blogs

Ranganathan's facet classification

Been rather involved with a project that involves taxonomies and the concept of extending taxonomy through facet classification came up, so I thought I'd post a few links related to Ranganathan's Colon Classification System and facet classification. For non-LIS folks, Ranganathan is regarded by many as the father of information science. He developed a system for classifying entities by facets (think of the many sides of a diamond) which uses numbers to represent facets of an entity. Each added number is delimited by a colon until a the multi-faceted classification of the entity is built. From Britannica: Colon Classification: system of library organization developed by the Indian librarian S.R. Ranganathan in 1933. It is general rather than specific in nature, and it can create complex or new categories through the use of facets, or colons. The category of dental surgery, for example, symbolized as L 214:4:7, is created by combining the letter L for medicine, the number 214 for teeth, the number 4 for diseases, and the number 7 for surgery. A useful article reviewing the topic of Facet Analysis in the library literature, with a well-selected list of citations: Amanda Maple, Faceted access: A review of the literature. Best reading on this topic is offline in your university library.

Haddock.org

I just found Haddock.org by trolling through my referrer logs. Haddock is a Web site directory that offers navigation of its site via a menu system that can be viewed in one of three ways: Yahoo, Macintosh, and Haddock. It was nice to see the MacOS X approch (stolen from Jobs' Next OS) to presenting navigation on the Web. Navigating this way, one gets a nice sense of where they are in the site, the hilighting of section names gives you the breadcrumbs to work your way back, and the expansion of links at each level flattens the hierarchy as you dig deeper in to the site. Nice approach. The Haddock version works well too, the names of the sections you took when drilling down are just visually lined up horizontally, and from what I could gather, related sections are also shown in boxes that are visually separated from the main navigation area. An innovative approach, but I think some kind of visual indicator (italics? or an "@" before names of related links?) would make the related links box more understandable. Very refreshing approach, though. By the way, sites are indexed on Haddock when they are submitted via the Haddock discussion group.

Website navigation is useful

I emphasized the word "is", to counter Jakob Nielsen's claim that that navigation "may" be useful. In Merges' Theory column, Adam Baker reacts to Nielsen's claim that there are too many other problems with the web to make navigation using menus (e.g. global and secondary navigation) useful most of the time. Huh? I mean, hmmmm. Baker's reaction makes good arguments against Nielsen's view and is a good read.

The Humane Touch: Bad Design Can Be Costly

[from WebWord] Forbes has a short article on how usability is hurt by keeping status quo. Don't miss the great email annecdote at the "end" :) of the article. Not to mention inefficient, demoralizing, and embarrassing Bad user interfaces may be more expensive than you think, including software your company buys as well as software your company writes. For example, everybody knows that Microsoft Word, Excel, and other popular programs can be maddeningly frustrating, but few take the time to figure out what their shortcomings mean in terms of lost work, lower worker morale, and wasted dollars. Microsoft Word requires at least 30% more keystrokes and 100% more mouse moves to accomplish certain editing tasks than would an optimal word processor. Decreasing physical work not only saves time but also decreases incidents of repetitive stress injury. Good design can eliminate many of the steps that are most damaging to nerves and tendons. ... The saying among IT professionals used to be, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." Now it's, "Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft."

The art of code commenting

[from WebWord] Found this freshmeat article via on the art of code commenting interesting because I've been writing a lot of code in HTML::EMBPERL for a user-customizable application -- I've been immersed in this the past few weeks, which explains the bloggin slowness on iaslash. The essence of coding is not only in writing efficient code but also in making the code understandable by others that have to work on it. Reminds me of a PHP article about elegant coding that I can't find at the moment. Will post it here if I find it. Or maybe someone else will?

Pay for placement search engine models

NYTimes says Paid Placement Is Catching On in Web Searches. But, according to Interactive Week, Google is still standing tough on refusing to to rank sites based on a pay for placement model. Searchenginewatch has an article as well on pay for placement in the meta search engine space.

Office.Net

InteractiveWeek scoffs at the model for Office.Net which will require MS Office Business users to have network connectivity wherever they use Office in order to get access to its full features. Says Rob Fixmer, The more I study Microsoft's plans for Office.Net, the more I'm persuaded that productivity software should not be delivered online in the foreseeable future. ... To one extent or another, Microsoft is going to keep us all on virtual umbilical cords. Disconnect us from our Redmond womb, and we'll be on basic life support.

STC conference session materials

[from infodesign] The Society for Technical Communications published session materials from the 48th annual conference.

How to Deliver a Report Without Getting Lynched

I was particulary thrilled to read Bruce Toganazzini's Ask Tog on how to tactfully communicate your message. As someone who works with clients and technology people regularly, I often have to react to things that do not cry out user friendliness. When I started out doing information work, often my initial reaction to design requirements and technology implementations that were not user centered was to become defensive on behalf of users, and often the tone of the message was also defensive. A lot of the reactive communication came in the form of reports and informal communication like email. Being more seasoned and more epathetic to the client and technologist motivations is one way to remove the defesive tone. Not taking things so seriously helps too! But better yet is to adopt a professional report writing style in all your communications. Tog's suggestions are valuable pointers for how to write reports that win over your clients and that get them to believe your message. The suggestions are applicable in most areas of professional communication.

Are the Product Lists on Your Site Reducing Sales

User Interface Engineering made a new white paper available on their site, "Are the Product Lists on Your Site Reducing Sales?" You can increase sales on your site as much as 225% by providing sufficient product information to your customers at the right time. In our recent research, we found that the design of product lists directly affected sales. Discover how the amount and location of product information plays a part in your shopper's purchasing process. The design of your e-commerce site influences whether or not visitors make a purchase. Download this free white paper to learn more. This download is free, and your competitors are already reading it.

Breaking the Sound Barrier: Designing Auditory Displays for Global Usability

[from elegant hack] Robert S. Tannen's article from the conference proceeding of the AT&T Labs 4th Conference on Human Factors and the Web. Abstract: As richer visual web content is delivered, there are reduced desktop and attentional resources available for the display of background browser processes (e.g. data transfer rate). A proposed solution is to enable users to aurally monitor background processes while attending to visually displayed web content. This approach is aimed at implementing global usability by stepping away from language specific alphanumeric data and culturally limited icons and sounds, towards more abstract, but still informative, display elements. These can be derived through the use of simple perceptual cues. Symmetry, which has been an effective cue in graphical configural displays, and may be utilized in the design of auditory configural displays of dynamic information. This approach may serve as the basis for cross-cultural auditory interface design.

'Mouse-trapping' locks Web users in a virtual maze

A USA Today article talks about the practice of mouse-trapping or page-jacking. The practice, most often associated with warez, gambling and pornography sites keeps users at their site by disabling the browser's "Back" button, spawning new windows and hiding code. The Federal Trade Commission, which monitors deceptive and unfair trade practices, calls mouse-trapping and related schemes "technical trickery." The article tells users how to get out of jacked browsers. The issue for IAs is to be involved enough with your project during implementation to ensure that these practices are not used.

Commuter computers: Devices in automobiles

MIT Technology Review looks at the current trends in providing information devices in automobiles. Most are GPS devices with small -- and hopefully easy to read and use -- interfaces for finding your way on the road. Some of these devices are driven by PDA's rather than using LCD's built into cars. Additional concepts seem to include porting other wireless services to car portals. A bigger issue beyond usability and interface design for these concepts is driver safety. It seems difficult enough for people to drive and talk on mobile phones, without having to use an additional device.

User Advocate Or Enemy Of Creativity?

[from elegant hack] He whose name must not be spoken (the prolific usability one) defines the boundaries of art and functionality in designing site in VAR Business and the rift between designers and Nielsen seems to widen. According to the author, "Nielsen predicts 10 more years of pain before the Web is made user-friendly." The article observes that people in the creative disciplines are most turned off by Nielsen's rigidity and I believe his inability to allow much innovation in the creative process.

InfoSense: Turning Information into Knowledge

Web Usage Logging Toolkit

A Cold Fusion suite of a client side tracking code with logging to a database has been released. A parallel developing version logs to the exit url. The system, called Lucidity, logs image load time, page render time, scroll depth, MouseMiles, start and end xy, total time on page (in focus), and screen size. More info at Lucidity.sourceforge

Salary Survey: User Experience Professionals Earn Good Money

A survey of 1,078 user experience professionals finds that usability specialists make more money than designers and writers in the same field. In all three areas, salaries are highest in the U.S., lower in Canada and Asia, and much lower in Europe and Australia. Usability is a well-paying profession these days: A usability specialist in California with five years' experience has an estimated cash compensation of $90,118 a year, not counting stock options or other benefits.

Web Site Searching and the User Experience

[from infodesign] This search presentation by Avi Rappoport, Search Tools Consulting was delivered at BayCHI, January 1999. The slides list the salient issues for effective search design.

Intranet Usability

A well-implemented corporate intranet can change the way a company works. And ease-of-use should be the central criterion by which all intranets are judged.

ACIA interviews Vivian Bliss

Lou Rosenfeld of Argus talks with Vivian Bliss about Intranet IA at Microsoft. In the interview, Bliss talks about users, content, and context and their importance in making their approach work. She also discusses the strategy used to tie together multiple disparate information systems in a varied political environment. It should come as no surprise that the magic words here are taxonomies and XML.

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