jibbajabba's blog

Usability, organisation: key to site-visitor satisfaction

ZDNet Australia has an article that discusses the importance of information organization and supporting your users' ability to find the information they need to complete their task.

    While good performance is essential, there’s a growing contention in the industry that other factors may also play significant roles when it comes to customer satisfaction, retention, and spending. Specifically, current research shows that users will often abandon sites if the site's organisation makes it difficult for users to find what they need.

The article cites Jared Spool of UIE who says that based on their research, "many times, people simply could not find what they were looking for and that poor site organisation hindered the buying process." It also suggests that user perceptions of your site's performance (speed) may be based on their sucess at acoomplishing the tasks they intended to pursue at your site. Therefore, they suggest that new metrics based on information seeking behaviors should be added to your reporting toolbox.

thanks LucDesk

Bookmarklet for showing CSS divs/spans

This is more site development (or whatever you call it) than IA/ID/UXD, but many of seem to do a little of that too, so...

webgraphics has a little bookmarklet for showing CSS divs and spans. The show divs/spans bookmarklet is similar to the show tables bookmarklet you might have seen elsewhere. To keep them (probably IE only) drag the links to your favorites toolbar.

Designing for the screen

On evolt, Marlene Bruce discusses the available screen size for designing for the web. And thus, the liquid versus fixed issue is debated again.

Microsoft Inductive User Interface Guidelines

This Microsoft document is making the rounds on SIGIA.

    This article describes a new user interface model called inductive user interface (IUI). Also called inductive navigation, the IUI model suggests how to make software applications simpler by breaking features into screens or pages that are easy to explain and understand. This IUI model is emerging in various Microsoft projects, most notably Money 2000. This article provides an introduction to IUI, rather than a firm, comprehensive set of guidelines.

Haven't perused it yet but will comment when I do.

thanks to Ziya on SIGIA

The customer sieve

Jared Spool talks about UIE's recent research focussing on e-commerce sites, but applicable to non-e-commerce sites as well. In The Customer Sieve, they look at the typical user flow for finding and purchasing products and observe the steps or filters users have to get through to reveal their end point.

    By studying where users are "filtered out" from making their purchases, we can learn what causes users to leave sites before completing their goals.

The applicability to non-e-commerce sites is compared:

    [O]n an e-commerce site, a shopper has to:

    - first find where the site keeps the interesting products,
    - then figure out which product they want to purchase,
    - then determine if the product actually meets their needs.

    Sites other than e-commerce also have a similar flow. For example, when a senior citizen in New York City is interested in finding a government-sponsored home meal delivery program, they have to:

    - first identify where the NYC.gov site has the home meal programs,
    - then figure out which programs actually deliver to their area,
    - then determine if the program has everything they need.

That NYC.gov example prompted some discussion on the AIGAED list. If you're interested, you might want to read the thread, "Want some fun?" which talks about perspectives on a hypothetical information seeking session on the NYC.gov site.

CMS resources

Paul Browning and Mike Lowndes have made materials available from a presentation on content management systems given in 9/2000 (updated several times since then). Available from the presentation is an inventory of features commonly available in a CMS, a list of available systems, and several presentations from the workshop.

For more information on CMSes, see the list of CMS resources beginning on the Wiki, the Camworld CMS discussiion list and the CMS Watch portal.

thanks Xplane, Xblog

IA Glossary

The beginnings of a new glossary of IA terms to supplement/expand upon Kat Haggedorn's Argus glossary is underway at the Wiki. The synonyms are there for anyone who wants to head up a thesaurus project.

Denim 1.0

Denim 1.0 from the Berkeley GUIR is available for download. Supported OSes: Windows 95, 98, Me, NT 4.0, 2000, or XP, Mac OS X 10.1 (10.0 is not supported), Solaris, Linux, and other Unix-like operating systems. Was happy to see the OS X support :)

thanks again Elegant Hack

Attack of the killer conventions

Christina pointed to this article in Lighthouse on the Web talking about the trend of convention and pattern in web design, aka the Jakob Nielsening of the web.

    Web site design began with a burst of wild innovation. Now experimentation is ceding ground to convention - agreement among users about where they expect page functions to appear. And where the users go, the designers will have to follow.

thanks elegant hack

Job search support group

Peter Van Dijk has started a discussion group for getting/giving support in finding a job in web development, interface design, usability, information architecture and the like. The discussion focusses around looking for employers, preparing your resume and portfolio. Job postings are not allowed.

Flash 99% Good

A site devoted to making usable Flash movies. Includes tips, case studies, tutorials and links to articles on Flash usability.

    Many leaders in the information architecture and usability have polarized design from usability. Some would lead us to believe that a totally usable web site is a site devoid of any design or graphics, and text navigation with tabs is the most usable site. Also some say Flash is not usable, this is simply not true. Flash is as usable as the developer makes it.

thanks web graphics

No pop-ups/unders on Google

It is possible to go against the flow and take a stand based on principle or perhaps based on a good deal of user-feedback.

    "Google's built its service around providing a better search experience than other search technologies. But they've started to add sponsored links," said Jim Nail, advertising analyst at Forrester Research. "They're probably trying to reassure users that while yes, they have to make money, they're not going to turn into a complete money-grubbing, grow-revenue-at-all-costs company."

thanks LucDesk

Forms accessiblity

This is more for site developers than IA's, but HTMLSource has a little tutorial covering methods to guide your users through web forms. Covers TABINDEX, FIELDSET, ACCESSKEY, and LABEL -- all available to browsers supporting HTML 4.

thanks webgraphics

ia/recon 1/6: The Discipline and the Role

Jesse James Garrett offers some suggestions for resolving the problem of defining IA. In part 1 of a 6-part series of essays, JJG discusses the increasing need to understand what we mean by IA in order to sell it in this downturned economy.

According to JJG, the problems we're having stem from our efforts to describe a broad discipline of IA (big IA) in terms of the narrow role of an IA (little IA). He believes that big IA shouldn't necessarily be defined vis-a-vis little IA. The solution, he says, is to discard specific notions of role when defining the discipline and instead work on narrowing the broad discussion of IA as a discipline. Here's an excerpt from his essay:

    Any definition broad enough to encompass the role is too broad to foster useful discussion of the discipline; any definition narrow enough for the discipline is too narrow for the role. We seem to be at an impasse. Basing either definition on the other means one is going to be insufficient. Trying to do both at once isn't working, producing a classic chicken-and-egg problem.

    The only solution is to decouple the definition of the discipline from the definition of the role entirely. Counterintuitive as it may seem, this is perfectly reasonable, and not without precedent in other fields. The conductor of an orchestra, for example, has a wide range of creative and managerial responsibilities; 'conducting', while certainly part of his job, doesn't begin capture the full range of those duties.

The conductor analogy seems apt. Divorcing the big from little IA in order to define the damn thing is certainly a compelling direction to consider. I know many of us are tiring of the discussion around defining IA, but Jesse makes a good point about needing to arrive at an understanding of the discipline that is compelling enough to convince managers or clients of its value, given the economy we're all faced with. I'm looking forward to the next phase of progress towards this end. Perhaps at the Summit?

Iconic communication

A set of papers on icons and their use in communication.

    The popularity of the WIMP interface opens up real possibilities for developing new forms of human communication based around images rather than text. The success of such systems will depend upon our ability to embed them in existing social practices at the same time as identifying and exploiting what is novel and useful in the computer. The use of pictures and gestures to convey our ideas is a basic form of communication that two people frequently resort to when they find they share no common language. This is illustrated equally well by the signs I make to a person when I do not know the local language and want to find somewhere to eat, as by the pictorial signs that we find in international airports. Locate this basic ability within the novel features offered by the WIMP interface and it is possible to imagine a new medium in which computer processes are more easily accessible and communication between human beings is simplified.

Culled from SIG-IA

Four Easy Steps To Appearing Smarter (Than You Are)

Or how to get promoted to "Manager" in four easy steps.

    The goal behind this painless four-step plan is to seem smarter without having to read any books, listen to classical music, or depend on crutches like word-of-the-day toilet paper. By making a few minor modifications to your behavior, you will give the impression to those around you that you are smarter--not only smarter than you were before, but, more importantly, smarter than they are.

thanks Plastic

Newspapers lose web war

Interesting article in HBS Working Knowledge about how newspapers reacted to the disruptive technology of the Internet and how some succeeded by recognizing the serious threat of the new medium and reacting in kind and how others failed by recognizing the threat but cramming their reaction into the old newspaper business model.

    Many newspapers saw the emergence of the Internet as an attack on their core business, and responded with online products of their own. Unfortunately, says HBS professor Clark Gilbert, the papers failed to take advantage of the Web as a unique medium. He discusses the implications of disruptive technology on the newspaper business with HBS Working Knowledge editor Sean Silverthorne in this e-mail interview.

On the Ergo/Gero human factors site, an SBFAQ -- "Should Be Frequently Asked Questions" -- on color and its use in design. No time to read now, just noting for later.

    this SBFAQ is intended to fill a gap between the highly technical aspects of color and design. It consists of 6 parts. The first two cover questions about basic color psychophysics and the third covers color appearance and perception. (Perception and psychophysics are very different fields.) The following set of questions explains "color blindness" and the last two sets deal directly with effective use of color in design.

Culled from SIG-IA.

Adobe AlterCast

Adobe enters the CMS fray with AlterCast, their solution for server-based wholesale storage, manipulation and publication of graphic assets. Some coverage on the new application is available at C|Net. There are apparently hooks with Interwoven and Documentum CMS applications.

As Cameron Barrett notes, developers have been using ImageMagick for this purpose for a long time now. You can also use the GD graphics library with PHP. Both of those options are free. Altercast will cost $USD 7500. running on a system with a single CPU. Yikes.

Lou on the breadth vs. depth issue

Lou Rosenfeld chimes in on his theory about breadth versus depth in navigation schemas. I like his tone.

    I'm going to veer off into one of my favorite conspiracy theories.* It goes like this: users prefer shallower, broader hierarchies. This is not because they're unwilling to click through multiple layers of hierarchy. Nope. Users prefer shallow and broad because most information architectures suck. This is the user's way of saying "Hey, based upon experience, I don't trust you to do a good job of organizing your site. So just put all your links on the main page, and me and my trusty Ctrl-F key will sort it out. OK?"
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