Metadata glossary

In an attempt to summarize the relationship among various metadata-related terms and how they relate to building Internet systems Victor Lombardi created a metadata glossary. Addressed, for example, are metadata, taxonomies, indexing, CMS, Semantic Web, and XML.

Maybe usability is rocket science, after all.

The Usability Engineering Team at NASA's Glenn Research Center have a site that offers help to teams adopting user centered design. Highlights include:

Typepad Screenshots

The creators of the blogging application MoveableType are launching a hosted service called Typepad. There's now screenshots of the new UI, and it looks much cleaner than MoveableType's interface. Definitely a hotly contested race to see who can make blogging easy for the masses, with Blogger Pro being the other visible contender.

However much I like MoveableType though, I can't help thinking that Microsoft or AOL will be the one to take blogging mainstream.

Knemeyer on Information Design

Dirk Knemeyer writes a great primer on Information Design and how it relates to Web design and development.

From the article:

More than its value to business, information is also the principle component to human knowledge and progress. By experiencing information -- through any of the available senses -- people are able to build knowledge. Particularly when the information is relevant and good, people are able to make better decisions, to be more effective, to be happier and to increase their well-being.

(Via Digital Web)

The Quiet Death of the Major Launch

Jared Spool published a great article, The Quiet Death of the Major Re-Launch, about the advantages of a staged redesign approach vs. a major redesign done in one shot.

Quoth Keith:

I'm sure there are many of you who will find some of what he has to say very useful and while many of the examples he uses ring very true to my own experiences, I'm not sure this approach is right for every situation. Sometimes a site just needs to be torn down and built from scratch.

(Thanks Digital Web)

O'Reilly interviews Krug and Rosenfeld

Even if you've read separate interviews with Lou Rosenfeld and Steve Krug, and even if you've read the other joint interviews they've done, this interview at O'Reilly is worth reading, if only for Steve Krug's great analogies:


I sometimes think the best analog for my job is a "show doctor"--the person who comes in while a Broadway show is still in out-of-town tryouts, watches the whole thing, and says, "I think it would work much better if you moved the cowgirl dance number to the start of the second act, and killed the love ballad altogether."

But, humor aside, Lou and Steve both have some good things to say, and it's not just a sales pitch for their seminars or a regurgitation of past interviews.

More info:

CIO Article on Auto/Semi-categorization software

CIO article "Sleuthing out data" by Fred Hapgood features a couple examples of how auto-semiauto categorization enables businesses and reduce costs. There is a company list included if you're interested in this arena.

Views and Forms: Principles of Task Flow for Web Applications Part 1

Views and Forms: Principles of Task Flow for Web Applications Part 1 - One of the defining elements of web applications is their support for the editing and manipulation of stored data. Unlike the typical conversation that goes on between a user and a content-centric website however, this additional capability requires a more robust dialog between user and application. [Boxes and Arrows]

Keyword extraction and facet analysis for email archives

Kathryn La Barre and Chris Dent have been experimenting with computational methods for creating a faceted access structure of the Unrev-II mailing list archives.

The email archive of the unrev-ii list is the basis for this ongoing project, to build an access tool for an email archive that also functions as a knowledge repository. Methods utilized in future iterations of the project will include traditional semantic analysis, clustering algorithms, and facet analysis.
They have a preliminary prototype available, and have published a paper.

Chris' project page and Kathryn's project page offer more detail about the project and their hopes for their work. (thanks Bootstrap Alliance)

Making Web Advertisements Work

The May 5 Alertbox is more commentary about web advertising.


But what I find a lot more interesting is that it is co-authored by Jakob and Don Norman. I believe this is a first.


Of course, Jakob and Don share the name of the Nielsen Norman Group, but if you have ever seen them together in public, they usually fight like an old married couple.


I doubt we will see such behavior within the Alertbox column, but we will have to see if Tog joins next and if other NNG employees contribute too. Is Alertbox starting to evolve to something different? Would this be a good or a bad thing?

Open Prototyping project

From the MIT Media Lab, Carson Reynolds has started a blog where he shows ongoing prototypes from his work. Using DENIM as one main tool, the site aims to improve UIs for open source products. (thanks PeterV)

Good Experience Live writeup

Anil Dash writes up his thoughts on Mark Hurst's Good Experience Live conference.

The conference covered experience from a wide array of perspectives - from exploding dog to Amazon. While these kinds of events may not offer as much pragmatic know-how, they serve as inspiration for different disciplines.

While I'm hesitant about the dilution inherent in "everything is an experience, so experience design is about everything", innovation thrives at the periphery and at disciplinary intersections. Even without a New York conference, we can still gain a lot from exploring those edges through cross-training - talking with and learning from other disciplines.
(thanks Webword)

Update: Mark is collecting GEL wrapups.

15 tips for working with remote teams

Indi Young shares lessons learned from working with remote teams.

One of the challenges for remote work is contact with end-users. It's ok for working with clients to come up with concepts, but human-centered design assumes face-to-face contact with users through field research, participatory design, and usability testing.

Being in Canada, I'd like to be able to easily work remotely for U.S. projects. However, I'm not sure how to handle the immersion with users that I'd hope to have.

Any thoughts on how we can be user centered, with just remote contact with users?

Data Management meets Unstructured Information

Just came back from a conference on data management(Wilshire Metadata/DAMA International 2003 Conference. A recurring topic that surfaced about data management was the relevance of their work in relation to unstructured information. A reality check for everyone was that most corporate information actually existed in semi-structured of unstructured information and not in databases. From this thought, I was directed to DM Review and in particular this article. Digging Into the Web: XML, Meta Data and Other Paths to Unstructured Data - By Robert Blumberg and Shaku Atre. I definitely see an opportunity between IA(metadata/ux) type folks cross-pollinating with data modelers and data managers. It will be interesting to see and I look forward to hearing more from here. Thoughts?

Magnetic Prototyping Tool

Ben Speaks is selling a magnetic prototyping toolkit similar to many paper prototyping toolkits. It contains widgets and a magnetic board that can be written on with whiteboard markers.

I'm not sure what the benefit is beyond laminated widgets and post-it notes. Gimmick? Or real value? I guess I'd have to use it to see if I like it better than my laminated paper prototyping kit I made myself. Advantages to the home rolled version being that it was cheaper, and I have enough material for a dozen screens, not just one.

Whether or not it really works better than paper, I like to see people exploring with prototyping tools.

Will Plain-Text Ads Continue to Rule?

The April 21 Alertbox combines 2 old thoughts into one:

  1. Advertising in general does not work (September 97)- but Google has a winner with its contextual text ads
  2. People draw conclusions from atypical examples (June 97)- so expect other sites to try their own text ads even though they are nothing like Google

But any short-term gain from text-ads will vanish if they do not provide any value to users.

We saw this first with "banner blindness" - people visually ignoring rectangular images once they figured out most were useless ads.

I continue to see this across the board - not just with banners. If users regularly encounter a design element that is useless to them, then they quickly start to ignore it. Could be banners, or global navigation at the top, or related links on the left, or promotions on the right - does not matter.

I call this "feckless blindness" - as people discover that a part of the page is routinely useless, they become blind to it over time.

Constantine on the Magic Number 5 panel at CHI

At Usability News Larry Constantine gives a great rundown of the Magic Number 5 panel from CHI. The panel tackled the long accepted discount usability notion that 5 users will uncover 80% of the defects.

Usability testing seems to be the perceived gold standard for sites - one colleague called it the 'holy grail'. But as the panel showed, 5 users and the discount approach have some serious drawbacks.

I also find it pretty amusing that usability diehard Rolf Molich is suggesting a potential end for usability testing, while Cooper (who has long dismissed usability testing) now offers training and courses in same.

Wayfinding - it's not just for humans anymore

An article in New Scientist reports that new research shows mice "make signposts out of leaves and twigs so that they do not get lost in fields".

"The wood mice might need to use signposts because the fields where they live are very bland - one patch of ploughed field looks much like another (..) And while some other mice use scent markers, wood mice are wholly visual". Much like humans.

Christina's teaching at User Interface 8

While many of our talented colleagues have or are currently offering courses at one venue or another, Christina Wodtke is offering the opportunity for you to shape her upcoming course at User Interface 8. Let her know in her site comments what you'd like her to cover in a day, particularly if you've read Blueprints. If there were areas where her book fell a bit short for you, this might be an opportunity to address something in more depth.

Relation Browsers: a GUI for IAs

Garry Marchioni and Ben Brunk have been working on GUIs for visualizing nodes and relations in web sites - what they call a Relation Browser. They've published a paper on their work about the quest for a General Relation Browser that provides a picture of IA tools of the future.

JoDI's usability of digital information page other interesting papers, but I won't list them all here.