How to build a web application in four days

There’s been a bit of buzz around ‘How To Build A Web App in Four Days For $10,000‘. Not everything is applicable to the kinds of projects I’d be involved in, but I really liked these points:
  • The best boost you can give you or your team is to provide the time to be creative.
  • You’ll come back to your current projects with a new perspective and renewed energy.
  • It will push your team to learn new skills.
  • Simplify the site and app as much as possible. Try launching with just ‘Home’, ‘Help’ and ‘About’.
  • Make sure to build on a great framework
  • Be technologically agnostic. If your developers are saying it should be built in a certain language and framework and they have solid reasons, trust them and move on.
  • Coordinate how your designers and developers are going to work together.
  • Get your ‘Creation Environment’ setup correctly. [See the original post for details]

“The coolest thing to be done with your data will be thought of by someone else”

I discovered this ace quote, “the coolest thing to be done with your data will be thought of by someone else”, on JISC’s Common Repository Interfaces Group (CRIG) site, via the The Repository Challenge. The CRIG was created to “help identify problem spaces in the repository landscape and suggest innovative solutions. The CRIG consists of a core group of technical, policy and development staff with repository interface expertise. It encourages anyone to join who is dedicated and passionate about surfacing scholarly content on the web.”

Read ‘repository or federated search’ for ‘repository’ (or think of a federated search as a pseudo-repository) and ‘scholarly’ for ‘cultural heritage’ content, and it sounds like an awful lot of fun.

It’s also the sentiment behind the UK Government’s Show Us a Better Way, the Mashed Museum days and a whole bunch of similar projects.

What would you create with public (UK) information?

Show Us a Better Way want to know, and if your idea is good they might give you £20,000 to develop it to the next level.

Do you think that better use of public information could improve health, education, justice or society at large?

The UK Government wants to hear your ideas for new products that could improve the way public information is communicated.

Importantly, you don’t need to be a geek:

You don’t have to have any technical knowledge, nor any money, just a good idea, and 5 minutes spare to enter the competition.

And they’ve made “gigabytes of new or previously invisible public information” available for the project, including health, crime and education data (but no personal information).

Recommendations for AJAX and accessibility

A new Webcredibles article, AJAX accessibility for websites, highlights some of the potential benefits and disadvantages of AJAX technologies.

The section on recommendations for AJAX and accessibility was particularly useful, and a lot of the advice probably applies to non-traditional browsers such as mobile phone users. Basically:

  • Inform users early in the page that dynamic updates will occur
  • Highlight the areas that have been updated
  • Don’t change the focus
  • Offer the option to disable automatic updates
  • Ensure the site works if JavaScript isn’t enabled

Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design

Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design is a great resource for thinking about how to incorporate accessibility testing in user-centered design processes. It’s available as a website and a book, that covers:

  • The basics of including accessibility in design projects
    • Shortcuts for involving people with disabilities in your project
    • Tips for comfortable interaction with people with disabilities
  • Details on accessibility in each phase of the user-centered design process (UCD)
    • Examples of including accessibility in user group profiles, personas, and scenarios
    • Guidance on evaluating for accessibility through heuristic evaluation, design walkthroughs, and screening techniques
    • Thorough coverage of planning, preparing for, conducting, analyzing, and reporting effective usability tests with participants with disabilities
    • Questions to include in your recruiting screener
    • Checklist for usability testing with participants with disabilities

Jennifer Trant posted about the reaction of the Museums and the Web copy editor to the papers about interactive papers for this year’s conference:

“Rather than thinking about the Web site as a reference work, our editor had repositioned it and herself. The museum was no-longer a remote information resource. The technology had become an enabler in the museum space, that made it possible for her to record the story that interested her.”

I think that’s the type of response that makes the movement towards the user-focused/participatory web so worthwhile.