Archive for the ‘XYFU’ Category

July 30 2009

Usability Bitchings: Chrome & Ctrl+K

by Michael

As a consumer in the age of the iPhone, I encounter frustrating user interfaces on a daily basis, whether it is with said iPhone, a poorly designed doorhandle, or otherwise. Often, with little tweaks, these could be remedied. Expect this to be a regular feature, as there is always more assclownery about.

Google Chrome

The Ctrl+K shortcut

Background: Chrome has brilliantly mixed the search bar with the URL bar. Using small, custom keywords, I can quickly point my browser precisely where I need to. For example, if I type “wiki cow,” I’ll soon be reading about domesticated ungulates.

Problem: Let’s say I’m done looking at cows, and want to look up sheep instead. I could press Ctrl+T, open a new tab, then type “wiki sheep.” However, if I don’t want to open a new tab, I need to get a cursor in the URL bar. I could take my hands off the keyboard and click. Chrome, however, has a shortcut: Ctrl+K. Ctrl+K automatically clears the URL bar, and sticks the cursor there so the user can navigate. However, Chrome also sticks a question mark in there.



Ctrl+K is brilliant! I love being able to quickly bounce around the nets without a mouse. Ctrl+K lets me do so… but not without deleting the mysterious question mark that jumps in my way for no apparent reason. Who the hell put that in there in the first place?

The Fix: It’s beyond my reach to modify Chrome code, but I can’t imagine it would be a difficult fix on their end.

Irritation Level: 3 of 5

Extra point for the problem being so obvious and basic.

November 19 2008

Why the Drudge Report is Bad Design.

by Michael

Jason at 37Signals recently posted about how the Drudge Report is “one of the best designed sites on the web.” I just couldn’t let this one go.

It’s a load of bollocks, and one in a stream of “hey, let’s take a widely criticized site, call it awesome, and everyone will praise how witty and insightful we are.” It’s as if everyone thinks they can be hailed as geniuses if they rebel against the norm.

Design is not synonymous with utility, and the Drudge Report fails horribly at both.

Good design? Really?

Good design? Really?


It’s patently absurd to call this good design. from first load, I don’t even know what the page is.

Sites that are successful yet have bad design aren’t necessarily successful BECAUSE of bad design (therefore making it good?), but IN SPITE of. This is the same reason Fox is #1 in viewership despite their utter lack of journalistic integrity, taste, and quality. Fox isn’t #1 because it’s good news, it’s #1 because right-wingers have nowhere else to go. The Drudge Report isn’t popular because of its piss poor design, it’s popular because right-wingers surf it religiously.

The Drudge Report hasn’t changed the design, ever. This could mean that the first design was perfect. It could also mean that Matt Drudge simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t mean that the users love the design… they could be sticking around because no other site has the content they desire.

Let’s move down this point by point

  1. “There are no tricks, no sections, no deep linking, no special technology required. It’s all right there on one page. “But it’s a mess!” you could say. I’d say “it’s straightforward mess.” I wouldn’t underestimate the merit in that.”
  2. There ARE sections… if you can suffer to scroll down far enough. Straightforward = good. Mess = bad. Straightforward + mess = good & bad. Straightforward + non-mess = good & good, i.e., better design.
  3. It’s unique. Certainly. So is every dump I’ve squeezed out of my anus. There’s a REASON the news sites look alike. They WANT to look alike. When you go to CNN .com, without even seeing content, the users say, “oh, this is a news site.” Is it bad to have a news site look like a news site? Saying it’s unique and therefore good is flawed logic – you and i have discussed this before.
  4. It’s important. Drudge isn’t afraid to be noisy. Sure. That’s an appeal of the Drudge Report, and is totally irrelevant to the design. The argument here is for the philosophy of the site, which 37S claims to be good and extraordinary. Fine. Keep the philosophy. Keep a super noisy headline – the site could have top-notch design, and a screaming headline…(get this)… AT THE SAME TIME .
  5. It’s cluttered. It’s messy, and there’s no good flow to the information. “Jason” thinks that constitutes… good design? The design doesn’t “encourage wandering,” it just requires effort to plow through. It’s successful because the users feel that the plowing is worth it. Just because it functions now doesn’t mean it couldn’t be improved. I wonder how many people don’t visit the site for specifically that reason.
  6. Breaking news. Once again, this is a philosophy of the Drudge Report, and not one of the website design. This could be maintained, regardless of design.
  7. One guy can run it. That’s a plus. One guy can also make a myspace page, or a geocities home. That doesn’t make good design, and is more a question of web authoring tools. With tools powerful enough, one guy could nearly run any site on the web. The design could be significantly improved, and still have one guy do it.
  8. No news… once again, Drudge philosophy and concept. Not design. The design is the implementation of the concept, and not having direct info isn’t implementation in this case – it IS the concept.
  9. Sending people away… see above.
  10. It’s fast. That’s definitely a plus. I’ll grant that. However, with a little organization, better fonts, and better layout, the design could be improved without sacrificing speed. It’s cheap. See above. It’s one page. See above.
  11. It makes him a great living – A site’s success can be completely irrelevant to design. See above discussion of Fox.
  12. All in all, it’s bad design. It may function. It may serve a purpose. However, Drudge’s design limps blindly on like the buffoon in the White House he was so fond of.
August 9 2008

Pierce Transit: What Not to Wear

by Michael


My mother had to match my clothes when I was a kid, and even then, she was only marginally successful. I would still somehow manage to slip out the door wearing nothing but a bright red T-shirt and oversized Power Rangers boxer shorts. My problem was that I loved so many things, and so many colors, that I wanted to wear all of them, all the time.

I have read of many graphic designers who mix with a color palette before making a brand. I believe the people behind Pierce Transit’s “look” were just the sort of designers. There is no problem with that, but I’m afraid that those who dressed up Tacoma, Washington’s buses did so like a 3rd grader with a low attention span.


July 24 2008

Selling your soul, the CSS way!

by Michael

Designing the Bumblebee Labs Theme

When it comes to this sort of thing, I usually take the lazy way out. There are so many designers vastly better (both technically and visually) than I am out there, spending all day making kick-ass-fabulous wordpress themes, it would just be a shame to not take advantage of them. I’d almost consider it doing them a favor.


July 23 2008

Creating the Bumblebee Labs logo

by Michael

It began, as it usually does, with sketches. Cocktail napkins, receipts, small animals, whatever happens to be on hand at the time. This is a glimpse into my design process – a rare and unadulterated look at how I do what I do.

In this case, it was a napkin on Hang’s kitchen table.


July 6 2008

Me, briefly

by Michael

I was an infant at the infancy of personal computing. At first, we’d clumsily bang on each other, crawling around our small living spaces, and not doing anything that could be strictly defined as “working” or “playing.” We fought a great deal, growing up. I would corrupt kernels, break hard drives… in retaliation, my documents would be corrupted, and my deadlines broken. It was a barely functional relationship, but we’d manage when we really needed to.

It wasn’t until my father asked me to build him a website that we started working well together. I was reluctant at first, but for $50, his website became my summer lemonade stand. The resulting product was crude, bitter in places and overly sweetened in others, but for an adolescent foray, it was just as cool.

Now adults, we’ve learned to work together in ways that were previously inconceivable, and excited as hell to be carving a path into this brave new world of computing as a social medium. This is the wild west of the information age, and I’m itching to lay down some tracks.

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