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Ilor: Google in a new skin

The NY Times has an article about ILOR, a new site which tries to add some features to Google. The significant difference in using ILOR as your front end to Google is the contextual menu which shows up (for Javascript enabled browsers only) when you mouse over one of the hits returned on a query. The menu gives you the following options: 1) put int my list, which spawns a small window that shows the links you put in your temporary list, 2) go now --anchor here, which loads the link in the current browser window and spawns a window with a link back to your search results, 3) open in taskbar, which opens the link in a window behind the ilor window, and 4) open in new window, opens the link in a new window so the result page is left open. While they bill this as "the most user friendly search engine in the world", I found a few things a little jarring and nonintuitive. First, The taskbar thing didn't make sense to me. I was thinking it would open in a window with a frame linking back to my results, sort of the way about.com does it. I've never seen a case where someone would want to open a window behind the current window. Just seems counter to what I expected. I was also a bit confused by the little icons that appear if you collapse/minimize the ILOR menu by clicking the down arrow to the lower left. I struggled to remember what the 4 options were so I could map them to the 4 icons shown. If these icons were shown on the expanded menu, I may have been better able to remember what they stood for. It would help to also have ALT tags or something that explain what each icon does in the minimized view. Probably the most interesting use I found was the ability to add all of the links in your temporary list to your IE Favorites. I should note, that in my brief tests, ILOR did not work for Opera 5 in Linux and the temporary list only showed up as a non-editable list in Netscape without the ability to add to your Netscape Bookmarks. Finally, I viewed their demo to see how well my expectations matched the functionalities of the site. Once I figured out that holding the cursor over the link did something, I was able to figure out most of the sites functionality. For my time, I think I will stick with Google.

ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia, August 14-18, 2001

The Twlefth Annual ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia is being held August 14-18, 2001 in Denmark. Registration is now open and call for papers has been posted.

Revisit for you Nielsen bashers: Clay Shirkey's open letter to Jakob Nielsen

[from Clay Shirkey's site circa January 1999]

I just wanted to post this for the silly people who complain there is too much Nielsen on this site, and don't bother to read my comments which have equally fallen on the positive and negative side. I'm really just trying to report the relevant stuff that gets published. Can I help it if the guy is so prolific? Anyway, back in 1999, Clay Shirkey took issue with Nielsen on the issue of usability. Should be a fun read if you haven't already read it. Clay says in the letter, "Jakob believes that the

prevalence of bad design on the Web is an indication that the current

method of designing Web sites is not working and should be replaced or

augmented with a single set of design conventions. I believe that the

Web is an adaptive system and that the prevalence of bad design is how

evolving systems work."

Man who coined the term "wayfinding" dead

Paul Arthur, the graphic designer who invented pictographs as they are presently known and who coined the term "wayfinding," died May 13 at age 76. I edited a book of his about five years ago and have thought of him often. Toronto Star obituary (will expire soon; gigantic URL).

How would you like to view iaslash?

I looked at the feedback from online opinion -- you provide feedback using that flashing dhtml arrow in the lower right corner of the screen -- and it appears that some purists take issue with the gray background color/white text theme used on iaslash. While iaslash also provides alternate "themes", e.g. 1) white background/black text theme 2) gray background/white text (the default), and 3) gray background/white text, 3-column -- only registered users can set this option. You would set it via the "Preferences" link in the global nav. Incidentally, if you register, you also have the option of receiving a weekly email digest. But, since some users prefer not to register, I am posting a poll on the home page where you can vote for the theme you want as the default: gray bgcolor or white bgcolor. And the winner will be the default. I will take the poll down at the end of the week. -M

Most common problems with Web sites according to Vividence

[In USAToday 05/15/2001, Page D.01] The most common problems that visitors to 69 major Web sites encountered:

  • 53% Poorly organized search results
  • 32% Poor information architecture
  • 32% Slow performance
  • 27% Cluttered home pages
  • 25% Confusing labels
  • 15% Invasive registration
  • 13% Inconsistent navigation
[Source: Vividence]

XML Use Almost Doubled In 6 Months Among International Developers Surveyed By EDC

Evans Data Corp announced today the release of the latest volume of the International Developer Survey, which shows a reported increase of 48.6% in XML use among the international developers surveyed since November 2000. From Internet Wire by way of Design Interact.

Nielsen on wireless devices

Nielsen discusses 3G, WAP, and i-mode device usability on InternetWorld. He says that "It is true that WAP has been a great disappointment, but that does not prove that the mobile Internet is a bad idea. All it proves is that a poorly designed system with miserable usability is a bad idea."

The best interface?

[from Tomalak's Realm] In "The Net Effect: May the Best Interface Win!", Simson Garfinkel talks about Amazon's prevailing reign as the eCommerce site with the most commonly borrowed interface model. He discusses the prevalance of the Amazon shopping cart (was Amazon the first to use it?) and the personalization stuff that goes on in the background to enhance the user experience. I agree that Amazon's visual interface language is one of the most commonly recognized on the Web [See also: The McDonalds/Amazon effect], and probably is the most usable, but I have a hard time with everyone just saying, "follow Amazon's model", particularly when it comes to interface design. Amazon's model is not appropriate for every type of site. The problem is that it probably has the greatest mind/market share when it comes to ecommerce models, so everyone wants to imitate it. Yahoo! also vies for the spot as most commonly used site, and I've seen its Personalization/Customization model borrowed all over the place on corporate portals. But examine the poorly conceived and executed interface of MyYahoo! [which is well deconstructed by Webreview, 30 April 1999]. You have to be careful when your client or IT team starts saying, "We want MyYahoo! or Amazon's interface." I just need to remind myself to be sure that the model I use or create for interfaces is appropriate to the intended use and audience. That's a statement I never hear in these discussions of Amazon and Yahoo!.

Consistency is a Virtue: Consistency in user interface design

[from webword] Kathy Gill talks about consistency (internal and external) in interface design in Consistency is a Virtue, on TFM.

Stalk your user

In the June issue of Webtechniques, Jeffrey Veen talks about the value of user testing in context in the article, "Stalk your user". Specifically, he is talking about ethnographic research, or the process of watching users as they use your product.

Search: Visible and simple

Jakob Nielsen's Search: Visible and Simple claims that "The best designs offer a simple search box on the home page and play down advanced search and scoping. ". Nielsen says, "Advanced search: Not [on the home page] and Scoped search: Maybe?" Is it really all that simple? I've read the Nielsen/Norman Group Search Report and I have to say that when reading articles such as the above, it is increasingly important to realize that the sites that Nielsen makes recommendations for are mostly retail/commerce sites where the subject scope of data that is searchable is relatively small. Apply these recommendations to large content sites like digital libraries and information sites that are gateways to numerous databases and it becomes difficult to make a one-size-fits-all search form satisfy a broad range of user needs. [p.s. Ugh. Did he really use "delimitated" in that article? That's about as elegant as using "orientated". Why not use "delimited" like the rest of the well spoken world?]

Macromedia releases free accessibility extensions

Macromedia, via its Government Resource Center has announced that it has released a free extension, Section 508 Check for Accessibility Extension, from UsableNet. It is included in the free Macromedia Accessibility Starter Kit. The extension works for Dreamweaver 4 and Ultradev 4.

New IM client: Watch your buddies surf

Came across fatbubble after reading a NYTimes article. Soon you will be able to see what your buddies are surfing when fatbubble is on. The beta is supposed to be released soon.

New Forrester reports

Some of these new Forrester reports may be of interest. Access to Forrester requires a subscription.

Changing Channels For Enhanced TV -- Enhanced TV is off to a good start, but today's industry practices won't scale to future demand. For networks to survive, they must close the gap between commercial and creative interests by embracing multi-revenue TV.

Health Plans' Member Site Makeover -- Payers strive to offer robust online self-service but come up short on content and function. To retain members and reduce administrative costs, plans must create sites that help participants achieve core goals.

Another Look at What an Information Architect Does

Tal Herman did a survey of Information Architecture job descriptions listed on Monster.com and HotJobs.com during the first quarter of 2001. [View PDF] The data presentation is identical to J.J. Garret's July 2000 survey [PDF] for comparison's sake.

iaslash headlines: now available via newsisfree

You can grab headlines via news is free. Of course, you can also fetch the RSS file from here as well. Have a WAP phone? Here's the XML feed for mobile folks.

Anthropology graduates getting snapped up by businesses

[from tomalak's realm] USA Today has an article about Anthropology in the consumer business world. It dates the introduction of anthropology in the design of business machines and applications to around 1979 when Xerox PARC hired Lucy Suchman. Twenty years later, some businesses are continuining to see the value in studying human behavior for turning out usable devices.

Personalization survey

I came across an article on personalization (note: not customization) in Dow Jones Interactive Business Wire. The personalization consortium (I know, I never heard of them either) published results from a Personalization and Privacy Survey they conducted in March. According to the survey, Consumers who frequently purchase goods and services over the Internet are more likely to spend more money at Web sites that offer personalization.

New "How it works" information graphic on NYTimes

In the "How it works" article Fuel Cells Provide Clean, Reliable (and Pricey) Electricity , click on the "Gas In, Electrons Out" link in the Multimedia box on the right.

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