Theming of Web Applications ..

14 Jun 2007 - 2:22pm
4 years ago
7 replies
579 reads
Grady Kelly
2007

Hello,

I am curious to know what the groups thoughts are about allowing users to
theme a web application. I work for a medical company where it has been
proposed that users be able to change the colors of our flagship application
to whatever they want, mostly their corporate colors, and a logo. Prior to
my arrival, developers made it so that any and everything could be changed,
icon & button colors, text colors, background, headers, you name it. It has
been asked of me to decide what is the best course of action.

My thought is that if every aspect in the application is changed, that
parts of the application become less meaningful, ie, error messages, primary
and secondary actions within forms, work flows, etc. I am for some basic
color changes, and a logo, but thats about it. What does the group think?
How much theming should be allowed?

Grady Kelly
grady at simpledesign.org
http://simpledesign.org

Comments

14 Jun 2007 - 6:53pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Hi Grady,

There was a good thread about this last November:

Thoughts on skinning/customizing enterprise apps?
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=12348

// jeff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=17296

3 Jul 2010 - 3:42am
Shivanand R Yerva
2009

Hi Jeff,

The above link is broken.

-Shivanand

14 Jun 2007 - 7:50pm
Jeffrey D. Gimzek
2007

Grady -

I have worked on several skinable apps very similar to what you
describe, and I think you are on the right track - you can't really
change data font colors, error messages or forms - just the overall
graphic assets and maybe the color of headers

take a quick peek at this page - i have developed a lot of skins for
this web-based collaboration software:

http://www.jdgimzek.com/skin_1/colspace.html

click the first thumbnail on the right, then click the screen shots
to see the different skins.

notice that the icons and data text does not change, only the
background graphics and header text.

jd

On Jun 14, 2007, at 12:22 PM, Grady Kelly wrote:

> Hello,
>
> I am curious to know what the groups thoughts are about allowing
> users to
> theme a web application. I work for a medical company where it has
> been
> proposed that users be able to change the colors of our flagship
> application
> to whatever they want, mostly their corporate colors, and a logo.
> Prior to
> my arrival, developers made it so that any and everything could be
> changed,
> icon & button colors, text colors, background, headers, you name
> it. It has
> been asked of me to decide what is the best course of action.
>
> My thought is that if every aspect in the application is
> changed, that
> parts of the application become less meaningful, ie, error
> messages, primary
> and secondary actions within forms, work flows, etc. I am for some
> basic
> color changes, and a logo, but thats about it. What does the group
> think?
> How much theming should be allowed?
>
> Grady Kelly
> grady at simpledesign.org
> http://simpledesign.org

--

Jeffrey D. Gimzek
Digital Experience Designer

www.jdgimzek.com
thundercougarfalconbird.blogspot.com

15 Jun 2007 - 9:52am
Yaacov Iland
2007

Grady, I agree with your thinking on this.

Which has a better interface, Facebook or MySpace? ... And
that's why you shouldn't let users customize. I work on a web
communities app and we limited user customizability after realizing that
it wasn't providing any value.

If you allow theming, restrict it to choosing at most two
colours and one logo, then have the system use the two colours for
backgrounds (and choose black or white text depending on the colour) and
put the logo in the top left. Anything more than that is likely to be a
visual and usability disaster, not to mention it will make your users
feel like they're wasting a lot of time messing around with your
application.

Best,
Yaacov

--
Yaacov Iland
yiland at cigionline.org
http://www.igloo.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On
> Behalf Of Grady Kelly
> Sent: June 14, 2007 3:22 PM
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Theming of Web Applications ..
>
> Hello,
>
> I am curious to know what the groups thoughts are about
> allowing users to theme a web application. I work for a
> medical company where it has been proposed that users be able
> to change the colors of our flagship application to whatever
> they want, mostly their corporate colors, and a logo. Prior
> to my arrival, developers made it so that any and everything
> could be changed, icon & button colors, text colors,
> background, headers, you name it. It has been asked of me to
> decide what is the best course of action.
>
> My thought is that if every aspect in the application is
> changed, that parts of the application become less
> meaningful, ie, error messages, primary and secondary actions
> within forms, work flows, etc. I am for some basic color
> changes, and a logo, but thats about it. What does the group think?
> How much theming should be allowed?
>
> Grady Kelly
> grady at simpledesign.org
> http://simpledesign.org
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org List Guidelines
> ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/ List Help
> .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/ (Un)Subscription
> Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org Home
> ....................... http://ixda.org/ Resource Library
> ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

15 Jun 2007 - 12:22pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Yaacov, I think MySpace is wrong illustration here because personal
pages there are meant to be as messy and as skinnable as possible.

People sign up to MySpace because they like/need/want to express themselves
to be noticed among friends (the real value of that site to users). The
eclectic messiness of skins at MySpace personal pages confirms the goals of
the users and therefore is an example of great GDD (I am not talking about
the maintenance part of MySpace - that certainly could be improved). Users
mess around with *their*, not *your* application at MySpace.

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is the Design of Time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On 6/15/07, Yaacov Iland <YIland at cigionline.org> wrote:
>
> Grady, I agree with your thinking on this.
>
> Which has a better interface, Facebook or MySpace? ... And
> that's why you shouldn't let users customize. I work on a web
> communities app and we limited user customizability after realizing that
> it wasn't providing any value.
>
> If you allow theming, restrict it to choosing at most two
> colours and one logo, then have the system use the two colours for
> backgrounds (and choose black or white text depending on the colour) and
> put the logo in the top left. Anything more than that is likely to be a
> visual and usability disaster, not to mention it will make your users
> feel like they're wasting a lot of time messing around with your
> application.
>
> Best,
> Yaacov
>
> --
> Yaacov Iland
> yiland at cigionline.org
> http://www.igloo.org
>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> > [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On
> > Behalf Of Grady Kelly
> > Sent: June 14, 2007 3:22 PM
> > To: discuss at ixda.org
> > Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Theming of Web Applications ..
> >
> > Hello,
> >
> > I am curious to know what the groups thoughts are about
> > allowing users to theme a web application. I work for a
> > medical company where it has been proposed that users be able
> > to change the colors of our flagship application to whatever
> > they want, mostly their corporate colors, and a logo. Prior
> > to my arrival, developers made it so that any and everything
> > could be changed, icon & button colors, text colors,
> > background, headers, you name it. It has been asked of me to
> > decide what is the best course of action.
> >
> > My thought is that if every aspect in the application is
> > changed, that parts of the application become less
> > meaningful, ie, error messages, primary and secondary actions
> > within forms, work flows, etc. I am for some basic color
> > changes, and a logo, but thats about it. What does the group think?
> > How much theming should be allowed?
> >
> > Grady Kelly
> > grady at simpledesign.org
> > http://simpledesign.org
> > ________________________________________________________________
> >

15 Jun 2007 - 12:39pm
Taneem Talukdar
2005

Oleh's point is very true. MySpace profiles should not judged as web
applications. They should be judged as the virtual representation of teenage
bedrooms (what do you picture when you hear that phrase?).

Facebook has been praised for it's great clean look (which I personally love
as well). But it's interesting to see what's happening lately. Ever since
Facebook opened itself up as a platform, the widgets that people are
developing are adding more and more noise and clutter to profile pages, and
users are all the more gleeful about adding them -- more validation of
Oleh's point.

Grady -- your medical application's current level reconfigurability seems to
go too far -- even on myspace, every profile is still recognizable as a
myspace page, and they all have the same core look and feel. So I would
think in a less personal application like yours, the level of personlization
should be much more restricted -- just basic branding.

Taneem Talukdar

On 6/15/07, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Yaacov, I think MySpace is wrong illustration here because personal
> pages there are meant to be as messy and as skinnable as possible.
>
> People sign up to MySpace because they like/need/want to express
> themselves
> to be noticed among friends (the real value of that site to users). The
> eclectic messiness of skins at MySpace personal pages confirms the goals
> of
> the users and therefore is an example of great GDD (I am not talking about
> the maintenance part of MySpace - that certainly could be improved). Users
> mess around with *their*, not *your* application at MySpace.
>
> --
> Oleh Kovalchuke
> Interaction Design is the Design of Time
> http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm
>
>
> On 6/15/07, Yaacov Iland <YIland at cigionline.org> wrote:
> >
> > Grady, I agree with your thinking on this.
> >
> > Which has a better interface, Facebook or MySpace? ... And
> > that's why you shouldn't let users customize. I work on a web
> > communities app and we limited user customizability after realizing that
> > it wasn't providing any value.
> >
> > If you allow theming, restrict it to choosing at most two
> > colours and one logo, then have the system use the two colours for
> > backgrounds (and choose black or white text depending on the colour) and
> > put the logo in the top left. Anything more than that is likely to be a
> > visual and usability disaster, not to mention it will make your users
> > feel like they're wasting a lot of time messing around with your
> > application.
> >
> > Best,
> > Yaacov
> >
> > --
> > Yaacov Iland
> > yiland at cigionline.org
> > http://www.igloo.org
> >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> > > [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On
> > > Behalf Of Grady Kelly
> > > Sent: June 14, 2007 3:22 PM
> > > To: discuss at ixda.org
> > > Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Theming of Web Applications ..
> > >
> > > Hello,
> > >
> > > I am curious to know what the groups thoughts are about
> > > allowing users to theme a web application. I work for a
> > > medical company where it has been proposed that users be able
> > > to change the colors of our flagship application to whatever
> > > they want, mostly their corporate colors, and a logo. Prior
> > > to my arrival, developers made it so that any and everything
> > > could be changed, icon & button colors, text colors,
> > > background, headers, you name it. It has been asked of me to
> > > decide what is the best course of action.
> > >
> > > My thought is that if every aspect in the application is
> > > changed, that parts of the application become less
> > > meaningful, ie, error messages, primary and secondary actions
> > > within forms, work flows, etc. I am for some basic color
> > > changes, and a logo, but thats about it. What does the group think?
> > > How much theming should be allowed?
> > >
> > > Grady Kelly
> > > grady at simpledesign.org
> > > http://simpledesign.org
> > > ________________________________________________________________
> > >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

26 Jun 2007 - 2:22am
Bill Fernandez
2007

My experience is that it takes a lot of hard work by an experienced
and competent visual and interaction designer(s) to do a good job of
theming an interface -- if by theming you mean letting people change
"everything" to be what they want. On the other hand, if you fix all
the core UI elements (button appearances, selection cues, etc.) and
only let them change some corporate ID elements such as the logo,
header fill color/image, maybe the general panel fill color and a
contrasting frame color, particularly if you give them a few
predefined color palettes to choose from, you're much more likely to
get results that are both attractive AND remain useable.

FWIW,
Bill Fernandez

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