I subscribe to a great newsletter from SitePoint about all things web design, and they usually have lots and lots of great digital tidbits to share, but I think this time they might be slightly off the mark with the following heading for the article: “Spice up your Design Projects and Get Noticed.” It’s the title for an article about a service called SitePal. I think it took me all of a nanosecond or two after arriving at the site to have Boo.com flashbacks. The first thing you’re greeted by when the page loads is a scary-looking animated character.
In a comically bad synthetic voice, she proclaims “Put a character like me to work in minutes. I’ll spice up your site.” Actually, if anything I think she might scare people away from your site. I know that if I saw one of those things on a commercial site, I’d be gone pretty fast.
So my friend Brett just showed me the site xhtmlized, which is probably one of the coolest web 2.0 sites I’ve come across in a while, mostly because they aren’t doing the same old web 2.0 stuff, but are instead applying it to (I think) something new – pricing. In a way, they’ve entrepreneurialized themes and web standards. Anyone can throw up a few cool themes on the web and make them available for free, but in most cases, the person interested in those themes will want to tweak/personalize for their own needs – or maybe they like the theme but they also don’t want people coming to their site and saying oh, they used theme such and such. So then they’re stuck between trying to create something from scratch or using an existing theme and all the work has gone into it and then try to customize it – which they can probably do with little effort if they’re developers. But if you’re a non-techie or just plain don’t want to deal with the dev side of things, what you really want is someone who can add that extra personal touch – because that’s often what you need (at least that’s how it was for me), you like the theme, but you want to maybe move that thing over there and one of those widgets and put them down there, etc. etc. From their long list of testimonials, it looks like the guys at xhtmlized are doing quite well. It’ll be interesting to see if this model catches on and gets more widely used.
So I’m currently watching the live webcast of the Adobe CS3 launch – the most exciting part so far, from the perspective of a User Experience is about the focus on prototyping – in other words, integrating features into the tool that are specifically intended for presenting unfinished work to clients. Until now, major apps like Photoshop and Dreamweaver are all about creating the finished product. While that’s all good and well, the reality is of course that to get to that final deliverable, you need to iterate through a series of increasingly refined concepts. For me, this is potentially super-exciting, since I’ve already been hacking ways of presenting work in progress for clients with these tools, and will now have tools that were actually designed for this(!) For example, you’ll be able to insert sketches of designs and then add hotspots to them to be able to click through the various sketched pages with a user or a client. That’s of course not too amazing (and there are agile tools out there that already support it), but apparently, from what I could glean, this is all integrated into a workflow in which you iterate into your final design. In other words, Adobe is recognizing UXD as part of the production process and integrating it into their tools – but I’m going to want to play around with an actual tool until I uncork the champagne….