Walking the bridge between usability and search engine optimization practices to enhance user experience since 2000.

Please Wait While We Try to Find a Cell Phone Tower

Before the brakes went out on our motorhome, we had gotten lost.  For reasons we still don’t understand, I was calm about the brake loss part.  What I was totally freaking out about was relying on Internet technology to help us.

The idea was offered by our friendly motor home dealer, who took our older Class C motor home in need of a new $10,000 roof and sold us, cheap, a bigger Class A rig.  Cheaper because what crazy person buys a gas hog, right?  We wanted diesel but fell in love with the one we ended up getting. The suggestion was we could take it for a spin to see if we liked a larger RV and our dealer suggested a nice park with a lake to visit. So, Eric and I decided to take it out for a joy ride in the central PA countryside, in search of a park we’ve never been to and never even heard of.

It takes a while for a man to admit he’s lost, so by the time it was a no-brainer, I was already begging my Google G1 cell phone for help.  I turned on the GPS and brought up Google maps.  However, we were in the rolling hills by the Blue Ridge mountains.  Cell phone signals come and go in the countryside and when you’re lost, definitely don’t work.

It was pitch black at night.  A class A rig is on a bus chassis, so picture a school bus ride up and down back roads at night, only this time you’re bringing along a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. And two dogs.  I have sight problems and require lots of help with contacts, glasses and reading glasses.  This is why I chose the black G1 cell phone.  The black phone offers better color contrast against the screen.  The keyboard letters and numbers are larger, with keys spaced farther apart. But for the record, when you’re lost and trying to help your husband find the way out of the woods and curving roads with no houses on them, even a nice keyboard is not enough.

I could not Twitter for help.  It would have been a nightmare.

kim_cre8pc, “HELP” We’re lost somewhere north of Allentown on back roads.”

Tweeters, “I’m on a bus in the UK. How can I help?”, “You’re kidding, right?”, “RT @kim_cre8pc is lost!”

Every once in awhile the tiny blue GPS dot would decide to appear on my screen.  It never stayed long enough to tell me where we were or gave me time to shrink the view so I could see a larger part of the map to get our bearings and find a major road.  Most of the time I received a message saying, “We’re trying…blah blah blah…” and it would not respond at all.

Finally, the crazy hilly curvy road we were on dumped us on a road we knew and we headed home.  Unfortunately, the brakes overheated.  By the time we reached Allentown, Eric was relying on the emergency brake and downshifting at stop lights.  He realized he had nothing to work with to stop the rig when we got near Dorney Park, and that’s where we pulled off the highway and parked the motor home at a bank so it could be towed home.

Back in a real city, with humans and cell phone towers and everything, the map worked and so did the cell phone, so we could call our daughter to come and get us and the dogs (another funny part of the night…all packed into her small Saturn coupe.)  Point being that if we had gotten lost closer to the city, I could have been able to navigate better.  Could we have used a print map? Sure, except we hadn’t loaded up the rig yet.  This was a test drive.

Our dealer was on the case as soon as we called. The rig didn’t need a tow. It just needed to cool off. Nevertheless, they put in a new brake system, at no charge to us, because they weren’t taking any chances.  The rig had been sitting for a year and that’s often bad for RV’s.  I moved the maps and stuff from the old motor home into our new one (not new. It’s a 1997 with 27,000 miles on it.)  I know well enough that fancy technology can not replace a darned good mangled up and not folded back properly map.

I love my G1.  It does so many funky things, like tells me where the traffic jams are and what my horoscope is. It entertains the kids with tons of stupid stuff like Stewie (Family Guy) sayings, to cat and laugh sounds. It has a leveler, which we actually used to verify the automatic levelers on the rig. And a compass. But I downloaded that AFTER the brake loss incident.

I just wish it had worked when I needed it or maybe someone will invent a portable cell phone tower.

Create Peace and a Loving Holiday; Meet Puppy

“Tis the season to wear myself down to sheer exhaustion and still not get everything done that I have in my head I “need” to do. I’m slipping into the family-dimension of visits, gifts and wine. Of seeing family I only get to see once a year. Of naming a new puppy.

The ordeal of losing our puppy, Winnie, a few months ago messed up everyone in their own way. For me, I had bonded with her and had the most time with her before she died. A lot of talking, help and advice from friends and strangers, plus new training for our Golden Retriever helped. I could never explain to anyone why I wanted a puppy. We already have a dog, 3 cats, fish and a frog. And our house is not big at all. I’ll agree with anyone who says we’re nuts to get another pet. I did months of research and settled on looking for a female mix of Shitzu-Bichon. I wanted one with tan in its coat. We waited and waited. To make a long story short, in which there was a small army looking for such a puppy for us, she is now here. We got her on Sunday.

The naming process has been hilarious. My son’s girl friends began texting as soon as he sent out pictures from his cell phone. They came up with names, such as Lilly, Maggie and holiday names like Noel. She was almost called Chickasaw, because the Golden is named Dakota. The names Enya, Saki, Shasha, Sachi and Nevada (means snow) came up. Stefan suggested Kenya, playing off Enya. It’s been a tie for Lilly and Kenya, with me still searching Hawaiian and Japanese names.

Whatever we name her, she’s healed the family and lifted our spirits. Even the Golden is learning tolerance for having his tail chased after and paws nibbled. The cats have been a huge surprise and been accepting.

This year we had less money to spend on gifts and I was too busy to make the gazillion cookies and loaves of homemade breads I typically make. This Christmas, everyone wanted to just be together. We’ve all been working hard and our schedules so hectic.

Somewhere in this scattered gab is a wish for you all to find peace in your days. I love talking to you.

And from myself and the entire staff at Cre8asiteforums

It’s Spring at My House

This was my giggle for the day. I’m on the Board of Directors for my town’s baseball Little League. My role is their head webmaster. There’s me and a few others who pitch in during the busy season, keeping up with scores, schedules, etc. All of us, of course, are volunteers.

Registration for the 2009 Spring season starts next month. It’s an exciting time. Typically we get a minimum of 500 boys signing up for Spring ball and then there’s also Fall Ball, which draws a little less. There is also the high school baseball team and Connie Mack competitive teams, and many boys, such as my son, will play on two or even three teams if they can.

I’m starting to get maintenance messages from Board members for calendar changes and announcements for next year.

It’s an odd thing…working on the Spring baseball season while it’s snowing outside.

Moving Right Along

What a wild year. I hit an age milestone and one child has grown up and is training me on how to be the mother of someone who has her own car, job, boyfriend and still never makes her bed.

School is almost out for the summer. Already my son finished the baseball season for team number one, and now he’s on his second team, where they play into July. They’ve only lost one game so far. Freshman high school football camps and practice for him start the week after school ends. Hockey in the morning for him ends this Friday. No more waking up at 5:30 am! Yay!

We’re replacing carpet, painting rooms, building another deck, and making way for a hot tub given to us by a friend.  I still haven’t finished the veggie garden, so we’ll have harvest in December.  No vacation or trips to conferences, but I’m helping to plan a local SEO gig for the Fall.

While home life is complete chaos and I’m officially “old” and not sexy/attractive anymore (according to marketers and porn sites), I’m still working and supplying web site usability support to search engine marketers and web site companies and enjoying my volunteer local web site projects (doc.).

As some of you may know, I’m also creating and building a new web site called Akesana.com. A MySpace page for Akesana was set up to blog on the progress.

A wee bit of a tease…

Akesana.com is the brain child of Kim Krause Berg, aka “Cre8pc”. World weaving requires an open mind and the capacity to love. We’re not just talking about selective open minds. We’re not talking about regulated love. To understand Akesana is to walk into a world where touch and connections are not taboo and energy is creative, curious, and welcoming. You may be surprised to find string theory, art and web site design – all in one site. Few will understand Akesana. Some may have the courage to visit but few will remain there. Because what we’ll create is going to be painful.

My friend, Donna Fontenot, has some new projects going too. One of them is for SEO and related bloggers.

Do we still need Meta Keywords?. I just about forgot we ever used them. Ammon Johns delights with:

There is a (sneaky) use of keywords however. You use it to deliberately mislead your competitors keyword research.

Did you know Cre8asiteforums has a Tech News Reporter?. We never stop trying new things there. This idea was started by a member and we supported him.

Of course, you have to still believe in forums. I do.

The May 2008 issue of the Journal of Usability Studies is out now.

The Search Engine College has a new course Article Marketing and Distribution! (And will have more if I ever get my act together and write the two I proposed, in addition to my existing Web Site Usability Course.)

I’m Reading (Thanks to a lot of birthday gift cards from those who know I’m a bookaholic!)

The Elegant Universe. Weird how this book came into my life. I have no recall on how I came to know the book but it fits perfectly with what’s been going on in my head.

Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth, because so many people recommended them.

Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks by Luke Wroblewski. I couldn’t wait to buy his book. Nobody knows forms better than Luke.

Building powerful and robust websites with Drupal 6.

In the “Nobody Cares Kim Department”

I love to stir-fry and my step-son chose a new Wok to give me for my birthday. This pork stir fry idea turned out well. If you have any favorites, I’d love to hear about them. It’s the easiest way to get veggies into the kids. Except for zucchini. The youngest one thinks I’m trying to kill him when I make zukes.

Graduation party on Saturday night with family. Then “senior week”, where my kid opted to go to Canada rather than the beach. (Free place to stay sells.) I squished out more funds to help her buy her first car. A 1995 Saturn coupe with 50,000 miles on it. It’s not the Eclipse she wanted. Poor baby.

Her college forms are almost done.

Can hardly believe I’m sending a kid to college who begged for a Hannah Montana Toothbrush last Christmas.

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m back from many things. Dealing with family members who need me. Losing my host, and thus, this blog for awhile. Being a mom, raising happy kids, running a business, and being a sane wife are constant lessons.

I had a great day today. We caught it on film.

Holidays don’t stand in our way at Cre8tive Flow. We posted our weekly roundup of popular threads, member picks and various web sites we find of interest.

Cre8asiteforums
honored moms day
.

Thank you Risa for yet another amazing logo.

mothers day

The card I got from my kids had a recording in it, where they sang a song for me. I also received a Mom’s Day card from my daughter’s boyfriend, Jason, who practically lives here too. It says, “Happy Mother’s Day to My “Other” Mom” and starts off with “Thank you for being so special to me…” He even brought me flowers and sent a text message to my cell phone. Sure knows how to score points, doesn’t he?

And to Joe Dolson, for saving this blog and bringing it back in one piece, I am eternally and forever in your debt.

Your 10 Rules To Follow To Ensure Usability

Everyone has their own way. I’ve been around many development environments and witnessed or experienced the blood, sweat and tears borne by the web development team. Sometimes it feels they get no support or respect.

Someone came to Cre8asiteforums, a community largely made up of search engine marketing practitioners, asking for Your 10 Rules To Follow To Ensure Usability.

I was wondering members’ views on what their 10 definite rules would be to ensure, or at least strive for, good usability. I’m not talking about Nielsen’s heuristics etc. I mean 10 (current and relevant) easy to follow, actionable points that the general developer could follow.

Because he asked for the non-heuristics side, not wanting a re-hash of the zillion lists you see around the Internet on “Top 10 Things to Do To Make Your Website Usable”, we were able to have a different kind of conversation. The responses ignored link colors and font sizes.

Examples:

Unless specifically directed otherwise I develop with the goal to have 100% functionality without having to rely on:

* CSS
* client-side scripting (JavaScript etc)
* plugins

Usability doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s not just your site’s usability. Users are comparing your site against the easiest sites they’ve used …even if they are not in your industry or developed by a much bigger company.

I took the liberty of having a little fun with it:

1. Ignore everything everybody ever told you about what you SHOULD do.

2. Start all over and work out the top business requirement for building it. Hold onto it for dear life. Make every function, every link, every sentence and every breath a page takes traceable back to the original business requirements. This will support you when stakeholders start begging and flirting with you about the cool things they hope you slip in there for them. Just Say No.

3. Decide who it is for and design it for them. Don’t pick the least common denominator. Understand your users and build it for them.

4. Show the mockups to everybody before you begin to code. Walk up to strangers. Ask them for feedback. They may not be your target visitor but they may use the web.

5. Test during the code phase. Regression test every time you add something new. That also means testing designs and functionality on browsers and mobile devices.

6. When you get to Alpha or Beta stage, run it through validation tests for standards and accessibility. Do this now, not later. Keep checking after every code freeze or “I think this page is done” moment.

7. Never ever put up moving things that cover up anything or keep moving without a way to stop it.

8. Put a way to contact you on the site, so you know what’s not working.

9. Do something with it. If you can’t finish a task, neither can anyone else. Accept that everybody will conduct that task differently than you do and how you coded it to function. Have a swig of beer, swallow your pride and polish it up.

10. Usability begins while the site is still in the womb, not after its born. Code as if you’re in labor. You are.

You’re welcome to visit and read the thread to see more responses, or join in and add your own.

Special thanks to Jim Hedger for his coverage of the recent hoopla on Usability and SEO.

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