Tips for attending conferences

On the run-up to the IA Summit, and conference season in general the ever clever Scott Berkun has set pen to paper to give us How to get the most out of conferences

Of particular note to conference organizers, and especially academic/research conferences - the most value is in networked, informal, interstitial relationships and groups that form between the main sessions. SIGs and such are one attempt to support those connections, but are often second-class citizens. They shouldn't be.

CardZort card sorting software

Darin Marshall points to Jorge Toro's CardZort card sorting software.

CardZort is a computer application that runs card sorting exercises. Its main purpose is to offer a complete computer-aided system that allows the fast creation and execution of card sorting exercises, and the analysis of the resulting groups via cluster analysis.

Darin says it's less buggy than EZsort - I'm looking forward to trying it out. If it works, then it's well worth the $50 Jorge is asking from people using it for 'professional/lucrative purposes'.

Do Productivity Increases Generate Economic Gains?

Jakob Nielsen tackles the question Do Productivity Increases Generate Economic Gains? I've been thinking about this because of this article: Time saved—a misleading justification for KM

It makes sense to save the user's time, but the justification of the Knowledge Management system ultimately has to be demonstrated by better decisions and improved performance.

Why? Because users satisfice at the typical 20-25% mark for information seeking, no matter how successful they are. Because of that, making the time = value equation may be too simplistic, as illustrated here. (Shockwave required, not recommended for dial-up)

There are some interesting thoughts on activities that don't fit traditional models for ROI. But in all of this, I wonder if the industry's focus on ROI is neglecting the users' perspective? What's in it for them? What about the users' Return On Experience? (the User ROX ;) It's only when a project generates ROI for the business, and 'ROX' for the users that it truly creates sustainable value.

The SIGIA Highlight Reel

This week saw an increase in volume, but an unfortunate majority of that is part of a tedious, ongoing 'defining the damn thing' discussion. Fortunately, we did see a boost in shop talk, as encouraged by Marc Rettig last week.

  • My favorite post of the week is from Jeff Lash and John O'Donovan for Best Practices for Recurring Payments Thanks for the great, concrete examples and real world shop talk!
  • Jeff Isom asked about ways of Labelling a PDF Archive and got a lot of interesting responses. I hope he lets us know how things actually shake out on his project, so we can see how the flurry of opinion helped.
  • Chiara Fox chimed in with a simple answer to a simple question. The reason it's a gem is because it's actually based on a real project!
  • For those of you interested in defining the damn thing,
    Christina Wodtke added to the list of first principles that was started earlier in the week by yours truly. While there was additional useful resonse, I'll leave it as an exercise for the masochis... err... enthusiastic to follow that thread and sort the signal from the noise ;-)
  • Finally, to close off with some more pragmatic, concrete contributions: Livia Labate articulates parts of the IA Toolkit, and Eric Scheid shares experiences with free-listing as an alternative/addition to card sorting.

Of course, you might have other posts that really helped you during the week. Post 'em in the comments.

3 approaches to intranets

Digital Web's IAnything Goes column tackles three approaches to intranets. Knowledge Management, Collaboration and Communication, and Task Completion are suggested as three popular and valuable intranet uses.

OntoLog: ontology based video/audio annotation

OntoLog is a tool for annotating (describing and indexing) video and audio using ontologies - structured sets of terms or concepts. It used RDF and the Dublin Core. This is a PH. D. project by Jon Heggland. He is looking for testers and users.

For OntoLog and my doctoral degree to be a success, I need the ideas, requirements, critique and feedback of (potential) OntoLog users. OntoLog, though usable and useful, is not finished - there are lots of things I want to do. But I want to anchor the capabilities of OntoLog in the real world

Obvious applications in looking at video/audio from ethnographic observation, contextual interviews, or usability testing.

(thanks Catalogablog)

Why you need your very own taxonomy.

Tom Smith has a great introductory article on Why You Need Your Own Taxonomy. Useful for explaining taxonomies and facets to management or clients.

Banking redesign case study

frog design has a case study about goal-oriented navigation and small iterative usability tests applied to redesign Credit Suisse private banking.

Wireless conceptual designs from Motorola and frog

Arstechnica linked up to a page showing concepts for devices that create a Personal Area Network. It's a new design challenge to create the interface for a federation of devices...and even more so for the applications used by those devices. Wireframes work fine for page design - what lo-fi tools work for glasses + audio + pda + wrist display? I guess we'll find out.

A web-based application to semi-automate site map creation

I started working with GraphViz this month and have created a web-based application that converts tab delimitted text files into diagrams. The sole purpose for the application at this point is to turn site inventories or IA hierarchies into clickable site maps like this.

Before you ask why I bothered to do this, I'll give a little history. Immediately after writing the article Automating Diagrams with Visio for Boxes and Arrows I began to see that I didn't want to draw circles, boxes, lines, etc. anymore. That hacky process I used served its purpose. But over the past year I have learned to let databases and scripting languages to the heavy work we normally do in applications like Excel, e.g. content inventories, site architecture (capturing page/node data and parent child relationships). But I still have the need to work with Excel or plain text files for some of the smaller sites I work on outside of my day job. So I still do the site architecture in Excel and now I can do the diagramming in GraphViz.

So try out the app and let me know if you are doing anything similar or see other uses for this thing.

UPDATE: Added a few options including hierachical or radial layout, box or circle shapes, fill or no fill, and shape and font coloring options so you can now create diagrams like this.

SXSW: The Future of User Centered Design

Jesse James Garrett, Molly Steenson, and Marc Rettig had a good time talking about the future of user centered design. (thanks blackbeltjones) pixelcharmer also points to Lia's notes.

About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design

Robert Reimann joins Alan Cooper to create the sequel to a classic. The Cooper Newsletter has some notes about the new edition. About Face 2.0 is now preordering at Amazon...sure to be one of the year's best UX reads.

Design Research: Why you need it.

From the latest Cooper Newsletter: Steve Calde has a good summary of the necessity of design research from a business perspective. Not a lot new here, but a nice way of putting things for those who need to convince clients, managers, or others of the value of design research. thanks Ben

Happy Birthday B&A

Happy Birthday B&A - HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOXES AND ARROWS! On this, Boxes and Arrows' one year anniversary, Christina Wodtke muses about the original goals, some of their accomplishments, and even shares a few tidbits from behind the scenes at B&A.

Boxes and Arrows is one of the great things happening in the IA/UX world today...thanks for all the great insights and how-to shop talk over the past year. Congratulations to all the B&A team! Looking forward to good things for years to come!

Exapanding on the Elements of User Experience.

Just over one years old, Boxes and Arrows continues to kick out great content. This week we have Expanding the Approaches to User Experience by George Olsen. Here George takes Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience diagram (PDF) and expands upon it to include interactive multimedia. It's an interesting read, I'm sure to be a bit controversial, but I think he makes some good points. I'd love to hear what others think about this.

Patenting the User-Centred Design Process

Here's a fairly standard user-centered design process - not particularly different than most: Uncovery, Wireframing, Storyboarding, Prototyping, Development and Optimization.

It's a familiar story to anyone experienced with iterative, user-centered processes. Its name: the Minerva Architectural Process ™ for Persuasion Architecture ™, with the obligatory consulting firm trademarks. The difference: there's a patent pending on it. "M.A.P & Persuasion Architecture are Patent Pending proprietary business processes belonging to Future Now, Inc. Contact us about licensing for your organization."

Now maybe I'm misreading, and Future Now is only trying to patent some very specfic part of an iterative design process for persuasion. (though maybe B.J. Fogg or Andrew Chak might object). Given the USPTO's track record, it may well be granted, despite prior art.

Don't get me wrong, I think Persuasion Architecture is a valuable approach. I just think that patents on process are pathetic. How about you?

Updated: Some Future Now clarification added to comments.

Vocabulary, taxonomy, thesaurus, ontology and meta-model

Woody Pidcock of the Boeing company gives an excellent overview of the differences between a vocabulary, a taxonomy, a thesaurus, an ontology, and a meta-model on He summarizes the differences as such:

    Bottom line: Taxonomies and Thesauri may relate terms in a controlled vocabulary via parent-child and associative relationships, but do not contain explicit grammar rules to constrain how to use controlled vocabulary terms to express (model) something meaningful within a domain of interest. A meta-model is an ontology used by modelers. People make commitments to use a specific controlled vocabulary or ontology for a domain of interest.

Thanks, Matt Webb.

The SIGIA Highlight Reel

This week's hightlights from SIGIA, the central IA discussion list:

Unfortunately, posts like the shop talk Marc is looking for were rare this week...we'll see next week how things went.

Location-based interaction design

Wired News reports on using a Bluetooth wireless enabled cell phone to interact with an Apple Powerbook. The interesting thing is using existing devices (the phone) to extend the interaction possible with the computer, rather than relying on yet another gadget. Examples from the article include controlling Keynote/PowerPoint presentations, or locking/unlocking the computer based on leaving or sitting down.

The implication is that design for mobile/wireless isn't just about tiny screens and impoverished keypads, as so many assume - it's about interaction with connected devices, connected services, and with movement through space. This might seem a no-brainer, but it certainly requires new thinking and techniques in addition to our traditional IA toolbox. Marc Rettig's Designing for Small Screens 1.4MB PDF touches on some of this, but I still think we've got a huge amount to learn about mobile user experience.