The web – integration not destination

If we really want to help people connect with each other, get stuff done, solve problems and make things, then the web is not the destination.

We need to work harder to integrate the web in to people’s lives, when and how they want and need it.

The web can be the fabric. It can be pervasive.

Walled gardens and blinkered cul-de-sac thinking are a hindrance to this.

Find, Understand, Share, Extend

Today is World Usability Day. The theme this year is communication. I’ve chosen to write about something which I find helps teams I work with communicate and explore what we design and put on the web.

Back in 2005, Yahoo! Search announced a “vision statement”.

Enable people to finduseshare and expand all human knowledge.

Somewhat ambitious, sure. A little grand, perhaps. But what a great way to think, not only about search, but also about everything we make on the web.

And it happens to form a handy mnemonic in the shape of the acronym FUSE.

At the time I was working on learning technology and intranet projects at the BBC, and found it was a really useful way to think about everything we designed, built and put out there.

If we design this site, template or widget, if we publish this content, if we make this web app, will people be able to find it, use it (more recently I’ve started using ‘understand’ as well), share it and extend it (which I prefer to ‘expand’)? FUSE?

And on every project I’ve worked in the five years since, it has still come in useful. Whatever becomes of Yahoo!, I for one, have a lot to thank them for.

[For more on FUSE, see this blog post by Tom Coates, not a fan of the acronym! In 2006, the BBC came up with its own version of FUSE – in Find, Play Share (BBC press release, Guardian article) – as its approach to all audience-facing digital output. Both work, but I find FUSE really gets people thinking.]

Check world time and weather via search

Yesterday I was due to make a Skype call with a friend in Denmark at 1530 CET. I needed to double-check I’d got the right time scheduled so I did a little research.

It turns out that if you want to know the time in, say, Copenhagen you can simply type “time copenhagen” in to your search engine of choice and hey presto!

On further investigation, all three search engines also show you current weather conditions (e.g. “weather Paris“) and links to forecasts:

Handy.

Web 2 or not web 2

I’m full of admiration and respect for Tim O’Reilly but I get really wound up by what he’s coined “Web 2.0” or “web 2 point oh” as it seems to be pronounced.

It’s just the web. Nothing more nothing less.

Giving it a version number somehow suggests it’s something that can be commoditised, productised, owned.

It’s not like we’re living in “Earth 7.0”

Sure, there are ages of the web, but to suggest that there’s something called Web 2.0 implies we’ve been running up through minor versions of Web 1.0 and that sometime in the not too distant we’ll be pointing our handhelds at Web three point oh purlease…

</rant>

Message to online insurance quote websites

If there are showstoppers ask them upfront!

Don’t let me spend 10 minutes filling in personal details about myself and my other half only to be told that you can’t offer me a quote because of my other half’s profession.

I was just trying to get a quote on behalf of a friend who was on the other end of the phone at a car supermarket in London, where there are computers but you can only use their website – hmm, they’re definitely missing a trick there!

In this case Sainsbury’s Insurance is the culprit, but I’m sure they’re not alone.

Can’t find it? Try these

A piece in today’s Guardian Online lists some of the web’s top search engines as a “new search war breaks out”

I’ve set them up below for easy access.

The groupings are taken from the paper version of the Guardian. (One or two missing from the original list until I have time to get them to work)


The “frontrunners”
Google
Yahoo
MSN Search
The “Golden oldies”
Ask Jeeves
Teoma
Altavista
Lycos
Hotbot
(now defaults to using Google)

Dogpile
(metasearch)

MetaCrawler
(metasearch)

Clustering
Clusty
Mooter
Regular and real time
Daypop
Technorati
Local searches
UKWizz
Newsnow
Exalead
Honourable mentions
Blinkx
(artificial intellgience instead of keyword searching)

Icerocket
(provides screenshots)

Singing Fish
(audio and video)