Are you one of the many iOS users that ignores the row of apps at the bottom of the message composition window?
Once the appeal of sticker packs wears off, there just doesn’t seem to be much inside Apple’s forgotten App Store for Messages.
In between the hype and the reality…
Apple introduced the App Store for iMessages to its customary forest of hype, as industry watchers predicted great things.
Forrester analyst, Frank Gillet said:
“Opening up the iMessage and Phone apps to third party developers is… a big deal, enabling Apple to offer a more natural fluid experience to customers that builds on chat innovations pioneered by WeChat and others.”
There sits the shadow…
Did it work? It seems fair to ask when you last heard of something you absolutely had to download from that store, or when you last actually used an app that wasn’t GIPHY?
I’m willing to accept that some U.S. users may use Apple Pay Cash to send payments via messages. Nice for you. But let’s just note that it has been over two years since that service was introduced to the U.S. and it still remains unavailable anywhere else.
Take the time to rifle through the contents of the app drawer (which is what Apple calls that row of apps at the bottom of your Message composition window) and you might find a few stars, beyond #Images and Apple Pay.
Power in the darkness
Exploring the store is a somewhat dispiriting experience.
You’ll find apps you know to be really useful on your other devices, only to discover all they offer via the iMessage App Store are a few sticker packs and the occasional relatively useful function.
It’s a place of inspirational darkness, within which you may find a small handful of stars to illuminate the space.
Game Pigeon, for example, is one of the better items you’ll find, in part because it actually does something. The app consists of a vast collection of games (including mini-golf, Checkers and Chess) that you can play with your friends using Messages.
You may also come across a smattering of tools for knowledge workers, particularly Dropbox, which lets you find and share items with others via Messages.I do find it interesting that there is no iCloud Drive Stickers app to do this, you still have to access the content in Files before you get to share it via the Share pane.
That lack of integration between Files and iMessage makes me question if even Apple takes its iMessage apps seriously.
Other apps you may find useful may include: iTranslate, which makes it easier to write a foreign language when you need to; Scheduling apps like Doodle, Open Table or Polls With Friends; List apps such as Loopy Lists.
But it’s all a little vacant.
Apple’s forgotten App Store
The overwhelming perceptions I get when I visit this particular App Store are those of inattention and absence.
It feels a little like wandering through an abandoned home.
You can still see how it was laid out. You can still perceive the glorious optimism that went into building the place, but somehow those dreams were shattered as the inhabitants learned that it takes more than this to change hope into reality.
Given the highly secure nature of iMessages it did once seem possible some developers may have attempted to create highly secure enterprise collaboration systems that used them. Perhaps they did.
So, what would the weakness of the product be?
Perhaps because Messages remains resolutely closed to other platforms.
We are where we are, of course, so let’s hear it for the iMessages App Store: Apple’s forgotten place where all the useful apps sit sad and surrounded by endless collections of sticker packs. Weeping for the cross-platform solutions they should have been. Perhaps you’ll hear them next time you get a message. Or perhaps you’ll tap the App Store icon in the App Drawer and visit with them for a while.
Microsoft’s revamped Edge browser, due to be released today, is the company’s third attempt at building a better browser. The first try, Internet Explorer, was initially released in 1995 and eventually became the world’s most popular browser, peaking at 95% market share in 2003. But Microsoft’s actions in making it difficult for users to use other browsers in Windows put it in the federal government’s crosshairs and led to a successful antitrust suit against the company. After that, Microsoft did little to improve the browser, and Internet Explorer became old, buggy and insecure, allowing nimbler browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome to gain in popularity.
The company’s second browser, Edge, released in July 2015, was an attempt by Microsoft to replace Internet Explorer and regain browser leadership. It failed. That version of Edge, available only for Windows 10, was sluggish, overstuffed with features that few people wanted and severely lacking in something people did want: browser extensions. Edge’s failure to ignite only accelerated rival Chrome’s ascent. According to Statcounter, as of December 2019, Chrome had 69% of the worldwide desktop browser market, compared to 4.6% for Edge and 3.6% for Internet Explorer.
Microsoft’s new Edge browser is as dramatic a break as can be imagined from the company’s past. Instead of developing the browser with proprietary code, Microsoft decided to build the new Edge using open-source Chromium source code, which was originally developed by Google and also underpins Google Chrome and other browsers such as Opera and Brave. Doing that is anathema to the go-it-alone-and-dominate-the-market vision championed by past CEOs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.
Current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been willing to break with that Microsoft orthodoxy in the past. But using open-source code first developed by Google for Microsoft’s new browser is probably his biggest gamble yet. Looked at another way, though, it was no gamble at all. With Microsoft’s browser market share so minimal and its browsers so widely reviled, he likely felt he had nothing to lose by taking a dramatically new approach.
So how well did Microsoft do with this break-from-the-past browser? Will the third time be the charm, or did Microsoft once again build a browser bound to fail? Read on for details and answers.
Note: Unlike the original Edge browser, the Chromium-based Edge works with Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and macOS in addition to Windows 10 — but in this review, I focus on the Windows 10 version.
Faster and clean-looking
One of the first things you’ll notice about the new Edge is just how zippy it is, and how quickly web sites load in it. Even when using 10 or more tabs, I didn’t find it sluggish, as often happens with Chrome.
In my experience, the new Edge also doesn’t suffer from another Chrome problem — the tendency to slow down the longer you use the browser, especially when you have multiple tabs open. Not uncommonly on my machines, when I leave Chrome running for days with multiple tabs in use, it becomes so sluggish I need to close the browser down. In several weeks of testing, that never happened to me with Edge, even when using the beta version.
Tests I ran using Task Manager to measure RAM use found that Edge uses less RAM than Chrome. Running the browsers with the same five tabs open and with all extensions removed, Chrome used on average about 14% more RAM than Edge.
As for design, the new Edge borrows from Chrome’s less-is-more ethos. Microsoft jettisoned many of the little-loved and little-used features of the old Edge. So there’s no unneeded frou-frous like the ability to mark up web pages and share them with others. No reading lists or e-reader so you can buy and read books in your browser. The old Edge’s confusing tab-handling features that were accessed via the top left of the screen are gone as well.
Features like that always felt like lipstick on a pig to me — they couldn’t hide the essential shortcomings of the Edge browser. With the new Edge, no lipstick is needed. Chromium Edge is no pig. It’s a very good browser.
Finally, extensions for Edge
Microsoft has long had a problem attracting developers to write extensions for its browsers, first Internet Explorer and then Edge. Chrome and Firefox each have thousands of extensions for everything imaginable, while the original version of Edge has only 298 as I write this, four-and-a-half years after it was first introduced. Given how much time most people spend using their browsers and the useful capabilities that extensions can add to them, this was one of Edge’s biggest drawbacks.
To use extensions from the Chrome Web Store or any other location apart from the Microsoft Edge Addons site, click the three-dot icon in the upper-right corner of Edge, select “Extensions” from the drop-down menu, and on the bottom left of the screen that appears, move the slider next to “Allow extensions from other stores” to the On position. Then you’ll be able to download and install apps from the Chrome Web Store.
Microsoft warns that some Chrome extensions might not work on Edge, including those that rely on Google Account functionality to sign in or sync data and those that rely on companion software on your PC. However, I didn’t come across any Chrome extensions that didn’t work, including Checker Plus for Gmail, which requires signing into a Google account.
All this is a big win for Edge and fixes a problem that has bedeviled Microsoft’s web browsers for many years. One of several reasons why I have always preferred Chrome to Edge was Edge’s lack of extensions. That’s no longer the case, though.
Stopping tracking in its tracks
A lack of privacy has become one of the most common complaints people have about browsing the internet, and Edge has taken a solid step forward in addressing that. It offers a feature called tracking prevention, which blocks ad providers from tracking you from website to website. That makes it more difficult for companies like Google, Facebook and others to build comprehensive profiles of your activities and interests.
By default, tracking prevention is turned on. But you can customize how it works, making it less or more restrictive depending on how much privacy you would like when browsing the web and how much you want to see ads and content that mirror your interests.
To do it, click the three-dot icon at the top right of Edge’s screen and select Settings > Privacy and Services. You have three choices:
Basic, which allows most trackers and blocks only those that Microsoft considers harmful. You’ll have less privacy but will be more likely to see personalized ads and content.
Balanced, which blocks many trackers and is more restrictive than Basic. This is Edge’s default setting. You’ll have more privacy than with Basic, but ads and content will be less likely to be personalized. And like Basic, it blocks harmful ads. With both Balanced and Basic settings, the websites you visit will work as you expect them to.
Strict, which blocks the majority of trackers from all websites, as well as harmful ads. You’ll have the most privacy, and ads and content will probably have minimal personalization. Parts of websites may not work properly when you choose this setting.
You can customize tracking prevention further by clicking Exceptions. That will let you specify sites on which you’d like to allow all trackers. Edge also allows you to see which ad trackers it has blocked. Click Blocked trackers to see them.
Edge also offers you a nifty way to see which trackers have been blocked on any website you’re currently visiting. To do it, click the lock icon to the left of the URL, then click “Trackers” at the bottom of the menu that appears.
You might wonder why I installed the AdBlock Plus and Ghostery extensions in Edge, since it offers built-in tracking prevention. Tracking prevention only stops ad tracking that follows you from site to site. But Ghostery and Adblock Plus (and similar software) also stop ads that don’t follow you around. In my testing, for instance, Ghostery blocked quite a few ads that weren’t blocked by tracking prevention; the tools work in concert nicely.
Note that Firefox also offers tracking prevention, but Chrome doesn’t. The way in which Microsoft determines which trackers to block is quite complex. For details, see the company’s “Improving Tracking Prevention in Microsoft Edge” blog post.
Running websites as apps
Although the new Edge has abandoned many of the old less-than-useful Edge features, it has added an interesting new one: It lets you run websites like Twitter or Computerworld as standalone apps, without having to run Edge itself.
To do it, when you’re on a website you want to run as an app, click the three-dot icon at the top right of the screen, then select Apps > Install This Site as an App and click the Install button. When you do that, the website will show up in your Windows 10 app list (and you can pin it to the taskbar) like any other app. Just click the app’s icon, and the website will be rendered by Edge with all of its functionality, but it will work as its own app without any other Edge features.
You can also run the app by selecting Apps from Edge’s three-dot icon, then clicking the app from the menu that appears. To delete any app you’ve installed, click Manage Apps from the menu, and on the new screen that appears, click the X next to any app you want to delete.
This isn’t an earthshaking new feature, but I found it moderately useful to be able to create apps from websites I frequently visit. I can run them by themselves, which allows me to run fewer tabs in Edge, so I don’t have to hunt as much in a cluttered Edge for sites I want to visit.
Edge has a variety of other minor but useful features as well. The most welcome one is the ability to silence the audio in any individual tab. If you hear audio playing, look at each tab and look for the audio icon that tells you audio is playing. Click the icon and you’ll mute the audio, indicated by an X next to the audio icon. Click it again to turn the audio back on.
You can also customize, on a site-by-site basis, what kinds of permissions you want to give to websites to access your PC. When you’re on a page, click the lock icon to the left of the URL in the address bar and select Site Permissions. On the screen that appears you can select whether to allow the site to access your location, your computer’s camera and microphone, whether to run or block Adobe Flash, allow pop-ups and automatic downloads, and so on.
Those who like to go over to the dark side will be pleased to see that the new Edge has a dark mode, just like the old one did. Also like the old Edge, the new one offers a read-aloud feature that will read web pages to you. Because the browser is based on Chromium, you can also Chromecast video streams to tablets, PCs and TVs that allow for streaming, something the old Edge couldn’t do.
Microsoft has also made it exceedingly easy to switch from another browser to the new Edge. It will import Favorites and passwords. When I imported them from Chrome, the import happened instantaneously — so fast I thought Edge had made a mistake and only claimed to have imported them. It did, however, import them that quickly, and accurately as well.
Collections missing in action for the moment
One of Edge’s more useful new features, called Collections, isn’t yet ready for prime time and is not available in the just-released version of Edge. However, it’s been available since August in Edge’s bleeding-edge test channel called Canary and recently was released into the somewhat more stable Dev channel, which is where features appear before they head to beta. So even though you won’t see it in the just-released version of Edge, you may well soon; along with the Chromium source code, Microsoft is adopting a more frequent update cadence — approximately every six weeks, the company says.
Collections does exactly what it sounds like — lets you create collections of websites so that you can easily see them grouped together, and then perform actions on them, such as send their URLs to Excel or Word.
In the Dev and Canary channels, Collections isn’t enabled by default, so if you have one of those versions of Edge, you’ll need to turn it on. To do it, type edge://flags#edge-collections into the address bar. That opens the experimental settings page. Scroll down to “Experimental Collections feature” on the page, select Enabled, then click the Restart button at the bottom of the screen.
After you restart, a new Collections icon shows up to the right of star-shaped Favorites icon at the right edge of the address bar. The Collections icon has a square with a cross on it. Click it to launch the Collections pane.
From here, click Start new collection, give the collection a name, and you’re ready to go. You can now add pages to the collection. Whenever you’re on a web page that you want to add to one of your collections, click the Collections icon to display the Collections pane, click the collection to which you want to add the page, then click Add current page.
When you go to a collection, you can click any web page there to jump to it in a new tab. You can also create notes in any collection, by clicking the note icon to the right of the “Add current page” button.
Click the three-dot icon to the right of the note icon and you get these options:
Send to Excel. This creates a new Excel worksheet in OneDrive in a new Microsoft Edge Collections folder, with the title and file name of the collection, and a list of all the titles in the collection, including links to them.
Send to Word. This creates a new Word document in OneDrive in a new Microsoft Edge Collections folder, with the title and file name of the collection, and a list of all the titles in the collection, including links to them. It also shows your notes.
Open all. This launches a new instance of Edge, with all of the pages from the collection in their own tabs.
Copy all. This copies the list to the Windows clipboard.
I found Collections especially well-suited for research, as a way to get instant access to all the pages useful for projects I’m working on. But some of its features are works in progress. When it created a new worksheet with “Send to Excel” feature, for example, it created rows and columns for each website, but some of those columns were empty because they had nothing to do with the websites: Price, Rating, Number of reviews, and Brand. Also, there were errors when I chose to copy information about the collection to the clipboard.
Despite that, I found Collections to be exceedingly useful and one of my favorite new Edge features. We’ll have to see whether its imperfections have been cleaned up by the time it makes it into formal release.
What IT needs to know about the new Edge
One way that Microsoft hopes to make the new Edge stand out from its rivals is by including a variety of enterprise-friendly capabilities. For instance, it lets IT administrators use group policy objects (GPOs) to create enterprise-centric web pages that employees logged in to an Azure Active Directory (AAD) account see when they open a new tab in Edge. This customized new tab page essentially acts as a front end for Office 365, giving employees access to Office documents, company sites and other resources. In addition, when users sign into their corporate account, they can search the company intranet from Edge’s search bar.
Microsoft has also worked to make sure that any enterprise apps and websites that were designed to work with Internet Explorer 11 (through a feature called IE Mode), the pre-Chromium version of Edge, or Google Chrome will also work with the new Edge. If your company’s website works with one of those browsers and not the new Edge, Microsoft says it will “help you fix it at no additional cost” under the company’s App Assure program.
Microsoft has also put together a security baseline, a group of pre-configured security settings and default values, for the new version of Edge. IT staff can use that baseline as a starting point for setting security controls.
Finally, you’ll be able to deploy and manage Edge using familiar Microsoft tools including group policies, Configuration Manager and Intune.
What does all this add up to? The third time really has proven to be the charm for Microsoft: Its new Chromium-based Edge is a winner. It’s speedy, works with many thousands of Chrome extensions, does a nice job of protecting your privacy, and has some useful new features like the ability to turn web pages into apps, and eventually, the ability to create collections of web pages.
Edge is now at least a good a browser as Chrome and possibly better, particularly for enterprise use. Whether for personal or business browsing, you’d do well to at least give it a try, even if in the past you’ve vowed to stay away from Microsoft browsers forever.
If you recall, on Sept. 23 Microsoft posted manual patches for the CVE-2019-1367 Internet Explorer zero-day hole, and the blogosphere went wild with warnings of imminent doom. Predictably, we haven’t seen any real-world attacks, but the bugs those patches introduced were very real.
On Sept. 24, we saw those same buggy patches in a different form — melded into “optional, non-security” cumulative updates and “Monthly Rollup Previews” for all versions of Windows. (The 1903 patch, buggy as all the rest, arrived on Sept. 26.)
We discovered a description hidden behind a Microsoft E5 (read: $690/year) paywall that leads to a rather simple conclusion: If you don’t use Internet Explorer and set some other browser as your default browser, you’ll avoid the known IE infection vector “mostly around Middle Eastern and North African affairs.”
Tempest, meet teapot.
The bugs associated with those patches are legion:
Yesterday, we got the fourth round of IE zero-day patches as part of the usual Patch Tuesday shenanigans.
The Patch Tuesday lot seems rather tame — 59 separately identified security holes plugged, no “Public” or “Exploited” patches. A big bunch of Servicing Stack Updates, but if you use Windows Update you don’t have to worry about those; they’re installed automatically.
Applications interacting with the V4 printer driver might close or error when printing. Issues might only be encountered when printing but might also be encountered at any time the app is running, depending on when the app interacts with the print driver.
The printer spooler service (spoolsv.exe) might close or error in jscript.dll with exception code 0xc0000005 causing the print jobs to stop processing. Only part of the print job might print and the rest might be canceled or error.
Client: Windows 10, version 1903; Windows 10, version 1809; Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019; Windows 10, version 1803; Windows 10, version 1709; Windows 10, version 1703; Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2016; Windows 10, version 1607; Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2015; Windows 8.1; Windows 7 SP1
Server: Windows Server, version 1903; Windows Server, version 1809; Windows Server 2019; Windows Server, version 1803; Windows Server, version 1709 ; Windows Server 2016; Windows Server 2012 R2; Windows Server 2012; Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1; Windows Server 2008 SP2
Remarkably, all the reports I’m seeing early Wednesday morning say the printing issue has been solved. If you were … let’s say, convinced … that you needed to install versions 1, 2, or 3 of the CVE-2019-1367 patch (including the pushed update on Oct. 3), all you need do to get rid of the inflicted printer problems is to install the latest cumulative update for your version of Windows.
Mind you, the Knowledge Base articles for the latest patches — for example, the Win10 version 1903 patch known as KB 4517389 — don’t even mention the bugs, other than saying:
Which somehow neglects to mention that the “issues” were brought on my Microsoft’s first, second and third CVE-2019-1367 patches. But whatever.
Some folks who installed the latest Win10 1809 patch, KB 4519338, may have the build number reported as 17763.805, when it should be 17763.806. No need to panic. An anonymous poster on AskWoody says:
805 was the first build. 806 is an updated version released a few hours later with the following note:
Note This release also contains updates for Microsoft HoloLens (OS Build 17763.806) released October 8, 2019. Microsoft will release an update directly to the Windows Update Client to improve Windows Update reliability on Microsoft HoloLens that have not updated to this most recent OS Build.
There are more installed patch oddities — including the inability to uninstall the latest patches, or having the patches listed as installed twice — discussed here on AskWoody.
All in all, the October 2019 Patch Tuesday patches are off to a good start. As usual, though, I recommend that you hold off on installing the patches until they’ve had a chance to stew (or decompose?) a bit.
Job searching can be nerve-wracking. A lot of it comes down to luck and timing, even if you have a stellar resume and skills. However, there are ways you can increase your chances and shorten your job search.
Those ways are through “timing“—literally. If you’ve got the option to do so, you should avoid putting out your resumes during specific times of the year where there is little to no hiring activity.
To avoid those downturns, here are the worst times of the year to job search, and why. We’ll also cover what to do if you find yourself looking for employment during a slump.
The Worst Time of Year: November-December
November and December can be very slow hiring months.
Job posts do go up, and according to the BBC the best time to search for a job is “Tuesday mornings in December”. But by the time the holidays swing around, many companies are operating at half-capacity. Hiring managers are either buried under year-end tasks or already on their break. If you work in a seasonal industry, most temp workers have already been hired.
Additionally, some companies simply don’t have the money to hire any more people. They’re waiting for January when they’ll get access to their new yearly budget. This is why you may see job postings go up, but you don’t hear back about your applications until January rolls around.
What to do instead of job searching:
If you’re job hunting during this period, use December to tweak your resume and cover letter. That way you can hit the ground running in January.
You can also use this time to spruce up your online social media accounts, such as LinkedIn. It’s a good, short task that can be done in a couple of weeks.
June, July, and August are the second-worst times of the year that you can job search.
This is because hiring managers are on vacation, and decisions can’t be made without their approval. If you’re working in a seasonal industry such as tourism, temp positions will already be filled.
Those jobs that do get posted during the summer months usually target students. A lot of them are entry level or minimum wage. Because of the influx of recently graduated students, the positions that are being posted might not be long-term.
With students competing for these scarce jobs, the competition for employment will also be fierce. It might not be tenable if you’re looking for a gig that’s full-time or long-term.
What to do instead of job searching:
The summer months can feel like a drag, so one of the best things you can do—beyond general resume edits—is take on extra training to increase your chances.
Start personal summer projects to keep yourself busy. This helps to improve your portfolio and skills.
Overall, look for ways to make yourself more competitive in the workforce.
, especially if you end up looking during the summer.
The Best Times of Year for Job Searching
While the focus of this article is how to avoid the worst times of the year, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the best times of the year to job hunt, too.
January and February
One of the best times of the year is January heading into February. You might think that these months are slow, and in the first two weeks of January, this is definitely the case. People are still coming back from their holidays, and they have to clear out their inboxes.
During this time of the year, however, upper management is back in the office with a full budget to hire people. They’ll also be looking to fill those last-minute positions that were posted in December.
The good news about this time of the year is that the positions that show up are often long-term and full-time, as that’s what the budget allows for. So if you’re looking for top-tier jobs this is definitely the time to strike.
The best thing you can do for yourself during this time period? Apply, apply, apply. Send out your resumes like your life depends on it because those good jobs can dry up fast.
The Spring Rush
The spring rush—between March to May—is the second-best time to go job searching. During this time period, it’s a mix of entry-to-mid-level positions, as companies are hoping to fill up any spots that did not get snapped up during the winter splurge.
Unfortunately—because this hiring period coincides with the same time that a lot of students get out of university—there will be a lot of competition. These positions will go quickly due to the high demand, so make sure to take advantage of this rush and send out your resumes before you head into the summer slump.
Back to School
The final time to get hired during the year is the “back to school” fall rush before the winter holidays, roughly from September to October. There’s a lot of new products being launched during this time period, and a lot of demand for temporary workers if you work in a seasonal field.
Because of the nature of these jobs being offered (often temp), many of the positions will not be the full-time, long-term jobs that many people crave. Companies are holding off on those positions until the new year.
That said, you can definitely find employment during this time period. Our recommendation is to take a look and see what’s out there.
Time Your Chances
It’s important to note that these times are not a hard and fast rule. Some companies do buck the trend and post during the off season. However it’s much rarer, and that’s why your chances of finding something decrease.
With that in mind, it’s best to view this article as a general guide to help you budget your time even as you keep knocking on doors. If you do apply strategically, you’ll be able to shorten that job search by playing to a long-term strategy.
Tricking people can be… well… tricky. The problem, at its most fundamental level, is that people only like to be tricked when they expect to be tricked. Obviously, if you trick them and take money they never intended to give away, well that’s theft. They rightfully get angry. If you say, “Hey, wanna see a trick? Give me a dollar.”; well then they expect some David Copperfield-level magic, don’t they?
In fact, they demand it.
And that’s the thing about designing interfaces and websites, isn’t it? People want a certain amount of information provided to them, and then they want everything else to happen where they can’t see it. The amount of information they want to see will vary based on the skills of the user, but ultimately, they want to be “tricked”, at least a little bit.
These are the best, and maybe the only reasons you should ever be allowed to “trick” your users:
1. To Make Waiting Less Tedious
Waiting can be frustrating, and waiting for computers to do, “whatever they’re doing now, Gaaawwd!”, can be extra infuriating at times. That’s why God invented the loading icon.
distract the eyes with a spinny-thing, while reassuring the brain that something is happening behind the scenes
Loading and waiting icons, particularly the ones that don’t function as actual progress bars, are perhaps the oldest example of distraction-to-improve-the-UX. They distract the eyes with a spinny-thing, while reassuring the brain that something is happening behind the scenes… probably.
Of course, with time, we’ve developed all sorts of ways to make waiting seem like less of a chore. Simple transitional animations can give the browser a few extra milliseconds to load content from the next page or screen. Some more graphically heavy sites are (and I hate that this is still a thing), using animated splash screens as pre-loaders. Chrome gives you a game to play while you wait for your Internet to come back.
Pretty much all solutions involve some sort of animation, if I’m honest. Moving things around on the screen is probably the most effective distraction there is, outside of auto-playing audio. And well… don’t do that.
2. To Give New Context to Old Actions
I featured Kutia, a web development agency, in the May 2019 edition of our monthly portfolio showcase for a number of reasons, but mostly because of the way they “trick” the users into going to the contact page. Basically they just ask, “What can we help you with?”, and provide a number of potential answers for people to click on.
Answers include things like “I need a new WordPress website”, “I want to sell things online”, and others. All of these answers take them straight to the contact page, but they also give people an idea of what the agency can do for them. It also helps the user to focus on communicating their end goal to the agency.
Even when you figure out the trick, it’s helpful enough that I don’t see how anyone could get mad.
3. To Smooth Over Rough Edges in the Experience
The human eye is a strange and wonderful thing, but it’s not half as crazy as the bits of brain that have to interpret everything your eyes see. The brain filters out a lot of what we actually see to keep us from going nuts, or at least getting very dizzy. Even when you’re only moving your eyeballs, your brain “records” everything you see before your eyes twitch, and everything after. Everything seen while your eyeballs are moving fast is filtered out for your own sake.
We can do that with websites, too. Take lazy loading images, for example: It’s a great way to save bandwidth, but then you have to deal with the fact that users will probably see partially or completely empty stretches of website while they scroll.
Give them something quick-loading, big, bright, and shiny to look at for a second
Or what about when the content is there, but not all the styles have loaded yet, and your custom typeface is taking a second? A flash of un-styled text is, in my opinion, a lot better than missing text, but it’s still not ideal.
There are many ways to make these issues less jarring (with placeholders, and so on), but what about distracting the user? Give them something quick-loading, big, bright, and shiny to look at for a second. Throw in a paragraph for them to read while the first set of images right below the viewport load in advance.
If people just don’t see or really notice the rough bits, they may as well not exist.
4. To Entertain and Surprise People
This is, of course, the essence of stage magic right here. You distract them so you can surprise them, entertain them, delight them. The problem with this approach is that users generally don’t want to be too surprised by the websites they visit. They just want them to work.
An entertaining surprise can be very hard to pull off on the web for the simple reason that most users aren’t there to be wowed. They’re there to get something they need, and get out. “Surprises” are so often the result of bugs or bait-and-switch tactics, that most users would probably prefer that your site behave mostly predictably.
However, if you can give them a surprise they actually like, they’ll gladly forgive any tricks you pulled. The problem is that this is rare enough that I actually can’t think of any examples.
And That’s Pretty Much It
Look, there really aren’t a lot of good reasons for deceiving people outright, even if it’s only for a moment. By and large, transparency will get you a lot farther than tricks. The only times when it’s even remotely acceptable are those occasions when tricking the user’s brain actually makes their experience smoother, and their day a little better.