Internet: A Superpower?

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Cyberspace Metaphors

This week, we talk about the ‘Metaphors that conceptualize the Internet’. The formal English definition of a Metaphor is as follows:

Definition of METAPHOR (courtesy of merriam-webster.com)

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them

Our version: Borrowing attributes of one thing to describe or explain another thing.

There are plenty of valid metaphors for the internet, on the internet. Even finding them all would be nigh on impossible so we will be focusing on our favourite: the Internet as a Nation.

Internet as a Nation

The internet is a nation. In fact, it might be the true superpower. There are many ways in which the internet behaves like a nation.

(Flag? Simple picture choice to avoid political complications)

The internet has citizens (Netizens). Most if not all of us are Netizens, the people of the internet. We have grown to care about what happens to it and and involved in many related things.

The citizens can own property (websites). Probably only a small portion of Netizens actually own websites. But then again, the same goes for most countries.

No passport or customs to cross borders (web domains). Consider the real world on planet Earth. Your own country is pretty much the only place where you can enter and exit areas without the need for identification or registration. Thankfully we are not restricted by borders in the Internet.

It has its own languages (cyber-slang). We are probably using some of it ourselves. Fyi, btw, leet, lol, etc etc

It has politics (Market share as votes). We are actually ‘voting’ each time we use a certain search engine. The search engine with the most users wields the most influence since all websites need their help. In a way, Google/Yahoo/MSN are acting as governments. The next thing you know…

Tax. Someone has to pay for the Internet infrastructure and maintenance. Wait, it turns out that almost everyone has to pay! We are being ‘taxed’ by ISP subscriptions and as in the real world, we can’t really see what the money is used for. Truly one of the two certainties in life.

It has media channels (Streaming Sites). Every nation has media channels that usually can only be accessed by its own citizens, Internet is no different. Even before YouTube, there were a plethora of websites for Netizens to express themselves to other Netizens, spread Internet news and deliver propaganda.

It has criminals (hackers/viruses) and security forces (Anti-malware software). Every nation has security forces to protect its sovereignty. If hackers and viruses ran rampant, Internet may well be destroyed, so the good guys (anti-virus) step in and hold them at bay. Thankfully, there is no conscription for Netizens so far.

The Internet is many things…

We have given our $0.02 about one wacky way to define the Internet. Everything above is solely our opinions mixed with earnest attempts at humor. We hope you have enjoyed the read. Until next week!

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Good Interface Design and Bad Interface Design: An Example Each

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For our first post, we pick two websites as our example of good or bad interface design.

Good Interface Design: Facebook

Facebook is the definitive social media website that barely needs any introduction. As of March 2012, there are over 800 million Facebook users. We highlight some great Facebook interface features:

+ Clear & Concise Sign Up Page

Image

A concise sign up page makes it easier for people to join Facebook. This interface design makes its quick and simple for users to sign up by requesting only vital registration info. Other personal info are filled in gradually after the users have joined and began the experience.

+ Visibility of Status Updates and Comments

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Taken from Flour Power

Whenever users post updates or comments, the Facebook feed is instantly updated. Seeing the updated post feels like the natural result of typing. The responsiveness of the interface encourages interaction among friends and provides a better user experience.

+ Personalization Options

Taken from First Conclusion

Facebook also allows users to customize pages and manage aspects of their accounts. The flexibility invites greater investment from the users and provides a more engaging Facebook experience.

+ Tabbed Chat

Taken from SumTips

Having tabbed chats gives users stronger sense of control and organization over their chatting activities. This design also allows the users to multitask and use other Facebook features while chatting.

+ Modal Windows with Darkened Background

When a picture is selected, a modal window is opened with a dark background. By blocking out the content in the background, the interface shifts the focus to the picture, allowing the user to view with greater clarity and interact with the picture with ease.

Bad Interface Design: SIPhawaii.com

SIPhawaii.com is an e-commerce website that sells and ships Hawaiian products to a few countries. However, its interface design probably does more harm than help.

– Cluttered Design

Taken from Siphawaii.com
That is the homepage of SIPhawaii.com. It is overloaded with too many product pictures and descriptions. Although there is a semblance of order upon inspection, the interface design is hardly intuitive for users to navigate.
A possible improvement will be to organize the products into different tabs (ex.:Coffee, Tea, Island Food) with a menu to navigate between them. With less visual overload and more space, the page will look more comprehensible and allow more emphasis on essential details.

– Too Wordy

Taken from SIPhawaii.com

The 4 page shipping details are found on the bottom half of the homepage, right below the display of all products. It is rather tedious and frustrating for users to read through the entire chunk of text to find the information they are looking for.

We would suggest that the shipping details to be summarized with the important info such as postage details presented in a concise table. Also, the unnecessary details should be dropped so that the users can find what they want without fuss. This would shorten the unwieldy length of the page.

– Too Many Pictures

Taken from Siphawaii.com

If a picture paints a thousand words, then there are way too many words in the page shown above. This interface design distracts the users. Furthermore, while the order can be made at the bottom of that page, clicking on any picture brings the user to another page with the same order form. The design feels confusing and redundant.

We think that the a better way of organizing the page would to be provide drop down menu for the users to choose the product. By separating the products into individual pages, there will be less distraction, clearer direction and significantly faster loading time for the users.

Conclusion: Experience makes or breaks websites

For great user experience, accessibility and clarity are essential. This can be achieved by simple and organized interface design and responsiveness as Facebook has shown us.

On the other hand, SIPhawaii.com’s excessive and redundant content and lack of organization results in a frustrating and confusing experience for the users. In our opinion, that is a bad interface design that leaves much to be desired.