jibbajabba's blog

Susan Kare: Pixel perfection

A friend pointed out in an article in Wired that among the 2001 winners of the Chrysler Design Awards was Susan Kare, designer of the original low resolution Macintosh icons. More info about Kare is available on her site.

Power Mapper

PowerMapper Standard allows web masters to simply create graphical maps of their web sites. PowerMapper Professional adds industrial-strength facilities for mapping and managing large corporate and commercial web sites.

Usability courses

Someone on CHIWEB mentioned that monster.com lists usability courses -- some online.

Readability Of Websites With Various Foreground/Background Color Combinations, Font Types And Word Styles

Paper by Alyson L. Hill, Department of Psychology Stephen F. Austin State University. The effects of 6 foreground/background color combinations (color), 3 font types (Arial, Courier New, & Times New Roman), and 2 word styles (Italicized & Plain) on readability of websites were investigated. Participants (N=42) scanned simulated websites for a target word; readability was inferred from reaction time (RT). An ANOVA showed significant main effects for color and font, and several significant interactions (Figure 1). A control experiment (N=21) using black text on shades of gray (to increase generalizablity to Internet browser settings), also found significant main effects for background gray level and style, and several interactions (Figure 2). In general these results suggest that there is no one foreground/background combination, font, or word style which leads to the fastest RT (i.e. best readability), but rather a designer must consider how each variable affects the other(s).

Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards

Section 508 report. The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) is issuing final accessibility standards for electronic and information technology covered by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. Section 508 requires the Access Board to publish standards setting forth a definition of electronic and information technology and the technical and functional performance criteria necessary for such technology to comply with section 508. Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they shall ensure that the electronic and information technology allows Federal employees with disabilities to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of information and data by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.

Breaking the Screen Barrier

Lars Erik Holmquist's PhD thesis on post-pc interfaces. This thesis is based on an important development in human-computer interface design: the move from primarily screen-based interfaces – based on the Windows-Icons-Menus-Pointer (WIMP) and Graphical Users Interfaces (GUI) paradigm developed for desktop computers – to computer interfaces which take advantage of the richness of the user’s physical environment. A common thread in the thesis is the attempt to expand the user’s workspace, whether that expansion is kept within the limits of the computer screen or brings the interaction to devices outside the desktop – i.e. to “break the screen barrier”, figuratively or literally. The thesis consists of five papers.

  • The first paper describes flip zooming, a visualization method that uses the workspace on a screen more effectively.
  • The second paper puts flip zooming and other similar methods within a general theoretical framework, which is both descriptive and constructive.
  • The third paper describes WEST, A Web Browser for Small Terminals, which was an application where flip zooming was implemented on hand-held computers.
  • The fourth paper describes the Hummingbird, a mobile counterpart to desktop-based workplace awareness applications. The fifth and final paper gives a general theory for interactive systems where physical objects are used to access digital information that is not contained within the actual object.
thanks Nooface

Strategies of Influence for interaction designers

Article by Scott Berkun , November 2001 UIWeb. Unless you have the power to make business and development decisions for your project, some of your energy will be spent influencing those that do. Experienced usability engineers or interaction designers may have limited skill in influence, despite how significantly it can effect their ability to contribute to projects. It’s the smartest and most effective designers that work to understand the human to human interaction within their project teams, as part of their work towards better human to computer interaction.

Embed User Values in System Architecture:

CHI96 paper by Elizabeth M. Comstock and William M. Duane resurfaced by WebWord. The underlying architecture of complex software products profoundly influences their direction and usability. This paper shares an effort to embed usability within the architecture of complex network products. We began by attempting to build a conceptual model, but we ended by representing customers' and users' values in a Declaration of System Usability to guide product direction and system architecture decisions.


WebWord pointed to a cool site which brought me back a bit. I used to play a command-line game on an old PC in my library when I was in 5th or 6th grade. Zork Dungeon is a black-hole interface game where the system tells you what's in a room and you use commands like read, get, etc. to perform actions. Interfacing with computers has come a long way.

Search toolbar for Windows

WebWord pointed to Dave's Quick Search Taskbar Toolbar Deskbar. A nice "always-there" search tool. Sorry Windows only.

Negroponte on the future

In the BBC News, Professor Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder and director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talks to broadcaster Mark Lawson about his vision of a digital future ... why 3G phones will fail, why nation states will flourish and why the future belongs to digital Barbie dolls.

Empirically Validated Web Page Design Metrics

Paper appearing in ACM SIGCHI'01, March 31-April 4, 2001 by Melody Y. Ivory, Rashmi R. Sinha, Marti A. Hearst. A quantitative analysis of a large collection of expert-rated web sites reveals that page-level metrics can accurately predict if a site will be highly rated. The analysis also provides empirical evidence that important metrics, including page composition, page formatting, and overall page characteristics, differ among web site categories such as education, community, living, and finance. These results provide an empirical foundation for web site design guidelines and also suggest which metrics can be most important for evaluation via user studies.

IAsk survey: Formal Educational Credentials for Information Architects

New ACIA IAsk survey -- take it here.

A Net Art Idea Line: Mapping lines of thought through time

The linkdup site reviews were recently updated with some examples of experimental interfaces for navigation and data visualization. Particularly interesting to me was The Whitney Museum of American Art's Idea Line (requires Java), which uses Java to display a stratified view of major categories of Net art. Mousing over each of the strata reveals the nodes of art works within. Mousing over individual works reveals the other categories (cross-references) under which the works may also be found, indicated by orange boxes. If you elect to view the "Totals" geometry -- one of the options in the lower left corner, an interesting visualization of the growth of Net art is revealed in the bulging of the lines as they move across the timeline demarcated by the years in the X-axis.

Poor Code Quality Contaminates Users' Conceptual Models

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for October 28. Software bugs and system crashes result in huge productivity losses and undermine users' ability to form good models of how computers work. Website designers can help improve user confidence by prioritizing quality and robustness over features and the latest technology.

Tim Berners-Lee on Microsoft's Latest Browser Tricks

An interview with Tim Berners Lee discussing Microsoft, which disabled use of MSN with many non-IE browsers last week and later backed off after their plan backfired. thanks Tomalak's Realm

The Role of Flow in Web Design

Scott Berkun of Microsoft discusses the concept of flow and how it applies to good Web design. I think of flow in a design as the movement of a person from their desire to their satisfaction, in as natural and easy a way as possible. A good developer, designer, or creator of anything strives to allow users to experience this kind of flow. The irony of flow in design is that when it is achieved, the design itself often goes unnoticed. thanks LucDesk

Optimism and Warnings

Lou Rosenfeld reflects on the past year and the current state of the IA industry and offers some thoughts for the near future.

Users Decide First; Move Second

New usability article by Erik Ojakaar on User Interface Engineering site. When we looked at how interactive design elements (such as rollovers, fly outs, and dropdowns,) helped designers get users to their content, we were surprised by our results. It turns out these elements are fighting a basic pattern of behavior: users decide what they will click on *before* they move their mouse.

Urban Pixel's tile browsing technique

Nooface pointed to Urban Pixel's Tiled Browser application which provides navigation and visualization of data along a 2-D X-Y plane. Viewing pieces of content as atoms or modules at various levels of magnification, the technique provides for high density and recognition from a high level with the option of seeking low-level granularity. The web site has illustrations of the tiled browser technique and shows several different implementations in applications. Here's a bit more about the tile browsing technique. Each atomic browsing unit is much smaller than the actual browsing window as shown by the green rectangles. With this approach, it is possible to change content on just parts of a web page much faster as you do not need to re-generate the entire page - instead, you just update the browsing tile that needs the changes. Additionally, this concept of a tiled browser enables you create web spaces much larger than afforded by current web technologies.

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