jibbajabba's blog

Applying the Behavioral, Cognitive, and Social Sciences to products.

Don Norman on applying BCCS to products. Product design badly needs the knowledge learned in the BCCS, but in general, people with these skills are ill-suited for industry. The Academic training of the analytic scientist is simply completely orthogonal to the needs of the design practitioner. In this essay I explain the discrepancy and provide a draft curriculum to remedy the problem.

STC Usability Toolkit

The Usability Toolkit is a collection of forms, checklists and other useful documents for conducting usability tests and user interviews. This material is collected from SIG members and is distributed at the Annual Conference. The material may be used as is, or adapted for specific needs. Credit to the original contributors, when available (usually included in each file), is appreciated.

Setptember 8 -- Steve Krug to appear on Let's Talk Computers radio show

Let's Talk Computers interviews Steve Krug, author of "Don't Make Me Think". Listen to the show in Real Audio or Windows Media Player format.

Results of latest ACIA IAsk survey: Short and Long Term Outlook for Information Architects

The ACIA received 149 responses to this survey, which ran from September 2 through September 6, 2001. Here are the survey hilights given by ACIA: Short Term Ambivalence: While the need for information architects should continue to grow, 39% of respondents believe the demand will actually decrease in the short term. This is most likely an expression of concern with the health of the IT industry in general. Long Term Optimism: In the long term, the percentage of those who feel demand will decrease drops to 11%; 47% expect demand to increase a little, and 32% expect it to increase a lot. And long term need will explode: 26% see it growing a little, and 62% see it growing a lot. Personal Optimism (or Hubris?): We are more optimistic about our own chances for success in the field relative to our colleagues. In the short term, only 25% of respondents felt they'd fare worse than colleagues; that number drops to 12% in the long term. Natural biasing, or perhaps we're an incredibly confident bunch?

Factiva Teams-Up with TFPL on Information Architecture Study; "Taxonomy In Context" Study

Factiva announced that it will sponsor the "Taxonomy In Context" research project with information organization consultant and recruiter, TFPL. (Also available on ZDnet.) The research project will seek to identify how organisations are using taxonomies to construct their "Information Architecture". TFPL defines "Information Architecture" as a coherent set of strategies and plans for information access and delivery inside organisations. The research - based on case studies of organizations, and vendor questionnaires and interviews - will examine the balance between software and human intervention related to the application of taxonomies within content management systems, and whether customer needs are being met by vendor offerings.

Consumers Think Interactive TV Is Too Much Work

Newsbytes article about user sentiment of iTV use. Even in homes that have iTV capabilities, respondents said they rarely or never use interactive links in TV shows, TV-based Internet or e-mail. David Tice, SRI's director of client services and author of the report, said he was surprised both at the number of negative responses and the finding that the lack of interest in iTV was the same in households with access to interactive products as those with no iTV. Known as Qube, that project was the first experiment in both interactive TV and two-way cable communications, but it was eventually dismantled because there was little return on the costs of operating Qube's primitive interactive offerings.

Technology professionals want to telecommute - study

Telecomworldwire article about telecommuting. A new survey by the US-based recruitment web site techies.com has revealed that technology professionals want to telecommute at least part-time. The study showed that working from home is heavily dependent on profession while the level of experience is also a decisive factor - only 32% of entry level workers practised telecommuting at least a few hours each week compared to 67% of those with ten or more years of experience.

Using a mirror for usability testing

Hannahodge's brainbox pointed to Gary Perlman's low-cost tip for using a mirror to view user expressions while testing.

Marcia Bates abstracts

Lou Rosenfeld's Bloug points to an abstract of Marcia Bates' Berrypicking article (Bates, M.J. The design of browsing and berrypicking techniques for the online search interface. Online Review 13, 5 (1989) pp. 407-24.) as well as abstracts for Bates' other scholarly articles. For an interesting reverse-citation search of Bates' article, take a loot at Researchindex's citations listing.

IA: The State of the Profession

Andrew Dillon's IA column in the August/September 2001 ASIST Bulletin is available on the ASIST site now. There has been much discussion on the SIGIA list recently about the economy, specifically how the recent downturn has affected employment opportunities for IAs. Tales abound of layoffs, lack of new opportunities and the general paucity of vacancies with IA in the position title or job description.

Google 2.0

Upset over the way MS is handling mistaken or nonexistent URLs in IE, WebWord's John Rhodes proposes a Google web browser. People using Microsoft's Internet Explorer are now being redirected to Microsoft's MSN when they make certain kinds of mistakes. This means that Microsoft is taking control of another part of the user experience. This article discusses how Google might be able to help users and solve a few other problems others along the way.

Guerrilla usability

Mary Deaton talks about doing guerrilla usability in Builder's WebShui. You have design ideas for your Web site: you've researched your competitors' strategies, and you've read books and Web style guides to learn about the conventions for usable Web sites. But you're still not sure if your visitors will find the site easy to use. What now? You could get a college degree in human factors engineering, or you could hire a human factors engineer. Great ideas, except you don't have four years to spare, and your boss won't pay for a consultant. That leaves two options: doing nothing, or doing it yourself. Doing nothing will not solve your problem. But you can learn to do your own usability testing. thanks Elegant Hack

Some bunny rabbit levity for a thursday afternoon

FLAPJACKS AND FLOPPY EARS -- Japanese man forces innocent bunny "to hold objects on its head." Click on any of the many the links to view this bizarre photo diary. The photo journal sort of reminds me of Being John Malkovich. We see through the eyes of this very strange rabbit lover as he captures his little friend. After a while you feel sorry for the little guy. It's not like he can shout out, "Stop putting pastry on my head you foolish human!"

Innies vs. Outies discussion

A continuation of CarboniQ's September cocktail hour discussion of the role of the IA as an employee vs. as a consultant is going on at their weblog.

Usability Study of PC and TV-based Web Platforms Reveals Online Shopping Tasks Confuse, Frustrate Users

According to PR News Wire, Electronic Ink released the findings of a study that reveals major usability disconnects encountered by users of TV-based Web platforms like WebTV(R), AOLTV(TM) and UltimateTV(R).

Image access

The September issue of JASIST focusses on image access issues. TOC and abstracts available.

Exploring Users' Experiences of the Web

Barry Brown and Abigail Sellen explore users' browsing behaviors on First Monday. While browsing the Web is a widespread everyday activity there is a shortage of detailed understanding of how users organise their Web usage. In this paper we present results from a qualitative in-depth interview study of how users browse the Web and combine browsing with their other activities. The data are used to explore three particular problems which users have with browsing the Web. Firstly, users have problems managing their favourites, and in particular accessing their favourites through a hierarchical menu. Second, users have problems with combining information across different Web sites - what we call the "meta-task" problem. Third, users have concerns with security and privacy, although these concerns seem to change as users become more experienced with shopping on the Web. We discuss three concepts which address these problems: "home page favourites", "Web clipping" and the "Web card". These concepts are attempts at incremental improvements to the Web without affecting the Web's essential simplicity.

Usability and Online Branding

New on Frontend Usability Infocentre. Online 'branding' is fundamentally about the direct experience that the user enjoys. All the streamed television advertisements in the world won't rescue a fundamentally unusable site...

Making use of user research

Gretchen Anderson of Cooper Interaction Design talks about how to make the most of user research -- usability testing and ethnographic field research -- to help mke better choices and establish better focus for products. Designing or redesigning a product often feels like a risky proposition, especially in today's business climate. Those responsible for defining the product offering and marketing want reliable, measurable data to define success both incrementally and overall. Hard data helps us make choices about where to spend resources, but placing a product under the microscope every step of the way can also introduce as many opportunities for error as it avoids. By focusing on how a product performs in the lab without broader knowledge of the user's environment and goals, measurement alone may be misleading. To get the most value and meaning out of user feedback it is important to choose the appropriate method for conducting and analyzing.

Microsoft CEO's sure can party

An article in the National Post talks about the mpeg video of Steve Ballmer circulating on the Net. Ballmer, trying to get a Microsoft engagement started by jumping around a stage with Gloria Estefan blasting in the background, yells "Come on, come on, get up!" before exclaiming, "I LOVE THIS COMPANY!" Here's what others were quoted as saying in response to the video: Lucy Kellaway, a management columnist for London's Financial Times, is profoundly disappointed by Mr. Ballmer's conduct. "When a morale-raising exercise involves mass hysteria it leaves me feeling uncomfortable," she wrote this week. "I have no doubt that Steve Ballmer loves his company. But why should he hire a hall, fill it with people and shout and scream the message at them is beyond me."

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