IA for catalog sites

Catalog Age sells IA to the catalog industry.

    All the work you put into getting your Website up and running comes together in one place: the user interface. An attractive home page is a critical part of the user interface. But a great interface design is more than a pretty face for your site. Equally important is the information architecture: the underlying organization of content and features that determines how customers experience your site. A successful user interface immediately engages customers, shows them what you have to offer and how to find it, and guides them to the buying point quickly and easily.
Good Grips: Usability before Branding

Using examples such as the Good Grips kitchen tools, Tog explains why and how you should create a usable product before expending energy and resources branding it to death. One piece of advice that is particularly valuable:

    If you are now using the word, "branding," more than once per week, you should: * Every time you feel the word, "branding," coming on, picture in your mind a burning cow. Good Grips kitchen tools grew out of one man's desire to build a better potato peeler for his arthritic wife. It has become one of the great marketing stories of the last decade, garnering a huge market share. Software designers can take from it two lessons: Good designs for the disabled can also benefit the normally-abled, and effective product design must come before "branding."
Internet ads distract attract

A NYTimes article about the valiant efforts hopeless sigh of advertisers to get your attention.

Selling a Vision of the Future Beyond Folders

NYTimes article on David Galertner's talk at PC Expo.

    The time has come, he said, to fix a problem that has not been addressed in some 15 years: Computers are lousy at organizing our information; the antiquated system of sorting documents into folders and trying to maintain order has fallen apart. ... "We sometimes forget that the basics of information management don't change," he said. "We think and talk and listen; we read and write and look at pictures. That was the essence of information management in the 13th century, and it still is today. Computers can put us in touch with the world and, more important, with ourselves." Professor Gelernter says he is not selling his wares so much as a new vision of the future. "It would be crazy to predict that Scopeware will emerge as the winner in the changing world of information management," he told the audience. "But I will predict this: Scopeware's properties are the properties that a winning system will need, and the direction Scopeware points is the right direction."
Read more about Scopeware.

Effieciency in design

Bob Baily of Human Factors International looks at stats (using The Counter) to suggest platform/ browser/resolution/colors to design for. This is sure to meet with some disagreement from designers and usability folks alike

    ... unless there is a very good reason to do so, do not waste time designing for and conducting usability tests on: - The Macintosh, WebTV, Linux, Unix operating systems, or any Windows operating system prior to Win 95, - Any browser except recent versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape, - Monitors that have resolutions less than 640x480 or greater than 1280x1024, and - Monitors having less than 8-bit color. ... As designers, we must learn to systematically give up trying to accommodate users who insist on using many of the little used and older technologies. The resources used to deal with these technologies can be much better used in creating solutions for newer devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones, etc. Our design time is finite and limited, and we cannot design for all possible users! Good designers make good decisions about what not to do.
No doubt, the relevance of the stats on The Counter depends on your particular audience. In my work environment (which has a large R component) Sun, Linux, Mac, Opera, Early Netscapes and Lynx are all used and we are required to make data accessible to all users. It is possible, however, to make your data accessible to the lowest common denominator without sacrificing the user experience.

How to become an interaction designer

Robert Reimann, Director of Design R&D at Cooper Interactive suggests how to become an interaction designer (in terms of academic training and professional skills).

    We get a lot of email from students and usability professionals asking how one goes about becoming an interaction designer, and what background one needs to get into the field. What are good interaction design programs? What real-world skills and experience are required? What, exactly, do interaction designers do on a day-to-day basis?
I found these comments interesting towards the end.
    * Designers seldom code * Usability research is tremendously important, but it isn't design.
I guess I'm not an interaction designer in this sense. I definitely love coding perl and php. In small organizations, this does happen. Maybe I'm a hack IA/interaction-designer-cum site developer?

Web designers seem more interested in showing off

Here's one from the Guardian on usability that's filled with vitriol.Do web designers hate users? Or are most of them simply incompetent? Either way, there is no doubt about the mismatch between what users want and what the vast majority of commercial web sites provide.

Google image search

from Antenna Sure enough, Google now rocks even more with image searching.

AIGA airport symbols

from antenna This system of 50 symbol signs was designed for use at the crossroads of modern life: in airports and other transportation hubs and at large international events. Produced through a collaboration between the AIGA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, they are an example of how public-minded designers can address a universal communication need. Available for free in EPS and GIF format from the AIGA site.

Mapping Web sites: digital media design

The corporate library where I work just acquired Mapping Web sites: digital media design, so I've been perusing it. This is the best book I've seen that publishes some of the core deliverables of our practice -- site plans/diagrams/maps and wireframes. I think this one's a must have to put alongside your Tufte books. Here's the description, archived from the InfoD list: AUTHORS: Paul Kahn and Krzysztof Lenk SUMMARY: This is a sourcebook for vital and hard to find multimedia information. In its broadest sense, this manual is about visualizing collections of electronic information through graphics. Web site mapping begins with the planning process, then moves to the understanding and navigation of visitors, and finally to the management of the site by the producer - all of which this comprehensive guide covers. CONTENTS: 1 Introduction 2 What is a map? 3 Mapping hypertext 4 Web site planning diagrams case study 1: McGraw-Hill AccessScience case study 2: Kasparov versus Deep Blue 5 What is a site map? 6 Data-driven site maps 7 Conclusions - mapping practice and experience

Understanding the Art and Science of Web Design

John Rhodes interviews Jeffrey Veen, author of The Art and Science of Web Design.

Microsoft caves to criticism and drops Smart Tags

According to InfoWorld, Microsfoft has decided to drop the controversial Smart Tags feature from its forthcoming Windows XP release. The feature will not appear in the final version of the operating system, scheduled for release Oct. 25, or in the new Web browser Internet Explorer 6.0, the company said Thursday. The feature was eliminated "based on feedback we got in general from both partners and users," said Milo Schaap, a Microsoft product manager in the Netherlands. "That's a good example of why we, like any vendor of software, have a beta program."

Poorly designed US Census form blamed for bad count of Hispanic communities in NYC

The NY Daily News ran an article about miscounting in the 2000 US Census of New York City because of a poorly redesigned form. The city Planning Department and Hispanic leaders think that a change in the Census Bureau questionnaire caused more than 200,000 of Dominicans, Colombians and Ecuadorans to be miscounted as "Other Hispanic" during the 2000 census. Census questionnaires in 2000 and 1990 contained check boxes for Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans. Other Latinos were asked to write a group name in another box. But the 1990 form included examples for the write-in groups including Argentinian, Colombian and Dominican whereas the 2000 questionnaire made no suggestions. "We're leaning toward an interpretation that the lack of examples in the question may have prompted people to answer with a generic response," said Joseph Salvo, director of the city Planning Department's population division. "People were confused with the form," said Moises Perez, director of Alianza Dominicana, an advocacy group that worked to increase the response rate in Washington Heights. "The Census Bureau did very little to ensure that this process was clear to people."

New issue of Digital Web Magazine (simplicity issue)

A new issue of Digital Web Magazine is out and it focuses on simplicity. The feature is about KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid), the tutorial is about web site planning and there is an interview with two of the 37signals crew.p.s. the KISS design article was logged on 6/21 but this entry (logged by anonymous) is for the entire issue.

Triumph of the Weblogs

from Good Experience edventure gives props to the bloggers in Kevin Werbach's Triumph of the Weblogs. In the beginning, there were the voices: people expressing themselves, communicating with one another, offering their perspectives on the world and sharing their passions. By lowering the barriers to publishing, the Web can make those voices, whether representing individuals or their organizations, more powerful than ever before. But that requires the right tools, metaphors and platforms. Through a gradual process of evolution and technology development, the voices have finally found a native online form through which to express themselves: a new kind of Website called the Weblog.

Steve Krug interview

True Simplicity: Krug-o-rama! John Rhodes interviews "Don't make me think" author Steve Krug on webword.

Mapping how people use a website

Mappa Mundi article on visualizing web usage: A major challenge in designing and operating a large website is understanding how people use your site. Obviously, server logs for the site provide a potentially rich vein of information, as they record all user requests for pages. But how to make sense of this data so that the dynamic interactions of visitors and the Web page structure can be understood? Some form of mapping of these interactions to make them visible could well prove useful in turning the raw data in the logs into useful information. However, techniques and tools to visualize dynamic processes like Web usage are poorly developed. In this issue of Map of the Month we look at the work of one of the leading researchers trying to overcome this weakness, through the use of the concept of organic information design. His name is Ben Fry and he works in the MIT Media Lab, where he is busy creating innovative adaptive visualizations of how people use websites.

10 ways to meet journalists' needs online

Amy Gahran of Contentious tells us how to design for the needs of journalists and points out who's getting it right or wrong. Journalists are always in a big hurry, today more so than ever before. They need to be able to find you online, find out the news, and find out who to contact by phone or e-mail for more info virtually immediately. Here are 10 ways to help journalists find out more about your organization.

Current attitudes on the subscription model

Interesting observations on current attitudes toward subscription based services in the HBS Working Knowledge article, What's the Future of the Subscription Model?. The subscription model has served as a wonderful revenue generator through the years for many companies in the media and communications industries. Organizations have built hard-to-beat revenue streams around it, enabling them to make long-range plans and even enjoy substantial "float" from advance payment for subscriptions. ... Has the subscription model's time come and gone?

IBM ramps up speech technology products and research

IBM focuses its speech recognition initiatives under the new term Conversational Services. The InfoWorld article also introduces an interesting new visual recognition technology they are developing to work with speech recognition. From the article: The company will roll out products that will include speech translation, multimodal interfaces, middleware, natural-language understanding (NLU), text-to-speech, and biometrics. IBM will soon introduce one of the first products to use visual cues -- such as the movements of the lips and mouth -- to understand the spoken word for speech interpretation, according to Dr. David Nahamoo, senior manager, Human Language Technologies Department at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Even longer range, the visual recognition system can be an assist in fixed place environments where gestures can add value. In customer relationship management applications, for example, call center personnel will understand the unspoken mood of a customer by interpreting body language./i>