Journal

Written at 07:10, on Thursday 9 October 2008. Tags: drupal .

It’s the little things that count…

On a default Drupal installation, the user account could really use some love and attention. There are a number of predefined pages to allow users to register themselves on the website, but the usability of these pages is pretty bad. This post is about one little example: they all share the same title. I’m going to show you how you can fix that.

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Written at 20:25, on Friday 21 March 2008. Tags: c-md .

Thesis abstract image

An average human being is capable of keeping approximately 6 items in his short-term memory. Then why do we still think it’s natural that websites present us dozens, or even hundreds, of links to navigate through them?

According to Jakob Nielsen, navigation on the web is often overdone: there are too many links on a page. His research shows that users ignore navigation area’s and dive straight into the content area. Despite the growing importance of disciplines such as information architecture and usability research, or the use of design patterns and content management systems in the website development process, navigation is still fundamentally based on clicking links in lists. Let’s not forget that the Web as medium is still very young: “I think the Internet is still on Day One… You can’t predict some of the really big changes. Who would have said that the development of the automobile would have led to suburbia?” (Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO). So there is still plenty of opportunity for experiments with new interfaces to make information accessible. That is also the purpose of this thesis. Through a design research, this thesis will focus on exploring different concepts of website navigation.

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Written at 17:56, on Monday 3 March 2008. Tags: personal website .

My website anno 2008

As the World Wide Web continues to evolve, people use it for increasingly personal and social purposes. The current social networking sites are quickly gaining critical mass, moving the adoption curve forward from an early majority to the late majority. In the Netherlands, Internet usage in is still rising, and the skills of surfers continue to improve. According to the Dutch bureau of statistics CBS, more than 2 million people have designed a webpage.
As we put more of ourselves online, our identity expressions become more and more shattered throughout the web. Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm and Hyves all represent a small piece of me and my online identity. Bringing these all together will take a couple of years, although with developments like OpenSocial, OpenAuth and OpenID the first building blocks are in the pipelines.

Anyway, the whole reason of this introduction is that I’ve made a small step in consolidating my Web presence – I have now merged my portfolio into my blog. I really liked the design of my portfolio so I tried to keep as many aspects of it as possible, and only made small tweaks as necessary (although there are many of them…). There are some big improvements to the design though, mostly fixing mistakes from my last redesign.

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Written at 11:23, on Tuesday 8 January 2008. Tags: c-md .

Did you know that people are happiest in Hawaii and saddest in Singapore? And that people feel most sexy in Las Vegas? We Feel Fine is an art experiment that has collected allmost 10 million feelings from 2 million people around the world and has built a unique interface to dive into this data. The project of internet artist Jonathon Harris and Googler Sepandar Kamvar has been harvesting the expressions of human feelings from a large number of weblogs. The system searches occurences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”, and stores these in a database. It also extracts additional metadata, such as age, gender, geographical location and even weather conditions.

We Feel Fine

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Written at 18:35, on Wednesday 7 November 2007. Tags: c-md webdesign .

37signals state that they don’t use personas because:

“We use ourselves. I believe personas lead to a false sense of understanding at the deepest, most critical levels.”

Personas are poor substitutes for real people, they argue, and you should always base your decisions on the problems and behaviour of real people instead of passive abstractions of people. This reasoning fits perfectly with their “getting real” process, which argues for a very agile development process.

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Written at 14:29, on Wednesday 19 September 2007. Tags: drupal usability webdesign .

Open Source WYSIWYG editing in CMS still sucks, but with developments like the WYMeditor (“What You Mean” editor, built on jQuery) the situations is improving steadily. This editor lets content writers focus on the structure of their document instead of visual layout. As you can see, this editor provides subtle clues about the type of content you’re currently editing with a clever stylesheet. Unfortunately, the WYMeditor is still in early beta, and Drupal’s module lags a couple of versions behind.

WYMEditor in its default configuration

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Written at 13:15, on Wednesday 19 September 2007. Tags: drupal portfolio webdesign .

LUX Homepage

Lux is one of the biggest Art houses in the Netherlands. It’s a home for international cinema, theater, music, debate, multimedia and visual culture. Their old website was based on ancient code (frames!) and design and was manageable by just one person. For their new website, Lux decided to go with Drupal instead and brought in the help of Webschuur, Guruburu and myself. Under visual direction of design and communication agency Wunderbar, I translated their Photoshop mockups to the Drupal theme you currently see.

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Written at 17:28, on Friday 14 September 2007. Tags: drupal .

I recently created several PHP blocks for a Drupal website that made heavy use of the image module and the image_attach module. While the block creation wasn’t very difficult, it was still a process that took me a long night of researching api.drupal.org and fiddling with SQL queries. (It was a great exercise though, since I hadn’t practiced my PHP/MySQL skills since I followed a basic course at C-MD last spring. It’s amazing how much you forget if you don’t keep practicing… )

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Written at 17:45, on Tuesday 11 September 2007. Tags: webdesign .

Despite the extra required <div> tags, I regularly use the Yahoo! UI grids framework. This provides several advantages when buidling multi-column layouts with CSS. Besides speedy development and source-order independence, it gives you a lot of flexibility when creating your site. More practically, it's extensively tested in A-grade browsers which includes the ancient, but still widely used Internet Explorer 6). Lastly, they're almost completely driven by classes, which means you can add your own, semantically chosen, id's.

The default widths provided can be used for pixel-precise layouts while maintaining font-size based scaling, but there's one curious thing about the default grids that has always bothered me. For the left sidebar, they provide widths of 160px, 180px and 300px, while for the right sidebar, they provide 180px, 240px and 300px. This asymmetry has bothered me long enough, so I whipped up some code for two additional sidebar configurations: the left 240px sidebar, and the right 160px sidebar.

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Written at 11:24, on Thursday 23 August 2007. Tags: drupal portfolio webdesign .

Edupaper is an innovative company with a green goal: it intends to reduce paper use in education by implementing mobile applications. Using electronic paper will reduce the number of books students need to carry, and in effect reduce the number of trees which have to be cut for books that students. Furthermore, by equipping and connecting them with Open Source Software such as Dokeos, it will enable students to learn more efficiently. Of course, when Frits Hoff, CEO of Edupaper, approached me for designing his website, I gladly accepted.

Screenshot of the new Edupaper.nl design

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From the portfolio

  • Politieonderzoeken bio

About this website

My name is Jeroen Coumans, I'm a freelance web designer, front-end developer and Drupal ninja from the Netherlands. I love to create beautiful, usable and accessible websites. On this website, you can find my portfolio as well as my personal weblog. Interested in hiring me? I'd love to hear from you.

After completing my BA in Arts and Culture I'm now doing a MA in Communication and Multimedia Design. More …

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