What I learned at Macromedia's UCON99

Notes from Designing the Web

This session was far more rambling and not necessarily as useful. In fact most of my notes were simply angry questions, especially for one guy who said we're all going to have high speed access next year. What-ever.

Common mistakes:
Define the concept and only then apply the tools. Don't let your tool limit your vision. Anticipate and focus the message you're trying to communicate and your visitor is trying to find.

Information vs. Recreation: The showdown. Decide what side of this your site is on.

Why do you keep tossing out the experiential memory that 100,000s of users already know?????? This is one of those angry comments I had when one of the speakers started talking 'moving beyond' the conventions of the web page. This line of thought drives me up the wall. With the web we finally have an application (with _just_ two variations, think how many different databases there are) that nearly 90% of the people who use computers have learned how to use! Don't they understand what how significant this is? Yes the 'page' paradigm may not be the best for all applications, but it is very flexible, and very, very common. Don't just scrape it out of hand. Don't eliminate underlines in hypertext, 'just because', don't try and get rid of the browser's Back and Forward buttons, 'just because'.

The Experience Modes:

Lean forward: interacting (active seeking, users developing content, often brain-on)

Lean back: Passive experience, narration, the cinematic experience. (often brain off)

Both of these modes are very important and are used for establishing how a user is interacting with a medium.

Example sites:,

On balancing flash and utility:
The best way to have a good site that includes branding to have the branding elements displayed the first time a user comes to the site, but then have site become more utility oriented with successive visits.

On Interfaces:
Keep interfaces simple and consistent. If at all possible, provide 1-to-1 mapping of icons and objects.

On Sprawling sites:
Is it reasonable to split up sites? Why one massive site when you can have multiple small grokable sites?

On Portals as Cities:
The parallels between portals and cities run pretty deep: cafes:chat rooms, post offices:e-mail, banks:finance, theaters:on-demand video/audio, newspapers:news, etc. What will they add next?

On providing examples:
The web exploded because of the 'view source' command. Can you recommend that people _not_ lock their Flash movies? To this question Lynda responded very positively, but this other guy went on about how someone took his web site, graphics and all, and made a commerce site out of it. I didn't get the chance to respond that just about everyone has had that happen, but you've got to look at the bigger picture: open files are automatic tutorials. If you want Flash to be a widespread technology, then you've got to give people the opportunity to learn from the examples that are out there. Flash is complicated enough that the files themselves should be analyzed, not just the end product. When it comes down to it, the reason why the web grew as quickly as it did was because of the 'View Source' command. Do the same for Flash and it will grow just as quickly.

Final comment from Lynda to web designers:
Lose your ego, Respect your content.

Notes from UCON99

1) Introduction
2) Navigation and Information Design
3) Web Design Panel Notes
4) Other Notes


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