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September 27 2011

13:00

Seductive Interaction Design: A UX Booth Book Review

When talk builds about making seductive interactions, it’s nice to have people like Stephen Anderson giving us his two cents. Here are my two cents on his two cents.

When I started studying for my degree in Interactive Media Production, I had never heard of UX and neither, dare I say it, would’ve any of my lecturers. UX wasn’t something that was covered during my 3 years of study. Even as I entered into the fabled World of Work, I’d heard very little of usability, and it seemed most job roles called for designers or developers.

I then began working for a larger agency that had just created a brand new UX team which was tasked with making usable websites. After a few years of success, the team then expanded and begun to employ specialists within the UX, employing UX practitioners, UX consultants and UI designers. This change seemed to bring about a shift of focus from making websites not only usable but also enjoyable to use.

Let’s get seductive

The point I’m taking forever to make is that the web design industry has evolved at a rapid rate. It went from building websites to compete with your competitors to making websites usable and accessible, and now to what we see where information architects, UX designers, interface designers, interaction designers, and all manner of different specialties falling under the umbrella of User Experience.

This explosion of specialists has prompted the industry to flourish, and the knowledge base within it is growing by the day. It now seems to be a given that a website being published today will be usable; however, the new focus is on making websites seductive.

Stephen Anderson has written a wonderful book called Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experience that looks at some excellent examples of websites employing seductive design, which doesn’t stop at merely pointing them out, as Stephen explains: “…the actual examples will soon be outdated (or imitated), but the reasons these ideas worked in the first place won’t change.” This is why the book is such a success—it’s not just a book full of examples. It delves into the fundamental psychological theories behind exactly why each of the examples work so well.

That said, Anderson has a warning for anyone who thinks they can just copy these examples and expect them to be a success:

“Adding ‘playful’ elements on top of a frustrating experience will only complicate things.”

It’s all a game…or is it?

It’s always great to be in a position to think about how you can seduce your audience into loving your website or application, but you must first be sure that you’ve got the basics sorted.

One very famous example that gets dissected in the book is the now infamous LinkedIn progress bar. This idea of “gamification” has blown up since their success and it seems that every site has some aspect of gaming added to it at the moment. However, gamification shouldn’t just be added to a site without understanding exactly why certain elements work. There also needs to be a great deal of consideration around exactly what you are “gaming.”

“A game first has to be…engaging…without the points and the badges that get so much attention; a simple reward schedule…however addictive…leads to frustration if people don’t enjoy the activity being reinforced.”

The important point to take from this is that the activity you are trying to add game mechanics to must be in demand by your audience, else any success you see will be short lived. It’s not possible to make a success out of something that is failing through gamification alone—you must solve the underlying problems, which goes back to the earlier point about getting the fundamentals right before looking to seductive interactions.

One important element that Anderson highlights is that the language used in your website needs to fit the personality of the brand. He points out that a lot of forms online today seem to forget that people are being asked to fill them out, and the language being employed is that of a computer and not a conversation between two people.

Role play makes everything better…

There is an excellent, and seemingly obvious (once pointed out), role play exercise that tries to draw attention towards the language being used during a form process. Anderson recommends that you actually have a conversation with someone as if you were asking them for the information that the form is requesting. The technique is excellent at helping you find areas where the language could be friendlier and it also does a good job of highlighting the areas that could pose a problem to the person using the form.

Seductive Interaction Design is an excellent book for people looking to gain a basic understanding of psychology and how these theories are being applied to modern day websites and applications. However, and Steven also quotes these books, if you want an even deeper understanding of psychological theory, I’d highly recommend Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

Another recommendation I’d make with this book is that you should go and buy the Mental Notes card deck that Anderson created last year. It is an excellent set of cards that summarizes 52 UX theories and are a handy reminder to have with you.

As an end note, I’ve read a few books on Kindle for iPhone and been disappointed with the way it had been converted. However, that isn’t the case with this book. It’s a great conversion and the screenshots have been positioned exactly where you would want them. Having it on my phone means that I will always have it handy whenever I need it. So if you pick it up, don’t be worried about ebook quality.

So what about you? Have you read any books on seductive design lately? Sound off in the comments; we’d love to hear your thoughts.


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August 20 2010

16:59

HTML5 for Web Designers: Book Review


HTML5 is all the buzz right now: some people think you need to wait until it’s “complete” to use it, while others are pushing the envelope and using what the browsers are supporting right now. If you’re not following the HTML5 hype and aren’t familiar with what’s so exciting, today’s book review will give you a great source to turn to: “HTML5 for Web Designers.


What’s It About?

It should be obvious what this book is about: HTML5. However, that’s a broad, tangential topic. More specifically, HTML5 for Web Designers is supposed to be a super-condensed, easy-reading version of the HTML5 spec, with a huge scoop of practicality stirred in. I’ve included a few quotes in this review so you can get an idea of what it’s all about.


Who Wrote It?

Jeremy Keith

HTML5 for Web Designers was penned (well, probably typed) by the brilliant Jeremy Keith. If you’re not familiar with Jeremy Keith, you’ve been missing a lot on the web. He’s an Irish web developer, the technical director at Clearleft, a web development firm in Brighton, England. He’s done a lot of work with Microfomats; for more by Jeremy, you should really check out his blog, Adactio. Mr. Keith was interviewed by Dan Benjamin and Jeffrey Zeldman on the Big Web Show, talking about why the book was written, why Jeremy was chosen to write it, and a lot of other fun stuff.

Listening to that podcast, you’ll agree that Jeremy Keith was definitely the right guy to write this book. If you’ve never read anything by Jeremy Keith before, then a small piece of your web-developer self has yet to be born. Nothing in this book could be more practically explained. The website says it well:

In this brilliant and entertaining user’s guide, Jeremy Keith cuts to the chase, with crisp, clear, practical examples, and his patented twinkle and charm.

You have to love all the fun quips Mr. Keith sprinkled in, from the subtle “an array of programmers” to the more obvious “If you ever use the autoplay attribute in this way, I will hunt you down.”


What’s In The Book?

The Pages of HTML5 for Web Designers

The table of contents shows what exactly you’ll read in this book:

  1. A Brief History of Markup
  2. The Design of HTML5
  3. Rich Media
  4. Web Forms 2.0
  5. Semantics
  6. Using HTML5 Today

Chapter 1: A Brief History of Markup

You might think such a concise book wouldn’t have room for a chapter on the venerable past of HTML . . . but you couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the very first chapter, Jeremy Keith takes you back to the beginning. He clearly explains the path from HTML 2.0 (there never was a version 1) right up to HTML5, visiting famous stops such as HTML 4, XHTML 1, and XHTML 2. He gives a great explanation of why it’s not reasonable to wait for full HTML5 support before using it.

After HTML 4.01, the next revision to the language was called XHTML 1.0. The X stood for “eXtreme” and web developers were required to cross their arms in an X shape when speaking the letter. No, not really. The X stood for “eXtensible” and arm crossing was entirely optional.


Chapter 2: The Design of HTML5

Before diving into too much nitty-gritty, Keith expains some of the philosophies behind HTML5. Among other things, he explains why the new doctype makes sense (and why doctypes are really irrelevant), what’s been removed since HTML4, and how some elements have changed their identities. One of the most interesting parts of this chapter is his explanation of why there are no longer any deprecated elements, only obsolete ones. And don’t miss the section on the new JavaScript API; I won’t spoil it, but I’ll tell you this: fun, fun, fun.

With HTML5, anything goes. Uppercase, lowercase, quoted, unquoted, self-closing or not; it’s entirely up to you.


Chapter 3: Rich Media

I think we’d all agree that the new media offerings in HTML5 are some of the most exciting additions . . . and some of the most controversial. If any of that controversy is caused by a lack of understanding, this chapter will make it all clear. Jeremy very clearly explains all you’d care to know about the canvas, audio, and video tags. He’ll steer your through the murky waters of patchy support and poor accessibility and show you how to use these features successfully.

Fortunately, there’s a way to use the audio element without having to make a Sophie’s Choice between file formats. Instead of using the src attribute in the opening <audio> tag, you can specify multiple file formats using the source element instead.


Chapter 4: Web Forms 2.0

This chapter is about one of the biggest parts of HTML5: forms. Usually, forms are a rather boring topic: not so in this book. Jeremy will take you through each one of the attributes and types of input, as well as teach you how to check for a browser’s support of these new features. You’ll be enlightened to read about why HTML5 includes things like native form validation, and whether or not you should style the new UI elements (Well, you can’t, but he answer the question “Should you want to?”).

I can see why the autofocus attribute has been added to HTML5—it’s paving a cowpath—but I worry about the usability of this pattern, be it scripted or native. This feature could be helpful, but it could just as easily be infuriating. Please think long and hard before implementing this pattern.


Chapter 5: Semantics

This is probably my favourite chapter; to start out, Mr. Keith discusses the issues behind the extensibility of HTML: should you be able to create your own tags, like in XML? Are there other ways to bring meaning to elements? He goes on from there to introduce several of the new elements that HTML5 brings to the table, and shows you how to use them correctly.

Before reading this book, I was somewhat confused about the roles of the new structural elements—things like section and article. Well, colour me enlightened; Jeremy Keith’s explanation will make it all clear. If you really want to challenge yourself, read his explanation of HTML5′s outline algorithm.

Back in 2005, Google did some research to find out what kind of low-hanging fruit could be found on the cowpaths of the web.
A parser looked at over a billion web pages and tabulated the most common class names. The results were unsurprising. Class names such as “header,” “footer,” and “nav” were prevalent. These emergent semantics map nicely to some of the new structural elements introduced in HTML5.


Chapter 6: Using HTML5 Today

It’s nice to know all the theories and specs, but can we really use it? today? As you’ll see, the short answer is “yes”; the long answer is, well, you’ll have to read the book. What’s supported? What’s can you use now? What workarounds are available? It’s all in here, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

I hope that this little sashay ’round HTML5 has encouraged you to start exploring this very exciting technology. I also hope that you will bring the fruits of your exploration back to the WHATWG.


The Summary

It’s amazing how much is actually covered on these subjects in only 85 pages. You’ll learn everything from the history of HTML to how to correctly use the <b> and <i> tags (eh? yes, their back in HTML5). If you want to “try before you buy,” you can check out the first chapter at A List Apart.

Is there anything I’d change in this book? I can’t find anything to complain about; both the publishers and the author are individuals known for their amazing quality of work, and HTML5 for Web Designers is just one more testament to their skill.


Who’s the Book For?

If you’re a web developer, you’ll appreciate this book’s practical knowledge and solid explanations of why things are the way they are. If you’re primarily an experience designer, this book will give you a good grip on using HTML5 semantically and accessibly. If you’re interested in the history of HTML, that’s here. And if you just want a small but elegant book for your shelf, look no further.

In sum, if Nettuts+ is one of your regular web stops, you absolutely must buy HTML5 for Web Designers.

Or, what if you’ve already bought it . . . and read it. If that’s the case, how’s my analysis? Is there anything about the book that you would change?

HTML is the most important tool a web designer can wield. Without markup, the web wouldn’t exist. I find it remarkable and wonderful that anybody can contribute to the evolution of this most vital of technologies.

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20:53
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May 06 2010

21:13

Book Review + Giveaway Of Digging into WordPress (2 copies)

This article is the first post of our new “Book Review Series” in which we will try to review and giveaway a book each week here on 1stWD for our awesome readers.  If you are a WordPress lover like me then I am sure you have also read some books regarding WordPress. There are a plenty of books available in WordPress niche but one of the most comprehensive book I have ever seen is Digging into WordPress by Chris Coyier and Jeff Starr. Both of them are renowned authors and famous developers of WordPress Community. Today we will review the book and yes as said in title, we have 2 copies of Digging into WordPress to giveaway for our beloved 1stWD readers.

About the Authors

The book is co-authored by Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks and Jeff Starr of Perishable Press. Both of them are famous in WordPress Community because of their out of the box solutions for developing websites using WordPress.

I will suggest you to check their blogs to guess the quality of content in book. The blogs mentioned before are filled completely with awesomeness.

What’s so Special in Book??

So you want to know what’s so special in this book. The authors of book wrote it in just two lines and we think that it is 100% Correct.

There is much to learn about the World’s most popular publishing platform. From your first steps of learning about WordPress all the way through maintaining a site throughout the years, this book is packed with truly practical information.

In short, the book will teach you how to create a WordPress theme from scratch. Starting from how to install WordPress securely, you will end the book learning clever tips and tricks for advanced WordPress theme development.

Why we liked the book?

There is no doubt that the whole book is filled with great content but the best thing we liked in the book is written below.

The PDF version of the book is awesome because we will be able to update and expand it indefinitely. As WordPress changes, the book will evolve with new information, techniques, and code. This is why we call the DiW PDF a “living, breathing document” – it will grow with WordPress, and will be updated and improved periodically well into the future.

Yes, you have got it right. The plan is to update this book as often as WordPress changes with new versions. When we first heard about this feature, we thought that It will be a little bit difficult as WordPress releases 3 Major versions in a single year. It’s not easy to update the book thrice a year, but the guys behind Digging into WordPress proved their selves by providing the version two just after 3 months of releasing the book to public. This means that the book will get an update after WordPress 3.0 so you will never feel that your techniques are old.

Two new chapters in DiW V2

It’s here, THE GIVEAWAY

We have 2 copies of DiW book for giveaway. We are thankful to the guys behind DIW for supporting this giveaway. Read on how to take part in giveaway.

How to enter in the giveaway?

Pretty simple, you have to leave a comment on the post and tell us what you want to see on 1stwebdesigner, or how we can make the website better. The comments should be constructive and powerful so that you can increase the chance of your win. We will select the best opinions and winners will be announced. The giveaway is open till 11:59pm GMT+5, May 11th 2010.

Grab the book right now

If you don’t like waiting for the result of giveaway, you can buy the book here directly. What we can assure you that this book is definitely worth your money.

Feel free to let me know if you want us to review some specific book via comments section. Good Luck!

December 01 2009

02:11

Digging into WordPress Review, and Free Copies!

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from Chris Coyier, of CSS-Tricks, containing a review copy of his recently released “Digging into WordPress” e-book. Expecting it to be more of a mini-book, I nonchalantly told him that I’d post a review that Friday; little did I know that this was a full-fledged book, packed full of knowledge.

“Written by WordPress veterans Chris Coyier and Jeff Starr, Digging into WordPress is 400+ jam-packed pages of everything you need to get the most out of WordPress. WordPress is great right out of the box, but unless you want an ordinary vanilla blog, it is essential to understand the full potential of WordPress and have the right tools to get the job done.”

Those of you who read CSS-Tricks will be well aware that Chris writes in a very easy-to-understand fashion. Rather than flooding each article with high-level jargon that only the most knowledgeable of us can understand, he instead dumbs each article down to the fundamentals – even to the point of being honest enough to convey when he doesn’t quite understand the reasoning behind some line of code.

As a result, he’s built a wonderful community, and has built a great reputation for himself in the last few years. This book, co-written with Jeff Star, is no different: straight-forward, easy-to-understand, and simple.

Simple Learning

Thanks to the use of fun, and helpful illustrations, even those who are brand new to WordPress will be able to dig their heals in — with minimal confusion.

The 400 page ebook covers everything from navigating the admin panel, to creating a comments form, to even more advanced topics like plugin development. And though it’s generally good practice to point out a few negatives in one’s review, it’s difficult to do so when a book is such a pleasure to read.

Heart of a Teacher

Chris and Jeff, in this book, have proven that they have the hearts of teachers. Even for intermediate to advanced WordPressers, there’s something to be learned — and at $27, the purchase is a no-brainer!

“Digging into WordPress is perfect for WordPress users in the beginner to intermediate range, but contains plenty of great information for the advanced user as well. If you have any level of experience working with web design or WordPress, this book is written to help you take WordPress to the next level.”

400 Pages of Practical Information

“There is much to learn about the World’s most popular publishing platform.
From your first steps of learning about WordPress all the way through
maintaining a site throughout the years, this book is packed with truly
practical information.”

Lots of Code Samples

“We go into depth about the anatomy of a WordPress theme. How they work, and how
to write the code you need to do the things you want. This means real code that
you can sink your teeth into, as well as copy and paste. Beyond theme
building, we introduce many tricks your functions.php file can pull off and show
you ways to increase performance and security through HTAccess.”

What About the Free Copies!?

Digging into WordPress Review, and Free Copies!

Chris has generously offered to give away a few copies to our community. To enter, simply leave a comment, and be sure to check back on Friday to see if you were randomly chosen!



November 14 2009

00:14

Review of jQuery Enlightenment – and Free Copies!

jQuery Enlightenment, by Cody Lindley, is a breath of fresh air when it comes to e-books. It’s written by a jQuery team member, each code snippet includes a link to JSBin for live previewing, and – most importantly – there’s no fluff. Ultimately, this means that you’ll learn faster, and more thoroughly.

jQuery Enlightenment

To prove how much I enjoyed reading this book: I received my review copy on a Wednesday, and finished it the next day. As I’m sure many of you are aware, tech books and front to back reads very rarely go well together. This is a testament to the “no fluff” aspect I referenced earlier. Over the course of a dozen chapters, Cody will teach you everything you need to know.

At a Glance

  • Chapter 1 – Core jQuery
  • Chapter 2 – Selecting
  • Chapter 3 – Traversing
  • Chapter 4 – Manipulation
  • Chapter 5 – HTML Forms
  • Chapter 6 – Events
  • Chapter 7 – jQuery and the web browser
  • Chapter 8 – Plugins
  • Chapter 9 – Performance best practices
  • Chapter 10 – Effects
  • Chapter 11- AJAX
  • Chaper 12 – Miscellaneous concepts

Who this Book is for?

While most books on jQuery are primarily focused on introducing the library to new users, jQuery Enlightenment instead assumes you’re at an intermediate level hoping to learn the more advanced tips and techniques. As such, I especially enjoyed the read more than I would have if it was just another crash course style book. Assuming that you’re a regular Nettuts+ reader, it’s more than probable that you have at least a basic understand of jQuery. If so, it’s time to take your skills to the next level; jQuery Enlightenment will take you there.

Though perhaps the most convincing reason to check out Cody’s new book is because he’s an official member of the jQuery team.

JSBin Snippets

Throughout the book, Cody supplies every single code snippet with a respective live preview from JSBin. This may not sound like much; however, it’s incredibly helpful when you can simply click on a link, and immediately be transported to a page which allows you to “toy” with the code. I can’t tell you how vital this is – and, frankly, it’s shocking that more web development e-books haven’t taken advantage of this yet.

About the Author

Cody Lindley is a Christian, husband, son, father, brother, outdoor enthusiast, and client-side engineer. Since 1997 he has been passionate about HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, Interaction Design, Interface Design, and HCI. He is most well known in the jQuery community for the creation of Thickbox, a modal/dialog solution. In 2008 he officially joined the jQuery team as an evangelist. His current focus has been on client-side optimization techniques as well as speaking and writing about jQuery. As of late he is employeed by Ning.com

Free Copies!

Cody has been generous enough to offer a handful of copies to our readers! To enter, simply leave a comment, and check back on Monday (Tuesday for some of you) to see if you’re a winner! Otherwise, if you’d like to purchase the ebook and immediately read it, you can buy it here.



November 06 2009

10:01

Book Review: Zend Framework 1.8 Web Application Development

If you are looking into buying a book to learn about Zend Framework, chances are you are already set on using Zend Framework to build your next project. Today, we will be looking at Zend Framework 1.8 Web Application Development by Keith Pope, published by Packt Publishing.

First of all, you’ll notice that this book is based on Zend Framework version 1.8, and as of writing this review, the latest stable release of Zend Framework is 1.9.4. This is not an issue, because 1.9, even though it brings new features such as PHP 5.3 compatibility and RESTful web services, does not change its structure or any part of the system that might have impact on your learning.

Flow of the Book

The flow of this book is heavily inspired by the famous Ruby on Rails book, Agile Web Development with Rails, where the author invites you to join the process of building a demo application, which in both cases is a shopping cart system. Judging by the feedback of the Rails book, most people feel quite comfortable learning a framework this way, some don’t. I guess if you are not a fan of following a defined learning structure, this book probably isn’t for you.

Short but Sweet

It is a relatively short book, with only around 350 pages. As a result, this book expects you to be comfortable with working with PHP 5 and have a solid grasp of Object-Oriented Programming. If you aren’t already familiar with PHP, or PHP 5’s OOP features, I highly recommend you to polish up the said skills.

MVC Still Rules

The first two chapters of the book focus on the MVC (Model-View-Controller) pattern. As the author mentions at the start of the book, Zend Framework is a loosely coupled framework; it does not enforce the MVC principle. However, given the popularity of MVC within the web development community, it is definitely worth while to learn how to write an application in MVC. Chapter one explains the basics of MVC whilst chapter two explains the request/route/dispatcher/response family. These two chapters will set up the foundation nicely for you and get you to understand the basic structure of a Zend Framework powered MVC application.

Adventure of the Store-Front App

Chapter three to nine contain the actual ‘adventure’ where you as the reader will be riding along with the author on the journey of creating a store-front/shopping-cart application. During the process, the author tells you not only what to do, but also why to do them. A good example is the ‘fat controller skinny model’ vs ’skinny controller vs fat model’ comparison, the book illustrates each and tells you why you should stick with the latter.

Chapter ten wraps up the store-front application with some more common tasks such as bootstrapping modules and sharing common application elements.

Code Optimization, Caching and Testing

Chapter eleven touches on a very practical topic: code optimization and caching. This is especially beneficial if you’re to run a large volume web application or if you have limited hardware resources. Pay special attention to the Zend_Cache section as the author tells you how to integrate it effectively in your application in order to achieve the best result.

The last chapter, chapter twelve, introduces you to Zend_Test, a testing framework that utilizes PHPUnit.

Verdict

To wrap the review up, I think this is an excellent book on Zend Framework provided you:

  • already have a good understanding of PHP;
  • already have a good understanding of OOP;
  • can follow the rather forceful learning flow;
  • know how to learn with initiative (e.g. do your own research!).

This book sits well in the market, as it aims primarily at web professionals who most likely are already experienced with PHP and perhaps some other PHP frameworks, and don’t have time to read books with 1000’s of pages.

You may purchase this book via Packt Publishing’s website.



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