Does a website meet your needs? If not, go ahead and customize it!

Primarily websites were created as documents. However, the more the Internet is evolving, the more complex the websites are becoming. Nowadays,  people expect  to find in one place all information and functions needed for accomplishing their goals. For this reason, the new approach to browse the Internet was created –  the user is able to address his needs and customize a website.

Mostly,  people don’t use only one source to gather information. Imagine, you have never purchased any car before and you would like to buy one. To make the car-decision you will need various information and you have to take different actions, eg.: choosing a model, finding a reliable dealer, getting a loan. What is more,  you would like the car to be nice with an impressive sound system. Is there any website that may give you all the information you need? This is a huge project and it is unlikely that you will find one website with all the relevant information. While searching you will encounter all kinds of unnecessary functions and useless  information.  It happens that way because websites are becoming  bigger and more  complex nowadays. For this reason UX specialists are looking for a way to fulfill all of users’ needs. They attempt to do so by:

  • allowing registered users to modify elements on the site ( for example iGoogle websites),
  • providing great volume of diversified content (big portals like msn.com),
  • getting users involved /  Involving users in  content creation /  allowing users to create content (YouTube. com etc.).

Eventually, users demand more than they used to do and their expectations are increasing. This also concerns usability which is not about underlined links but It’s about giving users information and functions which are required at the moment.

Even the most creative and talented  webmasters aren’t able to predict all of the needs users may have. Although the webmasters try to do their best, they create huge and complicated websites with useless functions.  

The new approach

The only person, who can predict all of the users’ needs  is the user himself. His expectations are not constant, every time some circumstances change, the content change straight away.

The changes are possible according to a new approach in browsing the web – augmented browsing. It says that the end-user, who wants / expects to achieve his goals, is in fact able to modify websites the way he needs.

Augmented browsing was first created to provide definition of advanced biological terms in an article on a website. The tool is called Reflect.

It  is searching for life science terms in text on a given  website and highlighting them. A user, who doesn’t know the meaning of particular term, can easily check it by clicking the highlighted word. Then the definition is downloaded and presented as a pop-up window, so the user understand the unknown term and continue reading without switching between websites.

How it works?

Anyone can delete or add information and functions to the website, can also integrate information from different sources, combine them into one website and create specific functions to meet one’s needs. From now on, customizing any website is possible. Any changes made are immediate, temporary and seen only on the user’s screen. In order to make this kind of browsing possible, the user have to download and install special program on his computer.

The most popular augmented browsing software is Greasemonkey. It  is free add-on to Mozilla Firefox browser. A user can download it form the Mozilla homepage and install it in a browser. After the installation, the icon with monkey head will be shown in right down corner of the browser window.

When add-on is active, the user is able to modify any visited website by executing a script wrote in Java Script language. The script modify the content that is seen on the user’s screen only, so the changes that are made are temporary and don’t modify the actual website. However the script itself can be shared with other users who are able to do this through special websites like greasespot.net or userscripts.org. These websites let  users to download the script. Especially the users who don’t know a thing about writing scripts, can enjoy the experience of augmented browsing.

 

Augmented browsing as a way to improve usability

As I said in the introduction, usability is about giving  information and functions required by users.  Taking advantages of  augmented browsing tools like Greasemonkey, users are able to write their own scripts that modify a website in a certain way or to install scripts shared by other users.  To see  how people use augmented browsing tools to deal with poor usability, all you have to do is becoming familiar with script ’functioning. Users usually add functions or extend the existing ones. For all the facts listed above I have no doubt that, in the future, great amount of people will be using Greasemonkey as a way to deal with poor usability.

 

CASE STUDY – GREASEMONKEY SCRIPTS FOR YOUTUBE

In this paragraph I will introduce some simple, yet great modifications conducted for increasing a level of satisfaction and easing  the use of a system.

To present  the power of Greasemonkey I chose a website which most people should be familiar with. Over a billion views per day places YouTube among the most popular websites in the world. Although, there are some little things that are very annoying, there is still lots of users (including me) who visit the website to either watch or share videos every day. The little things are too small to discourage me from using YouTube and at the same time big enough to bother me and decrease my satisfaction level.

 

Disable auto play option

Most of the browsers allow users to open content in tabs and users are eager to do so. In case of YouTube when you do that you are almost immediately sunk in the flood of mixed sounds from all of the videos. While searching for  Greasemonkey scripts, one of the first improvements I spotted  was disability of the auto play option on YouTube website. This little change made using the site so much easier.

 

Automatically pause content in inactive tabs

Disable auto play option isn’t the only way to prevent the sounds from overlapping. Instead of the previous option – disable auto play, there is another script to do so. The moment  users switch the tabs, the content in active one is automatically played, whereas other clips are stopped.

Loop your favourite content

A lot of people use YouTube as a kind of radio. They use some video clips to listen their favourite music rather than to watch the videos. Frequently, they listen only one song all day long. Whereas others like creating playlists which play over and over again. For all those users, a possibility to tick “play in a loop” option would be a dream come truth. Although YouTube did not provide such functionality, users did it.  As a result, you can loop what you like, from any moment in a song or within a playlist.

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