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Forrester on Yahoo! and directions in search space

Forrester weighs in on Yahoo!s new search features (account required) claiming that a new emphasis on user experience will give search engine leaders a competitive advantage. Forrester likes the new Yahoo! for its streamlined (more Google-like) search entry page, cleaner and easier to read search results and use of text ads over banners. The market research company makes a few suggestions to the top search engines to put their results in context and add to the user experience:

  • Yahoo! should use its directory to package and filter results. -- They're basically suggesting that the company use its taxonomy across Yahoo! news, financials, services, etc. to create "More like this" linkage between content.
  • Google should dynamically cluster its high-quality results. -- This seems a no-brainer. I think Northern Light must have used clustering. Teoma does. Information professionals see advantage in it, but somehow Google hasn't done it in search results. Forrester suggests that they consider clustering functionalities similar to what Vivisimo offers.
  • Overture should optimize for specialized searches. -- This is an interesting suggestion. Forrester suggests that Overture might consider uses taxonomies in subject areas that have broad appeal, but limited scope, such as "Perosonal Health" by partnering with builders of taxonomies and ontologies.
  • MSN should research users to support the richer search scenario. Seems like they suggest that MSN invest in user research to invent their future because they have the dollars to do so. It doesn't make predictions for how MS N can innovate this space.
Piles of documents

Some interesting speculation on Mac Rumors about Apple integrating a finder feature called Piles that creates a finder metaphor based on the physical act of viewing/sifting through a pile of documents on a desktop in meatspace. Here's a description from an earlier Tog article.

Apple holds a patent on this one. Developed by Gitta Salomon and her team close to a decade ago, a pile is a loose grouping of documents. Its visual representation is an overlay of all the documents within the pile, one on top of the other, rotated to varying degrees. In other words, a pile on the desktop looked just like a pile on your real desktop.

To view the documents within the pile, you clicked on the top of the pile and drew the mouse up the screen. As you did so, one document after another would appear as a thumbnail next to the pile. When you found the one you were looking for, you would release the mouse and the current document would open.

Piles, unlike today's folders, gave you a lot of hints as to their contents. You could judge the number of documents in the pile by its height. You could judge its composition very rapidly by pulling through it.

Teaching taxonomies: a hands-on approach

If you happen to have a Montague Institute membership, you might want to check out this article (full text with screenshots only available to members) discussing how to get a diverse team of professionals thinking about taxonomies. The full article features some excellent examples from their learning lab that show how taxonomies can be utilized in enterprise applications, e.g. email, contacts, document management, taxonomy management. Their taxonomy administration UI and user-facing UI are excellent examples. If you attend one of their sessions, apparently, you get to work with the apps in the learning lab.

Ten Taxonomy Myths

The Montague Institute offers ten myths that need to be dispelled before embarking on a taxonomy project. They've got a *really* broad definition of taxonomy (think "classification system") but the myths are still useful to deflate before your client or boss goes taxonomy-happy.

disinfojournal for February 2003

The second issue of disinformation is out. Especially interesting is Don't trust your eyes - a laboratory study investigating consumer behavior on the net:

Responding pictures of secondhand goods or used vehicles, which are offered in the Internet e.g. with Ebay deceive frequently over the true quality of a commodity away. ...In our laboratory study which runs over a period of 3 months we logged the Internet purchase behavior of 859 persons with a customized XMosiac 10.5 browser. We can show in this study that during identical description of a product the preference was given to the article with a photo, in 87 percent of the cases. ... We can significantly show that a worse product with photo can be sold thus better than a better without photo.

This very clearly shows the power that information architects and web designers have to persuade visitors, which is what Andrew Chak and FutureNow (and I) have been saying for a while.

And, yes, as someone commented last time, disinfojournal is a bit strange, but that's what I think I like about it...

How to create a Controlled Vocabulary

Over at Boxes and Arrows, Karl Fast, Fred Leise, and Mike Steckel deliver a great "how-to" tutorial on creating controlled vocabularies. It's one thing to talk about how great CVs are, it's even better to show how to build them.

Card-based Classification Evaluation method

Donna Maurer shares her technique for evaluating classification schemes over at Boxes and Arrows. Ten minutes from twenty users means that it's pragmatic, and it addresses classification specifically, instead of being part of a prototype with other issues to evaluate. Here's what you need to do this kind of evaluation:

  • A proposed classification system or proposed changes to an existing system. Some uncertainty, mess, and duplication are OK.
  • A large set of scenarios that will cover information-seeking tasks using the classification.
  • A pile of index cards and a marker.
  • Someone to scribe for you.

Looks great - thanks Donna!

New Yahoo! Search debuts

Yahoo has debuted its new search interface. Much cleaner, and looks like it's aimed directly at Google. I like the search results screen a lot...it does a great job of showing what index (web, directory, images, etc.) the results are from.

There's a tour with callouts highlighting different search elements. Something else interesting is the use of search shortcuts - prefix the word 'map', type an address, and you're hooked into Yahoo! Maps; type 'weather' and a city, and you've got the forecast; type a zip code with your search and you're looking at local Yellow Pages. Reminds me of parts of Paul Ford's semantic web fairytale. While Google makes a good foil, its not the only player that pays attention to such things.

Another interesting feature - you can "ScreenDial" around Yahoo - type a keyword and exclamation point, and get to a specific screen: So mail! goes to Yahoo! Mail, while news! goes to...well, you get the picture.

Excellent stuff, and congrats to the Yahoo! search team :-)

I'm curious though - what do ia/ readers think? Improvement? Google-envy? What could be better? What is outstanding? Let us know in the comments...

Update LOL - Andrés Sulleiro points out subliminal Boxes and Arrows promotion.

Good discussion over at signal vs. noise

A day in the life of BBCi Search

A glimpse behind the scenes for a site that should get as much attention as Amazon for the content producing crowd. BBC is doing a lot of innovative things, and more importantly, the process behind the innovation gets shared on a regular basis.

Lace up your Adidas - time for some UX Cross Training

What's UX Cross Training you say? It's simple: Often the best place to learn about user experience isn't at DUX or CHI or the IA Summit - it's through other disciplines (72kb gif).

This week, I've really enjoyed learning from industrial designers. Take some time in the workshops section of the Design and Emotion Society, particularly the furniture section (requires Flash). One of the main contributors to the society, Pieter Desmet has some great stuff too (with some frustrating broken links, but I've emailed a request to fix them).

Lessons Learned Now it's all well and good to pursue becoming a T-shaped person, but driving improvements to practice should be part of our cross training efforts. To that end, here's my top 3 take aways:

  • Sometimes, designing for the wrong goals will teach you as much as designing for the right goals. At first I was puzzled, and then intrigued with designing furniture that would make people sad. What will we discover if we sketch ideas on how to make it difficult to find information? Hard to use functionality? Obtuse infographics?
  • My own approach creates sustainable products and services driving shared value at the intersection of business goals and user goals by delivering an offering through some channel. But I've realized that with value-centered design, I haven't thought much about the value of emotion. I need to do more to highlight emotion as part of the goals and context of users and design sponsors. Often, the real metric of success is how my clients and their users feel - emotions trump ROI.
  • Other disciplines are a great source for stories - and stories are one of the best sales tools UX practitioners have. I'm sure telling about a shower that turns into a vehicle will come in handy soon, since scope creep is always just around the corner.
What-ML? Sorting out the extensible markup/metadata jungle.

Web Reference has sorted various flavors of XML in their very useful XMLMap™ including links to related articles. Like What's in a topic map? - explains topic maps and introduces ontologies. (thanks pixelcharmer)

IA Summit Presentations

The PowerPoint presentations for the IA Summit are being collected on the conference site - look for the "PowerPoint Presentation" link by the name of the talk.

Also, the Asilomar Institute has posted the presentations and rough notes from its preconference seminar.

I've also added this to the earlier IA Summit summaries collection post, which has a bunch of other goodies.

History of Interaction Design

Marc Rettig is amazing. His history of interaction design (3.3mb pdf) is still something I'm unpacking (and will be for a couple more weeks).

At the core is the progression of interaction design as a practice focused on operating the machine, to using the software, to accomplishing a task, to pursuing experience, to making connections, and (in the future) to dynamically enabling opportunities. Along the way, he offers areas of concern for interaction design, from strategy to screen design. And he offers a model for user experience. All in one densely packed presentation. It's worth the download, even on dialup. (thanks PeterV)

HelloWorld - socially networked software

Cooperating Systems released a downloadable version of HelloWorld this week. HelloWorld aims to create a platform for "social computing".

Alongside the chat, file transfer, personal publishing, HelloWorld displays geographic visualization of nodes in the network. I'm not sure what level of detail the visualization has - my own social network has multiple nodes close together. Not sure how well I can separate a cluster of 8 people in Edmonton at the level shown in the screenshots.

This social computing brochure (2.5mb pdf for 3 pg doc?) concisely captures CoSi's ambition. The Reviewer's Guide (800kb pdf, 36 pages) provides more depth.

They have a market is the conversation discussion area with topics on social computing, their product, etc. (thanks Yarone)

IA Education Mailing List

The IA Education mailing list is an open, unmoderated list for discussing topics related to information architecture education. Educators, students, and other interested individuals are welcome to join.

iSociety "Mobiles in everyday life" debate

iSociety "Mobiles in everyday life" debate - Matt's (very) rough notes from last night's launch of the iSociety report into "mobiles and everyday life"

The 56 page pdf report is based on ethnographic observation of UK mobile users and can be downloaded for free.

Are IAs a bunch of Quacks?

Well, looking at the upcoming Designing for User Experiences conference, one might think so: DUX2003 conference site.

Theories of Experience

Jodi Forlizzi is a pioneer for emotion, design, and experience. Her own experience framework and her distillation of other theories of experience should be read by all UX practitioners.

Closing the loop between theory and practice can be a challenge - we can catch glimpses of implication for Folizzi's framework in her portfolio and she also teaches a studio class for Carnegie Mellon's interaction design program. (thanks brightly colored chad)

IA Summit 2003

Well, Portland was amazing. Ignoring the riot troops headquarted at the conference hotel and the helicopters overhead, the conference proceeded without much worry.

Trip reports and commentary from:

The PowerPoint presentations for the IA Summit are being collected on the conference site - look for the "PowerPoint Presentation" link by the name of the talk.

Also, the Asilomar Institute has posted the presentations and rough notes from its preconference seminar.

Presentations for the IA Tools panel.
(if you find others, post them in the comments and I'll add them here)

The return of Peterme

I'm glad to see Peter back in the saddle. His thoughts have been a constant source of reflection, controversy, and insight for the IA community, and it's good to have him posting on SIGIA and starting to blog again.

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