Responsive Design

This article originally appeared on the Public-i Blog and is reproduced here in full.

At the last Public-i user group meeting I mentioned, as part of the discussion around future releases, that we were re-thinking our approach to the design and delivery of our clients’ Connect sites; that we would be adopting a responsive design to our user interface (UI). This blog post is by way of a brief explanation of responsive design and our motivations for adopting it.

RockMelt browser – initial thoughts

I’m not sure where I heard of the RockMelt browser (almost certainly on Twitter), but I signed up for early access and, today, got around to grabbing the ZIP file and installing it (Mac version).

I’m not going to repeat all the features here, which are readily viewable in their blog post.

So far I’ve found it to be fast and bug free, which is good. Here’s a quick list of (very personal) pros and cons so far:

Pros:

  • Personalised, cloud-based browser – history is universal and accessible from any RockMelt browser I log into. (Not tried this yet, though.)
  • ‘Click-through’ search results – use keyboard to traverse the search results in a side bar whilst the main page changes to show the result you are on.
  • Facebook & twitter share in-browser.

Cons:

  • It uses it’s own “me.lt” URL shortener. I want to use my own, please. (If you want to know why, see my post earlier this year.)
  • The help page shows a number of twitter accounts in the right-hand side panel, but I can’t see how to add more than one. Probably me, but I’ve already spent too long searching. (Sorry, can’t link you to their help, as it’s built into the browser.)
  • And whilst we’re on the subject, what about twitter searches / lists?
  • It’s build on the Chrome browser. It is, indeed, fast, but I really don’t like the UI.

There’s more experimentation to be done: obviously it doesn’t replace other Social Media desktop applications, like TweetDeck and Seismic, and I don’t think it’s built to compete with them; nor is it a simple ‘share this website’-based browser – it’s got more functionality and complexity. Rather, it’s somewhere in between the two, and I personally think that this is to its disadvantage.

Thanks for reading this far,
Ady

iPad Experience – part 2

In a previous post, I recounted my initial thoughts on the iPad and said that I’d be trying it out on my little boy as a time waster / amusement.

I’m back from holiday and the iPad was a godsend, I have to say. I pre-loaded “Monsters, Inc.” and “A Bug’s Life” for Finn to watch on the plane journeys and, although he didn’t watch much on the journey out , he made full use of it whilst in the hotel room and on the journey home. He very quickly mastered the UI for the video player app – he’s had a lot of iPhone experience – and was jumping around between films and selecting his favourite chapters to repeat from the get-go. He also quickly found how to switch to the TV programme tab and spent a lot of time watching “Rex the Runt” cartoons (until his mum heard one of the characters say “bastard” and put paid to that – I guess it’s slightly inappropriate for a 3-year-old).

I, myself, did very little with it while on holiday. Didn’t get much of a look-in, TBH, plus wary of data roaming costs in a land where ‘free wi-fi’ is virtually unheard of.

Ady

iPad Experience

So, a couple of weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and bought an iPad. I was feeling flush and so went for the top-of-the-range 64G 3G one.

Trepidation

I was cautious about buying an iPad – unusual for me, as I am a complete Apple fanboi. I really couldn’t see the point or need for one in my life. I manage to come up with a couple of possibilities:

  1. It would make a good coffee table browser. OK, but if the family are going to share it I want multiple user facilities so we can all get at our own email accounts without the embarrassment of having to read each others’.
  2. I could use it for work. Here there’s a better fit, as most of my work is around documents and numbers, resourcing and scheduling. (In fact, Pages and Numbers, if we’re talking applications.) However, it doesn’t meet all requirements, as I sometimes code (PHP, SASS) and a lot of our core work involves video – so iPad’s lock down on video formats excludes a lot of things it would be nice to have the iPad do for me.

So, like Natalie Inbruglia, I was torn. My Apple lust made me want one and my practical side couldn’t justify it.

This finally resolved itself when I said to myself, “We could really do with an iPad for work. You know, for testing and that.”, which was the excuse I was waiting to come up with, and so I went out and bought one.

Two weeks later

After the (well attended) official unpacking ceremony at work, the iPad spend the first few days if its new life in  a bag doing nothing. I was still finding it hard to see what to do with it. Having spent the money, though, I did some research, got some apps and now it’s become a staple of my day.

I use it almost exclusively for work related activities; it’s great to take to meetings and I will be trying it out at a conference for the first time this week. (“Building Perfect Council websites ’10” – see you there!)

Although not exhaustive, here’s the list of applications I’m currently using:

Things
I use Things on all my Macs. The iPad experience is great, making good use of the larger screen that makes using it on the iPhone a bit frustrating. (That’s not Things’ fault, mind.)
Evernote
Again, Evernote is a staple application in my environment. I use it for knowledge management, mainly. Again, it’s been re-purposed for the iPad and is a really good experience.
Dropbox
I do all my work off Dropbox. Available on all my computers, and also viewable on iPhone and iPad. This makes my life so much easier, as I synchronise my iDevices with my personal laptop, so having my files available in this way means I can sync them across from my Personal iTunes, into the iWork apps on the iPad (see next).
Pages & Numbers
The user experience of having to synchronise via iTunes is not good, but tolerable. The iPad versions of these applications are lovely. Although not feature-full (which causes problems when you want to edit files) they are well worth using for document creation.
iThoughtsHD
On my Macs, I use Mindjet’s Mindmanager, but on the iPad I’ve discovered iThoughtsHD. It’s compatible with most mind map file formats and has the added advantage of being able to load and save maps to and from DropBox directly. I’ve used it a little and so far, so good.

The future

I’m off on holiday very soon, so I’ll be grabbing some childrens’ books and videos and putting them on the iPad; I think it’s going to be an excellent way to keep my 3-year-old occupied on the plane journey.

After that, who knows? If you have any great apps, I’d love to hear about them.

Ady

OpenID Fail

Don't go there

Don't go there

What’s up with OpenID.org? In September 2009 they changed their site

“to incorporate a secure, easy to use OpenID”

Well, that’s nice.

I say ‘apparently’, because no-one told me. The new site is awful – anyone who is not tech-savvy will have a hell of a job finding out why they can’t use their OpenID to log into their favourite sites.

The fact is that they’ve changed their password encryption system (reading between what few lines there are, here) and old (pre Sep 09) passwords won’t work anymore. No email to tell you that, no easy way to find out that there’s been a change, no help, feedback hidden down several clicks.

What a massive fail. Fortunately, I’m not with OpenID.org. My friends and colleagues who are, are switching,