Interaction vital to the new internet

Designers have to get their hands dirty to exploit the new internet

After displaying a stunning array of designs and concepts to the Web 09 audience this month, Wellington designer/developer Jarred Bishop then consigned them to the internet’s dustbin — “sort of”.

Bishop is the creator of Hypetape, an online music playlist creator he describes as the “illegitimate love child of Hype Machine and Muxtape”. He showed some sites that arguably deliver more interaction than most — including one where users can spatially remix Radiohead songs by moving icons (well, coloured dots) around the screen.

He also offered Weber Consulting as part of his portfolio, a site featuring strong Flash designs to match the architectural creations of the company.

“But the internet is changing,” he then said. “Most of these sites are the old internet — sort of.”

He says the social aspect of the new internet allows people to get to customers easier and more cheaply.

“What do we as designers have to do to embrace that?” he asked. Answering his own question, he said they had to get their hands dirty using application programming interfaces (APIs) and development frameworks.

“People are longing for more interaction,” he says.

Photo: Matt Morris

That will present many designers and even developers with new learning curves. Bishop says the best way to learn these new technologies is to use them in a project. He says frameworks force designers to think in-depth about a project before they start coding — to think about pages and structure.

He cites various Javascript (JQuery, MooTools, Prototype) and CSS (Blueprints, YUI) frameworks that “take care of the mundane stuff” so designers can focus on the point of difference.

“APIs,” he says, “let you do cool shit with other people’s websites.”

Twitter is the word right now, but Bishop says many aspects of the service remain untapped. He is currently building a rich Twitter client that will expand Tiny URLs so users can see where they go before they click and which provides thumbnails of shared pictures — a very different experience from the standard Twitter. Users can also create groups and galleries.

The application is written in Python and hosted on Google’s AppEngine.

Reflecting a similar approach to Philip Fierlinger, whose presentation on Flash prototyping was titled “Fake it til you make it”, Bishop says a bit of bravado is important.

“I find the best way to do things is to tell a client you know how to do it, then you have to — or go to court.”

At the end of his presentation, Bishop built another Twitter client live, which allowed members of the audience to submit questions to his Twitter feed.

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