Category: Design

Enlightening Encounter with E.T.

Today I attended a seminar held by Edward Tufte. Edward Tufte, or E.T. as he refers to himself, is the foremost authority on representing data and charting information. He practices what he preaches in his presentation. I enjoyed every minute of the lecture. I was seated to the far right in the very front which made it difficult to see everything he was doing, but his engaging teaching style worked even for people who couldn’t see him very well from their seats.

He used examples from his books extensively to illustrate points and to introduce topics. Four books written and published by Edward Tufte were distributed at the entrance before the talk began. These four books were worth the entire price of admission alone! I can hardly wait to take the time to study them and incorporate their ideas into my own designs.

In one portion of his lecture E.T. focuses on eliminating “chartjunk” and useless clutter from data representations. He is not too keen on the use of PowerPoint with its heavy reliance on hierarchical outlines and the interface’s encouragement to use “bullet grunts” to describe things.

One recent innovation he presents is Sparklines, or small word-sized graphs that can be used any place in a document to quickly convey a lot of data. They are meant to be used just like words. He even suggested that a Sparkline could make a great headline in a news story, especially in the sports section.

This was an all-day event, and afterwards I met up with my wife and some friends at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix; a satisfying end to an enlightening day.

Internet Explorer 7 Released

IE7 LogoMaking web pages used to be fun. I started back in the old days around 1996 with my first attempts to learn HTML. It wasn’t complicated. There weren’t very many tags. There was no such thing as CSS. You just made invisible tables to position everything. Life was good. You didn’t have anything so complicated that it “looked wrong” in another browser. Then things started to change. People started using Microsoft Internet Explorer and making their web pages with it as their rendering tester. After their designs were finished they would start getting complaints about how their site was all messed up in Netscape Navigator (that’s what the web browser was called back then). So instead of trying to make their site work right in all browsers (which is still hard today) they just slapped a little image on their site that said “This page best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer Version X.”

There has been a push for web standards in the hope that pages might render the same on all browsers. No browser implements all of the standards correctly, unfortunately, but some didn’t even try. Internet Explorer has historically been the most popular among web users, but at the same time the worst when it came to standard compliance. The biggest problem with Microsoft Internet Explorer, though, has been that it had been years since it was updated with any new features. New technologies have emerged that were simply unsupported in the most widely used browser in the world. It appears that IE7 seeks to change that. I still don’t recommend that people use it over Firefox, but at least with the world shifting to a more feature-rich browser web designers can finally start using the advanced technologies that have been supported by Firefox, Opera, Safari, and others for years now.

Maybe Microsoft Internet Explorer’s best contribution to the Internet will be that it makes web design fun again. Let’s home it doesn’t end up like IE6 in a couple of years: ignored and outdated.

pizzahut.com versus dominos.com

Krissy and I rarely order pizza, but on kind of a fluke we’ve ordered pizza twice in the last two weeks. The first time we ordered was for just the two of us. We both like Pizza Hut so I decided to check out what sorts of specials they have at pizzahut.com. You have to create an account at either site before you can order. I was impressed that they were able to find my address and which restaurant services our apartment because it is in a relatively newly developed area. The controls for ordering made what could have been very complicated process rather simple while still allowing for maximum flexibility. I was able to pay for the pizzas using a credit card online. All I had to do once they arrived was sign the receipt.

Lst night we ordered pizza for the family we’re taking care of. They usually buy from Dominos, so I hopped online to see if I could order using dominos.com. Their interface is a little bitty clunky. It looks like a website designed in 1998. It failed to find both my home address and the address of the family we were with. It isn’t surprising that our apartment wasn’t in the database, but this house has been here for years! I don’t know how the credit card processing works because we paid in cash. They were very fast and prompt delivering exactly on time. I take off points, though, for popups used for no reason.

If you want to order pizza online you can choose whichever you like best, but I think I’ll stick with Pizza Hut.

Computer Training… The Blind Leading the Blind

At least I wish I were blind after having seen this beautiful design job advertising some free computer training being offered to residents in my apartment complex. Computer without a mouse? A backwards @ symbol? A long hole where the space bar ought to be?

I guess you get what you pay for.

Computer Class Flyer

Not Suitable for Curling Eyelashes

Caution, this product can burn your eyes.Krissy is going to be attending a gala put on by the company she works for. She decided that she wanted to curl her hair, and so she bought herself a curling iron. I’d have to say that this is the strangest warning I’ve seen in a while. I mean, if I’m worried about getting burned, my eyes are not the first thing I’d be worried about. I’ve never burned my eye before… ever. Whenever I see warnings like this I always wonder how many people it takes that complain that this specific warning was never stated anywhere with the product before they cave and just tie on a tag or stick a little sticker on it like this.

Curling irons are hot. hot things can burn you. If something says it can burn you, then it can burn you anywhere it touches your body. This obviously includes the eyes, although if you have a curling iron in your eye, then burning is not your only concern.

I’m not even going to go into the details of just how rediculously unhelpful that drawing would be to anyone who couldn’t read the text under it. When I covered up the text and showed it to Krissy, she thought it was a warning to watch the iron while it was plugged in because it is hot.