Monday, January 13, 2014

Where credit is due

Early in my career in consulting, back in 2000, I was called on to do some mock-ups of some screens we were building for a client. I had experience in HTML and with Dreamweaver, so this was no problem for me.  Actually, I must have been fairly new with Dreamweaver, because I remember getting excited about all the nifty things I could do with tables.  And I figured that the generous thing to do was to give the client options from which they could choose.  So I made up a bunch of different screens with really different looks and feels.  Some of them looked like Kandinsky, or Mondrian, or Malevich, you know what I mean.  I was very proud.

So we called in the whole project team, us and the client, and walked through the screens. I don't think they had ever seen anything like it.  They were very polite to me, I think.  They may have shared other opinions with my project managers, Webb and Dinesh.

So, that Friday, back at our firm's home office, me and somebody else got sat down for a lecture on basic application screen design by the firm's founder, Steve.  "Fellas," he explained, more or less, "Here's how it works. You've got a master menu in a frame across the top, these are your nouns" (and, 13 years later, I look at the screen to my right and I see tabs for "Projects," "Users," "Upgrade", "Support," and "About").  "Then, along the left hand side of the screen, you put your drill-down menus, which typically consist of verbs." (Again, glancing at my other screen, I see more or less the script being followed).  "This is how it works."  Part of me felt constrained by this heavy hand of normativity, but I had to admit it worked.

And then he went on. "The browser is going to more or less evolve into a replacement for the operating system...."  Now, I didn't know much about computers, but that sounded kinda loonie to me.  I knew that an operating system was in fact software, something like the software equivalent of a large office building.  Back in 2000, the browser was, by analogy, a broom closet.

Today, we took delivery of a Chromebook.  Now, I know that Chrome the operating system and Chrome the browser aren't exactly the same, but the OS is really just an extension or expansion of the the browser, and I fully get how a URL really just designates the location of a file, and.... In any case, hats off to Steve, in this case.  He really got it pretty early.

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