Voting and usability

The Usability Professionals Association and SIGCHI have resolved to work together to help find a better solution for designing usable and accessible ballots. Toward this goal, UPA is suggesting what individuals can do to help this effort. To be further involved, you can subscribe to the usablevote Yahoo! group.

Avoiding design snafus

from tomalak's realm which seems to still be going strong As much as 80 percent of the cost of taking a product to market can accrue during the design phase. InfoWorld has an article about collaborative design software which seem to benefit large teams working on projects such as software development and equipment manufacturing. Such software, which creates a virtual workspace bringing all the design participants together, has numerous advantages over traditional approaches in which many enterprises have used e-mail, phone, or fax to collaborate internally, while limiting communications with suppliers to price negotiations.

Designing Help Text

Usability Infocentre article on designing help text: In an ideal world help text would be unnecessary - users would never get stuck in an application or site. But some users will have difficulty no matter how effectively and throughtfully an interface is built. Given that help text might be required, how is it best implemented?

Blurb Gallery

noise between stations surveys the variety of ways we display introductions to longer articles in the blurb gallery. Interesting to see them all together. Valuable to me because of the point about my metadata (the section link and date) being hard to pass over because it's treated the same as text.

Team-Based Ethnography: An Integrated User-Centered Approach for Project Teams

from peterme via xblog Project success depends on the fit of a product or service with user goals and needs. Project manageability depends on a solid shared foundation for swift and effective decision-making. The Team-Based Ethnography offers a methodology to achieve both.

Data visualization moves to mainstream business applications

Statisticians and Tufte fans might enjoy Interactive Week's article discussing some current uses of information visualization in mainstream business applications. Data visualization has begun to move away from "fringe technology" to the mainstream of business intelligence. Where BI can aggregate data so it's easily recognized and usable in real-world applications, data visualization gives the aesthetic interface to that data, and provides a view that may draw attention to details that might otherwise be missed in text readouts.

Does the future of Mac OS X depend on Adobe?

Interactive Week talks about Adobe's plans for developing for OS X and what that means to Apple graphic design users. Adobe plans to offer native support for Photoshop and Illustrator with the next major release of each product.

Politics: The Hidden Stage of User Experience Projects

Mark Hurst of Good Experience reacts to a paper on Experiences in co-designing (Communication Research Institute of Australia (CRIA)). The paper talks about unaccounted for time in the design process that is spent on politics --that essential aspect of personal interplay that is often maligned and always unrecorded in the project plan. To create real change in the experience (online or otherwise) that a company creates for its customers, realize that politics is what the work is mostly about. ... Customer experience work gets "down and dirty," in the organization, to get the organization to empathize with the needs of people - customers - who happen to be outside the walls of the company.

FAQ design

from tomalak via antenna Jodi Bollaert's Mind your FAQs: Tips for creating an effective and informative resource provides some very helpful tips and resources for designing Frequently Asked Questions.

Airlines rushing to give you Internet access on flights

According to a NY Times article, the plane web access race is heating up. Here's an example of what you can look forward to. Tenzing [Communications], which had previously signed up three foreign airlines for its in-flight Internet service, aims to equip 50 planes for e-mail and limited Web access by the end of this year, and about 200 by the end of next year. ... Under Tenzing's service, customers would pay a flat fee of $4.95 to see e-mail headlines, and then pay 50 cents a page to read those e-mails. In addition, customers could access certain Web sites in flight for free. By contrast, Connexion's offering is expected to cost about $20 per hour. Both services are to be delivered via satellite, though Tenzing is starting out with slower speeds to get an early jump, while Connexion plans to launch with a speedier broadband connection.

ecommerce and interactive TV

NYTimes article on ecommerce and interactive TV. Prospects for revenues from shopping look more bullish than those from advertising on interactive TV, Internet research firm Jupiter Media Metrix said in a report released Thursday. ... In its report, Jupiter said shopping on interactive TV will account for 44 percent of total TV-based shopping in the United States by 2005 while advertising on interactive TV will account for only 7 percent of total U.S. television $4.3 billion and advertising to garner $4.5 billion, fragmented across networks, carriers, and third-party response networks.

Information Design Journal 10:1 (2001)

IDJ 10:1 is out. CONTENTS (Volume 10, issue 1): Theme: Jacques Bertin's theories Introduction: Alan Davis - Jacques Bertin: Matrix theory of graphics - Myriam Daru: Jacques Bertin and the graphic essence of data - Alan MacEachren: An evolving cognitive-semiotic approach to geographic visualization and knowledge construction - Wolf Guenther Koch: Jaques Bertin's theory of graphics and its development and influence on multimedia cartography - Xavier Garnerin: Applied graphic semiology: the map of the Lyon public transport network

Altavista search software for your workstation

Altavista is releasing a single PC version of its search software, much like the Altavista Personal Search software that was sent several years ago (many ASIS members received a notice about it then). The concern noted in the NYTimes article linked above is that if the network search software were combined with the personal searching software, that individual privacy would be compromised.

Financial Web Sites Scramble to Add Video

NYTimes article about adding video to financial services sites. All I can say is, "Why?". Do users of financial services sites demand video? I'd rather just leave CNNfN on the TV or something. Suddenly, the race is on among financial firms, including E*Trade and Fidelity Investments, to enhance their Web sites by adding video clips of interviews with executives, stock analysts and mutual fund managers. They are also transmitting newscasts provided by financial Webcasting companies like WebFN, JAGfn and ON24.

Nielsen on Usability: Next Steps for Web Usability

Nielsen on the state of Web Usabilty (I pulled out his arguments into bullet points). Sort of a recap and reiteration of the Jacob-bytes (or Jakob sound bytes if you will):

  • Content: see: useit article on content usability
  • Multimedia: develop guidelines for multimedia usability that will increase user engagement and control.
  • Search: The solution lies partly in technology (better search engines), partly in content management (identifying the top answers for common questions), and partly in content production (better meta-tagging).
  • Internationational usability: there is more interest in international studies among surviving companies as they recognize that they cannot ignore half of their customers.
  • Internalize human factors guidelines: central usability group that can run behavioral studies to discover the truth about customers and identify the many flaws in the corporate Web site. It is also great to gain a deeper perspective on the company's usability strategy from an independent review by an outside expert ... and evangelize usability within the organization (my paraphrasing).
While I don't wholly agree with the guidelines on content usability and think Nielsen needs to expand more on his recommendations for international usability, I agree largely with his comments about internalizing human factors guidelines, and the search recommendations are valuable.

A Ray of Hope for Air Travelers Following Signs

[from Interaction by Design] The NYTimes has an article about creating clarity out of confusion in the design of NYC airport signage. "New York airports were among the most confusing in the world," said Paul Mijksenaar, the 57-year-old Dutch designer, who has been brought in by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to redo the obtuse airport signs."There was no system. They resembled — how do you say it? — the apocalypse." As an information designer, Mr. Mijksenaar's specialty is taming chaos. Over the last two years, he has begun to turn the perplexing welter of signs at Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark into an orderly series of transitions that will ultimately replace more than 5,000 dated and confusing ones, easing the way for some 90 million travelers each year.

Marketers Call On Kids To Design Web Sites

Bizreport talks about companies using children to design web sites and to help their product marketing efforts. The look, the feel, even the sound of a Web site can mean the difference between a Web hit or miss, especially for kids. Online marketers have less than 8 seconds to capture a kid's attention — or lose them, perhaps forever. That's a lot to lose, considering 17.3 million individual kids and teens go online each month. And they spend or influence spending in excess of $500 billion annually. Many of the biggest kid marketers — from Mattel to Disney to Nintendo to Crayola — are spending millions of dollars, logging thousands of man-hours, hiring child psychologists and even offering freebies or cash to kid consultants to help make their Web sites "kid-dictive." The formula is embarrassingly simple. Keep kids stimulated. Let kids feel in control. And, in a growing number of cases, let kids design the sites.

PhD Power drives the search engine standard

InternetWorld interviewed Google's Sergey Brin to talk about how two Standford CS PhD students' discussions of data mining led to the difference of philosophy that has made Google the standard by which other search engines are compared. One of the things that keeps Google on top is the relevancy of retrieval, which is powered by algorithms constantly developed by engineers in Google's technical team. Another thing is the focus -- doing one thing really well -- on search.

Critical thinking in web/interface design part 2: idea generation

[from WebWord] Scott Berkun releases Part 2 of the 3 part UIWweb series on critical thinking in design. Part 1 covered planning, and part 3 will cover project management. Some of the material in this issue is derived from the CHI 2001 tutorial presented last month entitled “how to solve interaction design problems”. Good ideas are hard to find. Project schedules, plans and budgets are important, but without quality ideas, great design is impossible. Finding people that can create and cultivate good ideas is always difficult, and often beyond our control. However, everyone can develop their own creative thinking skills, and can provide an environment that supports creativity. The best teams know how to balance quality engineering practices with a creative and supportive work environment. This essay on idea generation describes how this can be done, and offers advice on defining and managing the creative process.

Section 508 ripple effect

According to Michael Takemura, director of Compaq's Accessibility Program, "there are 54 million people with disabilities out there". Although he didn't identify the scope of "out there", there is no doubt that there is a large population of people that will be affected by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act. The Standard talks about the ripple effect the federal regulation will have on companies vying for business with federal government. In short, developers of software that want to market their products to the government in one way or another are saying that they are moving to to make their future offerings comply with this important regulation.

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