Notes on the dimensions of prototype tests

Marc Rettig offers some things to think about when you're planning to test a prototype. These were scribbled during a project at HannaHodge because conversations about tests, both among the team and with clients, seemed to constantly mix levels or dimensions. Giving names to these dimensions seemed to help us talk sensibly about our choices, and transformed the discussion into an exercise in picking appropriate "settings" for each continuum of choices. Disclaimer: these categories are useful, but you may find other issues that are important for your particular project. Also, don't take the labels on the lines to be exhaustive--they describe stops along the way from one extreme to another. Again, there are many possibilities and common practices that are not mentioned explicitly in these notes.

Peter Morville's Semantics

Peter Morville's column has been revived under his new consultancy site as Semantics. All of Morville's WebReview, Web Architect articles are now also archived on his site.

Writing usability reports

Some pointers for creating usability testing reports via WebWord and Elegant Hack.

There is No Such Thing as Information Design

Jeff Raskin on the meaning of the term "information" and its misuse in the term "information design". As a curmudgeon, I am delighted to point out that the popular term, Information Design, is a misnomer. Information cannot be designed; what can be designed are the modes of transfer and the representations of information. This is inherent in the nature of information, and it is important for designers to keep the concepts of information and meaning distinct. ... Even though information is an abstraction that is independent of form and therefore information cannot be designed, the way in which we represent information to others is of crucial importance in communicating the meaning of the information. The representation of the information is the plastic medium with which we work. It would have been more appropriate to call this field "Designing Information Representation". thanks Makovision

Form Foibles - A Real Life Usability Lesson

Don Makoviney discusses form usability. Losing a quarter of your subscribers over a two-month period from a simple form foible can be a very bad thing when your company lives and dies by these numbers. When money is your bottom line, don’t scrimp on User Testing. While it took me months of data to look back in 20/20 hindsight, User Testing can give you near-perfect vision into the future success of your application.


Louis Rosenfeld deconstructs in InternetWorld. Poor information architecture and difficult-to-follow pathways seem designed to turn away the potential Cisco customer. Thanks Tomalak's Realm

Info Design / Arch Deliverable Schemas

Peter Bogaards is compiling a list of IA/ID deliverables on InfoDesign. Each is defined concisely and elements to appear in the documents are identified. Current practice shows that much discussion is devoted to concepts, theories, methods, and techniques of Experience Design in general and Information Design / Architecture (ID/A) in specific. Unfortunately, these discussions have not been productive enough so far vis-a-vis a deep understanding of ID/A activities and their results. A focus on the documents ID/As deliver and the building blocks ('elements') they consist of seems necessary. This document contains a set of ID/A deliverables (a.k.a. documents), which have been derived from various internal and external sources. Be aware, that this is a rather premature attempt to provide more consensus within the ID/A community on the structure, content, and presentation of the documents.

Symbol index

I found this great index of symbols -- searchable by word or by shape -- while researching meanings of symbols for icon creation. contains more than 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics. In 1,600 articles their histories, uses, and meanings are thoroughly discussed. The signs range from ideograms carved in mammoth teeth by Cro-Magnon men, to hobo signs and subway graffiti.

Human markup language

In August, I logged the Internet News article on HumanML, which was sighted by Slashdot and LIS news in August. On SIGIA, someone posted the link to a new site devoted to the topic:

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 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.