Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Klok gets a new website

As you may have noticed, over the past few months I have been trying to add more content and information to Klok users through the official Klok website. With the addition of the feature request/bug reporting screen and user forums, I started to feel like the initial quick and dirty site was getting disorganized. So I spent last week putting together a less quick and less dirty website to improve upon the content that was already there.

I haven't applied the new design to the submit a bug/feature request screen yet because that is a Flex application that doesn't use the same template, but that is coming soon.

I have tested the site on IE 7, FireFox 3, Safari 3.2 and Chrome (0.4 and 1.0) all on Windows Vista. If you find any problems on these or any other versions feel free to email me at rob [a] mcgraphix [ dot ] com.

Alos, let me know what you think in general.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Apple IPhone vs. Blackberry Storm

For some reason, the holidays always make me want to buy some new gadget. Maybe it is the overwhelming amount of advertising by anyone with a product to sell. This year, I set my sights on a new phone. 

Now, I don't actually need a new phone but for some reason I have decided to shop around anyway. So, the two that caught my attention are the Blackberry Storm and the Apple IPhone. I am sure I am not the only one to compare these two, but I figured I would share my observations.

They both offer lots of the same features so I am not going to compare each aspect of them. What I would like to compare is my initial Experience with them. 

First impressions are hard to overcome
I popped into the Apple store at the local mall and immediately was greeted with a bunch of associates that were all younger than me that were very friendly and appeared to know all the ins and outs of the product. I picked up one of the many that were on display and could play around with it. I immediately was able to navigate around and play some of the demo songs that were on it, get online and browse to my own website and the Klok website without a problem. I did notice instantly that the Flash content on my sites did not work. Though, this was expected.

The same night I went over to the Verizon store (I have a Verizon phone now by the way). I waited in line at the counter so that I could take a look at the Storm. When I finally got to look at it, I picked it up and tried to click some buttons. After a few attempted "clicks" it was clear that it wasn't working. So, the woman behind to counter took a look at it. Tried to push a few buttons and resorted to pulling the battery out. When she put it back in the phone "rebooted". I waited about an hour (actually about 3 minutes but it felt like an hour) and then left because it wasn't coming back up. About 20 minutes later I came back and it was working again. I was able to play with it but it was hard to get past the fact that just a half an hour ago I had a terrible experience with it. I navigated around but had a hard time browsing the web with it. I couldn't really type too well on it either. 

My Conclusion
Even though I was eventually able to play around with the Storm, looking back I feel like it was harder to figure out, harder to use and generally not as "fluid" as the IPhone. Feel free to disagree with me as I am sure other people's experiences were different. That, however, is exactly my point. It doesn't really matter if one product is "better" than another, what matters is whether it provides "a better experience for me".

So I have decided to purchase and IPhone and switch to AT&T (which I never thought I would do just for a phone)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

As usual, I mostly agree with Jakob Nielson

If you work in the web world, it is pretty likely that you know who Jakob Nielson is. If not you can read about his work and thoughts here

He recently posted an article talking about Agile Development and Usability which, like I said, I mostly agree with. Really the only part I cringed at was where he says:

"It's perfectly feasible for developers to do interaction design and usability."

Now, I have no problem with developers being involved with usability testing. I think it is extremely valuable to for them to see first hand how users act. The part that bothers me is that it is next to impossible for developers to have an unbiased opinion when analyzing the results of user testing. In my experience, it is because developers know the ins and outs of the system too well to appreciate the way users perceive the system. A designer on the other hand is in a better position to be looking at the system the way an actual user would.

Like I said, I mostly agree. His suggestion for usability and design to happen in a parallel track is one that I have advocated for a long time and has been very successful for me. His suggestion that Foundational User Research should occur before a development project even exists is spot on. This work and much of the work done by interaction and experience designers is just as much a part of the product strategy process as it is the development/ implementation process. So, part of it must be done during the strategy phase long before developers start writing code.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Klok Integration with Online TimeTracking services

I have had numerous requests for the ability to use Klok to track time against projects stored in 3rd party or homegrown systems. Because of this I have decided to prioritize that functionality.

This feature will allow you to use Klok as usual, even while not connected to the internet, and have the projects/time entries synchronized with the remote source. This will effectively allow you to use Klok in a team environment to track and report time.

As I am wrapping up the necessary infrastructure in order for this to work, I am going to set my sights on one of the many 3rd party systems that exist online. In order to make sure I am focusing on the most common ones first, I would like to ask for your opinion.

So far several people have mentioned FreshBooks and Get Harvest.

Due to the complexity and effort required to implement this, I expect to charge a small fee for this additional feature. If you don't need this feature, then the free Personal Edition of Klok will still be available.

So, if you have a suggestion regarding which one I should start with or a comment on the fact that this won't be free, join the discussion on the Klok user forum.

If you would like information regarding integration with a homegrown system, please contact me directly at rob [a] mcgraphix [dot] com.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Experience Designer/Interaction Designer Wanted in Massachusetts

In my previous post I mentioned that I was looking for an Interaction Designer/Experience Designer.  I forgot to specify that the job was in Marlboorough, Massachusetts.

You can see the official job posting here. If you have questions email me at rob[dot]mckeown[a]

Monday, December 1, 2008

Experience Designer/Interaction Designer Wanted!

I am looking for a top notch Experience Designer/Interaction Designer to work with me full-time at Workscape designing their next generation of Talent Management and Outsourced Benefits Administration applications.

If you have experience designing web-based enterprise applications this could be for you. In this role, you would work with Product Management, Engineering and myself to create applications that enable employees to accomplish of a variety of goals from benefits enrollment to performance evaluations. We have a major focus on building highly usable software making this a high profile position within the company.

The key requirements are:
  • Proven track record designing enterprise applications
  • Experience participating in usability studies
  • The ability to quickly create wireframes and mockups
  • Design skills that will "Wow" while adding real value to users
  • Experience working in an Agile environment
If you have Flex skills then that is even better. Being able to quickly convert mockups to working prototypes is a major plus.

You can see the official job posting here. If you have questions email me at rob[dot]mckeown[a]

I'm going to FlexCamp Boston

I was able to clear my schedule enough to free up Friday Dec. 12 to attend FlexCamp Boston. I have to say I am pretty excited to see Christophe Coneraets presentation on Model Driven Development, Andrew Powell's presentation on Merapi and of course the Flex 4 preview.

I will also be around if anyone wants to chat about Klok.