Norpath Elements

Norpath Elements Studio ships for Windows and Mac OS X. It's a platform for building interactive applications using a toolset and methodology that apparently maps closely to how many people do IA. I think it's a lot like drag-drop wireframing (?). Anyone demo this and have opinions?

    Norpath Elements Studio is a new generation, multipurpose authoring application ideal for creating a wide range of interactive solutions including learning applications, web, rich-media presentations, kiosks, and simulations.
Eye Tracking in Web Search Tasks: Design Implications

This is an interesting 9-page PDF from Stanford (and Oracle?) that gives the results of an small eye tracking study that was run. It's rather technical, but useful, and there's a good list of references at the bottom, so this might best filed in the “save this because it might be very useful later” file.

Information architecture: Five things information managers need

I just read Chris Farnum's article in Information Management Journal (not online I don't think), which describes IA for the benefit of traditional information managers. He did a very good summary of the typical IA role and methodology. Here's the abstract:

    Records and information management is a much more mature and established field than IA. However, both share a connection to the information sciences (e.g., -representation of information, thesaurus design, and information retrieval). Information architects and information management professionals share a passion for organizing information, creating effective content management strategies, and providing efficient access to that content for users.
The citation: Information Management Journal, v36n5, Sep/Oct 2002, p33-40.

Multilingual Dictionary of Knowledge Management

I'm sure the Multilingual Dictionary of Knowledge Management will be useful to me someday. Otto Vollnhals' dictionary translates KM terms in English-German-French-Spanish-Italian.

Nancy A. Van House

Tanya pointed to Nancy A. Van House, someone whom I haven't read. Van House is a professor at UC Berkeley SIMS. Here's how she describes her work:

    My area of expertise is work practice-based design of digital libraries and information systems. This consists of assessing user needs by first understanding users' work, the role of information and information tools, artifacts, and representations in their work, and finally their information actions and intentions. With this understanding, and with the participation of users, information systems and digital libraries can be designed to more effectively support people's information activity.
I haven't been looking at library literature as much in the past few years, but for various reasons have recently taken a new interest in digital libraries and KM.

Fire one!

Provoked, to say the least, by Jeff's new column in Digital Web.

"User-centered information architecture is a myth"; attention to user requirements has "overshadowed the fact that there are business needs that need to be addressed."

The article continues in a more conventional tone, but clearly, there's a lot here that I just flat out disagree with - especially in the context of this discussion.

What say you?

Judge: Disabilities Act doesn't cover Web

Mark , Christina and Adam are discussing this troubling US court ruling affecting accessibility of web sites. This article in covers the ruling.

    A federal judge ruled Friday that Southwest Airlines does not have to revamp its Web site to make it more accessible to the blind.

    In the first case of its kind, U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz said the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies only to physical spaces, such as restaurants and movie theaters, and not to the Internet.

Apparently the ADA laws only apply to meatspace. It's a shame, because the Internet should make mobility more possible for people with disabilities, but far too often the barriers of legacy web design and poorly executed information architectures keep people from using the web efficiently. You'd think a large airline would want to make it easier for this population to buy tickets online.

    Gumson, who said he had a screen reader with a voice synthesizer on his computer, asked the judge to order Southwest to provide text that could serve as an alternative to the graphics on its site and to redesign the site's navigation bar to make it easier for him to understand.
Sounds like the fixes could be minor and relatively inexpensive. Better labelling and standards compliant markup might help in this instance. More companies should just work with users on these fixable problems. In the end the benefit will outweigh the cost of bad publicity. All it really takes is getting the right people in the discussion. No doubt lawyers and PR people were the main players, but what do they know about accessible design?

Review: Elements of User Experience

Jeff Lash reviews Jesse James Garrett's new book, "The Elements of User Experience" in Boxes and Arrows. The book can be ordered from Amazon through Jesse's book site.

I decided to start reading posts in my SIGIA-L folder today. Unfortunately I was greeted with the discussion surrounding Suddenly I remembered why I let that folder grow to 3000+ messages so I could concentrate on work and personal projects.

The noise to signal on SIGIA can be astonishingly deafening and so many of the circular and sometimes damaging philosophical discussions reflect the immaturity of this field. As Whitney asks, " I wonder why we feel the need to be so angry at everyone we think is 'not us'", I start to wonder the same thing. I really don't care if what I do is called IA, LIS, ID or whatever to tell you the truth. I think Adam agrees. In truth, none of those labels defines what I do very well.

It gets easy to turn away from SIGIA when these discussions crop up. The navel gazing gets tiring. I'm in search of more interesting reading. I want to learn something new and valuable each week and have it inform the work I do. I want to see interesting stuff like Peter's xfml work or the interesting diagrams James creates.

Maybe I'm just having a bad day. It might help to change my SIGIA folder to threaded view, so I can make some wholesale deletions.

Happy Birthday

I just saw Victor's post on SIGIA-L wishing IA Wiki a happy birthday! Happy birthday to the wiki and thanks to Eric for creating this excellent resource and to everyone that keeps it rocking.

Consolidated Assessment

Seth Gordon combines scenario design, card sorting, and participatory design into one user-centered lovefest in his article for Boxes and Arrows.

Search engine optomization consultants

Never heard that term before reading James Allison's Understanding the New Role of SEO Consultants in Traffick. Here's a badly written excerpt.

    [0]ne of the main focus of SEO techniques has been site content, and in this regard, the SEO consultant's role overlaps more and more with the "Information Architect". Just as many members of the SEO community come from an advertising and copywriting background, the IA community is populated by a large number of people with a background in Library and Information Sciences.
Activating my job searches again

Ugh. As much as I hate to do it, I'm activating my job searches on the monster and techies sites again. I can feel the heavy gray cloud of impending layoff doom hanging over my group's head. They don't even call them layoffs here -- they refer to them as forced management procedures (one gets FMP'd). Whatever the hell that means. For me it means that my wife and I had the serious talk about what our plan will be if and when I get selected. I've made it through 5 or more layoffs so far, but there's just no telling.

It's hard to concentrate on work. I should have gotten the kind of job that lets me work with my hands. Maybe this will be my oppotunity to pursue that career in arts and crafts. Don't you just love the new economy.

Rashmi Sinha: Persona Creation for Information Rich Sites

Christina pointed to Rashmi Sinha's weblog entry Creating personas for information-rich websites, in which Rashmi proposes a methodology for creating personas that utilizes statistical analysis of user needs and suggests that accuracy is in fact important to persona design. The sugggestion about accuracy is contrary to the tenet in Coopers Inmates... that precision is more important than accuracy. From Rashmi's article describing the methodology, this statement seems important to me,

    Personas for information-rich sites must incorporate input about ways in which people will use complex information domains.
The methodology:

    (a) Use survey techniques (also used in market segmentation). (b) Focus questions around user needs rather than what they simply like / dislike. (c) Identify constellations of needs rather than clusters of users. (d) Use this information as the kernel to build personas around
This was a great find for me. I'm currently working with user surveys and usage statistics to describe the use of a digital library (traditional library measurement). I'm also doing more traditional surveys of user needs to create design personas (design methodology). What I was hoping to do was to use the information-use data to inform the persona development. That way I can provide accurate descriptions of users through personas, which I know is not exactly the Cooper way. There's just a great deal of thrust in my organization to be sure that user behavior that is currently high volume (popular) is not dismissed in any redesign of our products and services. I'm sort of gravitating to Rashmi's model now because of something she mentions in this requiremenet of her methodology, which I agree with, and which should help in bolstering support for personas in my organization, should I use this methology:

    The method should help ground the personas in reality (common critique of personas is that they are based on the designer’s imagination).
Great concepts. I just wouldn't want to break out SPSS to do this, though. I hated statistics in grad school. I suppose identifying constellations of needs is simple enough, though.

The enemies of usability

Peter Morville calls for a unified front in the UX community to take on the Enemies of Usability in his latest Semantics column.


IApings is a tool to publicize your IA-related blog entries to ia/using trackbacks. The idea came from KMpings. To submit URLs to this page using MovableType or Drupal, ping this address:

An XML feed of current pings is available for syndication here:

KM Pings

David Gammel has come up with an excellent use of MT's trackback mechanism to track knowledge management resources. Individuals ping his KM Pings site under this URL:
Pings to that URL are tracked on the page and the site offers an XML feed of the last 20, 100, or 200 pings. Very nice. I'm going to start pinging that site with KM resources as well and am going to be aggregating the top 20 in the news feeds here. Might create some noisy feedback as we see stuff I ping get reflected back, but should be worth it for me anyway -- I rarely read people's sites anymore, I just read their feeds. If you don't exist in RDF/RSS I'm probably ignoring you.

Maybe we should implement something like that here for IA? IA Ping? Anyone using MT or Drupal that wants to try that out?.

Woo hoo! New IA books hitting the streets!

Jesse's long awaited Elements of User Experience was published this week. You can check out a fantastic sample chapter Meet the Elements (200 kb pdf). I've been using the elements to explain the different layers of UX to clients for several months now - and they get it - Jesse's done a great job. Congratulations!

No less newsworthy is the outstanding effort from Christina. Her practical IA book Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web strives for that "Don't Make Me Think" simplicity, and may be the modern introductory IA text we've been waiting for. I have yet to read the whole thing, but the First Principles sample chapter (2.6 MB pdf) is smoothalicious. Thanks Christina, and congratulations.

While Elements is available immediately on the New Riders site, it seems that Blueprints is still waiting for some last minute things before launching. Hope to see it next week. Update: Well, Blueprints is now officially available at New Riders too! Fantastic.

ps: buying through the amazon links will give the authors a well deserved extra kickback

All the Web Alchemist

This is really cool or maybe it's really scary. All the Web has a new feature called the Alchemist that will let you write your own CSS to layout their pages as long as their accessible from your browser. You just enter a URL for your CSS in a form and All the Web sets a cookie to remember where to access the CSS. You can also point to style sheets others have written and published on their site. There's even a contest for the best CSS -- you win Amazon gift certificates.

I can see All the Web doing this. They're not the most popular choice for a search engine, but they offer one of the nicest experiences in my opinion. Wonder if the idea will catch on anywhere else. I know the IA Wiki does this.