Empirically Validated Web Page Design Metrics

Paper appearing in ACM SIGCHI'01, March 31-April 4, 2001 by Melody Y. Ivory, Rashmi R. Sinha, Marti A. Hearst. A quantitative analysis of a large collection of expert-rated web sites reveals that page-level metrics can accurately predict if a site will be highly rated. The analysis also provides empirical evidence that important metrics, including page composition, page formatting, and overall page characteristics, differ among web site categories such as education, community, living, and finance. These results provide an empirical foundation for web site design guidelines and also suggest which metrics can be most important for evaluation via user studies.

IAsk survey: Formal Educational Credentials for Information Architects

New ACIA IAsk survey -- take it here.

A Net Art Idea Line: Mapping lines of thought through time

The linkdup site reviews were recently updated with some examples of experimental interfaces for navigation and data visualization. Particularly interesting to me was The Whitney Museum of American Art's Idea Line (requires Java), which uses Java to display a stratified view of major categories of Net art. Mousing over each of the strata reveals the nodes of art works within. Mousing over individual works reveals the other categories (cross-references) under which the works may also be found, indicated by orange boxes. If you elect to view the "Totals" geometry -- one of the options in the lower left corner, an interesting visualization of the growth of Net art is revealed in the bulging of the lines as they move across the timeline demarcated by the years in the X-axis.

Poor Code Quality Contaminates Users' Conceptual Models

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for October 28. Software bugs and system crashes result in huge productivity losses and undermine users' ability to form good models of how computers work. Website designers can help improve user confidence by prioritizing quality and robustness over features and the latest technology.

Tim Berners-Lee on Microsoft's Latest Browser Tricks

An interview with Tim Berners Lee discussing Microsoft, which disabled use of MSN with many non-IE browsers last week and later backed off after their plan backfired. thanks Tomalak's Realm

The Role of Flow in Web Design

Scott Berkun of Microsoft discusses the concept of flow and how it applies to good Web design. I think of flow in a design as the movement of a person from their desire to their satisfaction, in as natural and easy a way as possible. A good developer, designer, or creator of anything strives to allow users to experience this kind of flow. The irony of flow in design is that when it is achieved, the design itself often goes unnoticed. thanks LucDesk

Optimism and Warnings

Lou Rosenfeld reflects on the past year and the current state of the IA industry and offers some thoughts for the near future.

Users Decide First; Move Second

New usability article by Erik Ojakaar on User Interface Engineering site. When we looked at how interactive design elements (such as rollovers, fly outs, and dropdowns,) helped designers get users to their content, we were surprised by our results. It turns out these elements are fighting a basic pattern of behavior: users decide what they will click on *before* they move their mouse.

Urban Pixel's tile browsing technique

Nooface pointed to Urban Pixel's Tiled Browser application which provides navigation and visualization of data along a 2-D X-Y plane. Viewing pieces of content as atoms or modules at various levels of magnification, the technique provides for high density and recognition from a high level with the option of seeking low-level granularity. The web site has illustrations of the tiled browser technique and shows several different implementations in applications. Here's a bit more about the tile browsing technique. Each atomic browsing unit is much smaller than the actual browsing window as shown by the green rectangles. With this approach, it is possible to change content on just parts of a web page much faster as you do not need to re-generate the entire page - instead, you just update the browsing tile that needs the changes. Additionally, this concept of a tiled browser enables you create web spaces much larger than afforded by current web technologies.

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.