jibbajabba's blog

Webzine NYC 2001

I won't be going (plans), but if you're a publisher of independent content and are in the NYC area this weekend, you might want to swing by CB's Gallery (aka 313) for Webzine New York City 2001. Thanks for the pointer, Dave.

Indian handheld to tackle digital divide

I think this must be one of the most forward-looking and socially-conscious efforts I've read about in recent years. A group of Indian scientists and engineers has developed a handheld computer to help the poor and illiterate join the information age. Using the simple computer, or Simputer, and software that reads webpages aloud in native Indian languages, the team hopes to help the 35% of Indians who cannot read find out about aid projects targeted at them.

Cramming more data onto television screens

An article in Wired reports that more cable channels are cramming more data onto screens making them appear more like your PC than your television. The volume of on-screen information will increase in the next two months when new versions of CNN Headline News and ESPNews are launched as part of the transformation of TV viewing in the computer age. Network logos, small and relatively discreet, were in the vanguard of on-screen data. Now, broadcast networks and cable and satellite channels are cramming more and more onto valuable screen real estate. Personally, I don't think cramming more data on the screen always means you are communicating effectively. Multi-tasking sometimes means not focussing on one thing. The problem I've always had with screens with scrolling tickers is that I keep missing the thing I was looking for (like the weather ticker they show on my morning news show) because I get distracted by the talking heads. Then I have to wait again for the weather to scroll by. I think it can work with well some applications, but perhaps to a limit. The screens of business news channels are very complex, but at least with stock tickers, symbols are in alphanumeric order. thanks Tomalak's Realm

Microsoft throws Java out of Windows XP

How inconvenient. According to InfoWorld, Microsoft is removing Sun's Java Virtual Machine in Window's XP and subsequent Windows releases due to an out of court settlement with Sun. Critics argue that Microsoft's decision to pull the JVM from the operating system points to an attempt by the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker to lure Java developers to its own language C# (C-sharp), a key component in the company's .NET initiative. "We don't see any reason for it from a computing standpoint," said Andrew Shikiar, director of POSSIE.org, a grassroots group supported by Javacentric software companies and developers. "They might see Java as competitive to their .NET strategy." ... The first time XP users try to view a Web site or use an application that requires a JVM, they will get a prompt to download Microsoft's JVM from its Web site, he said. At that point, they can choose to skip that download and choose another JVM instead.

Paper prototyping supply list

I found Carolyn Snyder's paper prototyping supply list on Webword. Includes links to purchase stuff. Here are links for locating some common paper prototyping supplies on Staples.com and OfficeDepot.com. I am providing these links as a convenience - other items may be equally suitable.

Design and project management

From UIweb.com - Itís true that design specifications are difficult to write, and that good ideas are fleeting and rare, but until the design is in itís final form, itís far from finished. Much can happen between the moment the designer finishes the expression of the idea, and when the development team has finished building it. (Someone wanted to re-surface this one -m)

Richard Saul Wurman's Understanding

Christina asks in her "gleanings" if you've seen this one yet. I hadn't. Richard Saul Wurman's Understanding.

A pattern language for HCI

An interesting thesis attempting to provide an up-to-date pattern language for user interface design. Earlier attempts to do this for architecture and software design have been moderately successful, the hypertext structure of 'A Pattern Language' being particularly inspiring.

Design and usability are not first

Logging might be light this week. Saw/heard Tufte yesterday and going to MacWorld tomorrow. Was thinking of the recurring theme I keep hearing from various design evangelists regarding content. Don't know if there are other quotable comments to add to this list. Edward Tufte: Quality, relevance and integrity of content comes first. Everything including design comes after that. (captured sound bite from lecture series) Don Norman: Why do you keep harping on usability? Usability is always secondary. It's never the most important thing about an experience. I will accept poor usability if I get what I need, if the total experience is great. I will reject perfect usability if I am not rewarded with a useful, engaging experience. George Olsen: A highly usable interface to a product that's irrelevant to user's needs, or too expensive for it's intended users, or can't turn a profit is just as much a failure as one that's impossible to use. (Interaction by Design essay)

Pirated sites

"Talent imitates; genius steals." - TS Eliot. I don't think this is what Eliot had in mind when he said that.

Sitemap stylee

I'm late catching this one, so sorry to bore you if you've seen it. Poor but happy has stats on use of different navigation types on their Columbia site. What did they find out? "The sitemap on every page is hugely popular." Another great example of the sitemap on every page is Xplane. thanks blackbeltjones

Criteria for optimal web design (designing for usability)

Michael L Bernard of Wichita State suggests how to design for usability. Designing a website that takes into account the human element requires both an understanding of our nature as well as our physiological limitations. Usable websites incorporate human tendencies and limitation into its overall design. The questions below are meant to address some of the more important human factors concerns in the design and building of usable websites.

Coming to Terms: George Olsen on IA

In the Perspectives section of Interaction by Design, George Olsen talks about the term "IA" versus "User experience designer" and what it is means for what we really do. In his email alert he says, While I've gotten tired of the repeated debates over this issue myself, I think it's worth pursuing -- not only so we don't have to argue over it anymore, but more importantly: if we can't say what we do, it's hard to sell the value of it to clients and co-workers. Essentially my essay argues that "user experience" is a better name for "big IA" and try to define some of the things that a "generalist" UX whatever does.

FAST Launches Enhanced AllTheWeb.com

According to Information Today, FAST has relaunched All the Web. While Google may seem to dominate the news lately with enhancements to the popular search engine, FAST Search & Transfer ASA (FAST), the Norwegian search engine company, has been steadily building its index, enhancing its search technology, and growing its base of paying enterprise and site customers. It has just announced the relaunch of AllTheWeb.com, the company's Web search engine. If you have not yet used this search site, the recent enhancements should be enough to encourage a test drive. They include a fully integrated platform for multimedia results; automatic search tips offered in response to user behavior; and a more intuitive, uncluttered user interface.

Slim down page weight or lose customers

According to Business 2, Jupiter Media Metrix suggests that webpages weigh no more than 40KB to 50KB. At that size, it will take about 8 to 10 seconds for your page to appear over a 56-kbps modem connection -- about the limit of most people's patience. Any slower, and you risk losing customers as they give up in disgust and click away to another site before yours has even finished loading. That's not very realistic for many (most?) applications. True that the example they use, Google's search page, is very slim, but how many Web pages can consist of only a form, 1 image, and under 50 words of text? Come on now. It's always a good goal to be as elegant as you can when coding to slim down page weight (the article suggests that 70K is a good max weight), but Jupiter is comparing apples and oranges here. Incidentally, Jupiter's own site uses some Flash and DHTML and weighs around 73K for the html file and graphics plus another 60+K for the included javascript files.

RealNames Simplifies Your Web Searches

Keyword surfing system now lets you access your favorite search engines without a lot of typing. RealNames launched new Internet search tools this week designed to make it faster and easier for users to find information on the Web. users can enter "Google apples" or "Google cars" into the Internet Explorer address bar and generate a page of Google search results without having first gone to its home page. The system works with many of the major search engines, including those run by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Excite@Home, RealNames says. RealNames also expanded its keyword service, which lets users type plain words instead of the sometimes complex URL addresses in the address field of their browser. For example, the keyword service lets users to type "Ford Explorer" to get to the Explorer page at Ford Motor's Web site, rather than having to type the URL. Asked if users might find the bevy of search options confusing, Teare says he expects that most users will find their searching preference through trial and error. "I think the best thing to do is make it possible for almost anything to be typed into the browser," he says. thanks WebWord

What makes a Web site credible? Consumers Union looks for the answers

According to E&P Online, Consumers Union is going forward with its Web Credibility Project, which will look at news, health, travel, finance, and shopping sites. According to Beau Brendler, director of the project, "We're not here to subject news Web sites to a variety of criteria, and give them 'thumbs up' and 'thumbs down' ratings," he told E&P Online. "But what we are going to do is test the things that consumers are worried about and find out how sites do. Are privacy policies posted? What kinds of disclosure do sites provide?" The project's core mission is "to establish, promote, and win adherence for core standards to help ensure the credibility of information on the Internet,"" Credibility is a confusing and maybe misleading term. What they seem to be talking about is credibility with regard to Web site policies, not credibility with regard to content, i.e. authority. So I guess this is like giving Web sites a "Good Housekeeping"-like label. Does anyone really think this would allay the fears of American Web consumers indicated by the Markle report last week? thanks Tomalak's Realm

What's in a name?

Are there two information architectures? One influenced by presentation and one influenced by structure? Is the presentation-based IA better served by the name "information design?" Does the medium really matter? Is print IA/ID different from web-based IA/ID in meaningful ways? For its April 2001 issue, STC's Design Matters contacted several people and asked them to respond to these questions informally. thanks xblog

HannaHodge closes

HannaHodge, another victim of this crazy economy, closes it's doors.

Put a little Mies in your [information] architecture

Last month I went to see Mies in Berlin, one of two shows on Mies van der Rohe in New York this summer at MoMA and the Whitney. Today I watched Charlie Rose as organizers/curators from the two shows and the architecture critic from the New Yorker chatted about Mies. I don't go in for publicly stating my opinion on most matters, but after this reintroduction to Mies, I am feeling like the use of the term architecture to describe what we do is fitting in many more ways than I had considered. I have read (in lurking mode) much of the SIGIA discussion around the meaning of the title IA and have been compelled by the passion of IAs to define and name their domain. I have also been turned on to the idea that IAs, Usability Engineers, and anyone else who works user interfaces and user experiences share many of the same concerns, but may not necessarily be in the same profession (as far as titles go anyway). The thing that compels me to write about the term "architecture" and its use in our title is that the parallels that exist between Architects and Information Architects are meaningful and should be used when communicating that which we do that adds value to the interface, the experience, and the use of information. When we first think of Mies, we think of modernity and the phrase, "Less is more". The decoration in Mies' modernism is spare and stripped of ornament. But the essence of Miesian spaces lies in the connection of the space to the enviornment it lives in, and the connection of the human inhabitants to the environment created by the space. To dismiss Miesian architecture (as many do when discussing Modern building) as simply spare and boxy is to miss the humanist aspect of the artist. Mies' use of space to draw the outside in to the inhabitants (or vice versa) is deliberate. The creation of space with the concern of the people who will use and move through it is what makes a modern building Miesian. The end result in a Miesian architecture is that the connection of the space to the environment and the people to the space is harmonious. And that brings me to the parallel of the architect side of the Information Architect, the goal of creating a harmonious environment to be used by people. That is the value that we bring to creating an information-use environment -- harmonizing the user experience (the movement through) with the interface (the space or environment). That's what I've taken away from Mies. Maybe you agree that we do more than just create interface widgets? We design an ongoing experience.

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