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In Which Microsoft Asks for My Opinion

Internet Explorer Commercial

Last week I posted about this recent ad for Internet Explorer 9 and remarked that even though I hate IE, I loved the ad.

Funny thing – apparently my post caught the attention of some members of the Microsoft Internet Explorer team and I got a nice email from one of them asking about my experience with IE and why I disliked it so much. I explained that my frustration stemmed from moments like this:

“Does the page look right?” Yes.

“Does it look right in IE?” No.

CSS that looks great in modern browsers can render completely wrong in IE 7 and even 8. Style sheets are packed with lines of code just to make the page work semi-properly across all currently-used browsers. This isn’t a problem exclusively with Microsoft, but previous versions of IE are the cause of the lion’s share of the issues.

Admittedly, IE9 has made large improvements in front-end compatibility with other browsers. But there are enough people still using older versions that it can be a real pain to ensure web site compatibility for the largest audience possible. Microsoft has taken steps to address this by making browser updates an automatic feature for Windows users. That will hopefully get us to a point where the majority of people are using IE 8 & 9 (depending on which version of Windows they’re running).

In the past it was easy to get the impression that Microsoft just didn’t care. That their browser was the top dog and they had no incentive to play nice with the rest of the internet. It seems now, based on my recent email exchange and what they’ve done with IE9, that the company is genuinely interested in creating a modern browser on par with its rivals.

Ultimately, I think it speaks volumes that when the people on the IE team saw criticism online (and lord knows mine isn’t the only thing on the internet critical of IE), they took it as an opportunity to learn more about how they can better serve their customers. That’s not the type of action I would have associated with Microsoft, and I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.

Hate Internet Explorer. Love this commercial.

As someone who tries to make web sites work, Internet Explorer is the bane of my existence. Historically poor compatibility with accepted web standards, sluggish user experience, bad security… the list goes on.

That being said, damn this is an awesome commercial. The visuals, message, music. If I didn’t know any better I’d download IE 9, Bing myself, and upload all my files to Windows SkyDrive.

Good thing I know better.

P.S. If you’re curious, the song is “Too Close” by Alex Clare.

Getting Shit Done

Get Shit Done button

When I was an MBA student at Boston University, I had an interesting conversation with my career counselor. We were discussing my strengths and job interests, and I described the positions I’d previously held. The common thread in all of them was that I had basically found jobs where my employers needed someone who could jump into a role, work without a lot of guidance, and get stuff done. The career counselor said, “Oh, GSD!” I wasn’t sure what she meant, so she explained, “getting shit done.”

It’s fun to use profanity in professional situations, but there’s also value in terminology that is so clearly descriptive. Since this is apparently a real term that is popping up in the world of corporate recruiting, I’m going to spill some digital ink on this blog attempting to more clearly define what it means.

To clarify, I’m not interested in personal productivity. There’s a whole movement around getting things done, which is mainly about using time efficiently, not procrastinating, staying on top of to-do lists, etc.

For me, GSD is an action-oriented approach to problem solving. It’s working under fluid conditions with imperfect information. It’s frequently evaluating where you are and course-correcting to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. It’s making decisions even when you don’t know what you’re doing, because you’re confident you can figure it out as you go.

I’m sure this definition will evolve over time, and I’m excited to use this platform to shine a little more light on the subject.

(If you like the button in the image above, you can buy it at the Geek Details Etsy shop.)

The Chrome Label-less Button

The latest update to Google’s Chrome browser brought an interesting twist – a button with no label.

Chrome User Experience UX

See the button next to the tab? Know what it’s supposed to do? It’s the “New Tab” button. It used to have a “+” in it to make clear that clicking it would open a new browser tab.

When approaching usability, it’s important to try and look at design with fresh eyes. Imagine a new Chrome user who’d never used the browser before; would they understand what the button does?

Personally, I say yes. The tab interface overall is quite familiar (given that it’s based on classic file folder tabs), and the design of this button (shape, shading, colors) looks like a “ghost” tab of sorts. If I were trying to open a new tab, I’d assume that’s what this button was for.

What do you think? A great design change? A horrible step backwards for the UX? Not a big difference either way?

(HT: UsabilityPost)

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