Project Takeover Blues Part 3: Psychological Attrition

Much of this article is applicable in a wider, more general sense than just to the mind-messing which can go on when a part-completed Project is taken over by a new developer. Although in these instances they manifest most acutely and are the frequent, maybe invariable, accompaniment to these occasions.

They manifest most acutely for the most part because of the back-story, the history of the development so far carried out by the former (now sacked) developer, and the aftermaths of his/her now failed relationship with a dissatisfied client commissioner of the works.

Many times, especially when the client is not technically-minded and holds in his head an idea of the finished product he wants, but with no understanding of the means and works required to obtain it; this kind of client is a type who most likely to come to grief with his developers.  It is the difference between knowing how to use the controls of a TV or PC, but yet having zero knowledge of how they work or how they are manufactured, which generally opens up a gap in these relationships which is very hard to bridge or practicably proves unmanageable to work with.

(A further exacerbation frequently arises which can be exampled by reference to a commonplace experience of parents in this new and technological age. Their children frequently have grown up accustomed to and acclimatised to an unrestricted availability of plenty in a consumption-driven economy, wherein many consumables are of easy access, but of whose scientific history, development, composition and operation these children know and care nothing. It is felt back story is not to be needed – and because of a spoon-fed dispensation provided by specialized technocrats who stand a universe away in apprehension from the worlds of these children – these children place very little if any value on or feel gratefulness for being able to possess immensely complex and refined technological (and other) products which have issued so freely and abundantly in availability to them.  They have come too easily.)

And so likewise, too often the lay guy who is commissioning works from a developer shows he has a belief that he holds an inalienable right to ask for the moon if he desires it, and feels that to have it is his unconsidered entitlement and the developer’s summary duty is to provide it.

The customer then believes he is always right, even though he has no qualifications, has shown no aptitude or ability in, or even felt moved to be curious about, how the works he expects provided ‘on a plate’ are in fact done and achieved.

As adjunct to this state of complacent ignorance too often an assumption of unquestioned, unquestionable seniority over a developer accompanies this outlook.  Again because of a lack of a sense of any value and weight to the expertise a developer uses and which goes into the sophisticated products he is able to create; and because the client customer considers himself to call all the shots because his pocket is going to finance the works he wants done; these considerations he feels, in a confidence of blind ignorance, place him in an unassailable position of master directing his servant.

The developer must be solicitous and show obsequiousness to his, the client’s, assumed standing, desires, requirements, and sometimes whimsy.  The client like some minor feudal official feels able to lord it over those whom he feels have no status and so no power to oppose or object to him.  So the story goes.

This scenario might seem unjustly coloured – and it has been presented in high-definition so that the essence of the stereotypical bad client is distilled for to be seen in a concentrated form.  And further, developers are not alone in being slighted and dismissed in their worths by the consumerist tinpot would-be dictators being produced by our blasé over consuming, over-producing instant and easy access to everything head in the sand societies. But they are in the front line of vulnerability.

It is developers who are too often subject to uninformed anger and disdain, to non payment for services supplied, to abuse and incomprehension when the moon the client is informed is not available this side of Paradise.  They suffer from such clients attempts to tell them what to do and how to do it; that claim that the impossible is available and just get it from off the shelf.  They are hard pressed to contain the burgeoning of late additions and alterations flooding in and claimed as being in the original requirement by a client, having to tread a fine line between politeness and refusal, and explanation without apology.

As for the client who has sacked or else lost his initial developer – the upshot is the same – there has been reached an impasse – either the initial relationship has failed or else the developer has been unable to deliver – and the client having to seek out another developer in order to complete entails inherently in its history a decisive breach in relations having occurred previously. Thus the prognosis for a happy ending for the newly-hired subsequent developer is not the best.

Indeed there is nothing so difficult to defend oneself against, let alone to try to break down, as entrenched ignorance coupled with an assured self-confident complacency. These are qualities of character being nurtured and encouraged far too much, far too widely. Their owners can sustain their character because such people are able to survive and by doing so send harmful concatenations of reverberations around in their societies.

They are able to survive and to continue because of the great and ponderous gulf in our societies set between consumers and their consumption, and manufacture and development, whereupon the consumer thinks he is king because he holds the purse strings’; but in fact the technocrat holds the aces because he has the knowledge and therefore the power to withhold or supply the gadgets and gewgaws our lives have become crucially dependent upon.

The consumer has been or has allowed himself to have been removed, separated, from the wellsprings of his existential essences.  (For instance, many city children in developed societies have not experienced seeing the commonplace farm animals in the flesh.  Food is commonly shrink wrapped and packaged up, offered without blemishes, irradiated in inert atmospheres, pre-peeled, maybe with added chemical adulteration, all being presented as pristine, untouched by  human hand, almost as if ‘official, rubberstamped-good’ food, and as far away from a slurry tank or a muckspreader as human imagination is able to conjure)

The result is loss: the loss of an awareness of authenticity, and so of good judgement.

The consequence is belief that the technocrat is able to/will be able to supply the moon and anything more that the consumer stipulates; and that he is obliged to, will be coerced to do so by consumer demand.  The disbelief, anger and fear aroused when this closed bubble of fantasy occasionally bursts, and reliant antibiotics fail to cure, or when systems go down and crash, are usually directed at the technocrats and are accompanied by a widespread and genuine sense of staggering helplessness in which consumers understand themselves to be ‘victims’.

Like the typical client with his project on its second or third developer, they are indeed victims, but for the most part in consequence of their own renunciation of commitment, engagement, curiosity, generosity, and humility, in the face of an easy and comfortable, listless superabundance requiring seemingly no accountability.

Designing for Content: Part Two

In the first article part of this topic we laid out some fairly basic “dos and don’ts” with recommendations and reasons, concerning Web Designing in relation to Website Content.  There is considerably more to say on the subject, and this first of two follow-on articles aims to amplify further as a general overview of how to, and where to, use your design skills so as to make the most of your website content.

Groupings (“albums”) of photos or videos are typically arranged in a grid fashion so as to allow a browsing user to be able quickly to scroll through them as a set.  Try to avoid thumbnails so as give each of your video ‘still’ previews a large enough size so as to be able to convey something significant about its content (such as its title or a fitting image that explains its subject-matter well). Nothing is more frustrating and a bigger deterrent than having to open up each item in a video thumbnail grid layout so as to get a broader awareness of their content.  People will quickly give up when a video cannot be found by them reasonably quickly and they go somewhere else.

A hover over with the Title or Subject of the video in it is useful.  As is also plenty of space between items in the grid. This might seem like ‘wasted space’ at first thought but space equals a sense of freedom psychologically and lack of space equals a sense of confinement; and so of oppression. So always aim for the feel good factor for your readership and viewership.

Grouping your images and/or videos in some kind of reasonable and easy to grasp classification system (like by topic or chronologically or by author/creator alphabetically etc) is a useful and a welcome thing to a browsing user of your site.  She will recommend you to others and will recognise a will on your part to be hospitable and that you are trying to anticipate helpful aids for your readers/viewers. Add to your image titles a basic search facility too.

Once again, and it cannot really be overstressed, the general principle here, and in all web design is that one must imaginatively and sympathetically put yourself in your web visitors’ shoes, and ask oneself once in them: ‘What would I like to see here? What can  help me see it? What helps are in place to help me find what I want. And even, is the site owner/admin a good guy who cares about his visitors enough to put herself in their shoes?  And always learn from your visitors’ comments and implement what is by popular demand wanted.

Systematised Data (like race or game venus and fixtures and results, league tables, car#eer histories etc) always benefits from being arranged in rows and columns usually displayed as tables.  This type of data in quantity can be tricky to manage its display well.  Remember again, give your viewers lots of visual space. Again: space is freedom from oppressive feelings of a cramped perception.  As clear and plain a font as you can get too. Try not to embolden or italicise overmuch; and if you do use these keep them in whole columns or whole rows, which adds a sense of arrangement and so of order to the view of the page.  Be consistent in your formats you use – including usage of colours and fonts and table dimensions and line thicknesses.

Colour indeed can help or hinder a lot with Systematised data display.  Some colours are hard on the eye – and some colours kill the text they are background to.  Text must always be readable and easily so.  Choose your colours with care; make sure they don’t clash badly and make sure they add clarity and are not in fact obfuscating your intended communication.  A personal preference is for soft colours – pastels and lighter shades – which are able quietly, almost unconsciously,  to differentiate data types and make simple plain demarcations.  Perhaps too much colour and colour in much force is too much like shouting at a browsing user, or maybe like forcing your attention down his throat??

Taking time out for thought beforehand is always the best choice for you; so as to plan out the best arrangement of your data in tables, charts etc. There are books and web pages that discuss presenting statistics to view, and which look at various layouts for the same materials according to their client consumers’ likely uses and purposes.

Sometimes small pictorial icons can be used to effect – like those that  link to a Chart or to a Graphical representation of stats – but maybe keep such links to other pages either to the base of a page or maybe placed altogether on separate page – so that you stay lucid and inviting to the view.

Highly-Interactive Interfaces

Communication-type content (such as for instance: comments in forums and on social media; or web-based chat) normally are arranged in a (descending) chronological order. This arrangement allows users easily to follow the flow of a conversation (as in a forum thread) or train of thought (as in a person’s social media “wall” or “feed”) from its origins through its development and to any conclusions that might have arisen. In other words the whole history is presented in a form that is best for its digestion by a visitor who has no prior knowledge of its contents..

Often you will want to make very clear each comment or message that is associated with any single online identity (maybe via use of a user name or handle, or maybe sometimes using a profile photo or avatar, or another identity or data tag).  There is usually also a time stamp beside each entry to give context to its message. Such a context may be crucial for determining when something was put down in writing; and this knowledge can settle arguments or else remind people of facts and appointments; all context is very useful and in certain instances can be absolutely vital to have and to know.

There are furthermore some advanced layout techniques which have been created in the belief that they are able to enhance conversations like those in social media and forums, techniques such as the indenting a comment to signify “replying to a reply”, or sometimes specially marking comments so as to indicate the importance of the person commenting (usual in employment situations).

Sometimes a highlight is placed on the user identity who started a forum thread, and the highlight runs throughout the thread whenever she re-comments; or else the same highlighting idea but used for tagging a comment come from an administrative-level user of the website, and so on.

In the third and final part of this series on Designing for Content we will look at the basic rules for creating facility in Navigation, with a short summary recapitulation of the entire subject to close on.

You can find this article at our Steemit blog: https://steemit.com/designing/@matthew.raymer/designing-for-content-part-two

Designing for Content: Part One

In our introductory article we gave an overview of the more important aspects of professional web design.  Now, in the article that follows, we are attempting more depth looking at web design in its relation to various commonly-used types of content.

The most common types of Web Content

Text: which normally holds

  1. general information,
  2. paragraphs of prose,
  3. organized data, etc.

Multimedia: which commonly includes

  1. images,
  2. videos,
  3. audio,
  4. animation.

These types of of content are usually found intermixed on most websites . Very few websites are exclusively Text (e.g. Index of sporting fixtures and/or results might be) or exclusively Multimedia (e.g Google Images pages are thus)

Advertisements

When one is considering placing within the website pages advertisements which offer goods and services, one should generally bear in mind these few tips:

  • Be aware of the size and shape of any boxes within which ads are to be set. Place the boxes according to what appears most aesthetically acceptable – such as with wider ads these usually look best placed within a main content column, or else can sometimes be placed at the head of a page; whereas narrower, taller ads sit better within sidebars or maybe within narrower columns. And in addition fitting your ads at their correct size whilst taking into account one’s standard column widths is something a good designer needs to consider with care and attention.
  • The style and design of any ads placed on your site will always look better when they are able to sit comfortably with the larger style and design of the site itself. There is a difficulty arises sometimes here however: in making the ads clearly showing to be ads and so in essence extraneous to the main matter of the site, but at the same time not making ads look glaringly inappropriate design-wise.Integration of ads into a website theme then may not always be easy without ‘losing’ any impact the ad itself as advertisement ought to have upon persons viewing. Perhaps a use of a set of fixed standard conventions in one’s ads and their placement is desirable? One which utilises basic colorings and font configurations, which evoke some separational distinctiveness for advertising from the website subject matter itself, but which at the same time do not obviously clash with and look incongruous with your website’s general look and feel?
  • There are certain Ad service guidelines which should help you in the distribution of ads throughout your site. The chief ones may be:
  • Stay below a maximum recommended number of ad placements per page (AdSense limits this to (I believe?) 3 placements,)
  • There are certain placement no-nos (for instance it doesn’t make good sense to place, say, text ads – especially those with linking units – near to site menus. To do so is a recipe for user confusion and encourages them in making annoying and accidental clicks away from your business)
  • You should not shrink the size of an ad so as to get it to fit the space you have available especially not mobile ads or those ads with responsive layouts.  This shrinking down tends to be seen as cheating by the ad client. Besides respecting the original size and resolution of the image ad means it doesn’t display smaller than intended. This in turn means that click aways and links to other sites remain able to be made with facility by persons interested who are browsing the ad)
  • Interstitial ads are ads that display as superimposed over a web page proper. (These are a certain kind of ‘pop-up’).  Many web surfers view these images that suddenly hijack the page they want as intensely annoying and so maybe they are best avoided? You don’t just alienate the surfer from the product being advertised, but from using your site itself.  (BTW There may be copyright issues also arising sometimes when these interstitial ‘pop-ups’ carry materials that have been directly imported from other sites)

How Arrangements of Content Types Affect Layout

Articles of Text (or similar forms of long-text content like tables of figures) are better viewed laid out with minimal distractions surrounding them, so that there is minimal clutter and maximum clarity. In these instances one generally uses clean one-column layouts, with generous font sizes, line heights and lots of breathing room, so that the experience of a reader becomes similar to, as close as possible to, a real-world book page reader.

One should avoid ‘glare’ in the wrong places, such as the effect given by a clash of colours or bright colours which act to distract from the task of reading and digesting the text. Likewise flashing images and other annoyances can cause a reader just to ‘give up’ on a site, even though the content itself might be excellent and exactly what he was after. Perhaps the message here is: don’t try to be smart and keep it simple.

No elaborate fonts, nor any twirls or fancies: these act to distract or to take away from the reading experience. If a person is at the page and has stayed there longer than 10 seconds he is reading and will not want disturbances, even ones intended to ‘grab’ the casual visitor’s interest or attention.

A general rule is: Look at the display of your pages as if you were the newbie visitor to your website – what would you like to see? How can you make it easy for such a newbie to get that positive and satisfactory experience – and without her having to ‘go around the houses’ to obtain it.

‘Oh, would some god the giftie gie us,
To see ourselves as others see us’

There is considerably more to say on this topic of Designing for Content, and this article is getting overlong as it is. And so we recommend to you the second part of this topic which has been separated off as a discrete article in its own right.  Amongst other things it deals with navigation, and an allowance of ample time to chew over beforehand your projected design.

There will follow this second part a third and final part.

You can also find this article at our Steemit blog: https://steemit.com/designing/@matthew.raymer/designing-for-content-part-one