With the recent news of Yahoo’s potential acquisition by vile Microsoft and its prior layoff of 1000 hardworking geeks, there was a bit of an air of piracy in the office last week.
Linden Lab is going into another round of recruitment, focusing on web developers, QA folk, and other nerdy types. If any web developers out there (you, yes, YOU Joy!) want to work in a more stable, hilarious, and weird environment, you might want to fill out an application to work at Second Life. Free beer, the Love Machine, and a frightening amount of RockBand can all be yours!
Linden seems to be where the socially-developed nerds go to work. There’s a much larger % of women, extroverts, parents, and charmers working at Linden than is considered industry standard. Which means you tend to not find yourself in conversations with dudes who can’t make eye contact with a girl, or folks who get REALLY EMOTIONAL about their code.
It’s good to be a god, too, even if it’s only in-world. You can read more about our wickedcool office culture in the Tao of Linden.
I’m typing with my face today due to a stupidity-induced thumb injury from, I think, painting my basement. Homeowners beware.
In the meantime, just to show that I’m not all thorns and lemons, here are some good websites. Good in that attainable way. You will notice that these are mostly not library sites, but I hope you will enjoy the parallels between, say, a really clean weblog about t-shirts, and a really clean list of community activities.
Decent design example #1
The New York Public Library’s Main Page
- A nod to the principles of graphic design – a grid is established, everything is on one page, so no scrolling. A bit font-y, but not too bad. Clean and reasonable.
- Respect for web traditions. Contact link, search, hours up top, copyright statement at the bottom.
- There are tons of links, but they are separated by negative space and grouped to reduce clutter. There are only links to things the public might care about. If you want info about their current grants or whatever you have to dig down a bit, because fewer people care. I sure don’t.
- User-friendly labeling. “Pictures, Photos, & Maps Online” rather than “The Boogaboo Collection” Thank you. As a user, I like pictures. I don’t know Mr. Boogaboo and I don’t want to.
- Visually consistent (at least within this main page). The logo matches the icons which match the features. Don’t click on “Teens” or it will all go to hell.
Decent Design example #2
Preshrunk (hipster t-shirt weblog)
- This is negative space, my friends. As a user, it calms you, soothes you. Makes you feel a bit less like you are being attacked by dozens of people who all want your attention. Feel the negative space? Ohm…
- Look! A clear focal point for each easily-distinguished item. It’s an image! A high-quality image! Not clip art! A visually consistent size and presentation for each image! Don’t you feel safe and warm?
Decent Design example #3
- Great info architecture. What section are you in? It’s obvious! Your location is the only highlighted thing on the page. These guys aren’t out there trying to get you to “Find Databases” or click on “Interlibrary services”. Do you want a leash? Click on leashes. Do you want to know how the company works out contracts with various wholesalers? Of course you don’t. Click on leashes.
- Here is a really full website that still seems calm and peaceful. It’s that negative space and consistent design thing again.
- Notice all of the images? Aren’t they nice? Nobody downloaded those from Microsoft. Notice how they have their backgrounds dropped out? This gives them a consistent look and reduces visual clutter. If you can’t make, attain, or afford images that look this good than don’t use images. Use a clean CSS based layout instead…
Decent Design example #3
A List Apart (the other ALA)
- Look ma! A simple clean layout, and only one image up top. No need to keep a Photoshop maven on staff. Like it? There’s more.
- This site changes its look every day. Why? Because they use CSS and it’s easy. Still, each design is minimalist, standards-compliant, and simple to navigate.
Finally, here are some books if you’re into that kind of thing…
Usability for the web [link]
Information Architecture [link]
Don’t make me think! [link]
Designing websites for every audience [link]
Thanks for all of the kind comments on the previous post. They really helped balance the freaking out I had to do when a kind well-meaning soul posted this link as an example of a REALLY GOOD children’s website.
Ok. Let’s go through this again. Slowly. This time I’m going to spell it out.
Anyone can make a website. The web is the most democratic publishing forum ever conceived. But, unfortunately, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you are the best person to do it. It is an unpleasant fact that most library websites, most digital libraries, most catalogs and electronic collections are badly designed.
And by badly designed, I mean this. Ugly. Ill-conceived. Verbose. Inaccessible. Acronym rich. Confusing. Lofty. Unnecessarily complex. Deprecated. Self-absorbed. Low-quality. Pointless. Patronizing.
Are you still with me? Remember, I’m being a bitch so that you don’t have to.
There is a tendency in the library community to blow sunshine up each other’s asses, as though our intent to do good were enough. As though our good works shouldn’t be held to the same standards as commercial products because we are Nice. People don’t seem to criticize each other’s work in this profession. Which makes for a perfectly lovely working environment where you can find yourself producing piles of junk because all you have heard is happytalk from supportive colleagues. And that’s not Nice. Nope. Not at all. That’s painful and embarrassing and rather cruel.
You would tell a friend if she had toilet paper on her shoe, right? Gentle criticism (not my specialty, obviously) has a place in any relationship, especially when the stakes are high. When your TP-shoed friend is about to go up on stage in front of a bunch of elementary school kids, they probably aren’t going to listen to her charming and educational speech. They are going to see the toilet paper and turn into a pack of hyenas.
And it’s a shame, because the Internet Children’s Digital Library (and the gajillion sites like it with smaller budgets) have the potential to become popular resources if they will only make the connection between quality of content and quality of interface. Like so many digital collections, they have great ideas, like sorting books by color, but they don’t have the skill or the perspective to realize these ideas. And they don’t have the humility to hire someone who does. So up they go in front of the auditorium with a big wad of TP dragging behind them.