19 May, 2008

The Nerdery: s02e09: On consistency

As will be revealed in the near future (next week's Nexus), I'm going to start posting my column here as well to try and attract feedback. For those not in the know, Nexus is Waikato's student magazine, and The Nerdery is the name of a long-running column that I revived. I had previously called it static void Main(), but with new editor came the idea to rename my column to keep with Nexus' tradition.

Don't you just hate those days, just after you've had an absolutely awesome weekend, when something just starts to go wrong and creates a problem that you're up till 1am trying to solve? I had one of those last night. I'll give you a hint; it had something to do with Vista and how uncivilised and unprepared we really are for the 64-bit era. And thats my excuse to the editor as to why this week's entry is late, and so if you're reading this in Issue 9 its because Josh feels really sorry for me, in which case you should pat him on the back next time you see him. Anyway, on with the article.

My friend Daniel (congrats, you get the second-ever Nerdery plug!) recently spammed Facebook asking for ideas on how a particular website that we've all come to love or hate needs refinement. In true human style, instead of sending directly to him, everyone decided to reply to the entire group (strong deja-vu, after a certain incident with the student e-news mailing list), and so I also got a little inspiration and insight into what web designers love to neglect; consistency.

Now, consistency is one of these things that is often talked about but never really put into practice in the software world, and really has two parts, the first being the most but least important, design consistency. Despite all the common templates and HCI research, it seems people love to set their own standards in the hopes that others will follow it, which often leads to disastrous results. A good example of this is the 'Brushed metal' theme of pre-Leopard Mac OS X. Although Apple had set strict guidelines of how it was to be used, mostly for hardware-interacting parts of applications, Apple often broke these guidelines themselves because they thought applications with this theme looked better.

But there is an issue that can be solved today; identity consistency. Open ID and Live ID are two great ways to ensure a common and consistent profile on the interwebs, but they still are yet to really be used properly. Live ID is probably the better example; everyone has MSN Live Messenger, so why can't we use that profile for Facebook and Bebo? Not only would it be convienent, but it would actually encourage users to change passwords more often, as they'd only have one password to remember. Not to mention, all that contact list harvesting would be much smoother. Maybe I'm just dreaming though...