So we have 10 seconds, and design matters

After a long period I decided that my personal homepage needed an update. And so many opinions exist on the perfect layout of a webpage. Recent studies point out that I am not the only one considering to update. A large percentage of users tend to change their webpage every two and half years. Is this dramatic? I think it is not, redesign is a big job. But when you read that already in 2010 about 42% of online shoppers base their decision on the first impression of the website it looks like the design of your landing page matters a lot. I am wondering will that be the same for personal pages?

Web design guru Jakob Nielsen states: “Users often leave Web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer”. Ten seconds is not much. So I read more on the arguments and research results of Nielsen, for example about the F-shape in webpage reading. Reading all this you may consider not to work on your personal page any longer. Am I going to succeed in keeping my readers longer? But there is hope. Nielsen writes: “Only after people have stayed on a page for about 30 seconds does the curve become relatively flat.”

Are you still with me?

Writing for the web is different. Like with blogs we see that we need to get to the point very fast. No long introductions, but directly posing your statement, and then in short blocks telling the why and how. Knowing that people are not going to read long blocks of text on your first page you need to get their attention fast. Short paragraphs, using bold texts to point out what is important, and headline like headings.

But back to the design of the ideal page. I start of with the first question: What is the perfect width of your webpage? At least this is one of the first things to code in my CSS or body-tag. In the starting days, when I wrote my first HTML for Mosaic and Lynx there was not that much choice, monitors and resolution dictated the width. Now the range is wider and more complex. Smartphones, tablets, the mega-screens, and the average home user screen. When it comes to this subject I also refer to Nielsen who refers to StatCounter in coming to the conclusion that after 8 years this screen size has been dethroned. We should now design for 1440 pixels wide. And although 1024×768 is not any longer the standard, we should keep in mind that a website that gets wider then about 1024 pixels becomes more difficult to scan quickly. At least, if you do not divide it into columns, like newspapers do.

The Variables

So there is much to think about when it comes to the perfect landing page: the different grid systems, should the menu bar be left or right on my page, shall I use responsive web design?  Two things seemed important to me: the 960 grid, and responsive design. The blogs by Ryan Boudreaux that appeared this summer at TechRepublic to my opinion are a great starting point when it comes to responsive design. The 960 grid is perfectly explained on their own website.

All in all there are a lot of variables to deal with; ten seconds, 1440 pixels, 12 columns preferably spread over 960 pixels. And above all we are confronted with a visitor that wants to be entertained and on the other hand behaves like a tot.

I cannot come to a different conclusion: web design is challenging!

To be continued…

NB. A small note to this blog, in the first paragraph I mention the 42% for the shopping. Although this 42% gets refered to a lot, including some recent mentions, I can trace its source back to 2010, a long time ago in Internet terms. I have decided to crowdsource this question at Quora and LockerGnome. So far without results, many people read the question, and people even start to follow, but no answers yet.

Thoughts on Mobile Geo Apps

Everyone following the tech-news in the last week must have stumbled over the new Apple Mapping application in iOS6. In about a week time we have seen an increase in the social media on the hash-tags “map” and “geo” in combination with “mobile”. This is a reason for me to write something about this subject.

It looks like many people are just finding out now that mapping is work for professionals and should not be taken too lightly. Making navigation software and the maps that come with it has many pitfalls. The one-way street that causes the long detour, the cycle or bus lane (complete with a small barrier) as connection between 2 street parts that cannot be crossed by car, the viaduct or tunnel that is invisible. Many volunteers that have worked (for more than 8 years already) on OpenStreetMap know how much work it is.

But not just navigation systems are using your geo-location. And not all geo apps will show you a map or a current location. There are more and more apps that use your location for numerous reasons.

Users and Geolocation

In May 2012 a number of media reported that “74 percent of US smartphone owners use the device to get real-time location-based information”. This was based on the outcomes of Pew Internet Research, and only figures for the US were given. These outcomes, and the increase since it was measured the year before, show the growing interest in location based information. Naturally we should not forget the number of people that do not know how to switch the feature off… At the same time we also see the growing awareness of people that have privacy concerns, as a study from ISACA that was published around the same time shows.

Increase in Mobile Applications using Geo

In relation to the studies mentioned above we have seen an increase in mobile mapping applications on smartphones over the last years. Many of these apps are caused by the rapid growth of mobile devices of course. But it is also the attractiveness of the maps and how images can be used to enhance other content, that drives developers to work on apps that use images. I believe this direction is good. And in short time the professional applications can benefit from the lessons learned by the app developers.

Not only in the field of the navigation and the social media we can expect new developments if it comes to location based services. There are many more fields where we can apply location. Like in the field of GIS where we see a fast growing number of users from different fields, we will see that many new apps will find out that knowing the location opens new opportunities.

But that is something for my next post…

“2012 is the year of GIS”

@GISuser tweeted some readings on GIS this week. In the readings an article with the promising title: “$3.7 Billion Reasons Why GIS Technology is The Future” is posted at SpaceDaily.com. The post refers to a quote from Dr. Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University saying that “2012 is the year of GIS”. The article has some nice statements about the GIS market and the job outlook for Geo informaticians, and the necessity to train people now to fill all the job positions. And yes I agree with this quote and the reasons Stephen McElroy comes to this! GIS (or as I prefer Geo Informatics) is “pervasive technology”.

Location is everywhere

The last decade we have seen a clear market shift where hand drawing the assets of many companies has been rapidly replaced by geo-locations in the companies’ databases. Maintenance of these systems has become a core business for IT firms. So not only within the companies that collect and keep up the data we can see a growing market potential, also in the surrounding areas there is a rapidly growing market. SpaceDaily.com mentions the Pike Research report that sums up the market to $3.7 billion in 2017. Don’t we all want our share in that?

In the article governments are mentioned as one of the main users of Geo Technology. The use and presentations of Geo Information shows a clear shift here too. The request for up-to-date information by the citizens has forced many organizations, with governments in the front row, to shift towards publicly available geo data.

Media and technology

Mobile devices, telling you every single moment where you are, and what happens at this specific location drive the geo awareness of people. And we cannot do anything else other than act. The technology will drive us faster and faster, the growth in the number of geo apps shows this clearly.

Envisioningtech.com earlier this week published their wonderful infograph “Envisioning emerging technology, for 2012 and beyond”, there is references to technologies depending on Geo informatics in there, but no direct mentioning of the field of Geo Informatics. Geo has grown fast, and we are in a steep climb, everyone knows geo from daily use, but as a field it still needs a lot of marketing.  Stephen McElroy is right when he talks about the need for education (and students) saying: “industries are looking for people who understand GIS technology”.

There is a clear and fast growing dot on the geo-horizon and it is still 2012!