jibbajabba's blog

A Business Case for Usability

In WebWord, John S. Rhodes presents "...a business case for usability in an organization. It is based on academic research, industrial research, case studies, consulting experience, and common knowledge found in the usability community."

Design: static pages are dead: how a modular approach is changin

ACM interactions article by Julie Pokorny discussing modular template-based design for sites with frequently updated content. Users of the Internet have become increasingly sophisticated in their expectations for the content and timeliness of informational Web sites. This is especially true for sites that deliver real-time information. For example, content portals such as Yahoo! provide late-breaking news through content management systems, and sites such as weather.com have realized that in addition to serving their core users, they can also syndicate their contents to a variety of other sites. ... It is not enough to design templates that structure navigation and visual identity. Truly dynamic presentation of information will take a modular approach, and templates will need to include a rule structure that specifies how content and interactions are combined. As content management and other systems enable and demand such modular approaches, the role of the information architect becomes more challenging.

Implement Strategic Content Management

e-Business Advisor article on planning your CMS strategy. Worried about becoming a slave to the content management infrastructure behind your site? Make the right technology decisions up front to get your content management working with minimal implementation headaches.

Constraining users with modal dialogs

In IBM Developer Works, Peter Seebach says, "Think twice before restricting user freedom". Most GUI's incorporate a "modal" interface -- one that prevents you from doing anything else until you've completed the current task. This is almost always a mistake because it restricts user choices, often for no good reason. In this article, Peter explores the specifics of how modal dialog boxes can be inappropriate and annoying. thanks xblog

Redesign on a shoestring

Zeldman talks redesign -- what mistakes to avoid and what steps to take -- in PDN's Pix. Budgets, staff and confidence have been slashed, yet you're still expected to improve your site, overhauling its content, structure and design for increased (cost) effectiveness. Time for a talk with your counselor Jeffrey Zeldman. thanks xblog

Notes on the dimensions of prototype tests

Notes from Marc Rettig describing "...the many dimensions to consider when designing usability tests or tests of conceptual prototypes. You can use these dimensions to structure test planning, and to clarify expectations for the results." thanks Victor Lombardi

RuleSpaces: a look at the scales of experience systems - Cosmology, Urbanism, Architecture, Engineering and Physics

Matt Jones' ambitious discussion of IA. "Content commissioners and creators need an understanding of hierarchy of skills needed in the construction of digital experiences, particularly networked ones. Parallels with real-world construction in 'digital construction' abound. 'Information architecture' is bandied about to cover all sorts of things but it might be more helpful to define some more 'boundaries' to it with some parallels from the real world. For instance, we all (mostly) have to obey the laws of physics, which engineers harness to realise the plans of architects who construct buildings as hopefully beautiful and useful interventions into an established landscape or urban context, which city planners think about strategically. As the contexts we experience digital media in multiply, a deep understanding of the structure of the web universe and of human behaviour there is the only way to successful marry it to real life in the future. My presentation aims to give the audience a framework or model - a thing to think with - for this purpose."

Taxonomy Software to the Rescue

Online Journalism Review surveys the latest software options for taxonomy creation. "Search tools are ineffective 'find' tools because their focus is on retrieving a specific reference and not on discovery," writes Delphi Group analyst Carl Frappaolo in the white paper "Connecting To Your Knowledge Nuggets." Knowledge workers are having a tough time categorizing data and finding what they need. One way to manage problems of information overload is by using taxonomy software.

Representation and Perceived Information Architecture

John Rhodes presents a unique approach to measuring the usability of an information architecture by allowing users to diagram how they perceive the site to be structured. In our consulting, we have taken this idea to new levels. In particular, we have developed a very interesting technique that helps us get at how users think about the information architecture of a web site. After conducting a full usability test, with many scenarios, we work with users to develop a Perceived Information Architecture (PIA). We basically have users draw out a map of the site as they perceive it on large sheets of paper. We literally get users to create a diagram of the information architecture. We passively work with them, but they are in control. They use any language they want, any colors, and any concepts. They can use layers, circles, numbers, or anything else. We let them represent the information any way they want. In a semi-structured way, we help them express the architecture of the site from their point of view. To our knowledge, this is a new and innovative technique. It is aimed at capturing the perceived information architecture of a web site. We can compare these representations to the actual information architecture, as the designers developed. We can look for static points, areas of failure, black holes, burning concepts, flow, and much more. thanks infodesign

Accessibility: What You Should Know

American Society for Training & Development article on Accessiblity. Accessibility is a buzzword that's been on the lips of people involved with e-learning for many months now. But what is it exactly? Optavia Corporation, a consulting firm that assists with issues of accessibility and usability, defines it as "the ability to use the Internet even when functioning under constraints." Those constraints can be of two types: functional limitations, also known as disabilities, and situational limitations, constraints caused by the devices a user is attempting to use. We would expand Optavia's definition to embrace not only the Internet but all electronic and information technology, as indeed the United States government has done.

Using Humans as a Computer Model

NY Times article about controlling computing complexity. Focusses on Paul M. Horn, a senior vice president who oversees the research labs at I.B.M, and a paper he authored on autonomic computing. It is a biological metaphor suggesting a systemic approach to attaining a higher level of automation in computing. Just as a person's autonomic nervous system automatically handles all kinds basic functions the heart rate, breathing and digestion, for example in response to changing conditions, so, too, should computer systems, according to Mr. Horn. The human body "does all this without any conscious recognition or effort on your part," he writes. "This allows you to think about what you want to do and not how you'll do it: you can make a mad dash for the train without having to calculate how much faster to breathe and pump your heart." Similarly, Mr. Horn says, the way to handle the complexity problem is to create computer systems and software that can respond to changes in the digital environment, so the systems can adapt, heal themselves and protect themselves. Only then, he adds, will the need be reduced for constant human maintenance, fixing and debugging of computer systems.


This Usability analysis of SiteBrain (MS Word document) by Michael Elledge and Kristen Truong was found floating around in CHIWEB.

Site Development's Fate

New Forrester report (requires subscription) mentioned on SIGIA. Firms Must Overhaul Site Development To Succeed. Industry by industry, Web sites will become so central to business that the distinction between a firm and its site will evaporate. With Web sites playing such a crucial role, companies will have to treat them as full-scale software engineering efforts, aligning people, architectures, processes, and tools accordingly. One of the suggestions in the report discussing assembing your team had this to say about IA and usability people. Architects, not just builders. Solid programmers and developers are the lifeblood of any site project -- without them, applications don't get built. But to master the complexities of modeling N-tier infrastructures and content taxonomies, firms should bolster their staffs with object and information architects. Without these skills, teams won't be able to properly create the logical partitions developers need to work safely in parallel or effectively manage the metadata and business rules that drive advanced interactions. Usability experts, not just design gurus. Creative designers help make the Web better looking and more entertaining. But creating software requires usability experts to build interfaces that help users achieve their goals on a site. One construction hardware manufacturer had designers create a navigation bar that looked like a drafting board. Marketing was ecstatic until usability consultants pointed out that the design meant too few product categories were being shown on the home page, frustrating customers. Real users, not just product managers. Product managers have a deeper understanding of the features and benefits offered by the sites they supervise than anyone else in the organization. But even the best can't objectively assess the quality of the content and tools their firms provide online. Saving $50,000 upfront by relying on a product manager's recommendations without gathering usability data is penny-wise but pound-foolish. Why? Because the firm will have to redesign the inadequate UI, adding six more weeks and $90,000 of customization to the project.

Measuring Information Architecture Panel

Power point slides available from "Measuring Information Architecture" Panel at CHI 2001. The panel was held on April 4, 2001. thanks infodesign

Information Architecture as a Profession

Tal Herman's list of resources about the profession. These links are intended to highlight and provide resources for information architects and aspiring information architects looking for basic information about the profession. thanks WebWord

Web Project & Process Management

Power point slides from Marc Rettig and Chris Frye's web2001 / internet + mobile (5 september 2001, san francisco) presentation.

IA Deliverables and Artifacts

IAWiki's Deliverables and Artifacts collection has grown since last week. Add to the list and check back for new additions.


It was bound to happen. I wondered why it didn't happen sooner. Community written and editted wiki site, IAwiki is waiting for your input and changes. An experimental collaborative discussion space for the topic of Information Architecture. Anyone can contribute, and there are no pre-registration hoops to jump thru ... just click the Edit This Page link at the bottom.


BBJ pointed to Zaudhaus, which I was quite pleased to surf (and not just because I like green/beige color palettes.) One of their projects, bom.com, is a good example of how Flash can be quite useful for communication and information design. Surfing further, I found these presentations and articles that might be of interest:

  • What Makes Great Web Design, Marc Escobosa & Vic Zauderer, Stanford Publishing, July 2000 -- An excellent presentation. I wish there were speaking notes. There are number of links to IA examples that accompany many of the bullet points under the "Core Ingredients" section. I find it strange reading presentations out of context, but the sound bites in this one were well written.
  • Timeless Principles of Design: Four steps to designing a killer Web site, Vic Zauderer with Clement Mok in WebTechniques, April, 1997. -- A great article about the design process that discusses four basic principles from which to approach design problems: problem definition, target audience, information organization, and user interface and execution.
Ahhhhhhh... Control your computer by grunting

Kuro5hin points to several articles that discusses speech recognition to control your computer. Dr Takeo Igarashi believes that grunts and sighs could be an efficient way to control your computer and appliances. For instance when, you say "move down, ahhhh", a document would scroll while the sound continues, the scroll speed determined by the pitch of the "ahhhh". Articles mentioned:

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