facetofcathy: Faceted prism shown refracting light into the visible spectrum (Spectrum)
I'm going to tell you all about how I search and browse for things.

Some time ago, I stumbled upon Browse vs. Search: Which Deserves to Go? by Bruce Tognazzini. It's a fascinating post that takes one hapless questioner's search for like minds to have a go at Apple designers for not putting all their eggs in the search basket and uses it as a case study in why you need both. I don't know anything about Lion or the iOS contacts app they're talking about, but the specific list of things being browsed or searched isn't the point.

The point is that people will not use your app or website the way you want them to, or the way you think is easiest. They'll do what works for them. And one of the problems designers have is that they think they're the template for all humanity, but they're actually kind of not very typical folks.

The [original Apple computer] was familiar-looking and approachable. Woz [Steve Wozniak], the engineering genius behind it, later developed the CL 9, the first programmable universal remote control. It featured the keys 0 through F, labelled with the standard Hexadecimal notation so familiar to everyone born with 16 fingers. It enabled you to capture and command 256 different codes spread across 16 invisible "pages." You just had to memorize the page and position of all 256 of those codes and you could control everything! Woz and about three other people were able to make excellent use of the resulting product. Engineering, even genius engineering (and Woz was and is second to none), must be balanced with equally talented design.

And in opposition to those gloriously analytical designers are the rest of us:Read more... )

I decided to make this public again because I just read a comment on fail fandom anon that makes my point.

Real people who don't know or care how your system is designed at the code level need to be able to find things in it. Right now they can't, and if search/browse is seen as a module to be plugged into the AO3 and not something fully integrated into the site itself--as in those useless lists of fandoms--then it never will get better. Up to now the AO3 has failed at creating an archive users can actually use to find things in.
facetofcathy: A multicoloured fractal image. (My Icon on the AO3)
I decided to sit down and do some studying about web design. I want to skin the AO3 so I can use it with comfort, and no current skins offers that for me. Eventually, I'd like to offer some public skins as well. I'll post about this as I go, but for now, I want to focus on the site as it is today from a fact-based perspective.

The original default gave me a migraine. That's a rare thing for me to get triggered that way. I've since seen many other reports of the same effect, so I would personally appreciate it if the meme that the only thing wrong was one comma in the mobile skin and all other complaints were just about personal taste would vanish in a puff of grey smoke. My reaction was real, and so was that of other people.

I wanted to know why this happened, because I was guessing that the problem was contrast, or maybe the gradient shading on buttons and all the drop shadows, but I wasn't sure. The site default has since been changed to a white background and text that is black or near black in most cases, and I tried it, and it is a little better for me, but I would never be able to use it for long periods of time.

I conducted some tests on the current default skin... )

ETA: If you want to read my long feekback on this, I left a comment on the Intro to Skins post. Since then, with very, very little time spent online, I've sent in 3 support request. One about what happens when the html parser makes your comment too long, one on errors in the default and other skin coding that make keyboard navigation (accessibility!) impossible or difficult, and one on how the skin picker in the footer has no go back to my own skin function.

I did read about a couple of more posts saying how people just didn't like it, there's no accessibility issues. Um, yeah. Okay. Don't let reality get in the way of your stanning there, folks. And by all means, assume your experience is universal, that seems to have been the design principle number one.

ETA October 15, 2012: Since I just made this public and re-read, how about an update?

That bug about big comments I reported? I totally figured that out myself! Go me. Don't have a clue if the explanation I provided led to a fix, but hey, I figured it out. (I also figured out a couple of other bugs and provided fixes. Now, if only crowd sourcing was a little easier than shouting down the well to the little man who has to take dictation and then relay it to the elves actually building this thing.)

The bug about keyboard accessibility led to a whole host of fixes that were enthusiastically worked on by testers and coders. People want to do things right, if only you build them the framework to do it on.

None of the existing colour contrast issues I talk about in this post have been fixed. Subsequent additions to the archive (stats pages) brought back from the dead the grey background problems.
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