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People Change Once They Go Broadband - Survey

Broadband, it turns out, changes folks. Or, at the very least, it changes the way they act once they get online, according to a new Nielsen/NetRatings survey. ... The Web-audience measurement firm today released data showing that people in the U.S. who recently have switched to broadband Internet services like digital subscriber lines (DSL) or cable modems wind up spending more time online, viewing many more Web pages, and parking themselves in front of their computer monitors more often.

Core Decisions

Tog on good designs for badly specified applications, using Dish Netowork's 501 product as an example of what not to do. Interaction design goes to the very core of a product or service. When user experience people are not intimately involved with every aspect of a project, from the most formative meetings to the end, the project is likely to go seriously awry.

Apply Usability Methodologies in Intranet Information Architecture in a Real World Context

Intranet Journal article on IA. This is the second in a series of five articles on the implementation of usability methodologies in the development of an intranet's information architecture. The series is based on a project developed for an educational institution.

Ethnicities Buying Online

According to Bizreport, a 2001 study from Cultural Access Group, a division of Access Worldwide, finds that 31% of online African Americans and 32% of online Hispanics in the US have made online purchases. These totals compare to 69% of the general US market that has made a purchase online. Cultural Access finds that overall, internet users prefer to research product information online. This last sentence about researching over buying echoes other reports blogged here lately.

Complicate Your Web Site

Joshua Ledwell, guest authoring for WebWord, discusses how to take a few extra steps to design successful transactional Web sites. When you're designing a transactional web site, you need to complicate it with extra steps and customization. Anticipate the most likely problems, provide clear error handling, and build informative confirmation messages to keep your users happy.

Supporting office processes with open source database applications on Mac OS X

I'm not sure if anyone is interested in back-end applications that you might need to support your work -- e.g. network asset control and contact management -- but I've been setting up a development server for my group for the past few months with a blue and white G3 Mac running Mac OS X. I've found that getting up and running with OS X server is a cinch if you run the Apache web server with PHP and MySQL. Plus, you can't beat the price, and who can argue with that in these lean and mean times. You might need to do a little tinkering using the Terminal application to get PHP configured in the Apache configuration file (/etc/httpd/httpd.conf) and to get MySQL installed properly. So this is for people who aren't afraid to use the Terminal. If you are interested, all you need is located in these few sites:

  • Apache/PHP configuration: If you have Mac OS X server running, Apache and PHP should be installed. You will just need to turn the server on from the Dock and then using Terminal, edit /etc/httpd/httpd.conf by removing the pound signs before the php configuration lines. If you are running OS X client, you will probably need to install PHP. Apache should run from System Prefereces/Sharing. If you need more info. on installing Apache/PHP, this DevShed article may shed some light. If you are afraid of Unix you can buy the OpenOSX OpenWeb package, which installs and configures Apache/PHP/MySQL from a CD.
  • MySQL package: Download from VersionTracker or Marc Liyanage's site. Follow the installation instructions on Marc's site.
  • phpMyAdmin to set up MySQL databases: phpMyAdmin is a php-based MySQL administration tool that lets you create, configure and edit MySQL databases and tables using a Web interface. Install phpMyAdmin from phpwizard to configure your databases.
  • If you want to access MySQL from an application, you might have a look at Runtime Labs' MacSQL.
If anyone is running an OS X server to support their business processes in some way, I'd be interested in hearing how you're doing that. -Michael

Color, Contrast & Dimension in News Design

George Olsen's weblog points to this excellent Flash presentation from the Poynter Institute that explains color theory and illustrates its use through exercises. The presentation then goes through some examples showing color theory applied to News pages. This is definitely worth a look. Thanks, George.

How To Say: "You're Fired!"

This is sort of timely. Not that I'm in the position of hiring or firing, but HBS Working Knowledge has advice for those of you who do. These economic times are tough for everyone involved. After the amazing economic growth of the last decade, the managerial ranks are full of people who know only what it's like to manage during the good times. But with more and more companies facing lower profitability and straitened finances, layoffs are becoming a reality that managers must prepare to handle. ... Letting people go is an emotional eventónot just for those being laid off but for those who remain. Of course those who are let go need help with the transition to new employment. But the employees who survive the cutbacks also need reassurance about their own futureóand an understanding of the strategic goals behind the cuts.

Beyond Usability Testing

Frontend Usability InfoCentre looks at alternative user-testing techniques for discovering how tests can deliver essential information on how users experience the site as a whole. User experience testing can answer questions that traditional user-testing techniques may not address. What messages does the site communicate? Which areas attract 'browsing' visitors? How long will the average user stay at any given site?

Enterprise Portals: One Size Won't Fit All

If you have Forrester access, this brief about enterprise portals Tom Pohlmann may interest you (or your management). The market report was based on surveys made by Forrester and focusses on decentralizing Intranet portals and concentrating on content ownership built around processes and creating metrics for more narrowly focussed Intranet sites and applications. Enterprise portals promise cost savings and productivity gains. But firms won't benefit unless they concentrate each portal interface on discrete user needs and measurable business objectives -- under visible sponsorship from a single business unit leader.

The cranky user: Making URLs accessible

IBM Developer Works proffers advice for keeping your novice and expert users happy with sensible naming schemes. Many Web pages, especially those created in authoring tools, have a tendency to treat URLs as impenetrable magic cookies. Users benefit when URLs are kept readable and understandable, and when the structure of a URL reflects the structure of the site. Even naÔve users may be helped by such a design. Here, Peter takes a look at why it's important to make URLs accessible, and offers some strategies for doing this effectively. thanks Tomalak's Realm

Back to school time!

And now for something utterly ridiculous. For a limited time, you can buy an ia/ messenger bag at the ia/ store! Why? I have no idea. Bags sell until Sept. 30. Incidentally I don't mark these up at all, so I don't make any $ from it and that keeps the price nice and cheap. ;) - Adjustable shoulder strap with adjustable clasp closure - Outside panel compartment has zippered closure - Black binding - Size: 11" x 13" x 14" - Sporty, Organized, and Stylish If you're not digging these bags and got samolians burning a hole in your pocket, you could always buy that jakob nielsen usability solidarity tshirt. Now, where was that shirt?

Is a guru worth the $'s

Christina's blog had a good discussion going about whether it is worth the dollars to spring for a guru. The discussion was prompted by this article in Taskz, Is a high priced usability "Guru" a good investment?

Public Relations Site Usability

This isn't available on the Web, but may interest people who occassionaly design PR sites or PR sections of sites. Hallahan, Kirk. "Improving public relations web sites through usability research." Public Relations Review 27:2 (2001)

Human Markup Language

LIS News (via Slashdot) had this tidbit about a markup language for human characteristics. The full story is in the InternetNews article, Working on a Unified Code for 'LOL' or :). OASIS, the XML interoperability consortium, has founded a committee to develop methods for describing human characteristics through XML: The OASIS HumanMarkup Technical Committee (TC) will work to develop Human Markup Language (HumanML), a schema for embedding contextual human characteristics -- cultural, social, kinesic (body language), psychological and intentional features -- within information.

Image makeovers for librarians

A NY Times article discusses the ALA's effort to bring awareness to the kinds of people that are librarians in the article, Librarians Adjust Image in an Effort to Fill Jobs . I have to say that the NYTimes did a more convincing job of showing that you can be young or hip and be a librarian than ALA does in their @your library section, The Ultimate Search Engine is Your Librarian. What they fail to promote is the fact that a lot of different and interesting people go to school for library and information science degrees to also get cool jobs outside of libraries. Wait... Maybe that's the problem.

DONT'S -- Don't make voter registration info. public

Here's something you shouldn't do. The NY Times has an article about public records going online. Am I. . . Registered to Vote or Not? displays registered voters' Address and political party affiliation by just entering a last name and birthdate.

45% of consumers use retailer's sites to research products before buying it in the same retailer's store

There's more to e-commerce than online profits. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of retailers are wrongly judging the success of their Internet investments, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, because they're relying on top-line metrics such as online sales and profits. ... A Jupiter Consumer Survey found that 45 percent of consumers have used a retailer's Web sites to research a product before buying it in that same company's store. ... 89 percent of teens (ages 13 to 17) have never made an online purchase, but 29 percent research products on the Internet before buying them at stores.

Thoughts on "rightsizing" in the new economy

Why must American corporations speak in code? I haven't been axed yet, but my company -- once considered a great place to work -- started informing people today whether they had a job or not. They will announce today that by March of 2002, 17,000 people will have been removed from payroll. A lot of great people have been removed and others reassigned for the worse. I initially came to Bell Laboratories because it runs one of the most respected information organizations (nee libraries) in the world. As with all large organizations, however, the real talent and the hard workers (the doers) are held down and played with like pawns, and as a colleague of mine said today, "Their game IS the game.". Feeling powerless in the bureaucratic nightmare that plays with lives makes one start to wonder at what point one should throw in the towel and head for greener pastures -- if they do exist elsewhere. It's a shame. This place has really been an interesting place to work -- the place that invented UNIX, the laser, wireless communication, etc. Now it's just another casualty.

Future Directions for IA

Lou Rosenfeld considers the future of our field in his Bloug. Here are the areas that he proposes are within our domain:

  • Distinguishing users' information needs
  • Determining content granularity
  • Developing hybrid architectures
  • Presenting search results better
  • Understanding and using metadata
  • Rolling out enterprise-wide architectures
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