BrainBlog is the Brains4All weblog. Established 2004 in The Netherlands. Brains have been working in IT since 1983, working on the internet since 1993, and using their own agile development process for design and application development since 2003. We talk about about design and usability, the industry of software and web development, web applications and simplicity, beautiful and spectacular things.

Facebook watcher says "Complexity kills"


In a recent article "The Facebook economy" in Business 2.0 Magazine Lindsay Blakely and Michael Copeland write about the impact of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg telling a crowd of developers in San Francisco what they had been dying to hear:

"Right now, social networks are closed platforms," Zuckerberg told the assembled entrepreneurs. "Today we are going to end that."

This opened the door for third party developers to develop, deploy and exploit their applications on the highly successful facebook social network.

Jesse Farmer who keeps track of how well and viral facebook applications are doing on Appaholic is quoted to say:

One attribute that's death to an app is complexity. Facebook and all its homegrown applications are relatively simple; those who create something that requires too much thought or explanation quickly run into trouble.

Appaholic recently got acquired by Altura Ventures, if only to prove a point. Right now, even applications that keep track of facebook applications seem to be valuable...


Amazon: More Ajax, Less Usabilty


Amazon has integrated a new “Look inside this book viewer”. The helpful function has gotten a complete overhaul and has been transformed into stunning looking Web 2.0 application. I must admit, I gawked at it at first too. Wow, that looks really cool, I was thinking.

Then I started clicking some things and as I started clicking more things, trying to do what I was able to do beforehand I got stuck.

That’s right; the ever so simple solution of letting you page through the book, like you would in a bookshop. It was brilliant. Ugly... Yet simple and brilliant. And I just got stuck.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been a satisfied Amazon customer since the very beginning. For me it was finally a way to purchase some of the rarer US titles that are so hard to find in Europe. And I loved the fact that the book shop came to me, and I didn’t have to go to the shop. At home, I could browse for hours, take all the time I wanted, like a kid in a candy store. I so love books!

And I so loved Amazon for delivering to my doorstep. And I loved them more when they were helping me buy; giving recommendations and then letting me browse through the books like in a real bookshop. Awesome.

When on the few occasions I visit a real bookshop now, I find the experience unsettling and unpleasant. I can’t find a thing that interests me and most of the books are in plastic wrap, so it’s absolutely impossible to look inside.

Amazon was an inspiration to me, their site was simple and every developer or designer had his own view at how things should look or work. But it worked and it got me what I needed. Books.

Now Amazon has dropped the simplicity in favor of Chrome, Ajax and Complexity and I’m at a loss. How many less technically gifted visitors will go haywire on this self indulgence of web developers showing off their newly found technical skills? Did they have a meeting about how great it was going to be and about how much chrome and features they could shove in? Did anyone for one second think about how adding complexity would affect sales?


I don’t want Amazon Upgrade, I want books! I don’t want to see a spinner, I want to browser through the pages. Let me look at the book while I’m waiting, not at “Loading…” That is just AJAX for AJAX sake. Not for my sake! Did they every wonder what a customer might want out of a Look inside this book feature? Did they even ask? Did a group of their best customers write to them and ask them; "Look, it is taking really long to load those inside the book pages, can you please make us look at a boring spinner while it's loading, instead of at this exciting book we maybe want to buy?"


If anyone here at Brains is trying to sneak in an extra field into our Sign-Up procedure (which I think is already bloated) they better come armed with a dozen, sharp, convincing arguments to prove to me why we should put this in. And if they do convince me, and we do put it in, we measure what happens to Sign-Ups. And if it drops too far we’ll take the whole dawn thing out again.

If you want to get on my good side, you find out ways to take fields out, make it simpler.

I guess Amazon did not get on my good side today.


10 rules of user experience


I found this great list on ACM Ubiquity.

1) More features isn't better, it's worse.
2) You can't make things easier by adding to them.
3) Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.
4) Style matters
5) Only features that provide a good user experience will be used.
6) Any feature that requires learning will only be adopted by a small fraction of users.
7) Unused features are not only useless, they can slow you down and diminish ease of use.
8) Users do not want to think about technology: what really counts is what it does for them.
9) Forget about the killer feature. Welcome killer user-experience.
10) Less is difficult, that's why less is more.

While I don't agree with all points, it is a great article and has some lessons for all of us.


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