blogs

A pattern language for HCI

An interesting thesis attempting to provide an up-to-date pattern language for user interface design. Earlier attempts to do this for architecture and software design have been moderately successful, the hypertext structure of 'A Pattern Language' being particularly inspiring.

Design and usability are not first

Logging might be light this week. Saw/heard Tufte yesterday and going to MacWorld tomorrow. Was thinking of the recurring theme I keep hearing from various design evangelists regarding content. Don't know if there are other quotable comments to add to this list. Edward Tufte: Quality, relevance and integrity of content comes first. Everything including design comes after that. (captured sound bite from lecture series) Don Norman: Why do you keep harping on usability? Usability is always secondary. It's never the most important thing about an experience. I will accept poor usability if I get what I need, if the total experience is great. I will reject perfect usability if I am not rewarded with a useful, engaging experience. George Olsen: A highly usable interface to a product that's irrelevant to user's needs, or too expensive for it's intended users, or can't turn a profit is just as much a failure as one that's impossible to use. (Interaction by Design essay)

Pirated sites

"Talent imitates; genius steals." - TS Eliot. I don't think this is what Eliot had in mind when he said that.

Sitemap stylee

I'm late catching this one, so sorry to bore you if you've seen it. Poor but happy has stats on use of different navigation types on their Columbia site. What did they find out? "The sitemap on every page is hugely popular." Another great example of the sitemap on every page is Xplane. thanks blackbeltjones

Criteria for optimal web design (designing for usability)

Michael L Bernard of Wichita State suggests how to design for usability. Designing a website that takes into account the human element requires both an understanding of our nature as well as our physiological limitations. Usable websites incorporate human tendencies and limitation into its overall design. The questions below are meant to address some of the more important human factors concerns in the design and building of usable websites.

Coming to Terms: George Olsen on IA

In the Perspectives section of Interaction by Design, George Olsen talks about the term "IA" versus "User experience designer" and what it is means for what we really do. In his email alert he says, While I've gotten tired of the repeated debates over this issue myself, I think it's worth pursuing -- not only so we don't have to argue over it anymore, but more importantly: if we can't say what we do, it's hard to sell the value of it to clients and co-workers. Essentially my essay argues that "user experience" is a better name for "big IA" and try to define some of the things that a "generalist" UX whatever does.

FAST Launches Enhanced AllTheWeb.com

According to Information Today, FAST has relaunched All the Web. While Google may seem to dominate the news lately with enhancements to the popular search engine, FAST Search & Transfer ASA (FAST), the Norwegian search engine company, has been steadily building its index, enhancing its search technology, and growing its base of paying enterprise and site customers. It has just announced the relaunch of AllTheWeb.com, the company's Web search engine. If you have not yet used this search site, the recent enhancements should be enough to encourage a test drive. They include a fully integrated platform for multimedia results; automatic search tips offered in response to user behavior; and a more intuitive, uncluttered user interface.

Slim down page weight or lose customers

According to Business 2, Jupiter Media Metrix suggests that webpages weigh no more than 40KB to 50KB. At that size, it will take about 8 to 10 seconds for your page to appear over a 56-kbps modem connection -- about the limit of most people's patience. Any slower, and you risk losing customers as they give up in disgust and click away to another site before yours has even finished loading. That's not very realistic for many (most?) applications. True that the example they use, Google's search page, is very slim, but how many Web pages can consist of only a form, 1 image, and under 50 words of text? Come on now. It's always a good goal to be as elegant as you can when coding to slim down page weight (the article suggests that 70K is a good max weight), but Jupiter is comparing apples and oranges here. Incidentally, Jupiter's own site uses some Flash and DHTML and weighs around 73K for the html file and graphics plus another 60+K for the included javascript files.

RealNames Simplifies Your Web Searches

Keyword surfing system now lets you access your favorite search engines without a lot of typing. RealNames launched new Internet search tools this week designed to make it faster and easier for users to find information on the Web. users can enter "Google apples" or "Google cars" into the Internet Explorer address bar and generate a page of Google search results without having first gone to its home page. The system works with many of the major search engines, including those run by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Excite@Home, RealNames says. RealNames also expanded its keyword service, which lets users type plain words instead of the sometimes complex URL addresses in the address field of their browser. For example, the keyword service lets users to type "Ford Explorer" to get to the Explorer page at Ford Motor's Web site, rather than having to type the URL. Asked if users might find the bevy of search options confusing, Teare says he expects that most users will find their searching preference through trial and error. "I think the best thing to do is make it possible for almost anything to be typed into the browser," he says. thanks WebWord

What makes a Web site credible? Consumers Union looks for the answers

According to E&P Online, Consumers Union is going forward with its Web Credibility Project, which will look at news, health, travel, finance, and shopping sites. According to Beau Brendler, director of the project, "We're not here to subject news Web sites to a variety of criteria, and give them 'thumbs up' and 'thumbs down' ratings," he told E&P Online. "But what we are going to do is test the things that consumers are worried about and find out how sites do. Are privacy policies posted? What kinds of disclosure do sites provide?" The project's core mission is "to establish, promote, and win adherence for core standards to help ensure the credibility of information on the Internet,"" Credibility is a confusing and maybe misleading term. What they seem to be talking about is credibility with regard to Web site policies, not credibility with regard to content, i.e. authority. So I guess this is like giving Web sites a "Good Housekeeping"-like label. Does anyone really think this would allay the fears of American Web consumers indicated by the Markle report last week? thanks Tomalak's Realm

What's in a name?

Are there two information architectures? One influenced by presentation and one influenced by structure? Is the presentation-based IA better served by the name "information design?" Does the medium really matter? Is print IA/ID different from web-based IA/ID in meaningful ways? For its April 2001 issue, STC's Design Matters contacted several people and asked them to respond to these questions informally. thanks xblog

HannaHodge closes

HannaHodge, another victim of this crazy economy, closes it's doors.

Put a little Mies in your [information] architecture

Last month I went to see Mies in Berlin, one of two shows on Mies van der Rohe in New York this summer at MoMA and the Whitney. Today I watched Charlie Rose as organizers/curators from the two shows and the architecture critic from the New Yorker chatted about Mies. I don't go in for publicly stating my opinion on most matters, but after this reintroduction to Mies, I am feeling like the use of the term architecture to describe what we do is fitting in many more ways than I had considered. I have read (in lurking mode) much of the SIGIA discussion around the meaning of the title IA and have been compelled by the passion of IAs to define and name their domain. I have also been turned on to the idea that IAs, Usability Engineers, and anyone else who works user interfaces and user experiences share many of the same concerns, but may not necessarily be in the same profession (as far as titles go anyway). The thing that compels me to write about the term "architecture" and its use in our title is that the parallels that exist between Architects and Information Architects are meaningful and should be used when communicating that which we do that adds value to the interface, the experience, and the use of information. When we first think of Mies, we think of modernity and the phrase, "Less is more". The decoration in Mies' modernism is spare and stripped of ornament. But the essence of Miesian spaces lies in the connection of the space to the enviornment it lives in, and the connection of the human inhabitants to the environment created by the space. To dismiss Miesian architecture (as many do when discussing Modern building) as simply spare and boxy is to miss the humanist aspect of the artist. Mies' use of space to draw the outside in to the inhabitants (or vice versa) is deliberate. The creation of space with the concern of the people who will use and move through it is what makes a modern building Miesian. The end result in a Miesian architecture is that the connection of the space to the environment and the people to the space is harmonious. And that brings me to the parallel of the architect side of the Information Architect, the goal of creating a harmonious environment to be used by people. That is the value that we bring to creating an information-use environment -- harmonizing the user experience (the movement through) with the interface (the space or environment). That's what I've taken away from Mies. Maybe you agree that we do more than just create interface widgets? We design an ongoing experience.

Pop-up/under ads pay off for advertisers... for now.

Most Web surfers would agree the maker of the X10 camera has the most annoying ad campaign online today. Visit any site and left behind, like trash at the beach, is the camera's pop-up ad. The campaign is undoubtedly irritating, but it also appears to be effective. In addition to generating groans from cubicle dwellers across America, the X10's has captured another honor: It's the fourth-most-visited Web site in the country according to Jupiter Media Metrix's June rankings, which were released on Thursday.

"E-Government Act of 2001" introduced in House

Specifically, the the act calls for naming a federal chief information officer who would implement information policy, facilitate coordination across federal agencies, set standards and protocols to be used, and oversee procurement and funding. It would also fortify the Federal CIO Council, created in 1996 to help executive branch agencies share IT ideas and policy recommendations, by establishing its responsibilities and authority by statute. The act also includes the creation of an e-government fund of $200 million annually, a single government portal, and a federal IT training center, among other things. "The goal is simple: decrease the amount of time citizens spend in line and increase the resources they can turn to online," said Rep. Jim Turner, a Democrat from Texas who spoke at the press conference.

Mobile commerce to remain a niche in the U.S.

According to InfoWorld, a study released this week by Jupiter Media Metrix shows tha the US has the largest base of cell phone users in the world, but Internet-capable wireless phones will account for less than 2 percent of American online shopping by 2006. Less than $4 billion in shopping and travel will be conducted on Internet-capable mobile phones in the United States by that time. But shopping-related content on mobile devices will influence transactions online via PCs and off-line at traditional brick-and-mortar stores -- sales that will be valued at $39 billion in 2006, Jupiter analysts predict. "The key recommendation is that real commerce opportunity here isn't so much for companies online," but for companies such as WalMart and Kmart to alert customers of what they may want to buy in the stores, said Joe Laszlo, wireless analyst at Jupiter.

Markle Foundation Releases Major Study On Governing The Internet

According to this report released by the Markle Foundation (selected chapters available as PDF files) most Americans polled view the Internet as a source of information, but have concerns over privacy and shopping issues. Research Reveals that the American Public Favors New Approaches to Provide Greater On-line Protections and Responsiveness .

The Oscars of Flash

The winners of the Flash Film Festival at FlashForward 2001 were announced. The winner in the navigation category was Relevare by Relevare London, England.

Critical thinking part 3: project management

Part 3 of Scott Berkun's (UIWeb) series on critical thinking in design looks at project management. It is only during the building or development process that many important design decisions are made. The design is a plan and, in the development process, the team may or may not follow it. There are always unforeseen conflicts of resources, politics or technologies that could not have been anticipated by the designer. Someone must lead the engineering team through these times, and drive the project to completion. This person, often called a project manager, may have more influence over the final design than anyone else on the project. They decide if a feature should be cut to balance a late schedule, or how unexpected engineering constraints will effect the planned design. thanks Tomalak's Realm.

MSN Explorer

I just started using MSN Explorer for kicks. It's not as customizable as I would have liked it to be and there is a significant amount of MSN-centric functionality in the browser chrome so don't expect IE. But it is friendly and extremely fast. In fact it may beat out Opera for quickest download times.

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