Designing for Usability on a Shoestring

Webreview offers some advice for user-centered design and discount Usability testing. thanks infodesign

User Interface Design for Programmers

Webreference review Joel Spolsky's User Interface Design for Programmers. These are usability guidelines from a programmer that seems to care about application use by guess who ... end-users! Half of the book is available on Spolsky's site, by the way. Here's what webereference says about the book. Joel Spolsky's cardinal axiom of all user interface design is to match your program model to the user model. In other words, your program should behave exactly as the user expects. If you can do that, and apply the other corollaries he provides, your program will be usable.

What games can teach us about human-computer interaction

That video game entry reminded me of something I read on Kuro5hin earlier this year about HCI and gaming. k5 user Puchitao asks, what can designers of "productivity" software interfaces learn from the game industry? In this article, I'll look at three genres of games and suggest ways that their interface designs might inform the designs of "real-world" projects like shells, programming environments, and desktop environments.

Art imitates video games imitating life

Pixelated people have been popping up in strange places lately -- most notably in museums. NYTimes says, "A global assortment of media artists, hackers, gamers and social activists have been using the video game medium for years to engage a younger, hipper audience, and museums have begun to take notice. ". An impressive example is John Haddock's Isometric Screenshots, described as A series of drawings from an isometric perspective, in the style of a computer game. The subject of each drawing is the image, or images, that created a popular cultural event. Historical events (like the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel) are used interchangeably with fictionalized events (like the picnic scene from The Sound of Music). So my question now is when will the weblogs as a form of literary and socio-economic-political discourse get noticed by big institutions like museums and universities? Probably a long time from now. Will there be an English 201: The weblog as a form of discourse?

Download Speeds And Usability

New on Usability Infocentre. Download speeds still matter - no matter who tells you they don't. We provide some advice for developers wondering how fast is 'fast enough'.

Managing taxonomies strategically

This article on taxonomy creation and management was forwarded to me from someone at the Montague Institute. It offers a high level view of taxonomies and some suggestions for building your business taxonomy.

Toby Braun

I revisited tbid.com after Christina gleaned its ID samples. I was just at TBID about a month ago when I logged a story on bottom-of-page sitemaps because TBID was one of the first places I saw this concept used (circa 1999, around the time that he did the HAL 2000 thing that was all over the Babble list). For some time, however, he got rid of the navigation tool in favor of a simpler, but less navigable toolbar that showed only top level navigation and had linear navigation within each section. It appeared then to be more of a brochure-ware site than it had been previously. It seems that TB has returned to the more usable bottom of page navigation that lets users drill down to second level pages. I think it's better, although less sexy than the previous design. By the way, you can see an example of TBID's early navigation in Jakob Nielsen's bood, Designing Web Usability.

Net ads: Size does matter

It's about time. This article appeared on C|net about an industry reaction to tame the wild wild west of Web advertising by creating guidelines for producers. The Interactive Advertising Bureau on Monday defined new guidelines for rich media advertising, a move that could push flashy, interactive ads even further onto the landscape of Web publishing. The guidelines, set by the IABís Rich Media Task Force, are meant to help encourage and streamline the creation of "rich media" units--advertisements that typically include animation, audio or video.

Beyond Usability

Christina's presentation from Web Design World 2001 in Seattle talks about the strategy and process of user-centered design. (PPT available)

Knowledge representation starters

Someone inquired about indexing resources on SIGIA. Here is my annotated list of pointers to get anyone started in this area of information work. Suggest any other good reading in this area as it applies to Web siets. -Michael Books and papers on knowledge representation

  • Explorations in Indexing & Abstracting: Pointing, Virtue & Power. Brian O'Connor Abstract: Draws on intellectual resources from information theory to MTV to discuss challenges to the indexing and abstracting field posed by the information and technology explosion, and presents alternatives for abstracting and indexing information so that users can actually find it. Looks at the shortcomings of traditional systems, and uses exercises and case studies to demonstrate the elements of a patron- specific system. -- This is an short, but excellent book discussing the intellectual work of representing knowledge, the core activitiy in indexing for information retrieval.
  • Guidelines for Indexes and Related Information Retrieval Devices (NISO TR-02-1997). James D. Anderson Abstract: This new NISO Technical Report provides expert guidance on designing indexes for every kind of document. Coverage includes automatic indexing and indexing based on intellectual analysis and the use of controlled vocabularies. A comprehensive glossary of indexing terms is provided and recommended introductory text for print and back-of-the-book indexes, database indexes, computer produced indexes, and electronic search indexes are given. -- The PDF is available for download. Jim is also working on a book at present on the topic of knowledge representation. I used a draft of his forthcoming book to prepare a paper on indexing art images. The NISO report and the JASIST article below were precursors to the forthcoming book.
  • Journal of the American Society for Information Science, Vol. 45 Number 8 1994. -- Special issue on indexing. Also search through JASIS for indexing articles in the journal and in conference proceedings if you have access on the ASIS site. Or go to your University Library to search journals.
  • Most articles by Brian O'Connor, Jim Anderson, James Turner and Dagobert Soergel are relevant. Also, a great selection of books available from NISO (search for "indexing").
Related white papers on knowledge representation and the Web
Interaction Architect

Sim D'Hertefelt's Interaction Architect promotes designing useful and usable interactive systems. Some useful stuff in the articles section including "The Skeptical Internet User Does Not Search".

Information, complexity and computer science

An interesting article appeared on NY Times today about information and computer science. The article questions whether or not computer science has become the metaphor for grasping and comprehending knowledge. A bunch of CS folks got together to discuss whether this is true or not. The article corectly concludes, that indeed, computer science today cannot successfully interpret the complexity of our world's knowledge. In some fields of knowledge (especially physical science) it may be possible to extract some meaning by reducing data to consistent patterns (such as is being attempted with with the human genome). But a problem lies in the fundamental concept that all messages are processable and can be understood universally by a computer. The computer scientists participating in the discussion mentioned in the article hoped to arrive at a "'unified language' in which to talk about physics, biology, neuroscience and other realms of thought." What they found instead was that it is difficult to even define the terms that describe that with which they work. The problem of representing knowledge is the crux of knowledge representation work (indexing, ontological creation). The world's messages do not consistently mean the same thing to all people at different times. In fact, the same message might mean something different to the same person at different times. The fundamental problem with the computer science approach to information is that they view the raw data as the message. The term information comes from the latin "in forma", meaning the shape within. Information implies meaning -- knowledge that is the result of some study or analysis. Extracting the meaning of messages does not produce foolproof and universal results with today's computer science applications. At least not yet. As an example, could a computer science algorithm consistently and universally produce the same results that a human does when looking at a Rorschach inblot test and describe some message? To think that one can create an algorithm that can is the height of hubris. Maybe some day the results of human and computer message extraction will get closer to each other, but today, the knowledge representation and comprehension is very slippery territory, which is why many IAs recommend, when organizing and representing information on large Web projects, a combination of automated and human methods. From the article, "Time of Growing Pains for Information Age": This is the information age, in which, we are told, biology is defined by a three-billion- letter instruction manual called the genome and human thoughts are analogous to digital bits flowing through a computer. Jaron Lanier is the lead scientist of the National Tele-Immersion Initiative. He and six other scientists were sitting under a maple tree one recent afternoon worrying whether this headiness was justified. They found instead that they could not even agree on useful definitions of their field's most common terms, like "information" and "complexity," let alone the meaning and future of this revolution. ... Scientifically, the information age can be said to have begun in 1948 when Dr. Claude E. Shannon, a researcher at Bell Laboratories, proposed that information could be defined as the number of ones and zeros ó bits ó that it took to encode a message in binary language. ... The assembled scientists, however, argued that Dr. Shannon's definition of information, based on counting bits, did not give a meaningful result in every situation. For example, if you have two copies of a book, you have twice as many bits and thus twice as much information, but you are not necessarily better informed.

The usability of usability articles (FTSE Awards)

Sorry for mucking about, moving offices is more fun that I thought it would be. The new (and final) url for the FTSE 100 Usability Awards is http://www.othermedia.com/tomsmith/ftseawards/. cheers, tom originally posted 3 August

Messaging vendors rally around SIMPLE protocol

According to Newfusion, An emerging communications protocol called SIMPLE is the front-runner to become the standard method for sharing online presence information and instant messages across the Internet, thanks to backing from market leaders AOL Time Warner and Microsoft. ... Having the marketplace agree on the telephony-oriented SIMPLE protocol will encourage corporate use of instant messaging, supporters say. Industry use of instant messaging has been hampered by interoperability issues.

NewsEdge white paper on taxonomies

NewsEdge Corporation has released a white paper discussing their use of taxonomies and categorization systems for news and business information. There is some high level discussion of taxonomies and their use in classifying business information. And of course the white paper discusses NewsEdge's use of a system for tagging subjects in news stories. The PDF is available for download: Taxonomies: The Value of Organized Business Knowledge (165K PDF).

M-commerce slower than expected

This comes as no surprise. Communications News reports that while m-commerce vendors remain upbeat that phenomenal growth for the sector is just around the corner, industry analysts caution that the corner may be a little farther down the road. Studies over the last several years predicted a booming market for m-commerce. In December 1999, Strategy Analysts predicted that m-commerce would grow to $200 billion worldwide by 2004, while IDC's forecast for the same year saw U.S. m-commerce users growing to 29 million. ... Recent studies, however, look for slower-than-expected m-commerce growth.

Half Of Hispanic Adults Use Internet

About half of adult Hispanics in the U.S. have used the Internet at one time or another, and 61 percent say they go online on any given day, a Net use study found. ... About 11 million Hispanics had Internet access in February, up 25 percent from March 2000, according to a new Pew Internet and American Life Project report.

British children prefer Internet surfing to watching TV

A recent survey of UK families by the Family Assurance Group has revealed that surfing the Internet is now seven times more popular among British children than watching television. ... The survey also showed that some young Internet users spend up to 70 hours per week online. In addition very few families seem to use the Internet together, especially since a large number of children now have computers in their bedrooms. In comparison over a third of families, or 38%, watch television together.

New Yahoo! Group: intranet-user-experience

Jeff Lash announced this new group: intranet-user-experience: This is a list dedicated to disucssion on developing and maintaining Intranets, with an emphasis on elements of user experience design (information architecture, usability, navigation design, information design, etc.). Discussion can include links, articles, research, studies, white papers, presentations, opinions, anecdotes, or anything that can be beneficial to those developing Intranet user experiences.

Personalization's second wave

Online Journalism Review is saying that personalized content is still valuable. At least that's what the content providers believe. Today, we're glimpsing the next stage of Net news. Stage one consisted of building elaborate, if unwieldy, news portals to attract a mass audience. This new stage involves forging deeper customer relationships with users to build customer intimacy, spurring more frequent visits and, eventually, enticing people to open their wallets. Interactivity, practical business services, networked applications, streamlined navigation and personalized content are all part of the mix.