Backpack PLUS Will Empower Community Health Workers

Backpack PLUS Will Empower Community Health Workers

A comprehensive toolkit to empower and activate Community Health Workers.

The Third Wave of Computing
Corpus Callosum

The Third Wave of Computing

Hear more from Theo Forbath at MobileCon 2013.

As Myanmar Opens Up, Will Mobile Money Emerge?
frogs on the road

As Myanmar Opens Up, Will Mobile Money Emerge?

Myanmar is easing sanctions and its economy is opening up.

What You Will Find On a Design Researcher's Bookshelf

What You Will Find On a Design Researcher's Bookshelf

Your guide to design research education.

Cheap Airfare Just Got a Facelift

Sort of.

Southwest airlines just launched a brand new Er, wait, no they didn't. Southwest airlines just launched a brand new homepage.

In what has to be the most odd redesign ever, the low budget airline has merely retooled and refreshed one page. The design aesthetic of the page is big and in your face, with javascript-powered widgets enabling quick access to your favorite features such as checking in online and booking travel. Overall, it's nothing revolutionary but it's certainly pleasing.

But why only the homepage?

Once you dive into the site (and indeed, if you've turned off javascript or are using a mobile browser, you won't be able to use any of their quick-access tools and will be re-directed there), you see that the old layout is still alive and kicking. Did they feel as though they had nailed the interaction model so completely that it did not require a single change?

Southwest must really believe heavily that the homepage is the only page that matters to go forward with such an implementation. Having separate designs and interaction models that are so distinctly different can be very disconcerting and may come back to bite them. Your thoughts?

From Macworld: A Question?

I went to check out Apple Inc.'s latest product, the iPhone. How could I not? It will be the most talked about product till it's launched, then it will be further scrutinized with people standing on line to buy it, videos of its un-boxing, critics of it's design and interface (already happening) and people buying it, using it, disecting it, hacking it and modding it.

My viewing reminded me (and others in my office) of viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre (both the iPhone and the Mona Lisa are displayed under glass.)

iPhone at MacworldApple clearly had to do this because they likely only have a few working prototypes but I can't help but think that by doing so, they elevate the product to the level of art and as a byproduct, create more desire for it. The oooing, awwing and general speculation of the crowd surrounding the glass drowned out my thoughts. There was literally drool on the glass (which I apologized for - specially to the guard who had to clean up my spittle.) In the end, is the iPhone just an MP3 playing, Internet connected phone device or is it art? I plan on buying one and using it and when Apple comes out with a new one, buying that and putting the first one my shelf with all the other Apple products I have displayed there.

If it is art, what role does Steve Jobs play? Is he to be considered Leonardo? Those of us in the know understand that it takes a huge team of people to develop a product like the iPhone. Jonathan Ive and his Industrial Design team designed the physical phone, an unnamed User Interface Design team designed the interface and a third team engineered the product. A team this size is more akin to a movie in terms of coordination than anything else. Did da Vinci have apprentices to help him with the Mona Lisa? He certainly had patrons, but most people remember only da Vinci.

Will history portray Jobs as da Vinci, de Medici or Demille?

The Design of Sushi

Sushi, dating back to China in the 2nd century and Japan in the 7th century, is in my opinion, the most well designed human prepared meal.

Sushi combines:

aesthetics - With the naturally occurring colors of fish and vegetables and the cylindrical (Maki) and oblong (Nigiri) forms, Sushi is beautiful. Whether presented singularly or in the context of other Sushi, there is a symmetry and considered quality to the presentation. The rectangular (or square) plates that Sushi is typically served on offset the organic and geometric shapes of the Sushi itself. These are usually muted in color so as to enhance the color of the food. The individual pieces are placed in relation to the plate and other Sushi with a precision that makes the total package (when viewed from the top) very painterly. When viewed from other angles, a Sushi plate looks like a small sculpture garden.

eatability - Sushi can be eaten easily with chopsticks or by hand. While the sandwich and wraps found in almost every culture also rate high in eatability (as you can hold them continuously while eating,) the fact that sushi is bite size puts it higher on my list.

nutrition - It is naturally low in fat and high in protein. What fat it does have is generally unsaturated and rich in Omega-3 The vegetables contain vitamins and minerals and the nori (seaweed) is rich in nutrients. Nuff said.

sustainability - Certain fish should be avoided because they are endangered and the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a good list of acceptable and to-be-avoided fish for your region. It also cannot easily be shipped inland without raising the cost in both physical movement and environmental impact but this is not to say that one could not create a menu of Sushi for locally available fish, meats and vegetables.

taste - Sushi is freakin delicious. Again, nuff said.

Web Standards Jumps the Shark

For the past few years I've been a strong advocate for web standards, but in the last couple of months my outbound enthusiasm has been somewhat tempered. First of all, web standards seem to be fairly mainstream and require less soapboxing. Secondly, as I improve as a technologist I become increasingly more aware that conversations should almost never center around tools, but rather processes, techniques, and how to solve problems.

But I was rather amused to be wandering through Macworld yesterday and hear an Adobe rep giving a demo around Dreamweaver that was hinged on the concept of web standards:

"You wouldn't use excel to layout a poster, so why are you using tables to build web pages. THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING ALL ALONG! Behold the magic of CSS and how Dreamweaver can make your life so much simpler..."

I'm pretty sure that his point was lost on nearly everyone. If a person is using tables to build websites, then yelling at them and accusing them of using Excel isn't exactly going to convince them to change their EVIL ways. Conversely, anyone who understands web standards probably thought it was funny to hear a sales engineer attempt to explain them with a three sentence analogy to Microsoft. I'm sure when Zeldman wrote Designing With Web Standards, he never once thought that they would be used in a pitch by a major corporation to sell their product.

Making data real

frog has done quite a bit of work in the hard drive area in the last couple of years, and one of the perpetual problems we run into is how do you help users really understand the quantity and volume of digital data they have? Hard drives have become so reliable that most people don't think about them crashing and losing everything, and very few people ever back up even though intellectually they know they should. Theft or damage to a laptop are also major causes for concern.


Clean Design

iPhone to cause mass phenomenon of “I dropped my cellphone into the toilet”

The consensus around the frog office here in SF seems to be that the Apple iPhone will cause a mass phenomenon of people's current cellphones meeting unfortunate accidents. There's certainly a lot to like about it, with the most compelling visuals for a UI that we have yet seen on a mobile device, and some very cool methods of interacting with the device and your content. The mail, browser, maps, weather, text messaging all seem very well done, and able to be used in a multi-modal way just like on a "real" PC. I'll hopefully have time to head over to MacWorld to check it out.

iPhone a Potential Boon for Web Developers

Once I got over my slack-jawed amazement at the ultimate gizmo (what Gizmodo is ever-so-subtly calling the Jesus Phone), I quickly realized that Apple has created a platform in which web developers will be able to play a substantial part. With the inclusion of widgets, Apple has created one of the most accessible development platforms for data transfer and productivity apps to date on a mobile phone. All you need to know to develop a widget for Tiger's dashboard is XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With the iPhone running OS X, I'm assuming the requirements will be the same.

There are hoards of people who know these technologies and now they have a new toy to play with. Current mobile development platforms such as Symbian, Windows, and Java are the playgrounds of uber-geeks. No more! Now a weekender with a book on web development, some tips on how to create a widget, and a data source can create a mobile application.

It will be interesting to see how many people use these widgets vs. the mobile version of Safari (which brings with it it's own bonuses for web geeks around the world).

Forget the future, let’s monetize the past

When is it OK to exploit culture and history to sell things? The answer, of course, is always. But that doesn't mean we have to take it sitting down. Recently I have noticed two separate auto manufacturers deliberately marketing to our heartstrings: Honda and Chevrolet. Between the two, Chevrolet is probably the most blatant, but Honda's ad seems sort of halfhearted and stolen to me.

The Honda ad is called "The Van is Back" and is a deliberate rip-off of hippie culture with its psychedelic colors and kaleidoscopic effects. Without apology, Honda is stealing Volkswagen's mojo and trying to associate it's modern Odyssey with the 60's culture of the VW bus. I'm not sure who should be more offended: old Hippies or VW. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that few were fooled by this blatant attempt to monetize nostalgia and I've only seen one ad in this vein which doesn't get much air time. American public, you were not fooled.

Chevy, on the other hand, should be ashamed of themselves. Their new line of ads, titled "Our Country" and replete with a theme song sung by John Cougar Mellencamp, are montages of America's past, both good and bad. The very first ad in the series drew much criticism, the most scathing of which came from Slate. If any of you have watched an NFL game this season, these ads are hard to miss as they seemingly run during each commercial break. The newer versions are toned down a bit from the initial salvo and no longer attempt to exploit Rosa Parks, 9/11, or Katrina, but still are obviously trying to associate Chevrolet with admirable moments in American history. If Chevy has their way, being "American as Apple Pie" will soon be synonymous with "Being as American as Chevrolet."

Next Generation Yahoo Messenger for Vista!

One of the only problems working for frog is that I most often can’t talk about the work I’m doing because of NDA agreements. But I’m so excited that I can finally talk about some real WPF work that I’ve been doing lately! For the past few months my fellow frogs and I have been working side-by-side with Yahoo to deliver their next generation Yahoo! Messenger client geared especially for Windows Vista. Read more about it at This has been an amazing project to work on for a multitude of reasons and has taught me so much about real-world WPF development. Below are screenshots from some of the work. Click on them to see them in full effect.

The application is being shown at CES this week in Vegas. It is still not even in beta yet so I can’t provide any code samples or working prototypes. There is also still lots more to be done but the application is looking beautiful and it truly taps into the power of WPF and Windows Vista. Below is a small of example that I can show of the kind of rich UI that was made possible by using WPF. Users will have the ability to customize the look and feel of the application in many ways, but one of the coolest is by using the color picker at the bottom of most windows. Not only can you change the colors of the window chrome but you can also use textures like grass or wood. Trust me, this is not your average color picker! I wish I could post a prototype of this so you can play with it, but not just yet :-).

It has been so great to work side-by-side with Yahoo on this project. I was even able to go and work onsite at the Yahoo campus in Sunnyvale a few times. Thanks to Josh, Matt, Eric, Brian, Chris, Frank and everyone else at Yahoo for making it such a fun project to work on. We also received a great deal of support from Microsoft during the development process. Technical evangelist extraordinaire Karsten Januszewski was our primary point of contact in Redmond. Thanks for answering so many of our questions Karsten! On the frog side our team consisted of 6 team members. I was the primary WPF technologist on the project but was helped out immensely by Doug Cook who is another of our resident WPF experts here at frog. Kalani Kourdus was the visual designer who created all of the kick-ass visuals for the application. Kalani is well-versed in working in Blend so the designer-developer workflow was effortless on this project. Evan Torchin was the primary design analyst who sorted out and arranged all of our crazy ideas into a very useable application. Chris Robbins was the project manager who help keep us all on track. Mark Ligameri, an Executive Creative Director, was the creative lead on the project and provided the vision and design guidance along the way.

Expect many more posts about the project in the future as the noose of the NDA around my neck is slowly loosened :-). This is definitely a case where the screenshots don’t do the application justice. Once you get your hands on the application I think you’ll really love it. It is really doing some incredibly innovative things in the instant messaging area.

Have fun in Vegas guys!