Chris is a Melbourne-based web developer and open source advocate. He has particular experience in the community, nonprofit and social enterprise sectors, with a focus on UX and business analysis. Aside from technology, Chris loves to learn and spread ideas from diverse topics like the environment, history, philosophy, music, reading, writing, games, and much more.

Chris's articles

  1. DrupalCon Amsterdam 2014 Report

    As has been the pattern of many recent DrupalCons and Camps, DrupalCon Amsterdam 2014 was all about Drupal 8 and the changes that it’s bringing to the platform and community.

    This has coincided with an increase in attendance at Drupal events (2300 in Amsterdam) and an increasing professionalism to DrupalCons. Drupal 8 has pulled us (sometimes forcibly) from out of our comfort zone and into the wider PHP and developer community. This has resulted in more talks covering a variety of non-Drupal topics, which, in my opinion, is a great thing.

    The big news of the conference came on day 2, with Drupal 8 finally making it into beta. You can now effectively build basic sites in Drupal 8. In fact, a few brave souls already have, and I intend to do so too with my next site.

    Dries Keynote

    The regular ‘Driesnote’ was a thought provoking academic discussion on a current hot topic in the Open Source world, sustainability of projects and funding models. He started by stating that there are actually few good Open Source examples we could be following. In Dries’ opinion, the prevalent model of one company funding development is not a good one. Instead he suggested we look to other models, especially the concept of how Open Source software could be treated as a public good, or to coin a British term, ‘The Commons’. He used the example of public roads to show how community desire and amateur implementation can grow. Firstly via business investment (and sometimes privatization) and often resulting in Government control and management. To summarize:

  2. Apple’s Special Event: New iPhones and More

    Today Apple held one of its signature events in its home town of Cupertino, California, announcing a new range of iPhones, a long-awaited wearable device, and a new payment system.

    There were more rumours than have ever been witnessed before from an Apple announcement and the amount of mainstream press coverage has been staggering.

    So what really happened? Was it all everyone anticipated? Let’s take a look…

    Phones

    It was the World’s worst kept secret that there would be new phones and we got two.
    In a typical wave of Apple naming brilliance, we have the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Both are thinner, more powerful (with a new A8 chip), larger and higher resolution. They also come with Touch ID security features, NFC capabilities (finally), and upgraded motion chips which include a barometer, for more accurate fitness tracking.

    The designs are refreshed but still uniquely ‘iPhone-like’ and pricing (based on US prices) seems reasonable and somewhat more affordable than previous models. The phones will be available from September 12th. No new iPads as rumoured but there are several new software features available to aid the larger screen sizes that sound very intriguing for developers, such as ‘Split displays’ and ‘reachability’ gestures.

    Software

    We were all expecting iOS 8 and I hope you have been busy updating your apps for it. Whilst iOS 8 will be available for a plethora of Apple devices, it is of course optimised for the new iPhone’s resolution, size and sensors. iOS will be available to everyone with a 4S and up from September 17th and final Gold Masters are available to developers now.

  3. What Does ‘Always Listening’ Mean to Your UX?

    A couple of months ago I watched the movies ‘Her‘ and ‘Computer Chess‘.

    In essence, they were two ends of the same spectrum, demonstrating how computers interact with us instead of us interacting with them, with computers being the active initiator, instead of the passive responder to our instructions.

    The world in ‘Her’ is not far removed from the present — where people seem comfortable with computers and devices prompting interactions with them on an almost constant basis.

    In ‘Computer Chess’ (set in the 1980s), we are back in a world back where the mere thought of a computer initiating an action with us is so freakish, that even the humans acting out the instructions of the computers are seen as bizarre.

    When one computer begins to learn and become more human-like, it is treated as an anomaly, not an advancement.

    As we are now firmly moving in the direction of a ‘Her’ type world with ‘Always on’ devices and services increasingly prevalent, perhaps its time we started re-thinking our UX guidelines.

    Let’s coin a new buzzword, for convenience at least, how about ‘ALUX’ (ALways on User Experience)?

    ALUX covers a wide gamut of services and tools from calendars and to-do lists to recommendation engines and quantitative self trackers to fully fledged personal assistants, led by Siri, Google Now, XBox, and perhaps, Microsoft Cortana.

    Many of my ALUX recommendations fall into a handful of broad and related camps. There may be a little repetition, but I’ve decided to break them into their respective topics.

  4. The Mobile Platforms to Watch in 2014

    With an average global combined market share of 85-95%, iOS and Android are by far the dominant players in the mobile operating system space. So why bother looking into or developing on any other platforms? First, you might be an inquisitive person, and maybe are just interested in exploring new systems and concepts. Second, when […]

  5. Cloud UX: Dude, Where’s My File?

    The old paradigms in software design have been on life support for a long time.

    Who under 30 can relate to the metaphors many interfaces are based upon: desktops, folders, files, disk icons and cutting and pasting with scissors and glue brushes?

    Who in their life has ever kept a file inside a folder, inside a folder, inside another folder? I can’t even imagine what that would look like.

    The cloud has promised a lot, and certainly delivered some of it. It is often used as a marketing term to sum up a lot of disparate technologies and a business term to solve all your problems.

    For this article, I’ll use the term ‘cloud’ to mean “distributed networks of systems”, encompassing computers, mobile devices and services that you may either have a permanent connection with, or check once in a while.

    We’re talking about the kinds of services you probably use everyday, from GMail to Dropbox to Twitter and zillion others.

    We will look at recommendations for the experience behind these services, as well as failures, success stories and examples of what could be in the not too distant future.

    Hopefully, it might even inform your decisions for creating your own ‘cloud’ integrated services.

    Lack of Feedback

    The main failing across a lot of these services is the lack of user feedback. Users like to feel like they’re in control (though often in the case of cloud services, they aren’t).

    With a lot of cloud providers, it’s usually obvious when things have gone right (i.e. it’s working), but often it’s not so clear when things have gone wrong.

  6. Feature-zilla! Will Featureful Kill Usable on the Web?

    When did you last use the references feature in Microsoft Word? Or truly needed any more than about a quarter of the filters in Photoshop? When talking about feature bloat in applications, our minds often slip to thinking about Microsoft or Adobe software and the statistic that most users only utilise about 20% of their […]