jibbajabba's blog

PLAY research studio

Another great site recently logged on Antenna is the PLAY research studio in Sweden which is part of an organization called the Interactive Institute. "The PLAY research studio investigates and invents the future of human-computer interaction."

Event Horizon User Interface Model for Small Devices

[from Antenna] A Sun Microsystems technical report proposes a method for expanding the navigation model for small devices. The key idea of the proposed model is that the display can be compressed and expanded by moving objects radially farther away or closer to an event horizon in the middle of the screen.

'Choose Your Own Adventure' Diagrams?

Someone posted the following question. I've not seen any literature on this type of interaction design. Can anyone help this person out? -m Do you know of a resource where I could find information on the types of diagrams used for "choose your own adventure" style interactive fiction, or software that could do it.

Tomalak's Realm retires

I'm sad to say that Lawrence Lee retiring Tomalak's Realm this week -- although i understand that he needs to focus on other things and doesn't want to compromise the integrity of his log. Tomalak's Realm is a treasure trove of useful pointers to current news. The interesting use of hypertext in Tomalak by referring back to relevant articles and resources in the past gave valuable context to the nuggets he gleaned daily. Best of luck to Lawrence in his future endeavours. -m Announcement: I've recently decided to retire Tomalak's Realm. You can learn more about this development on the website. If there are any changes to this plan, I'll post it on the website and if necessary to the newsletter subsciber list.

640x480 screen test

I embedded the link to A. Porter Glendenning's 640x480 pixel screen resolution test with the previous log entry but thought it should be highlighted on its own, because IA's might find it useful. Porter posted this link to the Babble Web design list (which I think is dead now) a few years ago as a tool for testing Web pages without having to resize your monitor resolution.

BenefitsCheckup.org: An accessible information referral site for aging Americans

I came across an article in the NY Times about BenefitsCheckup.org, a referral service from the National Council on the Aging. This looked to me like a good example of appropriate design for a well targetted audience. The text is large and easy to read. The navigation takes a linear approach if you skip the global navigation at the top and follow the "Let's get started" link on the bottom of the page after the introductory text on the front. There were a few things I found could be modified to make the site more user-friendly for this audience. I thought the top portion of the site -- the global nav and sponsor icons -- took up way too much screen real estate. When I load it into a 640x480 resolution monitor, only the first 2 lines of text appeared, with the screen dominated by logos. (TIP: A good way to check at 640x480 without changing your screen resolution is to use Porter Glendenning's 640x480 screen test.) It would be nicer to move the logos to the bottom of the screen and to either duplicate the "Let's get started" link in the global nav or somehow minimize the importance of the global nav, because use of the site doesn't start until you click "Let's get started". The global nav links to content that is really just metainformation -- information about the site. I also have to note that when I looked under the hood, I expected to see H1 tags for the headings, but instead saw the font being controlled by HTML font tags. I admit that I commit the sin of using CSS and HTML font tags myself rather than using the H# tags, but for this audience, I would expect a large portion of the audience could include people using screen readers. Overall, this was an appropriate design that could be made more accessible with some minor adjustments. I don't often throw my $.02 up about site designs, but am interested in the topic of accessbility, so this site was a good exercise.

Dell to manufacture electronic voting systems

Well, maybe the next election won't suffer from the poorly designed ballots used in Florida. According to NY Times, Dell started selling the electronic ballot systems they are building with Hart InterCivic Inc. The eSlate voting device is an electronic tablet (think huge pda) with a jog wheel and and some large, clearly labeled buttons. Follow the eSlate link above and click on the zoom link to see the device. I don't know why they didn't just make the devices touch screens. I wonder if the jog wheel will cause any confusion -- it's not a commonly used input device.

Ranganathan's facet classification

Been rather involved with a project that involves taxonomies and the concept of extending taxonomy through facet classification came up, so I thought I'd post a few links related to Ranganathan's Colon Classification System and facet classification. For non-LIS folks, Ranganathan is regarded by many as the father of information science. He developed a system for classifying entities by facets (think of the many sides of a diamond) which uses numbers to represent facets of an entity. Each added number is delimited by a colon until a the multi-faceted classification of the entity is built. From Britannica: Colon Classification: system of library organization developed by the Indian librarian S.R. Ranganathan in 1933. It is general rather than specific in nature, and it can create complex or new categories through the use of facets, or colons. The category of dental surgery, for example, symbolized as L 214:4:7, is created by combining the letter L for medicine, the number 214 for teeth, the number 4 for diseases, and the number 7 for surgery. A useful article reviewing the topic of Facet Analysis in the library literature, with a well-selected list of citations: Amanda Maple, Faceted access: A review of the literature. Best reading on this topic is offline in your university library.


I just found Haddock.org by trolling through my referrer logs. Haddock is a Web site directory that offers navigation of its site via a menu system that can be viewed in one of three ways: Yahoo, Macintosh, and Haddock. It was nice to see the MacOS X approch (stolen from Jobs' Next OS) to presenting navigation on the Web. Navigating this way, one gets a nice sense of where they are in the site, the hilighting of section names gives you the breadcrumbs to work your way back, and the expansion of links at each level flattens the hierarchy as you dig deeper in to the site. Nice approach. The Haddock version works well too, the names of the sections you took when drilling down are just visually lined up horizontally, and from what I could gather, related sections are also shown in boxes that are visually separated from the main navigation area. An innovative approach, but I think some kind of visual indicator (italics? or an "@" before names of related links?) would make the related links box more understandable. Very refreshing approach, though. By the way, sites are indexed on Haddock when they are submitted via the Haddock discussion group.

Website navigation is useful

I emphasized the word "is", to counter Jakob Nielsen's claim that that navigation "may" be useful. In Merges' Theory column, Adam Baker reacts to Nielsen's claim that there are too many other problems with the web to make navigation using menus (e.g. global and secondary navigation) useful most of the time. Huh? I mean, hmmmm. Baker's reaction makes good arguments against Nielsen's view and is a good read.

The Humane Touch: Bad Design Can Be Costly

[from WebWord] Forbes has a short article on how usability is hurt by keeping status quo. Don't miss the great email annecdote at the "end" :) of the article. Not to mention inefficient, demoralizing, and embarrassing Bad user interfaces may be more expensive than you think, including software your company buys as well as software your company writes. For example, everybody knows that Microsoft Word, Excel, and other popular programs can be maddeningly frustrating, but few take the time to figure out what their shortcomings mean in terms of lost work, lower worker morale, and wasted dollars. Microsoft Word requires at least 30% more keystrokes and 100% more mouse moves to accomplish certain editing tasks than would an optimal word processor. Decreasing physical work not only saves time but also decreases incidents of repetitive stress injury. Good design can eliminate many of the steps that are most damaging to nerves and tendons. ... The saying among IT professionals used to be, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." Now it's, "Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft."

The art of code commenting

[from WebWord] Found this freshmeat article via on the art of code commenting interesting because I've been writing a lot of code in HTML::EMBPERL for a user-customizable application -- I've been immersed in this the past few weeks, which explains the bloggin slowness on iaslash. The essence of coding is not only in writing efficient code but also in making the code understandable by others that have to work on it. Reminds me of a PHP article about elegant coding that I can't find at the moment. Will post it here if I find it. Or maybe someone else will?

Pay for placement search engine models

NYTimes says Paid Placement Is Catching On in Web Searches. But, according to Interactive Week, Google is still standing tough on refusing to to rank sites based on a pay for placement model. Searchenginewatch has an article as well on pay for placement in the meta search engine space.


InteractiveWeek scoffs at the model for Office.Net which will require MS Office Business users to have network connectivity wherever they use Office in order to get access to its full features. Says Rob Fixmer, The more I study Microsoft's plans for Office.Net, the more I'm persuaded that productivity software should not be delivered online in the foreseeable future. ... To one extent or another, Microsoft is going to keep us all on virtual umbilical cords. Disconnect us from our Redmond womb, and we'll be on basic life support.

STC conference session materials

[from infodesign] The Society for Technical Communications published session materials from the 48th annual conference.

How to Deliver a Report Without Getting Lynched

I was particulary thrilled to read Bruce Toganazzini's Ask Tog on how to tactfully communicate your message. As someone who works with clients and technology people regularly, I often have to react to things that do not cry out user friendliness. When I started out doing information work, often my initial reaction to design requirements and technology implementations that were not user centered was to become defensive on behalf of users, and often the tone of the message was also defensive. A lot of the reactive communication came in the form of reports and informal communication like email. Being more seasoned and more epathetic to the client and technologist motivations is one way to remove the defesive tone. Not taking things so seriously helps too! But better yet is to adopt a professional report writing style in all your communications. Tog's suggestions are valuable pointers for how to write reports that win over your clients and that get them to believe your message. The suggestions are applicable in most areas of professional communication.

Are the Product Lists on Your Site Reducing Sales

User Interface Engineering made a new white paper available on their site, "Are the Product Lists on Your Site Reducing Sales?" You can increase sales on your site as much as 225% by providing sufficient product information to your customers at the right time. In our recent research, we found that the design of product lists directly affected sales. Discover how the amount and location of product information plays a part in your shopper's purchasing process. The design of your e-commerce site influences whether or not visitors make a purchase. Download this free white paper to learn more. This download is free, and your competitors are already reading it.

Breaking the Sound Barrier: Designing Auditory Displays for Global Usability

[from elegant hack] Robert S. Tannen's article from the conference proceeding of the AT&T Labs 4th Conference on Human Factors and the Web. Abstract: As richer visual web content is delivered, there are reduced desktop and attentional resources available for the display of background browser processes (e.g. data transfer rate). A proposed solution is to enable users to aurally monitor background processes while attending to visually displayed web content. This approach is aimed at implementing global usability by stepping away from language specific alphanumeric data and culturally limited icons and sounds, towards more abstract, but still informative, display elements. These can be derived through the use of simple perceptual cues. Symmetry, which has been an effective cue in graphical configural displays, and may be utilized in the design of auditory configural displays of dynamic information. This approach may serve as the basis for cross-cultural auditory interface design.

'Mouse-trapping' locks Web users in a virtual maze

A USA Today article talks about the practice of mouse-trapping or page-jacking. The practice, most often associated with warez, gambling and pornography sites keeps users at their site by disabling the browser's "Back" button, spawning new windows and hiding code. The Federal Trade Commission, which monitors deceptive and unfair trade practices, calls mouse-trapping and related schemes "technical trickery." The article tells users how to get out of jacked browsers. The issue for IAs is to be involved enough with your project during implementation to ensure that these practices are not used.

Commuter computers: Devices in automobiles

MIT Technology Review looks at the current trends in providing information devices in automobiles. Most are GPS devices with small -- and hopefully easy to read and use -- interfaces for finding your way on the road. Some of these devices are driven by PDA's rather than using LCD's built into cars. Additional concepts seem to include porting other wireless services to car portals. A bigger issue beyond usability and interface design for these concepts is driver safety. It seems difficult enough for people to drive and talk on mobile phones, without having to use an additional device.

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