Critical Zero

The online refuge of Andy Pearson
He’s been gone for a while, the posts are gathering dust...

Theory

The Web Tools You Know

8th May 2010
10:10am

My recent job change has got me thinking about the tools I choose to do common tasks, and how these can influence customer experience.

The clever amongst you are probably already doing this, but it dawned on me recently when I needed to produce a quick sitemap at work.

Usually I reach for OmniGraffle, then spend the next two hours getting increasingly frustrated because it doesn’t do what I want.

It’s not fair of me to blame the tool1 but I can blame my inexperience with it.

I remembered a blog post I had seen ages ago, and after a little time spent with Google I found just what I needed.

SlickMap is a clever little CSS file that takes semantic HTML lists and turns them into great looking sitemaps.

It took a few tweaks to the CSS but within half an hour I had finished the sitemap. It was quick because I know HTML and CSS really well, much better than I know any other tools.

Web Based Documents

The next example of this occurred the other day. I needed to produce a work proposal for a possible client.

Usually I would use Pages, because it’s designed for making documents. It makes sense, but I still end up wasting time floundering with something I don’t know well enough.

This time I decided HTML and CSS were the right tools for the job. Instead of messing with header styles I wrote semantic HTML and then styled it with consistent CSS. It does the job a Pages document would.

The type is set to a baseline grid, the document is viewable on mobile devices, it has a “clickable” table of contents and I can even see how many people have looked at it using Google Analytics.

These are bonuses, things that wouldn’t be possible with a normal document, but I get for free, by using the tools I know. It’s also going to be easy for the client to pass this single link around. It’s got a good looking print version and a link to a PDF version so hopefully everyone will get a better experience from it.

The Bigger Picture

We spend a lot of time thinking about the web and how to provide the best possible user experience.

Just recently I have also been thinking about how to provide a fantastic customer experience.

It’s becoming clear that we all need to take advantage of the web, and our knowledge of the former to improve the latter. Customers are users too.


  1. Sometimes I do wonder whether it is possible for OmniGraffle to lay out good looking, sensible site maps automatically… 

  1. Ben Debnam

    8th May 2010

    Interesting thoughts Andy. It does seem a logical decision to use web based technology for managing and creating web based projects. Loving SlickMap – I have not heard about it before! That would have been very useful recently, but moving forward I am still a big fan of Omnigraffle – mainly for UX decision making, Wireframes, user flow journeys and such…

    I will just say, on a random note… you remember that 960px Grid PSD you released years ago? I still use that on every single one of my projects, best download I’ve ever had from any blog site. Thank you.