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Making the Most of Interactivity Online

This article appared in Technical Communication, August 2001, Vol. 48, No. 3. (requires registration and login, full text requires subscription). Technical communicators need to create effective online interactions to help users understand the scope, purpose, and limits of their online documents. Ideally, a well-designed online document provides an integrated data environment. It functions as the interface between the user and a system, allowing for the retrieval and assimilation of information needed to perform a task. Online information can be presented in a variety of formats, including online help systems, computer-based training (CBT) programs, and interactive electronic technical manuals (IETM). The benefits of an effective online system include the elimination of paper bulk and storage, improved document usability through interactivity, and the use of the document as a learning, training, and research aid.

Get to the point! writing effective email, letters, reports and proposals

Professional Communication reviews the book, Get to the Point!, in Volume: 44 Issue: 3 , Sep 2001. Of particular interest might be the chapters on writing short and long reports. Get to the Point! is a well-written, easily understood book that focuses on the most important issues facing the communication of written information in today’s fast-paced, diverse, and global environment. It is written in a conversational style that still maintains academic rigor. The techniques provided offer practical suggestions for communicating effectively, concisely, and persuasively. As the authors state, “you have only one chance, in writing, to make your impression. You need to make sure it is the impression you intend” (p. 103).

InfoVis.net

InfoVis.net InfoVis.net is a project devoted to Information Visualisation, seen as the process of incorporation of knowledge through the perception of information, mainly (but not only) in visual form. Sometimes it is confused with Information Design. Info Design is part of InfoVis. Also, see: Inf@Vis!, the Digital Magazine of InfoVis.net. Can't say that I like the title much. thanks EH

Ergodraw

Ergodraw is Michael Hamm's attempt to create a useful, comprehensive and enjoyable site targeted toward the world of vector design; specifically Adobe Illustrator. Great tutorials and downloads. thanks xblog

An XML Framework for Coordinating Creative and Technical Design

An Intranet Journal article discusses how to use XML to coordinate workflow between teams given the diverse set of software preferrences of Creative, IA and Technology practices. In this article, we'll look at the cultural clash between three groups often involved in Web projects: front-end developers, information architects and visual designers. Then I'll describe an XML-based framework I used successfully to expedite production of a 600-page commercial Web site.

Keep Your Message Focused

Nick Usborne of MarketingProfs.com says in order to make your site successful you have to pare down and focus. This, article, of course is written from a marketing perspective. The more things that a site attempts to achieve, the less successful it will be in achieving anything. ... Take a fresh look at your site. Consider its real purpose. And if its purpose is to make sales, you may well need to make some substantial changes to the messages you're delivering, and the way in which they are presented.

Fresh Styles for Web Designers: Eye Candy from the Underground

Webreference reviews "Fresh Styles for Web Designers", the Curt Cloninger book that takes an art historical approach to "underground web design styles" and shows examples of the "masters". The idea is to create a compelling experience through great design. Branding matters when selling products. The "usability legalists" say that "an elegant design that is unusable will fail." Cloninger agrees but in addition proposes a corollary: "a perfectly usable site which lacks elegant and appropriate design style will fail." He says that the Jakob Nielsenizing of the Web, avoiding "bad usability" at all costs, has fostered an entire generation of safe, bland, copycat Web sites that "are about as engaging as a book on usability testing methodologies." Cloninger is out to shake things up. He says that to succeed a site must have a "focused narrative voice, an angle, a plan, a consistent point of view to unify its disparate elements and give it a cohesive personality." To Cloninger, creative visual design is an integral part of this site-building process. Inbred conservative copycat design is boring, so Cloninger explores the personal sites of today's leading Web designers. What's wonderful is the way he classifies these styles, relating the present design style to the past with great insight and humor.

MS Office for OS X shipping in November

Because some of us need to use Excel and Word and want to be able to do it on a TiBook. From CNet News. Microsoft on Wednesday revealed the name of its forthcoming Office suite for Apple Computer's Mac OS X operating system and firmed up the product's pricing and delivery date.

Navbars must go

While mining Bohmann Usability I came across an interesting article suggesting that navigation (global navs, i presume) must go. Kristoffer Bohmann argues that "Users mainly ignore primary navigation bars because the information featured is less relevant to their tasks." I believe the main argument that should be extracted from this article is that users need more relevant information once they've dug deeper into a site. I don't agree with the idea that global navigation should go away, if that's also what's suggested. You might also be interested to see Bohmann's annotated collection of navigation bars and to read the related articles.

Email Notifications: Making Unsubscription Easy

Short article oh Bohmann Usability describing how to make unsubscribing to discussion groups easier for users. Unsubscribing email newsletters and other email notification services can be an unpleasant and time-consuming experience. Most unsubscribe problems can be avoided by making the subscribers email visible and linking to an unsubscribe page in all emails. This article discuss how to design an effective unsubscribe process. thanks WebWord

Designing Scalable Interfaces

FrontEnd Usability Infocentre discusses keeping interfaces flexible. Even the best interface designs can be undermined by the need to change in response to new requirements. We look at some simple techniques for creating future-proof, flexible and scalable interfaces.

Let Customers Call the Shots

It's called consumer empowerment. An article in HBS Working Knowledge discussing why you need to put control in the hands of your users. Discusses such topics as opt-in advertising, interactive TV, group buying clubs.

Taxonomies and Topic Maps: Categorization Steps Forward

Article in EContent Magazine on the topic of taxonomies. According to some, the path to improved information retrieval on the Web lies in intelligently applied taxonomies. In this view, content needs to be more accurately identified by category in such a way that search engines and other navigational aids can be better tuned to help the user. As content moves increasingly to the Web, these data sources need to benefit from technologies and techniques that allow people to view, navigate, and search data by broadly understood categories. Happily, categorization technologies seem to have matured to the point where they can be useful to more and more publishers. Increasingly, Web publishers are investing in both the technologies to categorize content and the labor associated with implementing the technology. And looming on the horizon are "topic maps," an intriguing approach to tagging data for categories, especially for collections of data as opposed to singular documents. thanks Victor

Internet Poses No Challenge To TV In Wake Of Attacks

Survey reported in BizReport shows that Americans gravitated to TV rather than Internet last week. During the terrorism crisis last week, probably the biggest single news story in more than a generation, the Internet did not pan out as a primary source of information, according to a new survey. ... Instead, a Pew Internet and American Life survey indicates, it was television that most Americans gravitated to while coming to grips with the terrorist strikes that destroyed the World Trade Center, severely damaged the Pentagon, Va., and appeared to unsuccessfully target the White House.

The myth of optimal web design

Perfection in design is not possible. No matter how much is known about a given business, user group or technology, you can not simultaneously satisfy all possible objectives. Interesting essay.

Putting taxonomies to work

This InformationWorld Review article (requires free registration) summarizes what the TFPL found in interviews of businesses conducted to discover how they were using business taxonomies. Taxonomies for Business: access and connectivity in a wired world was the title of a conference organised by TFPL to launch the results of an international research project into how large corporations are using – and are intending to use – taxonomies. The research, jointly funded by BrightStation software company, Smartlogik, was conducted in the summer of 2000 and presents six in-depth case studies which resulted from visits and in-depth interviews, along with 16 telephone- interview ‘caselets’. You can view more information about TFPL's work with taxonomies on their site.

Usability for Libraries

This review, appeared in the September American Libraries p. 86. Do your Web users utilize your site successfully, or do they get frustrated and look elsewhere for help? If you can't answer that question, it's time to conduct a usability assessment. Editor Nicole Campbell will show you how in "Usability Assessment of Library-Related Web Sites: Methods and Case Studies". Together with her cadre of contributors, Campbell explains usability methods and includes eight case studies of libraries that have conducted such studies. With bibliography, 125 p., paperback, Library and Information Technology Association Guide No. 7, $25, $23 for LITA members (8-8389-8157-7). Order from ALA Book Fulfillment, 155 Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60606.

Taking A Content Inventory

This is where the rubber hits the road for me. In October's WebTechniques, Janice Crotty Fraser takes you through the process of doing content inventory Adaptive Path style, with IA techniques developed with Jesse James Garret. This is the jumping off point for a lot of information organization and taxonomy work -- the content inventory. It is the area where I've spent most of my time over the past year. There is truth in her observation that the work comes down to human hours and excel. A great read for people who want to learn how to use tools to make content inventories work for you and your clients. Here's how Crotty Fraser sums up: You need to know what you have to work with before you can organize it better. The inventory, above all else, helps you get to know the content deeply; this is as important to a re-architecture as understanding user goals and business goals. Make associations across groupings, identify redundancies, and slice it along a different grain.

Effective Info Architecture

In WebTechniques, Andrew Chak discusses IA process in this entry-level article. The site has grown too big, too fast, and they hired you to fix it. So where do you start? There are techniques and people who can help you become a better information architect. You're about to learn the techniques; your users are the people who can help you. Through techniques such as personas, card sorting, and pen and paper testing you stay close to your users and should have a good idea of how to design for them.

Ask Jeeves to Acquire Teoma Technologies

Ask Jeeves, Inc., a provider of natural language question-answering and search technologies, has announced that it has acquired the privately held Teoma Technologies, Inc., a provider of next-generation Web search technologies. The company claims that the acquisition will enable Ask Jeeves to deliver one of the most advanced search technologies on the Web.

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