One of my favorite examples of participant observation comes from Jack Whalen and colleagues at Xerox PARC. They were studying a call centre for photocopier repair, so these were people who field questions for technicians, and, over the telephone, help them work through troubleshooting broken photocopiers. Doing this over the phone can be extremely difficult. What Whalen and colleagues found was that, as you might expect, the most proficient person in this copier repair centre was the person who’d been there the longest. It was the skill that they’d built up over a period of time. What’s interesting is that the second most effective person at this repair centre was not the person who’d been there the second longest, but rather the person who’d sat next to the person who had been there the longest. What they realized was that, by sitting next to an expert, these repair technicians were able to pick up all of the informal skills of doing repair work that aren’t written down in manuals anywhere. And it’s this apprenticeship model that helped somebody really excel in their job.
STEVEN P. DOW, ALANA GLASSCO, JONATHAN KASS, MELISSA SCHWARZ,
DANIEL L. SCHWARTZ, and SCOTT R. KLEMMER
Iteration can help people improve ideas. It can also give rise to ﬁxation, continuously reﬁning one option without considering others. Does creating and receiving feedback on multiple prototypes in parallel, as opposed to serially, affect learning, self-efﬁcacy, and design exploration? An experiment manipulated whether independent novice de-signers created graphic Web advertisements in parallel or in series. Serial participants received descriptive critique directly after each prototype. Parallel participants created multiple prototypes before receiving feedback. As measured by clickthrough data and expert ratings, ads created in the Parallel condition signiﬁcantly outperformed those from the Serial condition. Moreover, independent raters found Parallel prototypes to be more diverse. Parallel participants also reported a larger increase in task-speciﬁc self-conﬁdence. This article outlines a theoretical foundation for why parallel prototyping produces better design results and discusses the implications for design education.
HTML5 Please – “Look up HTML5, CSS3, etc features, know if they are ready for use, and if so find out how you should use them – with polyfills, fallbacks or as they are.”
Yeoman – “Our workflow is comprised of three tools for improving your productivity and satisfaction when building a web app: yo (the scaffolding tool), grunt (the build tool) and bower (for package management).”
Move the Web Forward – “You love web standards. You want to give back to the community. Curious about where to start? We’re here to help.”
Great strides have been made in how we approach workflow, use abstractions, appreciate code quality and tackle the measurement and betterment of performance. If you’ve been busy and haven’t had time to catch up on the latest developments in these areas, don’t worry.
With the holiday season upon us and a little more time on our hands, I thought it would be useful to share a carefully curated list of the most relevant front-end talks I’ve found helpful this year. You certainly don’t have to read through them all, but the advice shared in them will equip you with the knowledge needed to go into the new year as a better front-end engineer.
E-commerce is such a complex and quickly changing area. Magento is leading the way with the majority (around 25%) of the market. When I first heard of Magento a few years ago, it was still in beta yet looked so impressive and powerful. I’m delighted to see that it has pulled ahead of the pack.