Friday, June 11, 2010

Shaker Design makes sense in Software Design

Now what on earth is he banging on about?

Yesterday Google put a background on their web page.   It was panned.  I personally thought it made thing look cluttered and less usable.  It wouldn't be my vision, my eyesight is better than 20/20.

So if they did that, what are your options.  Bing is cluttered with their picture, Yahoo is just a sloppy mess.

The best option I had found is to use the mobile Google site at which loads like the old Google did.

If you like the slop of all the information, you can get there by using iGoogle as well. iGoogle is a customizable home page with a clock, headlines, and your top searches among other things.

The big question is why do we need this?  Someone pointed out on a tech blog that most browsers have a search box in their address bar that you can use without the overhead of going to the web site.  It is more efficient to do the searches from the box, but I prefer to have gone to the search engine.  Doing so will give me the mental break of where this particular tab is for the search engine and is where my train of thought starts.

If all we are doing in a search is asking a question of a database, then why do we need all this extra ... 'stuff'?  Frankly I don't think it benefits the user.  Google in particular loads a lot of Javascript code in the background into your browser and bloats up  the amount of memory that your browser uses.  Many other sites do the same thing, you can't fault Google for doing that.  It is called "Feature Creep" in software or "Mission Creep" in the military.  The marginal way of developing software.  If I can get the report from a developer, why not add this field and then add color.  All the sudden a single page of reports is feeding a shadow system that is on the web and used for data mining.  I should know, my job at a university in the last decade was developing that system and being the systems analyst for the same.

More importantly, what are these sites doing with all that "code" in background?  I've never had an adequate explanation.  While they "say" that there is nothing wrong, it strikes me as the parody of a policeman saying "Move along, Nothing to see here!" while the building is burning down in front of you.

The worst illustration of "code bloat" in web sites is Facebook.  I have a Facebook page that I use to keep informed of my family's happenings as well as all my friends here in the City.  It can be a great way to keep in touch with the world.  The problem is that with the management's zeal in mining your data, and you know they are because you actually read their privacy statements didn't you?, they added more and more code to do the actual action of watching over your shoulder.  

Big Brother is watching, and his name is Mark Z. 

Small and light went out the window long ago.  Bloated "Jabba The Hutt" software reigns supreme at Facebook.   I wouldn't mind so much but as a Software Project Manager I am constantly asking who on earth is testing this mess and why haven't they been fired?  Pages don't load right, features simply don't work until you close your session, browser, or even reboot your PC to clear the memory.   Well ok, maybe not reboot the PC, but try telling Mom how to close the browser... all of it.  I've done enough PC Support to know that it is easier to just say "Restart the PC and try again".

I don't even consider to click on a link in Facebook because the virus writers have gotten so aggressive in there that clicking "like" in Facebook is akin to having unprotected sex.   You are bound to get a virus within a day of blind clicking, it has happened to so many of my family and friends that it is a daily occurrence.  

Since it is a web site issue, it is on all three operating systems I use on a daily basis, Windows, Linux and Mac OSX as well.

The Shakers wouldn't have a PC.  It isn't simple these days. Websites can be joyful, but not when they're frustrating you as a user experience.

While you could be saying "It's just a background so deal with it", I'm asking "What are they doing to remember what background you have and why".  You can't stop them from looking over your shoulder so minimize your risk.  You don't need a Google Bar and Bing Bar and a Yahoo Bar.  You don't need any of those at all.  You don't need to give Facebook your phone number and your affiliations.

But I bet you already have.

The next time you go to install a "free program", watch that install closely.  Choose Custom and make sure you don't add the Ask Tool Bar to your browser.  It really is a joy to be simple.

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