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Argus closes its doors

After 10 years of service, Argus Associates is closing its doors, another victim of the downturn in the dot com market. Must all good things come to an end? In this crazy "new economy", for anything that seems to be an unnecessary component of the web design process (and incidentally usually adds value to it), the answer seems to be yes. As we all have observed the carnage of this economic downturn has affected talented individuals and valuable companies alike.

"Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are deeply sorry to announce that Argus Associates is ceasing operations this month. We remain absolutely convinced that the need for high-quality information architecture consulting and design will continue to expand, and that by year-end market demand will have rebounded as well. However, Argus doesn't have the financial resources to weather this storm.

We are proud of Argus' accomplishments, particularly:

* Writing a best-selling O'Reilly book that expanded awareness of the practice and value of information architecture.

* Growing a consistently profitable (10 years in a row) consulting practice that designed IA solutions for more than 100 clients, including some of the world's largest corporations.

* Participating in the creation of a new community of information architects through ACIA and ASIS&T publications and events.

* Building the strongest co-located team of information architects in the world.

If you're in a position to make new hires, we highly encourage you to consider some of the wonderful staff (including project managers, information architects, and specialists) we've been forced to let go. Contact information, bios, and resumes will soon be available online http://argus-inc.com/contact/argus_alumni.shtml ).

Peter Morville and I will continue participating in the development of the IA Community and hope to maintain the Argus Center for Information Architecture ( http://argus-acia.com/ ) as a focal point for these efforts. We will also be available as individuals for limited consulting engagements.

We believe that the information architecture community has already made a positive impact, and we look forward to the continued growth of the practice of information architecture over the coming years.

We greatly appreciate your support and wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Louis Rosenfeld Peter Morville

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How many users?

William Hudson of Syntagm Ltd., has a written a short article (to appear in May/June 2001 issue of the SIGCHI Bulletin) contrasting the theses of Jared Spool with Nielsen/Landauer on the topic of user numbers in usability tests. You can preview the article here: How Many Users Does it Take to Change a Web Site?

Building a Web Vocabulary

Cisco has posted an article about taxonomies and metainformation titled Building a Web Vocabulary.

PC Magazine's "Top 100 websites"

PC magazine's editors have announced their top 100 websites of 2000. They've picked the sites in ten categories, tested for design, performance, security, and usability.

Nielsen on Usability: Testing Goes Against Japanese

On a stop along the Usability World Tour Nielsen gets to discuss design and usability in Japan and discovers that the idea of usability testing is at odds with Japanese culture, "... in which invention must be instantly successful or it is cast away and forgotten." Read more about it in this article on InternetWorld.

ACIA White Paper: Extracting Value from Automated Classification Tools

Argus has posted a white paper discussing automated versus human versus hybrid automated/human processes for taxonomic control. My money is on the hybrid approach.

Available: http://argus-acia.com/white_papers/classification.html

Back to the Drawing Board

Article on the current state of design and usability in today's environment of information devices. Focusses on the Web and the analysis of common reasons for its usability problems, according to Nielsen/Norman and Cooper.

Here's a quote from the article that rings a familiar bell -- which is no surprise considering who was interviewed:

"All the experts agree on basic goals: Devices and interfaces need to be made simpler; the interface or Web site should closely match the task the user wants to accomplish; the brains of the device should work to adapt to the user and the task, not vice versa."

Available: (http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2690660,00.html)

Creating Usable Systems

The mantra of this Nielsen, Coyne usability article focussed on IT applications is "Implement truly usable systems and you'll minimize the cost of training and support."

Available: http://www.idg.net/crd_usability_453048_102.html

IA Salaries and Benefits

Argus has updated their survey of Salaries and Benefits for Information Architects on January 24, 2001."For a bunch of youngsters, we're compensated decently, don't put in ridiculous hours, don't have to travel too much... And apparently our employers don't require too much experience. So who wouldn't want a job as an information architect?"

Thinking aloud

These articles are not new (Sep. 2000), but I came across them because I was looking for information on using the "thinking aloud" method when doing user tests. The two articles are "Thinking aloud: reconciling theory and practice" and "Thinking aloud as a method for testing the usability of Websites: the influence of task variation on the evaluation of hypertext". It's nice to read research literature rather than the weblogs and news sites sometimes so you can read the cited literature. If only the references in IEEE's PDF's linked to the documents on the web somewhere. Now, that would be something.

Available: Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on Volume: 43 Issue: 3 , Sept. 2000

Testing 1-2-3

This article on The Standard talks about the advantages of doing usability testing on the cheap. Discusses cost-effective uses of early stage paper prototype testing, task-oriented testing, and statistics analysis.

Available: http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,22338,00.html

Cost-effective User Centred Design: Web site design

This article by the TRUMP project describes a user-centered process for building Web sites. This article is one of a collection that describes simple user-centred methods recommended by the TRUMP project to improve the usability of end products and systems.

Available: (http://www.usability.serco.com/trump/methods/webdesign.htm)

The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DMCI) site goes live

OCLC has moved the Dublin Core information to the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DMCI) site.

"The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative is an open forum engaged in the development of interoperable online metadata standards that support a broad range of purposes and business models. DCMI's activities include consensus-driven working groups, global workshops, conferences, standards liaison, and educational efforts to promote widespread acceptance of metadata standards and practices."

Available: http://dublincore.org/

Controlled Vocabularies Resource Guide

Queensland University of Technology site maintained by Michael Middleton "...links to examples of thesauri and to classification schemes that may be used for controlling database or WWW page subject content. It also provides links to descriptive and critical material about such metainformation."

Available: http://www2.fit.qut.edu.au/InfoSys/middle/cont_voc.html

Are Users Stupid?

Jakob Nielsen strikes the familiar chord that design should not stand in the way of use and posits that design complexity, not users -- stupid or sophisticated -- is what keeps Web sites from being usable. Nielsen believes that as the Internet grows and reaches broader segments of the population, usability will become even more important to those wishing to keep from excluding these users.

Available: http://useit.com/alertbox/20010204.html

Software for Information Architects

From Peter Morville's Strange Connections column on Argus CIA. Looks at current tools for IAs.

Available: http://argus-acia.com/strange_connections/strange011.html

CHI conference 2001

The annual CHI conference is coming March 31 - April 5, 2001 to Seattle, WA.

"The annual CHI conference is an international forum for the exchange of ideas and information about human-computer interaction (HCI). Sponsored by Diamond Bullet Design, Microsoft Corporation, and Sun Microsystems, the conference enables diverse members of the global HCI community to meet and discuss topics including portable, wearable, and wireless computing; internalization and implications of culture on design; and theoretical foundations of HCI Devices and display systems."

Available: http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi2001/

A divided approach to Web site design: Separating content and visuals for rapid

Jeanette Fuccella (Human Factors Engineer) and Jack Pizzolato (Web Site Designer), both at IBM, have posted this paper on how to overcome obstacles in the site development cycle by separating content and visuals using wire frames.
Abstract from the paper:

    "A well-designed Web site fuses great content and effective visuals, among other elements. Ironically, integrating these elements too early in the design process can mask problems that might otherwise be detected early, and lengthen the design cycle. This paper describes a way to shorten your design cycle by getting focused, early user feedback on the different layers of your design."
Available online: http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/library/wireframe/wireframe.html

Boxes and Arrows: Defining IA Deliverables

Christina Wodke of Carbon IQ gives an excellent overview of the seven most common deliverables that Information Architects are, to varying degrees, responsible for.

We may use different names for each deliverable, but the concepts are universally applicable. They are: 1) Conceptual model, 2) Content inventory and organization, 3) User flows/scenarios, 4) Task analysis, 5) Site map, 6) Page architecture (Wireframes), and 7) Decision tables.

Available online: http://www.webmasterbase.com/article.php/326

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