny to watch because of how annoying he is. Sort of.

On the US version the same character is named Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is a very different character.  He is horrible and inappropriate most of the time, however, he has a soul.  His feelings can be hurt and he shows it.  The rest of the characters respond to this.  They often show him tenderness, the way you might a child.  Rather than a total asshole, Michael Scott is a pathetic loser who doesn’t really know any better.  In fact, he has some upside.  He can be a great salesman and sometimes say the right thing; like when he went to Pam’s art show.

The US version to me is much more nuanced.  I appreciate all of the characters more because of their depth and the way the direction brings out those interesting expressions and moments.  I laugh WAY more in the US version too.  I find it funnier, even though there are nearly identical scenes.  The attack on Tim by Pam’s boyfriend was hilarious.  In the UK version is was not funny at all.

I am not saying that the United States is better than England.  I am just saying that their is a major difference in these two shows and that I greatly prefer the US one.  I think it’s brilliant.  I can’t wait until I can get season 4 on DVD Netflix.

The UX of Virgin America

First of all, Virgin America’s website kicks ass.  It blew my mind.  I put in the origination and the destination and it gave me the lowest prices that day and several days ahead and behind.  That clued me in to the right day I should fly to save literally thousands of dollars.  The UI was spectacular, the graphic design was professional and slick, the information architecture was logical and intuitive and the features were exactly what I needed, plus a few that I loved without ever having thought of them.

Great work to whomever designed that site.

The airplane was a nice experience as well.  It had black lights, sort of like a club, like a disco.  The seats were new and about the size of the Jetblue seats. (Never enough).  There were several innovations.

  1. Each seat has a DC electric plug.  I thought this was brilliant and so simple.  We used the laptop to watch a DVD and the battery didnt die by Act III.  Every airline should do this.  However, it was in a really awkward position.  I would never have known about if I didn’t notice a billboard that talked about it.  It should be mentioned by the intro movie.
  2. The intro movie.  It was animated with 3D rendering by someonee with real style.  It was gorgeous.  Absolutely phenomenal.  The quality was world class.  PLUS, it was entertaining, informative and engaging.  I thought it was perfect.
  3. The entertainment system.  TV (dish), Games (Crappy games, but still they were games), instant messenger to other seats, movies on demand ($7 was too expensive, I would have paid $2).  The controller was elegant and usable.  The kids figured out the games right away.  They had doom.  Lots of blood.  Katie would not approve.  However, this is the coolest entertainment system on any flight I have ever seen by a wide margin.  So it’s not perfect, big deal.  It’s a 100x better than anything else.
  4. Map.  it used Google Maps so you could zoom in.  It worked a little slow, but it was still better than what most airlines has, which is nothing.

Overall, it was an A+ experience.  Great job, from the website to the checkin (handled us nicely) to the airplane to the entertainment system.  Excellent.  Of course, I still want more for less, but the price was right and the experience kicked ass.  (very inexpensive overall actually)

I give a strong thumbs up to Virgin America for this trip.

The UX of Product Management

What is the difference between User Experience Design and Product Management?  Additionally, should product management come out of the marketing department or the engineering department?  This issues are coming to the fore recently at work as we start to mature our process and organization.

I have seen it both ways. Both ways are bad.  Reporting to marketing leads to a disconnect with the engineering realities.  Reporting to engineering results in a disconnect to real people and real users.  Both ways lead to conflict between engineering and marketing.  And where is the design department?  We are stuck reporting up to one group or the other, neither of which understands why we exist.  Both seem to think we are supposed to make it look pretty.  “Design is the way things work, not how they look.” – Jobs

My personal feeling is that product management should report to neither department.  It should be its own thing.  It should empower the engineering department and the marketing department at the same time.  The marketing department represents the ideal world.  They should ask for the sun, the stars and the moon.  The engineering department represents the reality of production.  What can be handled in what amount of time?  They need details and specifics.  Marketing should not be forced to provide those details.  They should be blue sky.  Engineers should not be told they can not have details, that is just unfair.

By having the product management department as an independent group, then it is the function of that group to interpret the dreams of the marketin/business people and turn it into the details and reality of the engineers.  I described this exact thing to the Intuit CEO, Steve Bennett as a UX conference.  He didn’t get it, but I tried.  It is the role of the designer to understand both worlds and produce the bridge between them.

It is an exciting time for me, as I try to help bring about this and see if it works as well as I imagine.