Thursday, 28 July 2011

I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king

I heard a news story today which made me so angry I had to write about it here.

Researchers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) have received death threats from a number of ME suffers.

Why would they do such a thing?  Aren't these researchers just trying to help them?

The reason for the threats is the suggestion by a number of researches that the condition is a mental health problem and not an unknown virus, and can be potentially treated through psychiatric care.

For some strange reason people are offended if they are told they have a mental health problem, but being told that they have a weak and feeble body is apparently fine.

It is not even just a simple case of blame diversion, because there are other instances where the cause of a problem can be "blamed" on the patient but they accept it.  For example if someone goes to the doctor with back pain they may well accept the statement that the cause is the way you sit at your desk, every day your posture is causing structural issues with your back and causing you back pain.  In this example clearly the "blame" for the condition is the patients and they can correct their behaviour to resolve the problem.

Take as an example the following variation on the theme, you go to the doctor with back pain and he suggests that the root cause is stress related, that every day through being overly critical of yourself you are reinforcing a negative neutron structure that is generating back pain, you can treat this by positively reinforcing your daily achievements which will recreate a positive feedback neural structure and remove your back pain.

Cause and treatment is heaped on the patient in both cases, but tell someone they have a physical health problem and they can correct it through physical means they are happy, tell them they have a mental health problem and well they will send you death threats.

If what the researchers say is true, then perhaps mental health needs rebranding.  The researches should say

"the ME virus has disrupted the neural path ways in your brain causing your condition, currently the only way to treat this is through specialised brain training.  Obviously we are researching medication, but so far nothing has been found to be more effective than braining training exercises with a professional brain trainer".

Perhaps it is just the words mental health that cause offense?

I am not saying the researchers involved are correct, but if they are not you should prove they are wrong rather than send them death threats! I would be very surprised if they were trying to do anything other than help patients, yes people can be wrong, but I would hope that anyone can see that further research and rational discussion is going to be a much better way to get to the truth, plus if you threaten the people trying to help you, well then there will be less people trying to help you and an even greater chance that no cure can be found.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fun jQuery techniques

Pure rectangular grid design is unsurprisingly a very popular website design strategy.  It allows clean simple easy to follow patterns.  However, it takes good design skill to stand out from everyone else who is doing this.

If appropriate you can stand out with a more "organic" style.  Although you will probably end up building this using some from of grids the result can give a more "natural" feel.  It is important in a less formal design style to use colour and contrast to guide the user appropriately and to not make the style distracting and confusing.  Another technique to allow this naturalistic style is animation.

Appropriate animation is probably one of the most under used techniques, perhaps because it is difficult to pull off, but when it is done well, such as in the transitions in iOS and Windows 7 phone then it can really help guide context and application understanding.

Found a nice little demo that can help with a useful transition highlight effect, which can be seen to help guide context... Hopefully animation (not the horrid flash / gif stuff of yester year) can improve with helpful frameworks developed in HTML5, well certainly nice guides and demos will help with this.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Persuasive design


a simplified history of user experience
  • Human-computer interaction is about paying attention to people and their relationship with computing.
  • Information architecture is about making things findable.
  • Interaction design is about making things usable.
  • Content strategy is about making things meaningful.
  • Experience design is about making things seamless.
  • Persuasive design is about making things influential.

Friday, 15 July 2011

see iframes still do exist...

Interest blog post by MS on sandboxing iframes.  I previously mentioned iframes as a cheap and easy way of embedding information into sites which should retrict maintenance and compatibility issues as much as possible.  However, if the iframe is truly 3rd party and you do not have great control over it this sandboxing sounds great for reducing possibilities for your site's security being compromised by an iframe.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Power and performance

A nice blog entry on MSDN has alerted me to the document.hidden property to help with performance.

It looks like this will be great for dash board and auto alerting webpages.  Have a few ideas on how to use it already :).

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Sometimes things seem to work

Just a little CSS3 example I quite like.  Using the "alpha" layer in the box-shadow allows a more universal reusable style as the background and border colours can easily be altered but the overall style remains the same.

    .info {
        background-color: Khaki;
        border: 1px solid DarkKhaki;
        border-radius: 4px 4px 4px 4px;
        margin-bottom: 2em;
        margin-top: 1em;
        padding: 0.5em 2em;
        width:20em;
        box-shadow: 0 1px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3), 0 0 40px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.1) inset;
       -o-box-shadow: 0 1px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3), 0 0 40px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.1) inset;
       -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3), 0 0 40px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.1) inset;
       -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.3), 0 0 40px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.1) inset;       
    }  

<div class="info">
   Something slightly important here
</div>



Just posting this to remind me of some simple options to create nice shadows regardless of the internal colours.

iFrame height

iFrames, do they even still exist?

Well integration with systems isn't aways APIs, XML and JSON magically working in harmony.  Some times you have to integrate a web app into another site as quickly as possible, maintaining the sparation to avoid unpleasant upgrade costs.

iFrames intially appear to be a great solution, but they do present a number of horrible problems.  The worst offender IMO is the height property.  Why on earth does setting the height to auto or 100% not allow the iFrame to fit the content it contains automatically?  This would seem the most logical and common option, who likes scroll bars inside scroll bars?  Well I guess those higher powers that design specifications seemed to decide that scrollbars are great.

So far the best solution I have found so far is at Dynamic drive, a bit of JavaScript that automatically resizes the iFrame to fit the content.  However, a word of warning I found I had to make some minor pixel adjustments in the code, but otherwise it appears to work.

If anyone knows a pure HTML, CSS method I would love to hear it.

Monday, 4 July 2011

CSS3 Pie

Just discovered a nice way to achieve all of those lovely CSS3 features on IE6-8.  Previously I had generally used an IE specific CSS and images (Yeah I know nasty right?).  CSS3 Pie uses a bit of JavaScript to "fix" the missing border shadow and linear gradient CSS properties in IE6-8.

Now if we are fair IE7-8 can perform Linear gradients with a directX filter, e.g.

progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=#ffffffff, endColorstr=#ffdddddd);

But this is not perfect* and does not cover IE6.  If only everyone was on IE9, FF or Safari.

*Anti-alias text issues, click behaviour can be effected etc.