Guerrilla usability

Mary Deaton talks about doing guerrilla usability in Builder's WebShui. You have design ideas for your Web site: you've researched your competitors' strategies, and you've read books and Web style guides to learn about the conventions for usable Web sites. But you're still not sure if your visitors will find the site easy to use. What now? You could get a college degree in human factors engineering, or you could hire a human factors engineer. Great ideas, except you don't have four years to spare, and your boss won't pay for a consultant. That leaves two options: doing nothing, or doing it yourself. Doing nothing will not solve your problem. But you can learn to do your own usability testing. thanks Elegant Hack

Some bunny rabbit levity for a thursday afternoon

FLAPJACKS AND FLOPPY EARS -- Japanese man forces innocent bunny "to hold objects on its head." Click on any of the many the links to view this bizarre photo diary. The photo journal sort of reminds me of Being John Malkovich. We see through the eyes of this very strange rabbit lover as he captures his little friend. After a while you feel sorry for the little guy. It's not like he can shout out, "Stop putting pastry on my head you foolish human!"

Innies vs. Outies discussion

A continuation of CarboniQ's September cocktail hour discussion of the role of the IA as an employee vs. as a consultant is going on at their weblog.

Usability Study of PC and TV-based Web Platforms Reveals Online Shopping Tasks Confuse, Frustrate Users

According to PR News Wire, Electronic Ink released the findings of a study that reveals major usability disconnects encountered by users of TV-based Web platforms like WebTV(R), AOLTV(TM) and UltimateTV(R).

Image access

The September issue of JASIST focusses on image access issues. TOC and abstracts available.

Exploring Users' Experiences of the Web

Barry Brown and Abigail Sellen explore users' browsing behaviors on First Monday. While browsing the Web is a widespread everyday activity there is a shortage of detailed understanding of how users organise their Web usage. In this paper we present results from a qualitative in-depth interview study of how users browse the Web and combine browsing with their other activities. The data are used to explore three particular problems which users have with browsing the Web. Firstly, users have problems managing their favourites, and in particular accessing their favourites through a hierarchical menu. Second, users have problems with combining information across different Web sites - what we call the "meta-task" problem. Third, users have concerns with security and privacy, although these concerns seem to change as users become more experienced with shopping on the Web. We discuss three concepts which address these problems: "home page favourites", "Web clipping" and the "Web card". These concepts are attempts at incremental improvements to the Web without affecting the Web's essential simplicity.

Usability and Online Branding

New on Frontend Usability Infocentre. Online 'branding' is fundamentally about the direct experience that the user enjoys. All the streamed television advertisements in the world won't rescue a fundamentally unusable site...

Making use of user research

Gretchen Anderson of Cooper Interaction Design talks about how to make the most of user research -- usability testing and ethnographic field research -- to help mke better choices and establish better focus for products. Designing or redesigning a product often feels like a risky proposition, especially in today's business climate. Those responsible for defining the product offering and marketing want reliable, measurable data to define success both incrementally and overall. Hard data helps us make choices about where to spend resources, but placing a product under the microscope every step of the way can also introduce as many opportunities for error as it avoids. By focusing on how a product performs in the lab without broader knowledge of the user's environment and goals, measurement alone may be misleading. To get the most value and meaning out of user feedback it is important to choose the appropriate method for conducting and analyzing.

Microsoft CEO's sure can party

An article in the National Post talks about the mpeg video of Steve Ballmer circulating on the Net. Ballmer, trying to get a Microsoft engagement started by jumping around a stage with Gloria Estefan blasting in the background, yells "Come on, come on, get up!" before exclaiming, "I LOVE THIS COMPANY!" Here's what others were quoted as saying in response to the video: Lucy Kellaway, a management columnist for London's Financial Times, is profoundly disappointed by Mr. Ballmer's conduct. "When a morale-raising exercise involves mass hysteria it leaves me feeling uncomfortable," she wrote this week. "I have no doubt that Steve Ballmer loves his company. But why should he hire a hall, fill it with people and shout and scream the message at them is beyond me."

Community Encyclopedia

Here's an interesting project. A community site is using Wiki to create user contributed articles in a Web-based encyclopedia that is also user-edittable. Check out Wickipedia. There's an article in MIT Technology Review about this project and the implications of the user-driven intellectual anarchy that is Wikipedia.

Webmonkey Radio: Information Design

The Jeff and Drue show. Jeff and Drue Miller have a tête-à-tête about the fascinating realm of information design. thanks Christina

State of voice recognition

In Technically Speaking, Information Week discusses the current state of voice recognition software. Five years ago, it seemed that we'd all be talking to our computers by now, and could throw away those pesky keyboards. What happened? While speech recognition has become ubiquitous with call centers and voice portals, it's a long way from letting us talk to our PCs.

Web Redesign | Workflow that works

The book site for Kelly Goto's and Emily Cotler's Web Redesign book has been launched with chapter summaries and downloads (process forms and worksheets).

Can Navigational Assistance Improve Search Experience?

Mazlita Mat-Hassan and Mark Leven publish the results of a usability test that considers the incorporation of navigation aids in search services. Appears in the September issue of First Monday. Providing navigational aids to assist users in finding information in hypertext systems has been an ongoing research problem for well over a decade. Despite this, the incorporation of navigational aids into Web search tools has been slow. While search engines have become very efficient in producing high quality rankings, support for the navigational process is still far from satisfactory. To deal with this shortcoming of search tools, we have developed a site specific search and navigation engine that incorporates several recommended navigational aids into its novel user interface, based on the concept of a user trail. Herein, we report on a usability study whose aim was to ascertain whether adding semi-automated navigational aids to a search tool improves users' experience when "surfing" the Web. The results we obtained from the study revealed that users of the navigation engine performed better in solving the question set posed than users of a conventional search engine. Moreover, users of the navigation engine provided more accurate answers in less time and with less clicks. Our results indicate that adding navigational aids to search tools will enhance Web usability and take us a step further towards resolving the problem of "getting lost in hyperspace". thanks brightly colored food

Step Two Designs whitepaper on deploying search engines

A white paper discussing issues to consider when selecting a search engine application.

New White House site

Jakob Nielsen and others critique the new in the LA Times. "I'd give it a C+," said Jakob Nielsen, a former Sun Microsystems Inc. engineer who is an expert on Web page design. Nielsen noted that the Spanish translation doesn't extend to the important navigational bars at the top of the White House Web page; they still appear in English, even though the content below is in Spanish. He also said the page's fancy cursive script "is hard to read." "I think the visually impaired will find it hard to decipher," Nielsen said.

New ACIA IAsk survey


The Cranky User: The Principle of Least Astonishment

IBM developerWorks offers some tips for meeting user expectations and avoiding unpleasant surprises. When computers are at their most usable, we don't even notice them; when they are at their least, they astonish us. Here, Peter explores the Principle of Least Astonishment, and how it can help you develop better interfaces. thanks Tomalak's Realm

Designing Web Ads Using Click-Through Data

Useit on creating usable ads for search engines. Search engine ads are one type of Web advertising that can actually work. To create the best ads, do quick experiments and redesign ads based on usability principles for online writing. Doing so helped us increase ad click-through by 55% to 310%.

Architecture design can make or break e-finance site success

By Mark Ritzmann. Global Finance, v15n6, Jun 2001, pe36. Global financial institutions invest heavily in Web sites and underlying technologies without always paying the same attention to information architecture (IA), including user interface (UI) and customer experience planning. As a result of a failure to consider these crucial design features, online channels may remain cost centers rather then evolve into profit centers. Information architecture is the practice of organizing information, such as Web site content and functionality, so as to enable users to achieve their own and he Web site's desired goals.