Microsoft Research: Adaptive Systems & Interaction

This find from Microsoft Research was sighted by Tomalak's Realm. Adaptive Systems & Interaction is the group at MS interested in automated reasoning, adaptive systems and HCI. The group also focusses on information retrieval research. White papers publicly available.

The joys of prototyping

At the heart of any good user-centred design process is the practice of prototyping. By creating and testing interfaces in rough format, designers are able to feed through improvements and feedback from users quickly and easily. Read on at the Frontend Usability Infocentre.

Nielsen distilled in Rough Notes

John Ashenhurst's article in RoughNotes magazine, Designing successful websites distills Nielsen's book into bullet points under 3 sections: page design, content design, site design.

Wireless video is about to arrive-so what do you do with it?

Business 2.0 is running a story about the coming of video for wireless devices. At present, video quality is pokey at best because of wireless trasmission rates of 9.6Kbps to 14.4Kbps. But for some people, that may be enough for some simple applications like Nanny and traffic cams. Cliff Raskind, director of global wireless practice at industry research firm Strategy Analytics believes that even with advanced compression techniques, "more compelling uses won't fly at low speeds. So, until planned network upgrades kick in, demand for wireless video will be low and concentrated in a few specialized areas. "We're not going to have wide-scale adoption [at low speed],"." As with the Web, I expect some vector type format for motion graphics will make it to wireless devices first. I'm wondering what kind of devices will be dreamed up to deliver this kind of media while keeping the small form factor? As with WAP, it seems that companies are still guessing at what the killer app for this technology will be.

Speech to speech translation by a machine

StarTrek's concept of the universal communicator may not be so far away. According to Business2.0, the US military is apparently going to field test a speech to speech translation device worn in the ear. ViA, the company manufacturing the device plans to release commercial versions for $5,000 to $10,000. The special device, called Diplomat, is being developed with Carnegie Mellon. Jaime Carbonnell, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Language Technologies Institute, believes that, "In specific, simple situations today's wearable translators may prove helpful, but fluent, free-ranging translation similar to what humans can provide each other will still take an additional 10 to 20 years to develop. "We have come very far, but unfortunately the general use of speech-to-speech [portable] translators is not there yet."

On-site search helps users find their way

[Citation only, no URL] On-site search helps users find their way. B to B,††v86n9,††Apr 30, 2001,††p17,19. Abstract: When your customers visit your Web site, can they find what they are looking for? Their success in doing so largely depends on your site's local search engine. A local search function must be easily found and navigated. The engine should be flexible, allowing various types of searches, and comprehensive in the content it covers, including current announcements, product brochures, graphics files and information from a corporate database. There are 2 separate but related issues in local search: the under-the-hood technology used to aggregate information into a searchable form, and the usability factor of how this content is presented on your site. Keys to presenting results in "context" are presented.

ACM Symposium on Document Engineering: Final call for papers

Final call for papers for the ACM Symposium on Document Engineering, November 9-10, 2001, Doubletree Hotel, Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. In cooperation with ACM SIGCHI and ACM SIGWEB. June 4, 2001 Paper and panel proposal submissions due. August 6, 2001 Authors notified. September 3, 2001 Revised camera-ready papers due.

ACM CIKM 2001, Tenth International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management: Deadline for abstract submissions

ACM CIKM, Tenth International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management. Nov. 5-10, 2001, Altanta, GA, USA. The deadline for ABSTRACT submissions is extended to May 28. The deadline for full paper submissions is extended to June 4.

When Kids Use the Web

[from SIG-IA] Someone brought up this article, which reports on adolescent children and Web usability. Here's the abstract: This paper reports the results of scavenger-hunt usability tests conducted with 16 adolescent children (8 males and 8 females) in two age groups (12 years old and 16 years old), using two general-interest topical Web sites. The tests yield comparison data regarding both search performance and self-reported subjective preferences. The sole independent variable affecting search performance was the age of the subject, from which the authors conclude that children's domain knowledge may be a key component of their ability to retrieve information successfully from Web-based systems. Subjective preferences of children are systematically compared to previously reported preference data for adults who tested the same topical Web sites. Based on these data, as well as on insights based on subjects' verbal protocols, conclusions regarding both commonalities and differences in Web usability requirements between adults and children are suggested.

Managing Errors in Transaction-based Web Applications

Enough with the jibbajabba, let's get back to the IA logging again. This article by Pawan Vora from an ITG workshop suggests guidelines for treating the errors that are bound to occur during Web transactions.

IBM's Ease of Use Conference

Date: Monday, June 4, 2001 Time: All Day Make IT Easy 2001 conference in San Jose, CA. Visit the conference Web site to check up-to-date information about the agenda and speakers.

Poll results in. White bg/black text wins.

182 votes: 31.32 % (57) 68.68 % (125) So black text on white wins. Sigh. The next thing I am going to do some day soon is take a hack at duplicating this White theme as valid XHTML using CSS for layout (i.e. no tables). Did this with my personal site last month (IE5+, Netscape6, Oepra5 only). Should be a bitch to do to iaslash, because it means mucking around with the weblog script code and making well formed HTML for all of the outputs.

Why computer users accept new systems

Abstract below from article in MIT Sloan Management Review, v42n3, Spring 2001. In a paper published in the December 2000 issue of Information Systems Research, Viswanath Venkatesh concludes that 6 variables significantly contribute to how users perceive the ease of use of specific systems over time. The 6 variables studied in actual corporate setting are: 1. computer self-efficacy, 2. facilitating conditions, 3. intrinsic motivation/computer playfulness, 4. emotion/level of computer anxiety, 5. objective usability, and 6. perceived enjoyment. I found the following observations to be the most salient for IAs: Immediately after training, the first four variables were found to be the only determinants of perceived ease of use; however, over time objective usability and enjoyment were found to influence user acceptance significantly. Most systems that arenít accepted fail because organizational, psychological and behavioral issues are not considered in their design.

Information work articles in Technical Communication, May 2001

Some recent articles from the May 2001 issue of Technical Communications (requires subscription, full text also available via Dow Jones Interactive if you have access):

  • Designing Effective Speech Inerfaces
  • On beyond help: Meeting user needs for useful online information
  • Why we should archive, share, and analyze information about users
  • Emerging skills in technical communication: The information disigner's place in a new career path for technical communications
IFIP World Computer Congress 2002; Montreal, Canada; August 25-30, 2002

Yes, 2002! The call for papers for the International Federation for Information Processing's (IFIP) conference was announced. Deadlines for papers: December 3, 2001, for tutorials and workshops: October 15, 2001. Relevant streams include: TC.13 STREAM "USABILITY: GAINING A COMPETITIVE EDGE" IFIP TC.13 Human-Computer Interaction Stream.

soundofdesign: Gesture-based flash navigation site

I came across soundofdesign from a post on Abe (abe1x) Burmeister's forum+interface list. I've been using Opera a lot lately since they introduced mouse gestures. soundofdesign lays out its content (which is rather sparse) in a 3x3 square grid, which you can see if you click the map icon in the lower right of the screen. The map represents an empty square in the grid. You can move up, down, and diagonally by "Clicking and throwing" the current square in the direction you'd like to move to. Innovative. In some way reminds me of the idea of navigating in a 3dimensional interface space like Cubic Eye does with their search engine, except at this scale, it makes more sense and is easier to use for navigation.

Ilor: Google in a new skin

The NY Times has an article about ILOR, a new site which tries to add some features to Google. The significant difference in using ILOR as your front end to Google is the contextual menu which shows up (for Javascript enabled browsers only) when you mouse over one of the hits returned on a query. The menu gives you the following options: 1) put int my list, which spawns a small window that shows the links you put in your temporary list, 2) go now --anchor here, which loads the link in the current browser window and spawns a window with a link back to your search results, 3) open in taskbar, which opens the link in a window behind the ilor window, and 4) open in new window, opens the link in a new window so the result page is left open. While they bill this as "the most user friendly search engine in the world", I found a few things a little jarring and nonintuitive. First, The taskbar thing didn't make sense to me. I was thinking it would open in a window with a frame linking back to my results, sort of the way does it. I've never seen a case where someone would want to open a window behind the current window. Just seems counter to what I expected. I was also a bit confused by the little icons that appear if you collapse/minimize the ILOR menu by clicking the down arrow to the lower left. I struggled to remember what the 4 options were so I could map them to the 4 icons shown. If these icons were shown on the expanded menu, I may have been better able to remember what they stood for. It would help to also have ALT tags or something that explain what each icon does in the minimized view. Probably the most interesting use I found was the ability to add all of the links in your temporary list to your IE Favorites. I should note, that in my brief tests, ILOR did not work for Opera 5 in Linux and the temporary list only showed up as a non-editable list in Netscape without the ability to add to your Netscape Bookmarks. Finally, I viewed their demo to see how well my expectations matched the functionalities of the site. Once I figured out that holding the cursor over the link did something, I was able to figure out most of the sites functionality. For my time, I think I will stick with Google.

ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia, August 14-18, 2001

The Twlefth Annual ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia is being held August 14-18, 2001 in Denmark. Registration is now open and call for papers has been posted.

Revisit for you Nielsen bashers: Clay Shirkey's open letter to Jakob Nielsen

[from Clay Shirkey's site circa January 1999]

I just wanted to post this for the silly people who complain there is too much Nielsen on this site, and don't bother to read my comments which have equally fallen on the positive and negative side. I'm really just trying to report the relevant stuff that gets published. Can I help it if the guy is so prolific? Anyway, back in 1999, Clay Shirkey took issue with Nielsen on the issue of usability. Should be a fun read if you haven't already read it. Clay says in the letter, "Jakob believes that the

prevalence of bad design on the Web is an indication that the current

method of designing Web sites is not working and should be replaced or

augmented with a single set of design conventions. I believe that the

Web is an adaptive system and that the prevalence of bad design is how

evolving systems work."

Man who coined the term "wayfinding" dead

Paul Arthur, the graphic designer who invented pictographs as they are presently known and who coined the term "wayfinding," died May 13 at age 76. I edited a book of his about five years ago and have thought of him often. Toronto Star obituary (will expire soon; gigantic URL).