jefflash's blog

UCD / UX / IA Salary survey

There's a new salary survey that's open for participation until March 31, 2004 (The official announcement is available here). It's is focused on UCD & HCI but has a number of questions where Information Architecture can be selected, and it's fairly comprehensive in many other respects.

I think that it is beneficial for both practitioners and hiring managers to have accurate, realistic compensation information, and hopefully participating in this survey will help.

FYI, more salary and compensation info is available at the Salary Surveys page on the IAwiki.

Salary Survey results

The HFI Salary Survey, which I mentioned here a while ago, has released its results. The quick info for US respondents:

Commercial: $82,600 (179 respondents)

Government & Nonprofit: $59,700 (23 respondents)

With the US respondents working in the commercial sector of the economy, three factors appear to influence compensation:

  1. experience in the field
  2. advanced degrees
  3. primary activity

View the full results. Also, I started Salary Surveys page at iawiki to keep track of all of these. If you know of one that's missing, add it!

Jared Spool on iterative design with CSS...

Jared Spool has a nice little article on Iterative design and the power of style sheets.

Hmmm... It reminds me a whole lot of my article called Prototyping with Style from last month's Digital Web Magazine. (ia/ discussion) Of course, I wasn't the first one to come up with the idea of using CSS for prototyping purposes, but I picked the topic because there wasn't anything else being written about it. But I guess now there is.

I'm just sayin'...

Usability Salary Survey

Hot on the heels of the AIfIA Salary Survey comes the HFI Usability Salary Survey. It's geared more towards usability, for sure, but one of the job titles they identify is "Information Architect," so it's worth participating.

Why should this be important to you?

  1. Most HR departments don't know what information architecture / usability is, much less how much it's worth.
  2. There isn't a whole lot of data on IA / usability salaries, and the data that is available, with a few exceptions, is several years old.

So, help out our cause and take the survey.

O'Reilly interviews Krug and Rosenfeld

Even if you've read separate interviews with Lou Rosenfeld and Steve Krug, and even if you've read the other joint interviews they've done, this interview at O'Reilly is worth reading, if only for Steve Krug's great analogies:

I sometimes think the best analog for my job is a "show doctor"--the person who comes in while a Broadway show is still in out-of-town tryouts, watches the whole thing, and says, "I think it would work much better if you moved the cowgirl dance number to the start of the second act, and killed the love ballad altogether."

But, humor aside, Lou and Steve both have some good things to say, and it's not just a sales pitch for their seminars or a regurgitation of past interviews.

More info:

disinfojournal for February 2003

The second issue of disinformation is out. Especially interesting is Don't trust your eyes - a laboratory study investigating consumer behavior on the net:

Responding pictures of secondhand goods or used vehicles, which are offered in the Internet e.g. with Ebay deceive frequently over the true quality of a commodity away. ...In our laboratory study which runs over a period of 3 months we logged the Internet purchase behavior of 859 persons with a customized XMosiac 10.5 browser. We can show in this study that during identical description of a product the preference was given to the article with a photo, in 87 percent of the cases. ... We can significantly show that a worse product with photo can be sold thus better than a better without photo.

This very clearly shows the power that information architects and web designers have to persuade visitors, which is what Andrew Chak and FutureNow (and I) have been saying for a while.

And, yes, as someone commented last time, disinfojournal is a bit strange, but that's what I think I like about it...


disinformation, “the first international e-journal of disinformation on the net,” has launched, and the first issue is available online. From their home page

There is obviously a huge lack of quality information on behavior, amount and usage regarding disinformation on the internet. As information has been increasingly invested with value, people have tried to manipulate, destroy, or acquire it in any way possible. Circumstances and instances cover a broad range of disinformation on the net or IP-based networks. The disinfojournal deals with topics in all areas of disinformation. This includes, but is not limited to library and information science, information technology, electronic publishing, database management, data mining, knowledge production, knowledge dissemination and of course malinformation and disinformation approached from sociological, psychological, philosophical, theoretical, technical, and applied perspectives.

The first issue includes About 5 percent of your intranet information is malicious or wrong and The usage of forms and false data: a field study, among others.

Unfortunately, the only way to get the full text is via email (?); HTML and PDF abstracts are available online.

Ten Commandments of Content Management

From Progressive Information Technolgies (tagline: “Information Architects for Publishing”) comes the Ten Commandments of Content Management:

  1. Content must be stored only once.
  2. Content must be separate from tagging.
  3. Granularity of content must be available at any level.
  4. Use metadata to enhance content management capability.
  5. Loading, editing, and extracting must be independent operations.
  6. Objects must have power.
  7. Think enterprise solution, not just specific content.
  8. Content views must support the user needs.
  9. Your current DTD is the start, not the end, of your content management.
  10. Your content management system must promote re-usability and extensibility.

These will probably be no-brainers for anyone who has worked with content management or CMSs, but there are some useful tips and helpful “Points to look for” for those trying to get their head around the whole idea.

Year-end wrap-up

Must be that time of year, since two usability-related year-in-review pieces came out yesterday:

Both are actually fairly level-headed and practical. Most of these things should be common knowledge for most IAs, but it's nice to see them summarized (and, in Nielsen's case, illustrated). HFI also has footnotes to all the relevant research, which is very useful for those ubiquitous “I'm looking for research that supports my opinion that ...” questions.

Intranet Search vs. Internet Search

In December's CIO Magazine, Dick Stenmark, head of Internet and intranet search solutions at Volvo Information Technology, takes on intranet search:

The search engine industry and the research community alike often fail to acknowledge that intranets are not just downscaled versions of the Internet, but are instead a whole different environment in terms of both content and culture. We use the same technology to build both, but the contexts in which they operate are entirely different.

The article is fairly short but quite informative and definitely worth a read. Remember, kids, it's all about users + content + context...

Wireframing on Clickz

Bryan Eisenberg (of FutureNow and GrokDotCom) has a good article in today's edition of ClickZ called Framing the Problem. It's a good, simple introduction to the “why wireframe?” question, and considering ClickZ's audience (marketers, advertisers), it's good to see IA mentioned there, though not explicitly.

At the end, Bryan adds in an Einstein quote (“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”), which reminded me a lot of a similar discussion of wireframes and other deliverables — John Zapolski's Zen and the Art of Deliverables (PDF) presentation at the 2002 IA Summit. To paraphrase John's comments, if someone asks you how long it takes to make a sitemap, tell them it takes five days, even if actually takes two hours. The four and a half days you spend thinking about the information architecture problems make it possible for you to create the sitemap in two hours.

Eye Tracking in Web Search Tasks: Design Implications

This is an interesting 9-page PDF from Stanford (and Oracle?) that gives the results of an small eye tracking study that was run. It's rather technical, but useful, and there's a good list of references at the bottom, so this might best filed in the “save this because it might be very useful later” file.

Persuasive Architecture

That cute little feller over at is talking about “Persuasive Architecture,” which he defines as:

Persuasive Architecture ... [is] the aesthetically appealing and functional structure you create to marry the organization of the buying and selling processes with the organization of information. Its the only way your Web site is actively going to influence, the only way you will pull (never push!) your visitors along the paths they need to walk to accomplish their goals and yours.

Basically, good IA and good design combined with a sensible business approach will lead you to success. No big news there. They're talking about it over at clickz, too. It's nice to see IA mentioned in the business/marketing press, and, well, especially in a good light.

More fun stuff to hang up

Jesse's at it again, providing another beautiful piece of Cubicle Decoration, this time with a poster for his upcoming book.

Your users aren't stupid. Why does your site make them feel that way? (Download the PDF)

Enhanced Thumbnails for Web Search

Those crazy kids at Xerox PARC are at it again with this neat thing they call Enhanced Thumbnails. The web search demo is particularly interesting.

This demo is a re-creation of the user tests conducted by the research staff, comparing Enhanced Thumbnails to more traditional methods of displaying search results. Study participants were given a set of information-finding tasks to be done using a search engine. Their search results were displayed using text, plain thumbnails, and Enhanced Thumbnails.

And the results?

The study showed that people using Enhanced Thumbnails found the answers to their queries 29% faster than when they used text summaries, and 22% faster than when they used plain thumbnails.

See examples for yourself. (Search 1, Search 2, Search 3)

They also have a stand-alone browser called Popout Prisim (free 90-day trial download available) that integrates this functionality into normal browsing.

Now, all we need is for this to be tied in to the Google Toolbar and we'll be all set...

What people say, what people do, and what people say they do...

There's an interesting excerpt from a 1977 article called “Telling More Than We Know” talking about the original study that showed that what people say is not necessarily what they do. In this case, test subjects were given a problem to solve and denied getting the solution from a clue they were given, even giving credit to a useless clue while neglecting to mention the genuinely helpful one.

There's also original data from a 1977 study involving word pairs and brand recognition. I'm not good enough to sum it up here, and it's a pretty short description they've got, so you might as well just read it.

Just two more reminders that, in the words of Margaret Meade: “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.”

Polar Bear II Review

James McNally has a great review of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Volume 2 to round up this month's IA-focused Digital Web Magazine.

To be completely honest, trying to give you a taste of the content of this book is going to be a little bit like trying to take a drink from a fire hose. ... Information Architecture for the World Wide Web is an introductory course in a discipline of which we are all slowly becoming practitioners. That it is such an enjoyable course is due entirely to the knowledge and experience of the authors. Their humility, evident in their willingness to point the reader to other sources of information, is also refreshing.

2003 IA Summit -- Call for Participation

The call for participation for the March 2003 IA Summit has gone out. They're looking for case studies and presentations, as well as posters. Deadlines? December 2, 2002 for case studies and presentations, and January 15, 2003 for posters. Follow the links for more info.

[Thanks, Digital Web Magazine.]

Deliverables that Clarify, Focus, and Improve Design

From the 2002 UPA Conference comes Deliverables that Clarify, Focus, and Improve Design, a presentation and examples by Richard Fulcher, Bryce Glass and Matt Leacock.

The representations we choose for UI design affect both how we think about the design and how others understand it. Concept maps, wireframes, storyboards, and flow-maps speak to different audiences at different stages of the development cycle. This presentation provides examples of these documents and a toolkit for producing them.

There are a number of good downloads, but I especially liked the Key Relationships Between Design Deliverables (PDF), which is quite worthy of hanging up by your workstation. (Thanks to this article on Boxes and Arrows for the conference summary and link.)

Internet Librarian 2002

The preliminary program is set for Internet Librarian 2002 (“The Internet Conference and Exhibition for Librarians and Information Managers”), being held November 4-6 in Palm Springs, CA. It looks like there are a lot of good sessions, with tracks and presentations on Intranets, weblogs, UCD, DRM, web writing, e-learning, searching, and the wireless web among other things.

Of particular interest was the description of The IA Divide: Issues Worth Fighting About, which features our very own Peter Morville and Peter Merholz:

Sometimes, it's the things we can't agree on that make life most interesting. In this spirited debate, the two Peters shine the spotlight on the most controversial and critical issues faced by information architects today. While they've got the same first names, these two experts have no problem finding differences. Come watch the battle, as Good Peter faces off against Bad Peter. And be prepared to pick sides. Audience participation and a sense of humor are required.

I'm picturing a cage match complete with folding chairs, easily-breakable tables, and concealed chokers...

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