Contributions by Lyle Mullican
As designers, we’ve devoted considerable attention to the concept of empathy. But how do we ensure that empathy for our users translates into actionable steps that then guide our design decisions and behaviors? Lyle Mullican explores how we can go beyond listening to our users, and start advocating on their behalf.
Your website must serve human and robot masters. An interface that reflects too much of a system’s internals will confuse human users; but if data doesn’t conform to a specific structure, it’s likely to confuse the machines that need to use it. How can your designs serve these very different masters? Jon Postel’s Robustness Principle, although usually applied to low-level protocols like TCP, offers a clue to designing experiences that meet human and machine needs with equal grace. Lyle Mullican explains.
One of the most powerful security tools available to web developers is cryptography, essentially a process by which meaningful information is turned into random noise, unreadable except where specifically intended. A web developer working on an underpowered netbook in his basement now has access to cryptosystems that major governments could only have dreamed of a few decades ago. And ignorance of cryptography is not bliss. You may think your web app’s profile is too low to worry about hackers, but attacks are frequently automated, not targeted, and a compromise of the weakest system can often give access to better-protected systems when people re-use passwords across multiple sites. Learn the three broad categories of cryptosystems that commonly relate to web applications and begin strategizing how to make your site secure.
Help content gets no respect. For one thing, it is content, and our horse-before-cart industry is only now beginning to seriously tackle content strategy. For another, we assume that our site is so usable, nobody will ever need the help content anyway. Typically, no one is in charge of the help content and no strategy exists to keep it up to date. On most sites, help content is hard to find, poorly written, blames the user, and turns a mildly frustrating experience into a lousy one. It’s time to rethink how we approach this part of our site. Done well, help content offers tremendous potential to earn customer loyalty. By learning to plan for and create useful help content, we can turn frustrated users into our company’s biggest fans.
Interface responsiveness is one of many details web developers must consider in their quest to deliver a good user experience. An application that responds quickly enhances the user’s sense of control. In working to maximize application speed, though, one often-overlooked element can affect performance more than almost anything else: database design.