Author: Steve Puddick

Admin Code Editor

In many of the recent projects I worked on, I had a need for a customized, specialized, interactive component within the post. I needed custom HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to achieve this. But, if you have ever tried to write code in the WordPress content editor you have likely found it is a difficult and frustrating process. This is not unexpected. The content editor was designed to allow users to enter and style content without (or very minimal) touching of any code. It was not intended to be a code editor. You can end up with random

tags in your code, no code highlighting or tab indenting, just to name a few of the limitations.

Some may argue that code of this nature belongs in the theme files. There are a couple reasons why I took this approach rather than integrating the code into the theme files:

I felt making a custom template within the theme was overkill
would also involve integrating the post specific css/js into the theme files, would clutter the repo and files with files only relevant to that post
In general, it is good practice to separate site content with theme files. I feel that even though we are working with HTML, CSS, JS, it really is more content than ‘theme files’, so it is appropriate to include it within WordPress database rather than theme files

As with all of my plugins, I had a problem to be solved so I created a solution. I thought this solution might be useful to others so you can checkout the public plugin at https://wordpress.org/plugins/admin-code-editor/. You’ll find more detailed information there as well.

Custom Ratings

There are some great rating plugins out there in the WordPress universe. All of them have their own approach to allowing users to rate a post, comment or other content type. I had a need for a plugin which added a rating interface in a more light weight and streamlined way.  Custom Ratings was created to fill this need.

As usual, you can find this in the WordPress plugin repository and read a more detailed description on the plugin page: https://wordpress.org/plugins/custom-ratings/.

Notes Widget Wrapper

WP Notes Widget is great at organizing ‘note’ content and displaying it in a standardized way on the front end. However, based on the feedback from WP Notes Widget there was an interest in applying the ‘note’ front end styling in a more flexible way.  Notes Widget Wrapper was created to achieve this. This plugin works very differently than WP Notes Widget. It gives you the freedom and ability to style any WordPress widget with the note styling. It does not confine your content to a rigid structure.

You can find this in the WordPress plugin repository or download it directly from https://wordpress.org/plugins/notes-widget-wrapper/. You can read a longer description about the plugin there too.

WP Notes Widget

I created the WP Notes Widget WordPress plugin because I found quite often I had information I wanted to express on a website, but it did not really ‘fit’ in a post or page for a few reasons:

  • the length of the content content was very short
  • the nature of the content was very important and often time sensitive, so it needed to be displayed prominently
  • only relevant in the near future, no need to keep an archive since the information won’t be useful later

The plugin allows you to present this content in a ‘sticky note’ styling on the front end, which fits nicely with the nature of the content. I could see other website creators/manager most likely had this problem too, so I released it publicly. This was released a few years ago and I have made several updates since then.

You can find this in the WordPress plugin repository or download it directly from https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-notes-widget/. You can read a longer description about the plugin there too.

Resurrection of webrockstar.net!

It has been a while!

About a year and a half ago Web Rockstar informally came to and end after accepting an awesome web developer opportunity for an organization. The site has lay dormant since then…

I have been working on several new WordPress plugins and updating the existing ones. I needed a central place to discuss and feature them and thought webrockstar.net would be perfect to serve this new purpose.

Web technologies and standards have changed a lot since the design of the old webrockstar.net. Stay tuned as improvements and features are added to the site.

Newly Launched WordPress Plugin: WP Notes Widget

In the past, most plugins that have been made were project specific. WP Notes Widget is the first publicly available plugin which can be downloaded from the WordPress plugin repository.  You can check it out at https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-notes-widget/. Here is the description taken from the plugin page:

Posts and pages have their own characteristics and uses, but sometimes there is a need to display important, very short, time sensitive information which don’t really fit into a post or page. WP Notes Widget fills this gap. The visual design is similar to real sticky notes which adds to the effective communication of the message.

WP Notes Widget is built with WordPress Plugin Boilerplate.

 

 

Anomalies in Modern Web Philisposies

Thinking of a new website or web application? Well, you are going to need a great visual design, a carefully planned interface, a solid social media presence, as well as many other considerations. This is usually the mindset many people enter when undertaking a new web project. To be honest, in most cases this is the approach I would take as well. The problem with this is that this paradigm can break in the real world when your website or web application is launched and “out in the wild” where it is subject to all sorts of factors and rules. Some web based companies utterly and completely defy these rules yet are still incredibly successful. What is going on here? Let’s examine a couple examples:

 

Craigslist (craigslist.ca)

According to Wikipedia:

Craigslist is a classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums.

Craigslist is an incredibly popular website. It is currently ranked 49th in the world for web traffic and 10th in the United States (for the craigslist.org variation) according to Alexa rankings (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/craigslist.org).  There are several things interesting about this site. The most noticeable is the design (or lack there of 🙂 ). This site breaks many (if not all) current rules for best design and usability practices, yet is still very successful. It does not even have a tablet or phone view for their website. Let’s take a look at some of the details:

  • Although there are usability issues which could be improved upon with Craigslist, they are not so drastic such that people are willing to completely switch over to Kijiji or similar services.
  • Craigslist has a personal, honest feel about it’s brand which people like
  • The site functions properly, and users get results. They don’t care too much about looks. This is the equivalent of using an old text book to prop up an uneven TV stand. Or perhaps a really good ethnic restaurant which serves great food, but has very dingy, outdated decor
  • People use Craigslist because they want to sell something or put up a listing of some sort.  They want the most exposure with the least amount of effort. It would be much more effort for users to post on several other less popular ‘Craigslist copycat’ sites then it would to do so just on Craigslist.ca. Stepping outside of the scope of single site usability steps to complete a task, posting on Craigslist is actually simpler and faster. Although users may need to overcome some minor usability hurdles in a few areas, it is still easier and less steps than having to set up a posting on several other less popular websites, even though individually the process for posting is more usable and streamlined on these other sites.

In a previous post I mentioned how Facebook essentially copied MySpace’s concept, cleaned up the conceptual, and usability problems and then stole their entire market. This is a different scenario here, a different phenomenon is going on. The flaws with MySpace were very foundational. The flaws with Craiglist are very minor. Regardless of how many new copy cat Craigslist sites sprout up, it will be very difficult to push Craigslist out of being at the top (or close to the top). It is kind of like a Toaster or Kettle. I think these appliances have reached the peak of their evolution. Any additional features or changes won’t increase the overall effectiveness or value, and cause consumers to switch to a new model.

Craigslist breaks the rules of social media as well. Their Facebook page is featured nowhere on their website. They have a Twitter account as well. This too is featured nowhere on their website and has not been updated since 2010.

 

Plenty of Fish (pof.com)

According to Wikipedia:

PlentyOfFish (POF) is an online dating service, popular primarily in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Brazil[3] and the United States.

Plenty of Fish is in the same ballpark as Craigslist when is comes to visual design and usability.  Although it has improved in recent years, for a long time it had a very amateurish design and broke many usability rules. It had these qualities while simultaneously owning the number one spot in various statistics such as most popular dating site world wide.   What is going on here? Again, a similar phenomenon to Craigslist is happening:

  • Personal, honest feel about it’s brand, people like this. They are not trying to sell you anything or trick you into signing up. It is simply a place to meet people online
  • People like free stuff! Other dating sites were offering the same features POF were offering when the service first launched, but competitors were charging money for it. So although POF was not the first dating site out there, the fact that they offered equivalent services for free was enough to sway many users to switch over from other similar sites
  • The product POF sells is it’s customers. So as more and more people sign up, the value of posting a profile on the website increases. The more people that sign up means more potential people to connect with, which is where users find value in the service. This momentum builds exponentially

The value users receive from the overall service of POF far outweigh the visual design and usability flaws.  Many users are still willing to stick with POF even though many other online dating services exist today with a much nicer design and cleaner admin controls. POF has the huge bank of potential people to meet which is ultimately what users value most in an online dating service. It will be very difficult for another company to take this away from them, at least in POF’s demographic and market areas.

Again, similar to Craigslist, POF breaks the rules of social media as well. Although they do have a Facebook page and Twitter feed, it is featured nowhere on the site. If users want to connect with them on these platforms, they need to seek them out through other means.

 

Conclusion

Although breaking these rules works for Craigslist and POF, and perhaps a few others, almost all other websites do not have this luxury. In order to break these rules your website must meet the following requirements:

  • it still needs an acceptable levels of usability
  • the concept of the web application must be sound
  • the users find the main value of the website in the content the website creates (typically created by users themselves)
  • the nature of the website creates a momentum effect such that the more users/visitors there are, the more value there is for users to create content

Only social based services which involve connecting with other people in some way can get away with breaking these rules. Services like MailChimp, Freshbooks, Wix, or Survey Monkey can’t get away with this. With social connection based web applications, the core value is in the content (learning about what others have posted, or created, in some way, shape, or form).  Users are willing to tolerate sub par visual design and usability in these cases. While non social connection based web applications have their core value in the functionality, features, and the price of their service.

Using Persuasive Technology to Address Energy Consumption

When doing some computer house keeping a few weeks ago, I noticed I had many documents and reports related to persuasive technology and social psychology concepts in web applications.  Rather than lay dormant on my hard drive in .docx files, I figured it would be more useful to share these ideas with others.  People can expand on these ideas, adjust them, and perhaps move forward with them. I have adjusted this document to use less technical jargon and make it more suited for a blog.

The first idea in this series of blog posts is on the topic of energy consumption. The project explains how features of a web portal can be used to invoke behavior change through utilizing concepts in social psychology and persuasive technology.  If you are not familiar with what a web portal is, you have likely already used a web portal before but are simply unfamiliar with the definition. A web portal is essentially a specialized website which requires a login and usually features a ‘dashboard’ of various modules displaying different types of information pertaining to the logged in user. The administration area of a content management system, online banking, even the Facebook home page can be considered a type of web portal.

This conceptual web portal will be for hydro (or electric energy) customers to login, pay bills, see account information, and see all the information discussed in this post. Various modules (think ‘sidebar boxes’ or sections of a webpage ) of this conceptual web portal will be crafted to have the ultimate goal of reducing energy consumption through behavior change. To explain more on what a module is, we can continue with the Facebook analogy; you can think of the events, messages, and news feed components of the Facebook home page as modules.

I have summarized how the different modules will work. Each has their own dynamics and characteristics as to how to address the issue of electric energy conservation in the house hold. A few notes about the following examples:

  • When the examples are referring to houses or households, it really mean houses, apartments, or condos.
  • The term API is used frequently. Learn what an API is here.
  • For simplicity sake, when the term energy consumption is used it is referring to electric energy consumption in these examples.
  • Some graphical interface concepts are used in the examples. For an real life implementation of these ideas the layout, font, colours, and controls will be refined and adjusted.

 

Creation of In-Group and Out-Group Dynamics

If you are familiar with social psychology or sociology, you are likely familiar with the concepts of in-groups and out-groups. Rather than explain that here, I think this page does a good job explaining the concept.  The preceding link explains what happens to people’s behavior when they perceive themselves to be members of a team.  This involves segmenting groups of houses in the energy service jurisdiction into areas. This module will display the following information:

  • top 5 consumers of area in area
  • bottom 5 consumers of area in area
  • placement of area in hydro company jurisdiction
  • progression/regression of progress from month to month of household and area

By segmenting houses into areas, it creates group dynamics and can create a feeling of ‘conforming to the group norm of conserving energy’ in it’s members. This can make people feel like they need to do this or they will be letting the group down. By displaying the rank of each area it can create an element of competition between groups. In order for individuals to maintain positive social perception within their area, they may try to reduce their consumption. Otherwise they may feel that they are ‘dragging the group down’ and possibly be perceived negatively.   Just take a look at the importance of group dynamics in World of Warcraft to understand the importance of group dynamics in the online world.

A prize for top performing individual or area can also be introduced; some game mechanics from Four Square can be borrowed. In Four Square badges are awarded for performing certain tasks.  Awards can be presented for most improved individual, being the most efficient area in a month, etc. The concept of being a ‘mayor’ can be borrowed and adapted.

ingroup-outgroup
This is a simple example of how the information in this module could be displayed. This does not show all of the intended information, but does communicate the overall concept.

 

Issues to Discuss and Comments:

One issues is how to make this new in-group salient in people (we are area 2B and we conserve energy!).  One possible solution is to introduce team flags or logos, similar to a local sports team. If the Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs were called ‘NHL team 4G’ and ‘NHL team 6H’ they likely would not have the same following they currently have.

 

Public Information

When people are aware that they are identifiable or that certain information about them will be made public, these people may alter their behavior to ensure they will be perceived positively by significant others (not necessarily in a romantic sense, but people that are important to that individual).  By making the energy usage of households publicly available, it can influence them to to conserve more. They may not want to be viewed as wasteful or over consumers, or too lazy to put in the effort to conserve.

To display this information, this module can integrate with the Google Maps API to display the information and make it easy to determine the location of houses.

google-maps
This screenshot show the concept of what the interface could look like. The actual information, and how it is presented can be altered and adjusted for real life implementation.

Issues to Discuss and Comments

There could be potential privacy issues of making energy usage of households public.

 

 

Anonymous Messaging

Households can send other houses in their area anonymous messages regarding their energy consumption. They can praise them for their improvement or sustained conservation efforts while ‘prodding’ for improvement from the highest consumers.  The public information module previously discussed can give the information necessary to engage in discourse with another household. This will function very similarly to the Facebook messaging system.

Issues to discuss

This module does have the potential for abuse and can perhaps, be too extreme altogether due to the fear and paranoia in can create. There are all sorts of people and personalities out in the world. Take this possible message that could be sent:

Hi, I noticed you are using a lot of energy, can you conserve a bit more? By the way, I like what you have done with your front garden. Looks great! Would be a shame if something happened to it. Take care, I hope next month we can all do better with our conservation efforts.

When people perceive their actions to be anonymous or untraceable to their real life person (such as in large crowds at stadiums for sporting events or online on comment sections) their behavior can become very abusive or hostile.  Take a look at mob mentality and online flaming for more information.  Although not exactly the same, they do share similar characteristics.

Overall this module can be quite powerful. It can be quite unsettling to know someone in your neighbourhood disapproves of your energy consumption but you don’t know who! But, for ethical reasons this may not be appropriate altogether to try and induce behavior change through fear and paranoia.

 

 

Add on Sales When Paying Bill

If you have read the book ‘Persuasive Technology’ by BJ Fogg you will be familiar with the Kairos factor.  This involves trying to invoke an action in someone at an opportune time, when they are most willing.  A similar concept also exists in sales and this is known as ‘up selling’. I think up selling can be ethical and genuine if done in the right way. If a sales person is honestly suggesting an additional product or service the customer may find useful, I see no problem with this.  A module can be added to the web portal which provokes the purchasing of energy efficient products or services using the Kairos factor combined with the traditional ‘call to action’ in websites.  The context of this module creates the opportune time to make these suggestions because:

  • The user is already logged in to the portal, possibly already pursuing the task of paying their energy bill, credit card may already be out
  • By seeing the information presented in the other modules, they could have negative feelings about their current consumption levels

The suggestions themselves can include:

  • scheduling of  a representative to stop by their home and asses efficiency
  • offer discount on energy efficient appliances if a deposit is purchased at that moment

The end result of the module could look something like this:

 

caption here
I am not sure if this service already exists, but presenting this ‘call to action’ within this context can be very powerful.

 

caption
This module also introduced to possibility of partnering with appliances manufacturers and retailer to streamline how this process works.

 

Issues to Discuss and Comments

If individuals pay their energy bill directly from their online banking account, they may not be viewing the module at the right time, which is not ideal to take advantage of the Kairos factor.

 

 

Public Goal Setting

By publicly broadcasting a goal it makes us more likely to follow through with it. Plus, we avoid the consequence of of being perceived negatively from our peers. If we do not follow through, we will appear inconsistent with our intentions.  This module will involve goal setting, and the broadcasting of these goals to their area (and possibly beyond this portal, broadcast on Facebook and Twitter with their APIs?).  This module will also feature email reminders periodically during month to state the status of their goal and how close they are to going over their goal.  This will be similar to monitoring how much bandwidth you are using with household internet use. The following points explains the steps as to how this module will work:

  1. The user sets a goal for their monthly energy consumption targets
  2. The user receives weekly email reminders regarding the state of their energy consumption
  3. At the end of the month the system determines whether they have reached their target or not and broadcasts the appropriate message to others in their area
  4. As mentioned in the first module, a virtual award or prize can be given if the target is met

Issues to Discuss and Comments

The module can be adjusted to borrow ideas and concepts from existing weight loss and heath goal, or charity and fundraising web applications.

 

Conclusion

All of these modules can be used, in their own way, to create behavior change.  When they are used in combination they can have the overall maximum effect. The pros and cons of each module have been discussed but one overarching factor is the dynamics within the household. The people and mandatory energy requirements can vary greatly within a household. Some examples are:

  • full house with 2 adults 3 kids
  • 2 adults, kids are away at school
  • 1 adult, kids away at school
  • single apartment, person travels a lot for work
  • single apartment, person works from a home office
  • perhaps due to someone’s hobbies, medical conditions, or work, they require devices which use a lot of energy

As we can see, the amount of energy consumption in all of these scenarios will vary greatly.  Perhaps it is a good idea to segment households into ‘leagues’ in order to make the competition aspect among the areas more fair.

 

Final Thoughts

In most cases, any company that builds web applications needs to ensure it has been analyzed from a psychological perspective if it is to be successful.  As the web evolves, more disciplines become facets in successful web projects. Persuasive technology and social psychology is one of the more recent facets to be added.

Do you remember Facebook in it’s early years? It’s main competitor was MySpace. Both web portals had very similar technical requirements and on the surface, appeared to offer largely the same service. However, Facebook understood the social psychology as to why  people were doing certain actions and what motivated them to do so. The features and components of Facebook revolved around this.  In addition, Facebook cleaned up the majority of user experience problems that MySpace had. The end result: Facebook stole MySpace’s (almost) entire market from under their nose.

Leveraging persuasive technology and social psychology in web applications and web portals can be very powerful. In the examples discussed, it can also be used to create positive behavior change in the world.

What does Google Search, Invoicing and Sandwiches have in Common?

Systems are all around us and we experience them everyday in all sorts of ways, in all sorts of contexts.

Everything is a system. Wikipedia defines a system as “a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole“.  Google search is a type of system.  Interpersonal interaction is a system.  Invoicing is a system. Even making a sandwich is a system.  Depending on the context, a system may have different names such as police interrogation protocol, computer programming algorithm, or business process. For the purpose of this post we will consider everything to be the abstract term of system.  If it can be expressed in a flow chart, it is a system.

When we want to get specific results or achieve a certain goal we (including myself) often only examine the main system we think is involved. Theoretically, we think if we follow those rules, we should get the intended outcome.  In reality, when it comes to real life implementations of our plan there are usually various systems interacting with our main system. Our plan doesn’t always get us the result that we want. In some cases, using another system altogether can allow us to achieve our goal much faster and easier.

Huh? What does this have to do with websites, web development, and web applications? Although this may seem like a very abstract concept and idea, the rationale behind every web service (not to be confused with ‘web services’ in software systems design) is to simplify an existing system which is usually outside of the realm of websites and web technology. Eventbrite simplifies the system of promoting an event and collecting ticket fees. Shopify simplifies the system of selling products. Facebook simplifies the system of experiencing social connectedness, and expressing positive in-group characteristics (among others).  Freshbooks simplifies the system of managing invoicing, and overall accounting.

Various apps and technology also aims to simplify some type of system. An alarm clock app simplifies the system of setting and managing alarms. A notepad application simplifies the system of…taking notes, a messenger app simplifies the system of communicating with people. A weight loss app simplifies the system of keeping on track with health goals.

Given this information, you can likely see how the abstract topic of ‘systems’ fits in with a blog about web technology and it is an important topic to discuss.  By viewing everything as a system we can start to see new perspectives. We start to see possible flaws in our approach to achieving a goal, we can see new ways of improvement, or we can see new approaches altogether which may work better.

If we are in pursuit of any goal we need to examine all the rules of the systems we are using, as well as related systems, regardless of whether they seem relevant to the task at hand.  It can sometimes be an unlikely system that is interacting with the ones we have considered that is causing us to not get the results we want. In other cases, there are systems which we have not even considered which can lead us to our goal easier and faster.

To further illustrate this concept and to provoke thinking in this way, we have assembled some examples to be analyzed. Some of these examples deal with systems in the realm of technology, some of them don’t.  Some of these examples may seem common sense, some may not.  But, by following these examples you should be able to understand the power of analyzing the various systems at play when pursing a goal.

A few notes about these examples:

  • what the goal is may be different depending on the perspective of the people involved. A single perspective has been chosen in order to keep these examples simple and short.
  • the systems in these examples have been simplified and in some cases, only sub goals are discussed. Again, this keeps the examples simple and short
  • You may be very familiar with, or an expert in some the examples discussed. Overall, I am confident the general idea in the examples are correct. However, if you do notice any errors the the facts mentioned, you are welcome to mention them in the comments 🙂

 

1. Toll Free 1-888 numbers

When 1 -888 numbers first rolled out in 1996, the  rationale was that 1-800 numbers were running out and phone companies needed something else.  However, businesses and organization started  to worry that people may not know whether they have a 1-800 number or a 1-888 number.  Many businesses and organizations made sure they had both a 1-800 and 1-888 number.  The plan phone companies had to use 1-888 numbers to solve the problem of limited 1-800 numbers was not very effective.

Examined Systems Neglected Systems Overall Effect
Adding 1-888 numbers to the bank of possible toll free numbers will increase the overall amount of toll free number available. Businesses usually want to ensure that customers can always easily contact them, and can go to extreme measures. 1-800 and 1-888 numbers were both being registered by businesses and organizations, negating the effect of adding 1-888 numbers to the bank.

 

2. High Performance Video Cards

There are various characteristics which make a high quality video card for a computer. For people who may not be familiar with this, a video card is a part inside of a computer which allows 3D games to display smoothly with a very high level of detail. Lower quality cards can be choppy and can only show low quality detail.  The RAM is a characteristic which plays a part in the overall quality of a card. These come in various amounts:  1GB, 2GB, 3GB, and so on. A higher amount of RAM does not automatically indicate a more capable or higher quality card.  However, what many video card manufacturers found  was that consumers were purchasing cards based on the RAM count. Many consumers assumed that higher RAM meant higher quality.  I would imagine this is because RAM is an easily comparable metric, and most consumers don’t have in depth hardware engineering knowledge.  In order to remain competitive, many video card manufacturers started to beef up the RAM on their cards even when it wasn’t really doing much to increase performance. It was like putting the engine of a Toyota Camry into the car body of a Ferrari.

Examined Systems Neglected Systems Overall Effect
Many consumers want high quality products. Consumers will buy products based on perceived value, not actual value. Consumers were buying video cards based on RAM rather than actual quality.

 

3. Social Media Profiles

Social media profiles, such as for Facebook or Twitter are very common today. They are designed to promote a business or organization, engage with customers, communicate promotions, and increase brand awareness, among many other uses.  At first glance, it can seem like social media profiles are fantastic and everyone should sign up for as many as possible to maximize the amount of reach.  However,  if poorly managed, an organization or business can end up with ‘ghost town’ social media profiles.  This is where the latest content can be 3 months old and the profiles themselves are sparsely populated.  This can give the impression that your business or organization is very disorganized and possibly even leave customers and potential customers wondering if you are even still in business.

Examined Systems Neglected Systems Overall Effect
Social media profiles can enhance a business overall in many ways. When social media profiles are neglected it can cause the business or organization to be perceived negatively. The reputation of the business or organization is harmed.

 

4. Focusing Too Much on Web Technology

Let’s use an imaginary business for this example: XYZ clothing. XYZ clothing is a boutique clothing store that sells winter outerwear. They have one retail store and it is located in Jamaica. The owners of the store have heard a lot about web technology and social media. They have a great website which has been optimized for search engines and a solid, well maintained social media presence.

Sales are not very good at all and they would like sales to increase.  They frequently analyze web traffic analytics and social media analytics to see what impact changes to their online presence has on overall business.  They also constantly makes SEO tweaks to try and rank as high as possible in search engine results. They are even doing A/B testing on their email newsletter to see which layout offers the most exposure. With all of their adjustments they are seeing a very slight change in sales.

As you can likely already see, XYZ clothing is focusing too much on web technology and web analytics and is really missing the big picture: Nobody want to buy winter clothing in Jamaica! Sometimes we can get so caught up in the latest web tools or services that we forget the basics. Even in the age of the internet, businesses and organizations still need to make sure their business is going in the right direction. This means periodically examining your business from a foundational level, and then moving towards any web technology which may help.  This example also demonstrates the importance of ensuring that traditional marketing efforts are not being ignored. The example discussed is extreme, but some businesses and organizations may be in a similar scenario, to varying degrees.

Examined Systems Neglected Systems Overall Effect
Social media profiles can enhance a business overall, in many way. A business needs to offer a service or product customers want. The business has very poor sales because they don’t offer a product people want.

 

5. HIV/AIDS in Africa

HIV/AIDS in Africa is a serious problem. Many efforts have been made by various organizations to try and slow the spread of this disease in this continent. The use of condoms is, theoretically in this case, a great way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs.  Condoms have been widely distributed in Africa and various educational programs are also in place as to how to use them. Together, this seems like a great plan to combat the disease.

Unfortunately, there is another phenomenon at play as well. When it comes to specific real life scenario when a condom should be used, it turns out that using a condom yourself or asking your partner to use a condom implies one of you has, or think you have  HIV/AIDS. Due to this underlying insinuation, many people in Africa still do not use condoms.

I learned about this phenomenon from a TED talk feature Bill and Melinda Gates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSL-iIskEFU

Examined Systems Neglected Systems Overall Effect
Education and distribution of condoms should ultimately reduce HIV infection rates. There is an underlying insinuation that one partner has HIV/AIDS if using a condom is proposed. People in Africa were still not using condoms.

 

6. Cutting Down Tree Analogy

Imagine John needs to cut several trees down at his cottage to clear an area.  John decides to use an axe.  John is a few hours into his task while he is discussing and debating with his friends and family (who are helping)  as to what the best technique is. They are debating what the best angle of swing is, how often to sharpen the blade, what the best form is, etc.  Meanwhile, John’s neighbour has decided to use a chainsaw to clear a similar sized area. He/She is getting the job done much faster and is not concerned with the angle of swing, how often to sharpen, or best form since it is not relevant to the tool he/she is using.

Examined Systems Neglected Systems Overall Effect
 An axe is used to chop trees down. A chainsaw is a faster, more effective tool for chopping down a large number of trees. An axe is a much more time consuming and difficult method.

 

7. Late Buses

Many of us have been there. We have an important meeting to get to, or an examination to write and our bus is late.  A group of transit users slowly starts to accumulate at the bus stop. No one is talking to one another but they are all thinking the same thing: when is this bus going to get here?! It is 10:50AM and the bus finally arrives, even though it should have been there at 10:30AM.  One or two people scold the bus driver, telling him/her that they have made them late for an important meeting. The bus driver says nothing and continues on with the duties of driving the bus.

There could by many scenarios playing out here.  Take this sample scenario with bus A and bus B:  Bus A is scheduled to be at the bus stop for 10:30AM. Bus B, the following trip, is scheduled to be there at 11:00AM.  Bus A is having engine problems and is not able to operate, or perhaps the driver for bus A doesn’t show up for work. The driver for bus B realizes that there will be no bus to pick up the passengers for the 10:30AM time. The driver for bus B decided to cut their morning break short by 10 minutes to try and limit how long the passengers have to wait, to try and help them out. Bus B arrives 10 minutes earlier than scheduled. The driver is greeted with disgruntled passengers who dump their anger and frustrations onto them for, from their perspective, being 20 minutes late.

Examined Systems Neglected Systems Overall Effect
Buses should arrive at their scheduled times Individual buses can be late or early. This is independent of buses following and preceding them. Bus driver B is getting scolded for something he/she was not at fault for.

 

Conclusion

Usually in school we specialize in one, maybe 2 disciplines. These disciplines usually only teach a single, or narrow array of systems, and how goals should be achieved in that realm.  There are also systems of doing things which may have been taught to us from work colleagues or mentors.  In the real world, there are all sorts of systems interacting and all sorts of disciplines which make up successful projects – whether that be in the field of web or not.  Regardless of the nature of the project, it is important to take into account as many systems as possible in order to truly understand what is happening.  When you truly understand what is happening, it is much easier to take the optimal path to achieving a goal.  In web, we have various systems which make up a successful project: computer programing, marketing, graphic design, information architecture, usability, and others. Although each project usually has an emphasis just a few systems, it is important to consider all of the disciplines which make up a successful project.