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Usability Issues in Product Design

After a month hiatus, the Frontend Usability InfoCentre is back with Frank Long's Usability Issues in Product Design.

In order to create an effective solution, both the product design and the interface design need to be evaluated and adjusted in sympathy with each other. This convergence of interface and product design has two significant effects on usability practice:

  • The need to design, evaluate and test the interaction device in conjunction with the interface
  • The need for more detailed and thorough research into the environmental factors that affect the normal operation or use of the product

MIT/Stanford Semantic Web panel - recap

Alex Wright wrote (sorry, that just sounds a bit funny) a nice summary of a recent panel discussion of the semantic web.

A lot of smart people, like Tim Berners-Lee, seem convinced that the Semantic Web is the certifiable Next Big Thing. A lot of other smart people, like Tim Bray, think it's just another obscenely overhyped buzzword (after all, the Web Services craze is already so 1Q02).

But I have yet to meet anyone who, when pressed, could satisfactorily answer the question: What exactly is the Semantic Web?

A good short synopsis, especially helpful for people like me who are still trying to wrap their heads around the idea.

» Alex's summary
» Information on the event

Cooper Newsletter: April 2002

Two articles in the April newsletter from the company formerly known as Cooper Interaction Design:

A Breath of Fresh Air, by Alan Cooper
5 insights for improving product development cycle success, by Pat Fleck

IA Summit Wrap-up presentation

At the March meeting of the St. Louis Group for Information Architecture, I presented a wrapup of the summit. You can download the presentation for reference or use with a local IA group. Any comments, feedback, or corrections are appreciated and encouraged.

In Search of the Perfect Website

A SmartBusiness story entitled In Search of the Perfect Website talks about ecommerce usability. There are some nice anecdotes about ethnography, redesign success stories, and user comments. It's a bit heavy on the Vividence-style testing and log-tracking (as opposed to traditional or low-budget usability testing), but overall it's good, especially for those looking for (more) hard evidence of ROI for usability investments for ecommerce.

Reconciling market segments and personas

A nice article in the Feb/Mar 2002 issue of the Cooper Interaction Design newsletter.

Both market segmentation and personas provide useful information; one informs the other. Using the appropriate tool for the task at hand without bending, adding, or removing from either can provide a rich, complementary set of user and consumer models, that can ultimately create a useful and more successful product definition than either could in isolation.

Sociable Media

MIT's Sociable Media Group “investigates issues concerning society and identity in the networked world. We address such questions as: How do we perceive other people on-line? What does a virtual crowd look like? How do social conventions develop in the networked world? Our emphasis is on design: we build experimental interfaces and installations that explore new forms of social interaction in the mediated world.”

They're doing some neat projects, some more practical than others. Chat Circles is a stripped-down (sans avitars) visual representation of online chat; Visual Who is “a tool for visualizing the complex relationships among a large group of items” (a la The Brain); Coterie is “a visualization of the conversational dynamics within IRC”; and, my personal favorite, The CurlyCart, is like the illegitmate child of Lotus ScreenCam and a PowerWheels.

ia/recon 6/6

I have often been asked the secret of my success as an information architect. Here, I will reveal for the first time that secret. I have hunches.

Jesse gives us the final installment of his 6-part essay and finishes some of the thoughts that he has brought up over the past 5 postings:

Information architecture is a discipline that can be practiced by people in a wide variety of roles. Architectures can be designed to achieve a wide variety of goals, not just information retrieval. The single most important factor in the success of an architecture is the skill of its creator. This skill is applied through a combination of experienced professional judgment, thoughtful consideration of research findings, and disciplined creativity. This skill can be developed and applied by specialists and non-specialists alike.

Arguments For & Against Usability Specialists

From Richard Anderson's Usability/UCD class (formerly) offered through UC Berkely Extension, a number of completed assignments by a former student, including this thorough list of Arguments For & Against Usability Specialists.

Usability Quotations

Dey Alexander has some great usability quotations on her website. Mainly culled from Nielsen and Krug, it's a nice list of oneliners. (There's also a lot of other IA/Usability-related things on the site as well.) I've got a few of these posted around my computer — anyone know of any other pages with additional usability quotations?

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