airtel MO CNCL UNB OT

I am like this has to be blogged – for future retreival :-) I got a bummer of a news in the morning that Tata Indicom the only provider that said will provide Internet to my place is sorry and is looking forward to revitalize our relationship on a later date ;P {I have a bigger post on that soon}!!

So, decided I will call airtel and activate GPRS (Mobile Office) and using internet on the go. Pained that its going to 43 kbps speed but atleast – its going to be always available. But I was really surprised with the activation messages I have to send. The cost is Rs 140/week (they highlight this plan only after you really dig and ask!)

Activate Mobile Office    : sms MO to 6123
Deactivate Mobile Office : sms MO CNCL to 222
Check Unbilled Amount  : sms UNB to 121
Outstanding amount       : sms OT to 121

Can airtel get more intuitive. Talk about customer experience and Usability. I wonder if this is the state everywhere else in the world. Something is really messed up in the corporate structure I think – otherwise who in the hell will say send sms to 6123 to activate and send to 222 to deactive!

I am blogging for my personal reference and hope other people benefit from it!

sparklines

Sparklines‘ are small graphical charts that can be inserted in line with the text. My curiosity was sparked into it when Rajesh ask me to look into for data representation in Mobiles! A discussion forum on sparklines from ‘Edward Tufte‘ ‘s website was a great starting point. Edward Tufte is well know for his contributions in the field of visual literacy and information design. Look into the comments section of the post for more implementation and insights. A example is followingsparklines_medical.jpg

Another  neat implementation of the sorting algorithm visually is the following picture.

sort_200_elementfile.jpg

The use of sparklines in financial stuff is pretty evident easily. It their inherent ability (when used properly) to pack huge amount of dense data. Following is a excerpt from the book – Beautiful Evidence where there is a chapter on Sparklines.

tables_n_sparklines.jpg

More exploration in the comments section leads to  a beautiful implementationby Mariano
yhoo.jpg

We can easily see how we can see the trends and patterns of the yahoo stock so easily … I just cannot imagine getting so much of information in far lesser a place. Imagine the use of such visualization where space is a crunch! Lovely smart use of color, font,size and shading!
Also do check out the wiki dedicated to sparklines http://sparkline.org/ and if you want to quickly play with sparklines checkout the script at http://intepid.com/stuff/sparklines/

See the stocks ticker at the bottom of this webpage … its pretty cool. Infosthetics talks about how cleverly they use sparklines to display their statistics.


Use see the use of sparklines in google finance. They have put it to great use – in general I am awed with their display flash app :-) ! The php script and the excel plugin are also pretty cool – I tried them out and was impressed what I could build upon in a day on the open source i.e just tweaking it to my requirements. Hope this post is pricked your interest in one of the several clever ways to show data. the excel bar graphs and pie charts are not the only ones! making them inline is cooler!

adaptable design

Leander Kahney writes on Wired.com – “Why I love Apple”. Amazingly good observation. I think this is one of the reasons I have actually believe me ‘empathy’ when I use apple products. Even if my mac does hang (yes it does sometimes) its like – man I was running too many applications :-)!! :P I think its all about user experience – attention to detail + beauty embbed seamlessly. Leander says:

While I was adjusting the width of the columns, I noticed that the
date changes format depending on the width of the column. If the column
is wide, the date is displayed as “February 27, 2006.” But if you
narrow the column, the date changes to a shorter format: “Feb 27,
2006.” If you narrow the column even further, the date format changes
to the shortest format possible: “2/27/06.”

In addition, the time an e-mail message is received is also
displayed — if there’s room. If the column is narrowed, the time
disappears altogether.

And almost all of Apple’s products display these touches. There’s
the iPod’s slick scroll wheel that accelerates down a long list of
songs the longer you turn it; iChat’s phone icons that exactly match
your model of phone; the instructions for adding more RAM printed
inside the machine’s casing; or the light around a PowerBook’s A/C
power cord that tells you if the batteries are charging or fully topped
up.

Not all of Apple’s products are like this, of course (Aperture jumps
to mind), but most of them are. They generally display an astonishing
– almost fanatical — attention to detail that makes them not just
easy to use, but a pleasure.

Other companies do this too. IBM’s ThinkPads are marvels of clean,
sturdy engineering; Nokia’s cell-phone interfaces nicely anticipate the
user’s intentions. Even Microsoft’s Xbox 360 interface is pretty slick.

But again and again, Apple delights with its focus on the user
experience. Its engineers and programmers obviously work through every
aspect of how the product will be used, and refine it until they get to
the slightest detail — like matching the date format to the width of
the column.

Metaphors in Design

I came across ‘real’ use of Metaphors thanks to Jono when I was doing my research in Berkeley at Berkeley Institute of Design. Off late I read the Master’s thesis by Dan Saffer from CMU on “The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design“. In this post I am going to highlight specific points in the report. However, I would recommend you to it if you have a time. Its a quick and nice read.

Personally Metaphors I feel help in design. Help being more creative while designing a product. And also help people use something easily.

I am highlighting the key takeaways first – guidelines for Metaphor Usage:

  • Metaphors are cultural
  • Metaphors are contextual
  • Fit the Metaphor to the functionality, not the otherway around (obvious but difficult once you start using the metaphor)
  • Use metaphor to uncover otherwise hidden aspects of the material
  • Discard process metaphors when necessary
  • Don’t let metaphors ruin key features
  • Choose Metaphors that are appropriately scalable
  • Let your Metaphors degrade and die

Classic Example: Computer is a Desktop
I think this one has been really powerful and still applicable. I think its time we start looking at a metaphor for ‘ Mobiles / cellphone ‘. Any examples anyone can think of?
Mobile as a Remote? I think its good but not that scalable! Expect some comments here.

Use of Metaphor in Design Process:

  • Redifining “Problems”
  • As a Reasearch Tool
  • As Inspiration
  • As a Communication Device
  • In the process itself!

Metaphor in Products:

  • As a Conceptual Framework
  • Define Space and structure via Container Metaphors
  • To Orient (users)
  • Introduce New Concepts

Critique of use of Metaphors in Interaction Design:

  • Physicality of object being compared cannot be matched more by abstract subject
  • Abstract object has more properties than the correct object.
  • Metaphors don’t scale well
  • Metaphors degrade with time
  • Metaphors are overused as a design tool – hinder advanced users

help the weather department?

well, I happened to check the Indian MeT department site for the weather. I was really impressed with the amount of data they have! They have also done a decent job of presenting the data.

But I feel the UI and Usability can be really enhanced. Does anyone want to work with me to help them? Basically take the same pages and make a mirror site and show them how well it can be done!

We can use a bit of CSS, better colours and small amount of Ajax. Is anybody interested to give it a spin??

Here are the main URLs:
All India Weather
Today’s Min Max
Main Features of Today’s weather

They even have a weather animation! I am picking today’s satellite picture directly from their site – I hope it works for entire time of the post …

Attract and Motivate

Its all about the looks! A good post on “attract and motivate through customer experience“. The auhtor says:

“The “demotivators” I’ve identified are “trust” and “usability”, in
other words, these are not so much motivators, but enablers, lubricants
of cooperation if you like. “Motivators” are actually more enablers,
ie. autonomy is just about putting frameworks in place that enable
customers to be creative.”

example given = IKEA! i.e this doesn’t apply only to just web companies :D

“make our offline lives richer”

Two great back to back posts on why web apps fail!

The 7+7 reasons he mentions are:

  1. Focus on social instead of personal.
  2. They solve too many problems, or try to.
  3. They’re about making someone other than the user happy.
  4. They sell it the wrong way.
  5. Not in it for the long haul.
  6. They show too much of what’s going on, and get gamed.
  7. They don’t have an underlying business strategy of improving people’s lives.
  8. They’re never built.
  9. They’re modeling an offline activity incompletely.
  10. They’re ahead of the curve.
  11. They don’t plan for change.
  12. They don’t charge money.
  13. They have no barrier to entry…at all.
  14. They don’t think holistically.

He finally ends with this sentence:

“If we look closely, that’s what most successful web apps do: they make our offline lives richer.”

I completely agree. We are all here to make a difference in everybody’s life! Lets make the so called web 2.0 really social so that the impact comes back to the ‘real’ world.