Downloading open source software is a new, rising alternative for downloading your software illegaly or paying big bucks for them, but the open source community is cluttered with poorly functioning and hardly maintained bad software which clouds you from some real jewels. In this list some familiar and unfamiliar pieces of software which are, at least as good better than the commercial alternative. Be prepared to find some software on there you already have, to surprise you: that piece of software you’re running on your computer is open source, you can download the source code, and modify it to your needs if you know how. For some of these, that’s why they are so good. Throughout this listing I will be looking at the pros and cons of the different open source alternatives, as well as the reliability towards the future (where does it get its money, how is it financially backed?). Continue reading
“IF EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE GOING WELL, YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.” – Author unknown
As you develop new functionality or a new product, you, the designer, are the expert about how is should be used. On the other hand, there’s the practical user, who is going to use your product in everyday situations and should become an expert in the use of your product. Usually, these two persons are not the same. Though as a designer you tend to put yourself in the position of the user, trying to figure out what you would want as a functionality.
In essence, this design process is very wrong. As a designer you are an expert in designing things, and you’re such an expert of your own product, that you immediately know how to use it from the start. You even might think you know which functions you need at which moment. This is usually not something the designer should think of on his own, and this is why the end-user should be considered and consulted all the way throughout the design process. Testing your product in order to get a good design is of utmost importance.
Every person is a unique individual, even single-egged twins aren’t exactly the same. As you grow up, you learn new and different things which influence your interests and the choices you make in your life. These interests influence how you perceive the world around you, what gets your attention and what doesn’t.
The difference in this perception is a big issue for developers and designers. How can you make a program or object that suits everyone? This is something that’s impossible to decide by yourself, in order to find out whether your program is of any use, you’ll need to test it with other people in real-life situations. Sometimes this means that you’ll need to design different versions of your software for different (groups of) people.
The most common example of this is software being in different languages, but this difference could go further than just language. White cars reflect the most amount of light, thus meaning that they are cooler and easier to cool in hot countries, but harder to find in the snow in cold countries. Designing a practical and worldwide useful object suddenly becomes a lot harder!
“Progress, for the sake of progress, should be discouraged” – the character Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series.
Today, my leisure time organization launched their new membership administration website. Change has always been a very peculiar thing in the world. First of all, from an organizational point of view, it comes with risk which can be avoided, so the improvement should be bigger than the risk it takes to implement the change. On a more individual level, change has always divided people into two groups: the change adorers, who welcome the new situation, and the change haters, who detest the new situation or, in most cases, just simply don’t want to change.
The psychological interest in the last group has grown over the years, especially with the development and change of technologies in recent years. According to theory, change has three stages: the unfreeze stage, in which the audience of the change is prepared for the change, the change stage, in which the change is implemented, and the freeze change, in which the day-to-day activities are resumed, with the change implemented. In a way, change has always met its resistance during all three of its stages, whether the change is an improvement or not. If you’re changing any functionality in your software or tool, be prepared to lose some of your customers just because of it.
While I’m driving home in my car, I push the “call” button on hands free set and call “home”, instead of calling with my girlfriend, a computerized male answers the phone. I tell the thing on the other side that I will be home in five minutes and would like a cup of coffee ready and the temperature to be 20 degrees centigrade. I hang up the phone and after five minutes, as I enter the door, I can hear the coffee machine buzzing for the last second and look at the temperature gauge on the wall: 20 degrees exactly, just the way I like it.
Does this sound as a far-fetched idea to you? You might not believe it, but it is more recent future than you think. The field of domotics aims to make your house and life integrated, as it is one single machine, supporting you and enabling you to do almost everything automated. Program your computer to make a cup of coffee when the morning alarm sounds, be able to call home and have a cup of coffee, or an entire meal ready for you. Take a look in the fridge from work so you know which groceries to get. Today it is already possible to control the temperature at home from an iPad App while you’re on vacation, and watch the home security video from the bed in your hotel. The future of computing is in your walls, your furniture and your household machinery.
Originally, my interest in user interface design came from the poor design of websites. Back then, websites had poor designs (even poorer than nowadays) and were hard to navigate. Every website has its own method to deal with the problems of limited screen real estate and too much functionality. A nice example of a good way to do this is Google. The products and possibilities they offer keep growing, but the complexity of their products has been stripped down to a minimum. A nice example of this is their main page, where there are two buttons and a menu bar. The design of their menu bar has been based on a swiss army knife, take out what you need, everything opens in a new tab, and whenever you are done using it, put it back again. I think this is a good example of a design of a big complex website.