Magazine writers stay informed by reading the weblogs

This is interesting. Network World Magazine has a link to the Argus Vivian Bliss interview and attributes the reference by saying "via iaslash". That's pretty cool. I bet a lot of writers stay informed by reading weblogs, personal sites and such, but most wouldn't attribute the reference to one of us. -m

Maytag.com

The appliance retailer launches a first-rate site with friendly, accessible design and a partnership program with local affiliates. Terry Swack and John Shiple deconstruct Maytag.com in InternetWorld.

Diggit image search engine

I used to be quite interested in the topic of image indexing, having published articles on the topic in the Visual Resources Association Bulletin, so I sometimes look for resources in this field, just out of curiousity. I came across Diggit.com today, a search engine for images on the Web. This search engine provides some search capabilities you may have already seen in Altavista, but provides a richer set of search tools for the specific task of searching images. The simplest form of search uses terms you enter for boolean or keyword searching. Once you have found a set of images, you can refine or expand your search using similarity. Similiarity works in two ways on Diggit. You can retrieve images with similar keywords -- the word may be in the image file name, in its caption, in the title of the web page it lives on, etc. And you can search for images which are visually similar -- the visual similarity percentage match takes into account image colors, shapes, and textures. To use the similarity feature, you uncheck the keyword box after an initial search and Diggit searches by visual similarity only. The most compelling search paradigm is offered by their "FX" and "Graffiti" tools. These advanced search GUIs allow you to draw your query images. Some people may be familiar with tools like IBM's QBIC (Query by image content) which was one of the first to pioneer this area of searching. If your computer meets the requirements, give it a try.

Online cheese comparator

Online cheese comparator. I don't ask why, I just log em. Your name is: jibbajabbaboy Your cheese rating is: Ricotta A traditional whey cheese, Ricotta is white, creamy and mild, and is used when making traditional lasagne. Ricotta should be firm, rather than solid, and consists of a mass of fine, moist grains.

Cross section book

book cover A couple weeks ago I picked up a great book at the annual used book sale held by the Brooklyn Public Library in New York: Stephen Biesty's Incredible Cross-Sections by Richard Platt, Stephen Biesty (Illustrator). I grew up with a book like this, may have been the same book, that showed the innards of machines, cruise ships, etc. It's a lot of fun to look at these and a great example of how fun information design can be. Note: I'm not endorsing Amazon by linking to the book. If you prefer, find it at Barnes and Noble. -m

New NY Times info. graphic

As you can tell, I enjoy the NY Times information graphics. Probably because I took a class in Library School on information visualization and got to hear a design director speak about information graphics at the Times -- mainly on the graphics/charts they create for the business section. Anyway, today's graphic explains how an automobile's remote controled lock-and-key system works.

Don't fear 508

If you work for a federal government agency, you have until June 21 to make systems and Web sites accessible. A short article in Government Computer News breaks down the reasons to be 508 compliant into 2 bullet points: First is simple fairness and equity. The benefits of information technology should not be restricted to the fully able. In fact, severely handicapped people, such as quadriplegics, have been projecting their intellects for many years with the augmentation of specialized IT input and output devices. Second, especially for Web sites, it turns out that it's fairly straightforward to make a careful, highly usable system accessible. Clear and navigable layouts, logical link patterns, and freedom from excessive graphics and audio-visual gew-gaws make a Web site easier and more efficient for all users. A site so designed is more likely to be compatible with add-on products for screen reading, type enlargement and the like.

I hate you X10 camera!

Is there a consensus of opinion among designers that popup ads suck? It used to be just the X10 ad that annoyed me everytime I went to Altavista, but it seems that these adds that open in a new window whenever you visit a popular site like Altavista or New York Times are proliferating like rabbits. I'd much rather see and skip the huge square and rectangular (usually Flash) ads that now dominate pages than have to close that popup ad. Whatever happened to the term Netiquette?

Designing Information-Abundant Websites

Ben Schneiderman's 1997 paper, Designing Information-Abundant Websites: Issues and Recommendations, is an adaptation of his book "Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human- Computer Interaction" that came across my desk. The paper cites research from the HCI and information retrieval literature as starting points when considering user interface design because of the paucity of empirical data and practical case studies on interfaces design for the Web.

PLAY research studio

Another great site recently logged on Antenna is the PLAY research studio in Sweden which is part of an organization called the Interactive Institute. "The PLAY research studio investigates and invents the future of human-computer interaction."

Event Horizon User Interface Model for Small Devices

[from Antenna] A Sun Microsystems technical report proposes a method for expanding the navigation model for small devices. The key idea of the proposed model is that the display can be compressed and expanded by moving objects radially farther away or closer to an event horizon in the middle of the screen.

'Choose Your Own Adventure' Diagrams?

Someone posted the following question. I've not seen any literature on this type of interaction design. Can anyone help this person out? -m Do you know of a resource where I could find information on the types of diagrams used for "choose your own adventure" style interactive fiction, or software that could do it.

Tomalak's Realm retires

I'm sad to say that Lawrence Lee retiring Tomalak's Realm this week -- although i understand that he needs to focus on other things and doesn't want to compromise the integrity of his log. Tomalak's Realm is a treasure trove of useful pointers to current news. The interesting use of hypertext in Tomalak by referring back to relevant articles and resources in the past gave valuable context to the nuggets he gleaned daily. Best of luck to Lawrence in his future endeavours. -m Announcement: I've recently decided to retire Tomalak's Realm. You can learn more about this development on the website. If there are any changes to this plan, I'll post it on the website and if necessary to the newsletter subsciber list.

640x480 screen test

I embedded the link to A. Porter Glendenning's 640x480 pixel screen resolution test with the previous log entry but thought it should be highlighted on its own, because IA's might find it useful. Porter posted this link to the Babble Web design list (which I think is dead now) a few years ago as a tool for testing Web pages without having to resize your monitor resolution.

BenefitsCheckup.org: An accessible information referral site for aging Americans

I came across an article in the NY Times about BenefitsCheckup.org, a referral service from the National Council on the Aging. This looked to me like a good example of appropriate design for a well targetted audience. The text is large and easy to read. The navigation takes a linear approach if you skip the global navigation at the top and follow the "Let's get started" link on the bottom of the page after the introductory text on the front. There were a few things I found could be modified to make the site more user-friendly for this audience. I thought the top portion of the site -- the global nav and sponsor icons -- took up way too much screen real estate. When I load it into a 640x480 resolution monitor, only the first 2 lines of text appeared, with the screen dominated by logos. (TIP: A good way to check at 640x480 without changing your screen resolution is to use Porter Glendenning's 640x480 screen test.) It would be nicer to move the logos to the bottom of the screen and to either duplicate the "Let's get started" link in the global nav or somehow minimize the importance of the global nav, because use of the site doesn't start until you click "Let's get started". The global nav links to content that is really just metainformation -- information about the site. I also have to note that when I looked under the hood, I expected to see H1 tags for the headings, but instead saw the font being controlled by HTML font tags. I admit that I commit the sin of using CSS and HTML font tags myself rather than using the H# tags, but for this audience, I would expect a large portion of the audience could include people using screen readers. Overall, this was an appropriate design that could be made more accessible with some minor adjustments. I don't often throw my $.02 up about site designs, but am interested in the topic of accessbility, so this site was a good exercise.

Dell to manufacture electronic voting systems

Well, maybe the next election won't suffer from the poorly designed ballots used in Florida. According to NY Times, Dell started selling the electronic ballot systems they are building with Hart InterCivic Inc. The eSlate voting device is an electronic tablet (think huge pda) with a jog wheel and and some large, clearly labeled buttons. Follow the eSlate link above and click on the zoom link to see the device. I don't know why they didn't just make the devices touch screens. I wonder if the jog wheel will cause any confusion -- it's not a commonly used input device.

Ranganathan's facet classification

Been rather involved with a project that involves taxonomies and the concept of extending taxonomy through facet classification came up, so I thought I'd post a few links related to Ranganathan's Colon Classification System and facet classification. For non-LIS folks, Ranganathan is regarded by many as the father of information science. He developed a system for classifying entities by facets (think of the many sides of a diamond) which uses numbers to represent facets of an entity. Each added number is delimited by a colon until a the multi-faceted classification of the entity is built. From Britannica: Colon Classification: system of library organization developed by the Indian librarian S.R. Ranganathan in 1933. It is general rather than specific in nature, and it can create complex or new categories through the use of facets, or colons. The category of dental surgery, for example, symbolized as L 214:4:7, is created by combining the letter L for medicine, the number 214 for teeth, the number 4 for diseases, and the number 7 for surgery. A useful article reviewing the topic of Facet Analysis in the library literature, with a well-selected list of citations: Amanda Maple, Faceted access: A review of the literature. Best reading on this topic is offline in your university library.

Haddock.org

I just found Haddock.org by trolling through my referrer logs. Haddock is a Web site directory that offers navigation of its site via a menu system that can be viewed in one of three ways: Yahoo, Macintosh, and Haddock. It was nice to see the MacOS X approch (stolen from Jobs' Next OS) to presenting navigation on the Web. Navigating this way, one gets a nice sense of where they are in the site, the hilighting of section names gives you the breadcrumbs to work your way back, and the expansion of links at each level flattens the hierarchy as you dig deeper in to the site. Nice approach. The Haddock version works well too, the names of the sections you took when drilling down are just visually lined up horizontally, and from what I could gather, related sections are also shown in boxes that are visually separated from the main navigation area. An innovative approach, but I think some kind of visual indicator (italics? or an "@" before names of related links?) would make the related links box more understandable. Very refreshing approach, though. By the way, sites are indexed on Haddock when they are submitted via the Haddock discussion group.

Website navigation is useful

I emphasized the word "is", to counter Jakob Nielsen's claim that that navigation "may" be useful. In Merges' Theory column, Adam Baker reacts to Nielsen's claim that there are too many other problems with the web to make navigation using menus (e.g. global and secondary navigation) useful most of the time. Huh? I mean, hmmmm. Baker's reaction makes good arguments against Nielsen's view and is a good read.

The Humane Touch: Bad Design Can Be Costly

[from WebWord] Forbes has a short article on how usability is hurt by keeping status quo. Don't miss the great email annecdote at the "end" :) of the article. Not to mention inefficient, demoralizing, and embarrassing Bad user interfaces may be more expensive than you think, including software your company buys as well as software your company writes. For example, everybody knows that Microsoft Word, Excel, and other popular programs can be maddeningly frustrating, but few take the time to figure out what their shortcomings mean in terms of lost work, lower worker morale, and wasted dollars. Microsoft Word requires at least 30% more keystrokes and 100% more mouse moves to accomplish certain editing tasks than would an optimal word processor. Decreasing physical work not only saves time but also decreases incidents of repetitive stress injury. Good design can eliminate many of the steps that are most damaging to nerves and tendons. ... The saying among IT professionals used to be, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." Now it's, "Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft."