Have been using EQuill's IE toolbar to do screen annotation and screen capturing on my Usability reports lately. I have also read that they sell a server for checking in and out screens. Seems like it might be a good collaborative tool during Quality Assurance testing.

IT Accessibility 2001

IT Accessibility 2001: Ensuring Information Technology Access for People With Disabilities -- A two-day industry conference -- May 22-23, 2001 National Institute of Standards and Technology Gaithersburg, Maryland For more information about this conference, please see our website at You are invited to attend this new conference focusing on technology, as well as industry and government goals, challenges, and strategies for creating an environment with easy accessibility to Information Technology (IT) by people with disabilities, moving towards the ultimate goal of Universal Design and Accessibility. Leaders in information-technology accessibility from industry, academia and government will make presentations about their long-term strategies, goals, approaches, products, and projects, and how they plan to help improve IT accessibility. Featured conference speakers include executives, researchers, accessibility experts, and managers from Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, TRACE R&D Center, National Media Access Center (WGBH), Information Technology Assoc. of America (ITAA), National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), Dept. of Education, GA Tech Center for Rehabilitation Research, Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), Highway 1, Inclusive Technologies, Association of Tech Act Projects, Dept. of Justice, FCC, and The Benetech Initiative, and others. Planned Topics: - What are the Challenges and Motivations to the Industry? - Industry Perspectives - Long-range & Short-term - Legislative Trends - Section 508 Regulations - What Industry and Agencies are doing with respect to Accessibility - "I Have a Dream" - an Accessible IT Environment for the Future - Standards & Guidelines (including Digital Talking Books) - Educational Resources Available - Case Studies - Missteps (or ?What?s Gone Wrong in the Past?) - Exhibits on IT Assistive Technology Why You Should Attend: - To hear about the regulations and legislative trends - To learn from IT leaders and accessibility experts about: -- improved IT accessibility -- technical successes and problems -- current research in IT accessibility -- identifying future needs, markets, and capabilities -- the importance of accessibility in design - To gain an understanding of the issues and concerns of industry and users - To understand what is being done and what still needs to be done in IT accessibility - To communicate your needs and issues so they may be addressed - To establish valuable industry contacts To Register: Kimberly Snouffer, Phone: (301) 975-2776 Fax: (301) 948-2067 Email to: Online: Technical Contact: Leslie Collica, Phone: (301) 975-8516 Fax: (301) 975- 5287 Email to: For more information, see the conference website at

The curse of information design

Scott Jason Cohen posted this rant on A List Apart. Why is there so often an "Us" and "Them" attitude when it comes to IA and Usability versus Design? I don't think anyone should feel defensive of their turf when it comes to design. Just let your design speak for itself and hope that most of the integrity stays in tact if it demmands another iteration. Hopefully, you will have the IA informing the interface design and doing Usability testing along the way so you don't have to feel that your work was too butchered. Design on the web IS a multi-disciplinary effort. There is no reason why the different teams (Design, IA, Site Developer, Engineer) cannot work together with checkpoints along the way, instead of taking your design piece and hurling it over the wall to the next person.

Beef with the Usability Experts

Had to bring up this article that appeared in Web Techniques, February 2001 because it came up in an email exchange I had recently with a colleague. If this doesn't summarize the love/hate dichotomy with Usability people I don't know what does: What do these critics really know? Let them produce compelling work of their own rather than criticize others' work. Part of me just wants to ignore them. I want to ignore the certainty and finality of their arguments. I want to resist the idea that anyone really knows the right thing to do on the Web. . . . What I think Nielsen really wants us to do is right. We need to study user behavior and learn from the patterns that emerge. We can use this kind of learning to make sites better, which is really an endless design process. But remember what Larry Wall says about Perl programming—there's more than one way to do it. And I think that the last statement is right. There is more than one way to do things. We needn't sacrifice innovation at the hands of Usability. I think that's what a lot of people, creative designers and engineers alike, think when you refer to Usability recommendations. We get defensive and want to say, "You can't go by everything they say". But at the same time, we argue out of the other side of our mouths that we want to serve our users well, so we end up interpreting the the spirit of the Usability message -- often citing the current research to support decisions we make along the way. It is a struggle being an interface/user experience designer, and I often laugh at how I conceal what I've read in the Usability literature if it doesn't support the decisions I personally believe make sense for something and flaunt it when it supports another. As a sage septuagenarian friend of mine often said, "Such is life in the putty knife factory".

Wireless web market

From the LA Times: The Wireless Web Gains a Following Niche by Niche. It's catching on, as cellular phone users find that Internet access answers specific needs. In the US, use of WAP mobile phones are on the rise with 35-40% penetration. In Japan, with the popularity of the more sophisticated i-Mode phones, pentetration is at more than half the population. Problem is, the user interfaces of these phones are so unsophisticated that user adoption of the technology is not as fast as developers had hoped. Here's a few quotes from the article to illustrate this point: The wireless world is still waiting for its equivalent of the easy-to-use browser, which opened the Internet to the masses in the mid-1990s. It's also waiting for a way to simplify or eliminate the need for typing words out using a cell phone keypad--one of the top complaints about Internet phones. For example, sending a short "hi" requires tapping the "4" key two times for "H," then three more times for "I." Technologies such as predictive text software and voice-command systems are helping, but they have not yet solved the problem. ... "I just don't think they have the right platform. . . . Typing in URLs on a 10-key pad is very, very annoying, and it's very easy to make a mistake," said Barney Dewey, a consultant and wireless data expert with the Andrew Seybold Group. "It's a horrible implementation of an interesting idea."

Internet search engine update

Online Magazine had a roundup of the latest features added to the top Search Engines in it's March issue. Most interesting to me, since I am doing a lot of offline research (i.e. poring through Usability literature), is the approach that Altavista is taking with their Raging Search []. It looks a lot like Google, but allows users to customize the search interface. I'd like to see the stats on this over the next few months.

Paper prototyping, Marc Rettig article

Am working on paper prototypes at the moment and came across Marc Rettig's prototyping for tiny fingers article, published in Communications of the ACM, Volume 37, Issue 4 (1994). The scan is pretty crappy but there are some gems there.

NIST Web Metrics Testbed 2.0 released

Release 2.0 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Web Metrics Testbed is now available. The following is downloadable:

  • Web Static Analyzer Tool (WebSAT 2.0) checks web page HTML against typical usability guidelines
  • Web Category Analysis Tool (WebCAT 1.1) lets the usability engineer construct/conduct a web category analysis
  • Web Variable Instrumenter Program (WebVIP 2.0) instruments a website to capture a log of user interaction
  • Framework for Logging Usability Data (FLUD 1.0) a file format and parser for representation of user interaction logs
  • VisVIP Tool (VisVIP 2.0) 3D visualizations of user navigation paths through a website
The future of Web design from one who knows it

Someone tell Jakob Nielsen to take a vacation. posted this short Q&A session with Nielsen to discuss the future of Web design. If anything could drive me away from wanting to design usable sites and start using Flash for everything, it would have to be the omnipresence of the word of Jakob. The resonance of his words start to resound in one's mind like a mechanical buzz. He's as ever present these days as the Energizer® bunny. Too bad he doesn't stick as well as catchy shaving cream jingle... "Byyyyyy Mennen® [Buy Mennen]."

Information Architecture jobs

ACIA has created a new section of its site that indexes information architecture jobs posted on one of the large Web job placement services.

ASIST 2001 Summit Summary

Information Today has a nicely written summary of the ASIST 2001 Summit, by Alice Klingener. I haven't been to an ASIS conference since I was in Library School in 1997, mainly because they have been known to cover very obscure areas of information retrieval research. After hearing about this renaissance of ASIS and reading about all of the interest in IA, I'm sorry I didn't get to this one.

Using Library School Skills at a Dot-Com

Information Today is running this article about Paul Blake, a Librarian turned Dot Commer who confesses that in his most recent job in the Web space, "I used the skills I learned at library school more than I had for the preceding 15 years." Blake describes how professionals with information retrieval skills -- experience with classification and information structure -- add value to the Internet.

Corporate Websites Get a "D" in PR

In this alertbox entry Nielsen and Coyne observe journalists information-use behaviors to come up with recommendations for designing usable Press areas on corporate Web sites. The information behavior of the journalists they studied turned out to be predictable. They can be characterized by the need to get information quickly and to get direct access to names and contact information for real people not generic email addresses. Also obvious, but somewhat troublesome, was the fact that journalists in their study worked in PC environments where formats such as PDF were non-standard. Yet another argument from Nielsen that calls for the necessity of dumbing down your technology to meet the lowest common denominator.

The Psychology of Menu Selection

[picked up from SIG-IA] Kent L. Norman's 1991 book, The Psychology of Menu Selection: Designing Cognitive Control at the Human/Computer Interface is available online. Note that the online version is a pre-publication draft.


The unofficial just in time web log for the CHI conference: Kind of a neat idea.

Real world usability rules

On the other side of the usability coin is practical usability -- the kind where one considers the spirit of a rule and makes informed judgements on their own. A good summary of how to interpret the usability gurus is on Christina Wodtke's elegant hack in an entry titled, "The Rules". I think that the usability evangelists like Nielsen make statements that tend to sound like laws, but that they might argue that the rules based on their research are meant to be broken when logic indicates that some bending is needed.

Adobe Gallery: Valerie Casey on the other side of usability

Here is an interesting quote in an interview with one of Adobe's featured designers: Casey: Current practice is overrationalized and focuses too deeply on task analysis, and not enough on empathy. I think that now, Web design has really crossed over to another point. I think that usability was a hot issue, and it's fading because people are getting used to computers. Now all of a sudden, the focus isn't "we aren't meeting our usability standards." Now it's "what kind of cool user experience can we make that has motion and user interactivity?" And on the next page... Adobe: So is there no place for the Jakob Nielsens of the world? Casey: I think that usability is dead. How's that for bold!, provided by the National Cancer Institute has an extensive offering of news and resources including self-published reports such as their Usability Guidelines & Checklists document.

Search usability

Been working with a team that is assessing usability of database search pages using a Web interface. Thought it migt be helpful to capture the current literature we are referring to. Have any other suggestions that you have used and find valuable? Nielsen/Norman Group. "Search: Design Guidelines for E-Commerce User Experience". -- $45, I would say it is worth it to buy this. Nielsen, Jakob. "Search and You May Find". Spool, Jared. "Web site usability: A Designer's Guide". -- 1997 study that tested 7 sites for usability issues -- one of the sections is search.

Waking up to Good Design

Cooper Interactive's March newsletter includes this article by Tony Zambito on the flood of media attention being paid to the importance of good design and ease of use. With the too many product choices floating around, companies are beginning to build an "increased awareness of customer needs and goals are helping to ensure lower-risk product releases." Zambito suggests that with all this attention, designers should step back and review some key questions that will tell you whether you are on the track to producing a product that meets user's needs and ensures a good user experience -- that increases the probability that your product or service will be universally hailed and widely adopted.

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