blogs

Mapping how people use a website

Mappa Mundi article on visualizing web usage: A major challenge in designing and operating a large website is understanding how people use your site. Obviously, server logs for the site provide a potentially rich vein of information, as they record all user requests for pages. But how to make sense of this data so that the dynamic interactions of visitors and the Web page structure can be understood? Some form of mapping of these interactions to make them visible could well prove useful in turning the raw data in the logs into useful information. However, techniques and tools to visualize dynamic processes like Web usage are poorly developed. In this issue of Map of the Month we look at the work of one of the leading researchers trying to overcome this weakness, through the use of the concept of organic information design. His name is Ben Fry and he works in the MIT Media Lab, where he is busy creating innovative adaptive visualizations of how people use websites.

10 ways to meet journalists' needs online

Amy Gahran of Contentious tells us how to design for the needs of journalists and points out who's getting it right or wrong. Journalists are always in a big hurry, today more so than ever before. They need to be able to find you online, find out the news, and find out who to contact by phone or e-mail for more info – virtually immediately. Here are 10 ways to help journalists find out more about your organization.

Current attitudes on the subscription model

Interesting observations on current attitudes toward subscription based services in the HBS Working Knowledge article, What's the Future of the Subscription Model?. The subscription model has served as a wonderful revenue generator through the years for many companies in the media and communications industries. Organizations have built hard-to-beat revenue streams around it, enabling them to make long-range plans and even enjoy substantial "float" from advance payment for subscriptions. ... Has the subscription model's time come and gone?

IBM ramps up speech technology products and research

IBM focuses its speech recognition initiatives under the new term Conversational Services. The InfoWorld article also introduces an interesting new visual recognition technology they are developing to work with speech recognition. From the article: The company will roll out products that will include speech translation, multimodal interfaces, middleware, natural-language understanding (NLU), text-to-speech, and biometrics. IBM will soon introduce one of the first products to use visual cues -- such as the movements of the lips and mouth -- to understand the spoken word for speech interpretation, according to Dr. David Nahamoo, senior manager, Human Language Technologies Department at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Even longer range, the visual recognition system can be an assist in fixed place environments where gestures can add value. In customer relationship management applications, for example, call center personnel will understand the unspoken mood of a customer by interpreting body language./i>

Have-It-Your-Way Web Sites Start To Catch On

from Tomalak's Realm InteractiveWeek talks about customizable product offerings on the Web. On the Internet, nobody knows you eat mango Cheerios. Except General Mills, which is happy to sell it over the Web for $12 per box. From breakfast kibble to makeup to cars, big companies such as Ford Motor, General Mills and Procter & Gamble have launched Web sites to give customers the ultimate buying experience: the ability to acquire self-designed products for a premium.

Big adds will not save advertising according to Forrester

New Forrester report on the big and popup ad annoyance. New, large Web ad units, called "big ads", are not silver bullets for online advertising. Big ads significantly outperform banners today, but response rates will fall as their novelty wears off. Marketers need a more comprehensive strategy to deliver new ad types based on users' concentration levels.

Usability analysis of useit.com

A recent drop.org article pointed me to an interesting evaluation of Jacob Nielsen's UseIt.com:The site scored well on compliance with basic standards, legibility and issues pertaining to users with disabilities. However, the site scored very poorly on organization and architecture. Information was difficult to identify and find, navigational support was flawed and minimal, and pages tended to be overly long, dense and lacking in internal hypertext navigation. UseIt.com rated only a "C" grade (75%) in an evaluation of 40 usability points identified by Nielsen himself.

Error message guidelines

Nielsen suggests guidelines for error messages.. Established wisdom holds that good error messages are polite, precise, and constructive. The Web brings a few new guidelines: Make error messages clearly visible, reduce the work required to fix the problem, and educate users along the way.

Microsoft's Smart Tags Threaten the User Experience

Mark Hurst talks about Microsoft's Smart Tags on Good Experience: Microsoft's upcoming release of Windows XP contains a feature that attempts to suck all meaningful experience out of every page on the Web. The feature, called Smart Tags, has brought about a loud discussion on many websites -- Web developers everywhere screaming for Microsoft to stop, and Microsoft arrogantly defending itself. Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg describes Smart Tags: Smart Tags allow Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser -- included in Windows XP -- to turn any word on any Web site into a link to Microsoft's own Web sites and services, or to any other sites Microsoft favors. In effect, Microsoft will be able, through the browser, to re-edit anybody's site, without the owner's knowledge or permission, in a way that tempts users to leave and go to a Microsoft-chosen site -- whether or not that site offers better information.

Mid-Tokyo Maps

Mid-Tokyo Maps is a must see for info. designers, and cartography fans. (If you want to skip the initial flash screen, go to the html index) This site shows how Flash can be used to effectively present quantitative content without boring your audience. The maps show different sets of quantitative data for Mid-Tokyo and compare that data with Manhattan (New York City).

Defining IA

Christina posted this in a comment and I didn't want it to get lost.I'm collecting definitions of IA for the reason AD stated in ASIST Bulletin; we need to move on feel free to bop over and add your own, perhaps we can finally come up with one we can all live with.

Lou Rosenfeld's webloug

via webword Lou Rosenfeld started a Bloug (i.e. B*lou*g).

The Conversion Rate

New article on Usability InfoCentre discussing conversion rates. The success of most e-business ventures comes down to one figure - the percentage of visitors who go on to become customers. ... Simply put, conversion rate represents the percentage of unique visitors who go on to interact with the site in a pre-defined way. Usually this means make a purchase, but depending on the site in question it could mean registering for more information, placing a bet or opening an account.

User-Centered Information Design for Improved Software Usability

The book User-Centered Information Design for Improved Software Usability, by Pradeep Henry, is reviewed in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, v44n2, Jun 2001, p155-158.

Gray's Anatomy on Bartleby.com

from

How It Works: Online Maps for Here, There and Everywhere

With map-generating software, the shortest distance between any two points may run through your computer monitor. NYTimes Circuits illustrates how mapquest.com constructs maps.

Why It's Getting Easier to Get Your Teenager Off the Phone

An article on The Standard talks about teens and instant messaging. A new study shows that instant messaging and the Internet are changing the dynamics of teen communication. ... A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project says teenagers have adopted the Internet – and instant messaging – so completely that it has even replaced face-to-face communication as the primary mode of interacting for some teens.

Government accessibility

The big day for Section 508 arrives. In InfoWorld, Government 'accessibility' effort goes into effect. A broad government initiative to drive the development of more IT products and services for people with disabilities kicks into full gear. All vendors selling to the federal government must now have equivalents for the products and services they offer that allow agencies to accommodate people with disabilities. ... Starting June 21, federal employees with disabilities are able to file complaints if not properly accommodated. Accessibility standards developed by government-chartered Access Board, however, will not take effect as regulations until Monday, June 25.

IAs in search of an identity?

Andrew Dillon talks about IA at the ACM SIGCHI conference in the June/July ASIST Bulletin. The prevailing message of the article is that while we try to define and differentiate IA concerns -- like information organization and labeling -- from other fields, a lot of other issues that what we concern ourselves with is no different from what HCI people have always been concerned with -- like user interface design, user interaction and usability. The biggest obstacle to IA becoming a distinct discipline remains its lack of unique methods and theories. It has few, if any, which are not drawn from or based on work in HCI, LIS or CS (if I left out your pet discipline it is only because I cannot remember its acronym). Attempts to position IA as a unique approach, distinct from these others, are unlikely to convince anyone and will certainly disenfranchise certain groups who feel that they perform similar work. Without engaging across disciplines we are going to run straight into them, forming panels at conferences to answer questions that everybody else has long since given up asking. Hair splitting divides produce splinter groups, not disciplines. IA, as a meta-discipline, should engage and share, not partition. After all, professionals in many camps tend to share the same goals: the design, development and implementation of more humanly acceptable information systems. As long as we are battling to get human-centered design taken seriously, such professionals are all on the same side. And maybe then, and only then, will we design e-books that offer something better than paper.

Keep it simple, stupid!

Digital Web Magazine's current feature focusses on design simplicity. The expressions "Keep it simple, stupid", "Kill your darlings" and "Less is more" all pinpoint the fact that simplicity is important. Simplicity lasts. Simplicity is necessary in order to properly convey any idea. ... I believe that content is king. It always will be. But—evidently—an excellently written text easily disappears if placed in an improperly designed environment, and excels when appearing in a well-designed context.

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