November 06, 2007

Tom Coates: Designing for a web of data

Tom Coates

Designing for a web of data

  • Y! brickhouse – yahoo internal startup environment
  • “Interesting” new sites are basically data repositories / platforms.
  • The web is turning from a web of pages connected by links, to a web of data connected by APIs and services
  • Sites don’t need to own the data themselves; users can own it
  • Web pages are being designed in an increasingly data-centric way
  • Your site is not your product. c.f.
    – twitter; the twitter.com site is only a very small proprortion (~10%) of twitter traffic.
    – Flickr: widgets, badges, cards, phone updaters, desktop clients…
    – Last.fm: many users almost never visit the site
  • In the future; the network and compute devices become more pervasive and ubiquitous
  • 3 kinds of things: data sources, data consumers, and data recombiners
  • nabaztag, ambient orb, wattson – physical devices that consume and produce net data
  • apple.tv – could interact in all sorts of interesting ways with online services
  • Why open your data/services
    – drive people to your service
    – because people will pay for them
    – as advertising, or as positioning
    – to allow external developers to contribute and add value
  • Network effects – every new service can build on top of other existing services
    – Every service that’s added has the potential to make everything else more powerful
  • FireEagle – knows your location, and uses this information to geotag information that you put on line
  • You can never have too much data
  • building a datasource
    – open up a datasource you own
    – build one with your users
    – enhance one dataset with another
  • Scale: flickr has 1.88 billion photos, growing by 500 million in the last 6 weeks
    – how can you make a number like that comprehensible?
    – use metadata:
    + data created during production
    + data derived or inferred from analysis of the thing concerned
    + data that you can crowd-source from user contributions
    + data you can capture from behavioural analysis
  • Folksonomy vs. taxonomy. Don’t choose, expose both
  • Hierarchies can’t take the weight
    – Amazon top bar – went from 2 to 6 to 16 tabs, then finally back to 1 with a web-like search
  • Top navigation is just a jumping-off point.
  • From a visual design perspective; use visual hierarchies to suggest paths
  • “Perception of quality is in the edge cases”
  • A final word on design practice: Stop! collaborate and listen!
  • Organisations have dominant job roles; other roles orient themselves around the dominant roles.

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