Developers Are From Mars, Designers Are From Venus… Recap

Many thanks to those who made it out to the CD2 users group meeting last night and checked out my presentation. After a bit of pizza and soda, we got started and covered a lot of ground. I think we had a good discussion afterwards. It was great. As promised, I thought I would share the presentation notes. Here they are in PDF and Keynote formats. Enjoy.

Many many thanks to the organizers of CD2, Anthony, Corey, Sandra, David, etc… I was very happy to be invited to speak!

Hopefully this weekend, I’ll get a chance to post the reading list as promised. This week has taken a toll on me. Even with the 4 day work week, I have taught 3 classes, driven to Chicago and back and had the first week of school for Sophia, so, I’m pretty beat… check in in a couple of days. I’ll post them then.

Moo Cards are here. I will be there… will you?

In the ever growing trend of Moo card mania (most recently Aral Balkan and David Stone), I bought some of the pint sized beauties. I’ll be handing them out at the CD2UG meeting. They feature customized mini prints of my CoolerKreator compositions. Come one, come all (but please RSVP, here). Take a look…

Hope to see you there!

New Semester Begins… Time to Get To Work.

Bradley is back in session. I have two classes I’m teaching this semester, so it’s going to be a busy one. MM365 Designing with Web Standards, this is one I have taught for 3 years now. It’s focused around CSS, XHTML and some simple JS, with an emphasis on using best practives and writing markup that validates. It’s a great class and one that serves the students pretty well. After that on Tuesdays, I am very happy to teach my MM491 Mashups and RIAs class… This is going to be great. I have a group of students I will be helping to learn Flex, AJAX and using Webservices to make web mashups… what gets better than that?

While I prepare for that (I have to build a few presentations, stat!), why don’t you take some time and watch this video that was taken at 360Flex’s keynote… It has some hot Thermo action in it at about 45:00. Hot stuff, indeed.

Announcing My Upcoming Presentation: Developers Are From Mars, Designers Are From Venus

cd2 is a new user group in the Chicago area that is focused on nurturing the collaboration between designers & developers and the importance of the user experience. I’m proud to be speaking at their next gathering on September 3rd. From the site:

Designers Are From Venus, Developers Are From Mars
Wheres the love? Well, often when two coworkers from very different backgrounds are expected to work together, it can be tough to find. Designers and developers can indeed get along with a little foresight on process and understanding of the obstacles along the projects path. Join Chad Udell in discovering some of those key differences and learn how to overcome them in order to create a blissful state of collaboration.

You can check out the site for the rest of the details here. Many thanks to the people at CD2UG for inviting me to speak to the rest of the members. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I encourage you to visit their site and RSVP.

Kuler API Tutorial Added to Adobe’s Developer Connection

The article I wrote for Computer Arts has recently been added to the Adobe Developer Center. Check it out here. Thanks for the heads up Sami. I’ve also been informed that some big changes are coming for the API as well. Exciting stuff indeed. It’s great to see all the cool stuff people are making with Kuler.

As a sidenote, A.Viary recently granted access to their color palette generation tool, Toucan. One amazing feature to note about Toucan is the very brilliant “Color Deficiency Preview” tool. This seemingly innocuous panel could be overlooked quite easily… however, if you are developing an application that needs to be section 508 compliant or your user base is known to have color perception disabilities you should definitely consider using a tool like this to help you make appropriate palette choice for functional elements, etc.

Take a look at the very slick interface (the color deficiency ‘protanopy’ is depicted in the bottom panel):

Aviary\'s Toucan Application

The A.viary is shaping to be a very nice suite of RIAs. Great job, indeed. BTW… I have 5 invites, comment here to get one.

Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle: RIA and SEO

Much has been written about the recent announcement of Google and Adobe working together to make Flash content indexed and searchable. Much written, with no real concrete answers. Lots of tests (A very good one done by Peter Elst), a contest held by Ryan Stewart (Flexmagically Searchable, FTW!), and some well formed opinions from SurviveStyle and YourSeoPlan. John Dowdell has also tackled the topic via comments on several sites as well as a post on his site.

While the idea of having rich media crawlable by a juggernaut like Google is indeed exciting, I’m not holding my breath waiting for the results to materialize. With SWFObject and the other myriad Javascript embed methods, the use of XML and AMF to retrieve dynamic data and all the other things that are going on in a modern Flash/Flex RIA, a panacea seems near impossible to imagine after over a decade of less than stellar results in this area.

It sounds a tad overdramatic, and I know this. But let’s just reflect for a moment on how it’s come to this. It’s a matter of purpose and function of the media you are creating. When designing an experience site or CMS powered brouchureware site you obviously are not making the same sorts of design decisions you might be making in a state/screen based RIA. They are just two completely different beasts. These two basic groups of sites (yes, I’m oversimplifying) Experience/Brouchware sites and RIA havem completely different needs. Because of this, the tools and techniques you use to build them are most likely going to be different. Standard sites are built for searchability and accessiblity by the widest range of users, because making sure the sites are found is of paramount importance! RIAs often have a narrower audience and are built to replace a desktop app or minimize clicks over a basic web application… making the tasks at hand as easy as possible is the key here.

You can kind of see where this is going… I very rarely would recommend using a rich media tool to build an average B2C or B2B site that doesn’t need rich media functionality. Rolling your companies marketing message up in a binary blob that requires a plugin, or burying it in a heap of JavaScript seems like commercial suicide. Poor indexing, potentially poorer performance in comparison with Plain Old HTML, incompatibility with plugin versions, market penetration, the mobile users, etc, etc… For this reason, unless you are a major player in your industry who has little need for keyword density simply because of your domain name and real world brandname recognition (think Nike, Apple, Disney, etc), you should think twice about using a tool like Flash or Silverlight to build your public website. If you get a site from me, and you fall into the average company size and profile, you are probably going to get a site designed with standards in mind. Something that degrades gracefully, something that uses semantic markup. You get the idea. Flash might be sprinkled throughout for visualizations or other enhancements, but the bulk of the site is going to be pretty much straightforward best practices based design.

On the other hand, often an RIA doesn’t necessarily require indexing at all. Indexing interior views of a mail app or information dashboard doesn’t seem logical. Strange question arise when you think about this, too.. security, landing pages, transitions, breadcrumbs, etc. For cases where an RIA does need to be indexed, maybe a SWFAddress method of enabling deep linking might be adequate to serve as signposts. For Flash based experience sites, a Google sitemap and some very clever use of WebServices feeding SWFObject/SWFaddress enabled Flash and AJAX may also work for you (Check out the recently relaunched BobDylan.com, built by some friends of mine to see the results of this. A nod to Brian and Steve on that one. Great work indeed.)

In conclusion, I’m optimistic but not overly so for the future of indexed rich media. Without a very detailed spec and best practices documentation, tests like Peter’s and contests like Ryan’s are going to be about the extent of success in this arena for the immediate time frame. Reading the comments at Peter’s post kinda confirms this for me. Lots of confusion and lack of knowledge about how this all interfaces with typical search engine directives like robots.txt etc… It’s all a very new area, so I’m thinking things will become more apparent soon.

A.viary is opening… Beta Impressions

After a long wait, I finally got my invite to a.viary. One word… WOW! This is RIA the way it was meant to be. Absolutely easy to use UI design, great user feedback, fast responsive interaction and tons of fun. These flex apps that I have tried out, Peacock and Phoenix are the tools I currently have access to. Phoenix is a Photoshop clone built in Flex and Peacock is a node based pattern generator built in Flex. Unbelievable! I have had a ton of fun with them already and can’t wait to see what comes out of this site. Great work by the Worth1000 team.

I have already given out my 5 invites, but hope to get some more soon. If you are interested in playing, direct message me on Twitter and send me your email… If I get more invites, you’ll be on my list. Until then, check out these images I created using Peacock… so fun!

A Deep and Meaningful API, One to Definitely Try Out: GovTrack.Us

About a week ago, I sent out a tweet asking for ideas on new APIs that might be worth checking out. You see, I am teaching a mashup course this fall and I need some new source material. I’ve played with Kuler, ColourLovers, Delicious, Yahoo Pipes, Technorati and a couple others (mostly unpublished and just experimental), but I just feel like I was missing something. I needed to check some other things out. Of course the new AS3 APIs for Google maps are out, so those are absolutely on my list, but I wanted some more “content rich” APIs. I spent some time on programmableweb.com (a great source for mashups and APIs) but only found a couple that struck my fancy enough to think about spending what is virtually my nonexistant free time on building a toy.

Rachael Rubin (wildhoney on twitter) was kind enough to point me to the newly revised Last.FM API and I think I will definitely use it at some point, but without a a proper link to the streaming music in their library, building a non playing audio based mashup seems a little less fun that it should be. It seems as though they intentionally make accessing the streams a little difficult to discourage bandwidth abuse.

All that changed today when I came across Govtrack.us on programmableweb. Wow. What a useful API. Fun? Not really… it’s an interface to the mountains of data generated by our Congressional representatives day to day business. Deep stuff. With the ever growing need for governmental transparency in this somewhat crazy time, it’s a fantastic resource to have. Generate clean XML based on what your reps are voting on, meeting about and talking over. Combine this with Google maps or perhaps any number of other rich data sources and you have some amazing potential to bring visibility to a very opaque world. Providing a new or easier to use interface to the insurmountable volumes of legislation might uncover some realizations that may have gone unnoticed otherwise.

I’m definitely going to give this one a spin. Shall we find something out from all of this? It remains to be seen, I guess. I have a few ideas on things I might like to track… how about you?

In The Trenches: Pushing RIA Development In Non-SOA Environment

In 2002, Jeremy Allaire wrote a whitepaper that arguably spawned the RIA revolution. In that whitepaper a couple quotes stick out that are related to a lot of the conversations I have with potential clients even today. Here’s one:

Rich clients are made much more valuable when combined with logic and data
delivered from application servers and XML web services. (more…)

Visualrinse.com added to ria.AllTop.com

I was just informed that my site has been added to ria.alltop.com, a great directory for RIA focused weblogs. For those of you who haven’t used alltop.com yet, it’s a very cool community focused on providing the best stories in niche or specific topics. It’s great to be listed there amongst some other fantastic sites and I hope to continue to post subject matter that you find useful in designing and developing RIA, web and Flash content and sites.

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