jibbajabba's blog

Dreamweaver 4, Wireframing extension

I started playing with the wireframing extension available for Dreamweaver 4, with the hopes that it would speed up the process of actually creating the wireframes in a tool like Illustrator. I have to say that I am loving this extension a lot! The resulting wireframes I've created so far are quite decent, if somewhat simplistic. It's nice to see that we can now quickly mock up Web click-throughs without the effort of making image maps of exported gif files. Combined with the new image tracing feature, you now have a compelling reason to make DW a standard in your IA toolbox. To grab this extension, go to the Dreamweaver Exchange and search for the term "wireframing".

IA malapropism appearing in the article "Learning from the SIMS"

This is a snippet from letter I wrote to the author of this article. I picked up the link to the author from a poster on the SIG-IA List. It is rather unfortunate that you misappropriated the term "Information Architecture" in the article titled "Learning from the SIMS" to make your case against the building of environments on the web. IA is not a concept rooted in the metaphor of structure as it relates to the larger environment of the Internet and the construction of its nodes. IA is a process involved with the organization of information within information-use environments such as Web sites and applications. Here is an excerpt from a white paper published by Argus Associates, an Information Architecture consultancy: Information Architecture: The art and science of organizing information to help people effectively fulfill their information needs. Information architecture involves investigation, analysis, design and implementation. Top-down and bottom-up are the two main approaches to developing information architectures; these approaches inform each other and are often developed simultaneously. (source: http://argus-acia.com/white_papers/iaglossary.html) The process of Information Architecture was not widely introduced until recent years -- the term being defined for most Web consulting companies by the O'Reilly Polar Bear book, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" by Rosenfeld and Morville. So your statement that:

    In the first flush of Internet excitement, companies spent a lot of money on "information architecture."
is largely wrong and unfounded given the misuse of the term. I only bother to make this statement because you introduce your article with the above statement which is rather bold. It is most unfortunate because statements such as the above may plant a seed of misunderstanding in the heads of business folks who may come across this article.

Testing the Web Site Usability Waters

Darlene Fitcher's article, Testing the Web Site Usability Waters discusses three usability tests -- pluralistic walkthrough, heuristic evaluation, and task-based testing -- that provide examples of different approaches to ascertaining what users actually like. This is an excellent article that I am using not only to introduce the idea of usability testing for Web sites to my colleagues, but I also find myself referring to it for guidance when I am looking for some high-level quotes to justify usability in the development process.

Eyetracking study of readers of news via Web sites

Got this link from a discussion group to a study conducted by Stanford University and The Poynter Institute -- Eye Tracking Online News -- using eye tracking to observe how users read Web news sites. The study used eyetracking because it "... tells us more precisely what the eyes take in than do survey questions that depend on recall. Exactly where do Internet news readers go to catch their news? Which stories do they read, which skim, which ignore? Do they read only headlines and briefs, or full articles? If they hyperlink to a related story, do they return to the original site? Learning the answers to questions such as these would, we hoped, begin to give us clues to Internet news reading behavior that could subsequently be correlated with civic action."

Lessons in Effective E-mail Design

Email usability testing is not something you hear much about. Lance Arthur talks about creating effective email messages that communicate your message in this article on digitrends.net.

Low-income Web surfers proliferate

This snippet from the NY Times Technology Briefing quotes the stats from the Nielson/NetRatings indicating that numbers for low-income Web surfers with annual incomes of less than $25,000 a year rose 46 percent over the past year. Perhaps there is some validity in Jakob Nielsen's position 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.

Information Anxiety2: A Guidebook for the Information Age

Webreference has a review of Richard Saul Wurman's "Information Anxiety2". Unlike the book's 1989 predecessor, the pre-Web "Information Anxiety", 2's discussions and solutions relate to ALL media regardless of technology.

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

iaslash on your site! RSS source now available.

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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)

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