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What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

What’s your New Year’s resolution?

I’m talking about display resolution, of course – the number of distinct pixels that can be displayed in each dimension. With a higher display resolution you can either fit more onto your screen or you can view it at a higher quality (providing the content is served in such a way).

My display resolution is 1680 x 1050 and 1280 x 1024.

And 720 x 1280.

And 1280 x 800.

And 1600 x 900.

And 1024 x 768.

You see, it depends on which device I’m using at the time – a dual screen PC, Smartphone, Android tablet, wide-screen laptop or a fairly old second-hand projector.

This really matters. It’s not just me who uses different types of screens – the boom in smartphones and tablets means that people will be seeing your website on more types of screen than ever before.

There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ screen resolution – long gone are the days when you could simply incrementally increase your website’s width every couple of years.

You must now consider landscape (long) vs portrait (tall). High resolutions vs low resolutions. Large screens vs small screens. High pixel density (sharp displays) vs low pixel density (less detail possible). Touch displays vs non-touch displays.

How does your website shape up? View it on your desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet devices – and/or whatever else you may have – and see for yourself. Not up to scratch or not sure? Contact us to find out how we can help your site work better for you.

Smartphone Touch Screens

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Is it me? Probably

I’ve put it off for long enough, the time has come to upgrade my mobile phone.  My contract expired 9 months ago (it was an 18 month contract), therefore since then I’ve been making a monthly payment towards the cost of a handset which is fully paid for.  I therefore feel I deserve the latest and best phone to justify my monthly expenditure, whether I need it or not.  So why haven’t I upgraded sooner?  Well, my existing phone does what I want and just keeps on working.

An Electronic Swiss Army Knife

Smartphones are excellent. With a single compact device in my pocket, a Nokia N95, I have access to:

  • a good quality camera with flash and an excellent macro (close-up) capability
  • email
  • Internet web browsing
  • sat nav
  • mp3 player
  • video player
  • personal organiser

and, of course, a mobile phone with good hands-free capability

The Years BB & BI (Before Blackberry & Before iPhone)

Sadly, most people don’t realise that smartphones have been around for years – they aren’t the new invention of Blackberry or Apple or any other kind of fruit.  The first effective incarnations were proprietary – custom developments by each phone manufacturer – then in 2001 along came the first device using the Symbian operating system, and Microsoft has been providing Windows Mobile since 2003.

My first real smartphone was a Nokia 7610.  “What do I want a phone with a camera for?”.  Well, I had no choice.  The other features I wanted came in a phone which had a camera, and actually, it was quite useful but dire quality.  Before the 7610 I’d had a Nokia 7110  which with its WAP browser (anybody remember WAP? Fish.Net used to have a WAP site) could possibly be described as having ambitions of smartphone.  So when I came to upgrade the 7610 its increasing unreliability meant I didn’t really hesitate and the Nokia N95 provided all the features I wanted, apart from, perhaps, battery life and being noticeably thicker than its predecessor.

So I’ve been reading my email, browsing the web and taking acceptable quality photos (camera, not photographer) for years.

What Next?  Bad Ergonomics – everything you touch turns to iPhone

Recently it’s been time for a mobile phone upgrade and the new kids on the block are Apple’s iPhone and Android from Google.  Android is now appearing on phones from virtually every manufacturer apart from Apple (no surprise) and Nokia who is still the proud parent of Symbian.  What the iPhone and Android have done is shown just how good and effective a touch screen interface can be.  So much so, that they’ve thrown away the keypad.

And that’s the problem – they’ve thrown away the keypad.  They’ve made you believe that buttons are bad – and they’re wrong.

The touch screens and user interfaces on both the iPhone and Android phones are a delight to use.  The creation of a pinch gesture to zoom is a piece of genius.  But often I want to use my phone without giving it my full attention, and most of the time the prime role for my smartphone is to simply make phone calls.

I need buttons I can feel, with a tactile response to let me know I’ve successfully pressed them.  This is particularly important when simply making a call or hanging up the phone, or when using the SatNav.  My phone sits in a cradle in my car and I can handle most of the call and SatNav functions without ever taking my hands off the road – I don’t need to look at the screen to work out which button to press.  When I’m not driving I can even text blind most of the time.  And all because I know the pattern of the buttons and can feel exactly where they are.  The same argument applies to the camera.  The N95, among others, has a dedicated shutter button which falls exactly in the right (handed) place when I want to take a photo.

And the touch-screen phones all have a lock button to prevent you accidentally ‘pressing’ buttons with the side of your face while you’re making a call!

My Choice

So what did I look at?

I spent a lot of time looking at the latest Nokias, Sony Ericssons, Samsungs and LGs and the Android phones from most of the above.  I decided an acceptable compromise would possibly be to have separate call and hang up buttons and leave the rest to the touch-sensitive screen.  But only the early Android phones – the HTC Tattoo and HTC Hero – have these buttons, and neither of these has a flash for the camera.  From the other perspective I looked at the Sony Satio and Vivaz as these both have good cameras.  Even the impending Nokia N8 unticks too many boxes.  Other compromises could have been the Sony Experia X10 Mini Pro or the Nokia N97 both with slide out keyboards.  But the latter is now relatively old for a ‘new’ (and expensive) phone and neither provide the call buttons particularly well

So what did i choose?

I realised that in every case I was compromising my choice of phone just to achieve an upgrade, none of the options ticked all the boxes that my current phone does.  Yes I would like a bigger screen and a thinner case and longer battery life, but…

So I’m moving over to a SIM-only contract.  I’m paying less, I’m getting loads more bundled minutes and texts and at last I’m getting bundled data.  For my phone I’m going to use a couple of cast-offs from around the office – primarily an N85, but I also have my old N95 and access to another N95.

I’m going to watch and wait.  Hopefully in the next 12 months or so phones will come along which put ergonomics back above fashion.  An Android with a keypad?.  I’m not sure if anything will actually appear.  In the mean time I’ll save money and step aside from the upgrade rat-race.

New Year (Screen) Resolutions

Friday, January 8th, 2010

new-years-resolutionAlmost inevitably, this time of year brings Web designers to ask “What is your New Year Resolution?“.

1680 by 1050 pixels” is 2010’s typical answer in the Fish.Net office, referring to the screen resolution set for our monitors.  Hilarity ensues.

As well as giving the opportunity to rehash a really bad pun, the new year is a reminder that there is no universal standard screen resolution or system configuration, and of the challenges this brings to Web site designers and owners.

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Winter-proof your Company

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

snow

As the dream of a White Christmas rapidly turns into a sub-zero, ice-skidding, road-blocked New Year nightmare, you can turn to your IT system to keep your staff safe yet your company’s cogs turning.

Read on to find out how you can continue working throughout the snow.

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An unfortunate automation

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Part of the sheer brilliance of the digital revolution and the Internet in particular is the ability to view information in whatever way we want.

Twenty years ago, we had to either watch an evening bulletin, buy a newspaper or tune into the wireless to get the latest news headlines – and by then, these headlines were up to 24 hours old.  Today, of course, we can view web sites, read RSS feeds, dip into the rolling 24 hour news channels – even get bulletins on our mobile phones.

Whilst some of the ways we absorb the news requires an action on our part – tuning into the news or buying a paper, for example – some can be pushed to us, such as desktop news tickers, automatically updating us as headlines break.

The problem with this automated on-demand culture is that it can lack a human touch, allowing information to be presented in a way which would never be done with a human approval process.  (more…)

Don’t Panic!

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Beware the angry mob
The press reaction to the launch of 118800 – the new mobile directory enquiries service – has been rather hysterical.

As a result, a mob-like reaction from the public at large has ensued, with bloggers excitedly spreading the word about how to opt-out and emails with a similar sentiment spreading like wildfire.

Despite the privacy concerns of the new service, Fish.Net suggests you look beyond the bluster and take a more measured response to the new service – and here’s why.

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