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  • HTML5 for Web Designers Book Review

    (Originally published on CDG Interactive/Innate blog)

    It’s back-to-school time, so here’s a pop quiz on today’s new buzz word: HTML5.

    1. What is it?
    2. Should I care?
    3. Should I worry?

    Answers: 1) see below, 2) yes, 3) not yet but soon enough

    So, now that you’ve taken the quiz, may I suggest a textbook? Specifically, HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith.

    Now, I’ve known about HTML5 for a while (and some of the preliminary work around it). But when I heard about this book, I was curious how much more information could I gleam from its pages about HTML5. Judging by the title, I thought that it would be just an introductory text for web designers (not necessarily for experienced web developers).

    But, I took a chance. I ordered a copy and waited. And the package arrived.

    And when I first opened the box and held the book, the first thing that popped into my head was “Wow, this is a pamphlet!”

    OK, not a pamphlet but a brief, concise book (under 100 pages).

    However, from the very first page, it was evident that conciseness is the intent of the author. What Jeremy Keith does, with good effect, is to give the reader a brief synposis about HTML5, bypassing W3C language. (Alert: W3C documents are so precise, they could turn a cake recipe into a DVD instruction manual.)

    Of course, he starts off by answering what HTML5 is and is not–not a new version, but a much-needed upgrade for building future web applications. This means it not only adds/removes features, but also adds more semantic meanings attached to the current set of tags (important for Internet devices like mobile phone or screen readers.)

    For the remainder of the book, Keith highlights some important features and gives bits of advice for the newly introduced. The best thing is that he engages the reader enough to encourage further study in HTML5, which is not easy. This book could have easily become just another five pound dictionary. Of course, he remarks that there are others more experienced with this and points to some online resources. (As I am writing this, a number of new HTML5 books have popped up in the stores.)

    In the end, the author does what he planned out to do – give a nice gentle push in the right direction towards HTML5.

    Now, if you don’t mind. I have a list of HTML5 books to read.

  • Search Patterns Book Review

    (Originally published on CDG Interactive/Innate blog)

    After a few months’ hiatus, the CDG Book Club is back. In this installment, UI Developer Ivan Wilson discusses Search Patterns: Design for Discovery by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender.

    I first heard about the book Search Patterns during the IxDA Interaction 10 conference in Savannah, Georgia when I attended Peter Moreville’s lecture about The Future of Search. This brief book (less than 200 pages) interested me because it focuses less on technology and more on design. It’s not about Google or Yahoo, but on interaction designers and information architecture.

    That said, the main premise of the book can be summed up in the following statement:
    The problem of search is designing interfaces and processes that allow people to find things.

    Let us step back a moment. Is searching and finding two of the same things? Well, no. And that is a bit of a revelation to anyone, especially me who builds the front-end code for search pages.

    The book addresses two main points:

    1. Search is a not passive activity.

    What do we do when we go to a search page? Input term(s), click button, get results—right? But what happens when the results don’t lead to the information the user is looking for?

    The user isn’t some blank slate. Even if you’re just surfing around, you’re affected by a variety of filters–such recommendations from friends, past memories, etc. As users, we’re always judging whether a search result is right for us or just another dead end. If a user isn’t finding what he’s looking for, the problem isn’t necessarily an inadequate use of the search; it may be a user interface problem. In other words, the interface may not be adequate for what/how the user wants to find.

    2. Information need to be findable, not just searchable.

    Here, the authors approach the problem from the other end: those who create the content that is being searched. Especially on the web, content does not lend itself to being able to be found in an instant. It’s up to content producers and coders to make content searchable by using tools such as keywords or tags or database indexing. If you’re a business, you need to understand how to categorize products in a way that makes it as easy as possible for the user to find them via search (for example, adding information like ISBN numbers for books).

    Throughout the book, the authors detail different interfaces currently being used (faceted navigation, widgets, etc) in search. They also give glimpses into the future, with examples of search being tied in with social media like Twitter or Facebook. Also, the authors detail some of the methods the users take in searching for items whether in narrow or expanded focus.

    But in the end, designing for search engines will be about more than speed and accuracy; it will be more about having the process of finding easier. And that is what this book is about.