Archive for July, 2008

The Dreamweaver Manhunt

It’s a historic quest of epic proportions- we’re trying to find the very first customer of Dreamweaver again after 10 years, and need your help. Check out Kush’s Adobe TV video embedded below for the details (link here if you’re reading via syndication), memorize that historic face, and help us find him, y’all!

The Survey, 2008

The A List Apart staff just announced it’s second annual Survey For People Who Make Websites, and I strongly urge you to head over and take it. Last year’s Survey was a goldmine of information on our industry- who we are, where we live, our jobs and roles and backgrounds, and I for one am really interested in seeing how these metrics change over time. This isn’t just for web designers, mind you, but anyone working on web projects. From the ALA site:

Calling all designers, developers, information architects, project managers, writers, editors, marketers, and everyone else who makes websites. It is time once again to pool our information so as to begin sketching a true picture of the way our profession is practiced worldwide.
[From The Survey, 2008]

The survey (depending on your path through it) has up to 37 questions, but is very quick to rip through if you’re strapped for time. But please do- every response just helps make the results (which are always posted in both report and raw data formats) even more valid for the rest of us.

i-took-the-2008-survey

Silverback – Guerrilla Usability Testing

A few months back, I made a random Tweet about some internal screencasts I was working on, and got a private ping from Clearleft’s user experience guru Andy Budd, asking a bit about what I was recording and what software I was using to do so. That’s when I began suspecting that the Clearleft crew had some devious alchemy underway in their Brighton, UK headquarters.

The result of such mad science? Silverback- a Mac-based application for lightweight usability testing. All you need is a Mac laptop and Silverback to capture usability testing sessions on… well, anything that you can run on a Mac. Very cool.

As opposed to Morae, the 10-ton elephant of usability testing, Silverback is lean, mean and focused- and doesn’t require you to lug around cameras, tripods and control machines to supplement the testing environment. And in contrast with bulkier screencast production tools like Captivate and ScreenFlow, Silverback focuses on the organizational and functional tools you need to perform quick, lightweight usability tests wherever you can find a subject and perch a laptop (or desktop) with both screen activity and iSight video captured for each user session.

As I’d expect from Andy, the Silverback interface is refreshingly straightforward and direct – with your initial view of the application helping ease new users quickly into the workflow:

silverback_1

I’ve had the opportunity to test Silverback over the last few weeks, and find it incredibly useful for exactly this type of testing. I can quickly drop my laptop on someone’s desk, fire up Dreamweaver CS4 internal builds, and the workflow is great- just click record, center your subject within the iSight correctly, then hit record and step back to let your subject hit the spacebar, and start your test. Management of projects and test sessions is simple and effective- the projects pane on the left helping you navigate the test session list on the top right with your individual session details and annotations artfully presented beneath.

silverback_2

When you’re ready to export a session to a more portable/distributable video file, just hit the “Export” button underneath the appropriate video thumbnail, pick a video format and destination, then let the encoding commence. As with all encoding processes this can take some time depending on the size of your session and codec/resolution of choice, but the resulting video will encapsulate both the screen capture and iSight video, along with microphone and computer audio- making it easy to share the results amongst your workgroup.

For a bit more on Silverback from the source, Andy’s also put together a screencast to accompany the release- you can view it below to get a walk through the workflow:


Silverback screencast from Jeremy Keith on Vimeo.

A big tip of the hat to Clearleft for creating such a handy, simple tool in Silverback, and one that I’ll use quite regularly. For the price ($49.95 USD after a 30-day free demo period- with 10% of your purchase going to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, no less!), it’s a flat no-brainer to pick up right now if you do any type of usability work, and worth every penny.

(Oh, and to illustrate the attention to detail Andy and team have put into the app- just horizontally resize silverbackapp.com in your browser window and check out the sweet parallax effect with the hanging vines. Simply gorgeous.)

Opera’s Web Standards Curriculum

It can be tough to stay on top of web standards and best practices when you’re churning away on projects- and god knows reading the W3C specs can be overwhelming. Recently Opera has taken a big step forward in releasing the Opera Web Standards Curriculum- a series of Creative Commons-licensed articles stepping through the breath of standards-based web development in an incredibly straightforward manner. Although they’ve planned around 50 such articles, the first 23 are now online for your educational pleasure.

Big shout-out and tip of the hat to Opera’s standards viking Chris Mills, who wrangled all of the editorial duties, coordinated with the Yahoo! developer network, and launched all of this curriculum right as he also welcomed his daughter Elva into the world – two major undertakings of extreme significance if you ask me. This type of open educational material has been long overdue, and the open way in which it’s being distributed will go a long way towards helping further the cause of web standards in both the professional market as well as the educational world – where curriculum can take an even slower path to adopt new and emerging standards.

Kudos to all involved- and BTW Chris, next time drinks are on me. :)

DW Screencast at Inside RIA

I sat down a few weeks ago with Andre Charland and had a very candid discussion about the Dreamweaver public beta and how it relates to Ajax designers/developers, and it’s just been posted up on the InsideRIA site for your viewing/listening pleasure. We talked about a ton of things, including how I came to be a Dreamweaver product manager, the reasons I was ultra-skeptical of Dreamweaver before coming to Macromedia in 2000, as well as the vision behind the upcoming DW release and how it’s new features relate to front-end designers and developers alike. You can check it out below, or over at it’s home on the InsideRIA site.

Surveyor – Site Maps Simplified

WebAssist launched a very interesting new product for Dreamweaver today – Surveyor – that is focused on building site maps for your projects to assist in both search engine optimization (SEO) as well as navigation.

Not only does Surveyor scan your Dreamweaver site directories and build an XML site map for submission to popular search engines (Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, Live Search, etc), but it also allows you to generate a navigational HTML site map for visitors, and the icing on the cake- can remind you to come back every so often and update the site map so that your search result rankings stay fresh. And to close the loop – Surveyor will upload your site map to the correct engines with all the engine-specific metadata intact, making the process pretty painless.

If SEO is a constant nightmare for you and your projects, then Surveyor may be right up your alley. You can check it out here at the WebAssist site. Enjoy!