jess mcmullin's blog

Lou Rosenfeld and Steve Krug roadshow.

They're each offering full day workshops in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago. Krug's are the day after Rosenfeld's.

Lou's tackling the ugly problem of creating unified IA across departments and business units in large organizations in Enterprise IA: Because Users Don't Care About Your Org Chart and Steve offers Don't Make Me Think: The Workshop

I'm particularly impressed by Steve's comment about Lou's workshop:

If you're involved in a large, politics-ridden enterprise site (does the word “silo” ring a bell?), you owe it to yourself and your company to spend a day with Lou—even more than with me.

Peterme: Casting your User Research

Peter Merholz discusses having the appropriate cast of users for research.

There's an old adage that 90 percent of filmmaking is in the casting. Throughout the process of making a movie, doing the work up-front to get the right performers pays off and ultimately leads to a superior result.

We've found this adage also proves true when we're conducting user research, because the quality of the results comes from selecting the right users at the project's outset.

So true - sometimes we're so adamant about practicing user centred design methods that we get just anyone involved, instead of truly representative users, just so we can say we did user research or usability testing. Or maybe you're in a situation like this: yesterday someone suggested I use people from the project team. And that can be worse than no users at all.

There's also a lot of other interesting articles on the UIE conference site.

Customer Experience Whitepapers

Change Sciences has an archive of best practices whitepapers they've produced. Free registration required. Topics include writing for the web, navigation and orientation, search, checkout, user registration, and two interesting 'design paradoxes' articles. Most interesting to me is the recent task design article, and the two older, but still valuable ROI & Investing in User Experience papers.

Jakob's best Alertbox in a long time.

The advice on intranets and staff directories is useful in Jakob's latest piece Employee Directory Search: Resolving Conflicting Usability Guidelines. But that's not why I think it's the best Alertbox in recent memory. It's because it shows the complex and paradoxical issues that comes with any signficant design.

"It is very common to have conflicting usability guidelines. They are called "guidelines" rather than "specifications" for a reason: they are necessarily fuzzy because they relate to human behavior.
Interface design requires trade-offs. The challenge is in knowing how to balance the conflicting guidelines and in understanding what is most important in a given situation."

While he still suggests usability testing as the resolution to the guideline conflict (not always true), it's a refreshing dose of dogma-lite Nielsen.

Update: Christina's got an interesting take on why guidelines don't really help novices.

Usability of Specs?

Ever been frustrated when what the developers built didn't match what you designed or architected? Maybe your specification had some usability problems itself. Brian Krause has useful tips in Getting Creative With Specs: Usable Software Specifications - An effective, usable spec serves two main purposes: First, it elicits feedback early, which helps to avoid problems and misunderstandings later on. It's especially important that clients are able to identify any missing functionality in the design, for example. Second, an effective spec ensures the software stays in line with the designer's intentions as it's built — in other words, the spec is precise enough that a competent engineer will build the interface as it was designed.

Beyond cardsorting: Free-listing to explore user categorization

Rashmi describes a great technique in her latest at B&A: Beyond cardsorting: Free-listing methods to explore user categorizations - As a precursor to cardsorting or as an independent method, free-listing is a technique that can help you determine the scope of a content domain while providing some insight into how the domain is structured.

Practical Persona Creation

Keith Robinson has an interesting article on Evolt about Practical Persona Creation. If you've used personas before, there's not a lot new, but it's a good introduction for colleagues or others not familiar with the technique. He's also followed it up with a couple example personas.

Patterns for Personal Websites

Mark Irons has a great collection of patterns for personal web sites. Not only useful for folks building personal sites, but a good reminder that patterns are contextual - that creating universal interaction design patterns only provides a starting point. Broad patterns are a good starting point, but specific types of sites or applications also require specific additional patterns suited to their context. (and of course, good sites go beyond patterns to really fit the goals of sponsors and stakeholders)

Reversible

Reversible.org is a site that automatically links back to anyone who links to it. There are some implications for this on the Reversible about page.

It has elements of a blog, a directory, a wiki, and more. Definitely an interesting effort in bottom-up categorization, for one thing. And I'm not sure how I can link to a page that I'm interested in, without also being included in that page...this is an issue, since pages act sort of like nodes in a hierarchy, and and so linking to a page implies that my linking page is a member of that node.

That means that appropriate places to link would be reversible.org/blogs, reversible.org/blogs/IA, reversible.org/design/IA, and reversible.org/design/userexperience

We'll see what kind of emergent patterns reveal themselves in a week or two.

The Critique of Everyday Things

Adam takes a scenario inspired look at a new Krazy-Glue as Band-Aid product - an interesting application of daily IA tools to an everyday thing.

Ideagraph - interesting project for semantic/RDF/topic map folks

Ideagraph is a "Personal Knowledge Manager" that is in early beta. It is intended to eventually be a commercial product, but is currently free to download.

Mike K's book also coming April 2003

Looks like Morgan Kaufman picked up Mike Kuniavsky's book on user research (which was looking for a publisher), and that Observing the User Experience: A Practioner's Guide for User Research will arrive in April! Congratulations Mike :)

Tips for contextual interviews from Adaptive Path

Mike Kuniavsky offers practical advice on running a "nondirected interview" in his latest: Face to Face With Your Users: Running a Nondirected Interview.

Semantic search project for Moveable Type

From Ben and Mena

Maciej Ceglowski has built a prototype for a semantic search engine. To adapt it to function as a Movable Type plugin, he needs sample content that he can test against.

If successful, the search feature would let you do a keyword search, and get back relevant results even when there was no exact keyword match.
If you use Moveable Type, and you'd like to help out, send him some content.

Maciej is using latent semantic analysis to enable local search beyond keyword indexing. Sounds like an ambitious and exciting project.

Consolidated Assessment

Seth Gordon combines scenario design, card sorting, and participatory design into one user-centered lovefest in his article for Boxes and Arrows.

The enemies of usability

Peter Morville calls for a unified front in the UX community to take on the Enemies of Usability in his latest Semantics column.

Woo hoo! New IA books hitting the streets!

Jesse's long awaited Elements of User Experience was published this week. You can check out a fantastic sample chapter Meet the Elements (200 kb pdf). I've been using the elements to explain the different layers of UX to clients for several months now - and they get it - Jesse's done a great job. Congratulations!

No less newsworthy is the outstanding effort from Christina. Her practical IA book Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web strives for that "Don't Make Me Think" simplicity, and may be the modern introductory IA text we've been waiting for. I have yet to read the whole thing, but the First Principles sample chapter (2.6 MB pdf) is smoothalicious. Thanks Christina, and congratulations.

While Elements is available immediately on the New Riders site, it seems that Blueprints is still waiting for some last minute things before launching. Hope to see it next week. Update: Well, Blueprints is now officially available at New Riders too! Fantastic.

ps: buying through the amazon links will give the authors a well deserved extra kickback

Lou's presentations (and we'll respect the deal, Lou)

Lou Rosenfeld has a deal for you - he'll post his presentations on his site, so long as you listen to a plug for his upcoming IA tutorials on the NNGroup tour - one basic, one more advanced. Whether or not you're able to attend, Lou's presentations are a treasure trove of IA goodies.

Scope Creep article at A List Apart

Hal Helms takes on scope creep at ALA. Most interesting is a web-based wireframing tool and a tool for online annotation of prototypes called DevNotes. These both require ColdFusion on the server. (Though Hal mentions a PHP version of the wireframing tool, I couldn't find it).

thanks Scott

Article: Getting from Research to Personas

Cooper's Director of Design Kim Goodwin has an article in the latest UIE newsletter about distilling usable personas from that pile of research data.

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