A to Z indexes on the web

I thought you might be interested in a new page on our web site: "A to Z indexes on the web"

http://www.montague.com/review/AtoZ.shtml

The page contains annotated sampling of 20 A - Z indexes on the web representing different kinds of organizations and content objects.

Nielsen report: Design lacking in e-tail sites

This News.com article reports/advertises an NN/g report that tests retail sites against Nielsen's usability guidelines. This year LLBean was tops (Amazon wasn't tested).

"If we continue at this rate for the next 15 years, we will reach a level that we really want to be at," Nielsen said. "Fifteen years is a long time to wait to get good services on the Internet, but in the big picture, this is a new technology, and whenever anything else was invented, it took a while to get it right."

E-tailers Grow More Consumer Friendly

The NY Times covers the Consumer Reports Magazine report, "Progress and trends in online shopping".

The report, which is available free on the site, focuses on the privacy policies, usability and product information of about 260 online merchants, and concludes that the state of e-shopping is significantly better than it was in late 1999, when new e-tailers were starting up daily.

A client-side Web agent for document categorization

This article in Internet Research is not available to non-subscribers. Get thee to the university library.

Journal: Internet Research, v8n5, 1998, p387-399
Author: Boley, Daniel; Gini, Maria; Hastings, Kyle; Mobasher, Bamshad; Moore, Jerry

A client-side agent for exploring and categorizing documents on the World Wide Web is proposed. As the user browses the Web using a usual Web browser, this agent is designed to aid the user by classifying the documents the user finds most interesting into clusters. The agent carries out the task completely automatically and autonomously, with as little user intervention as the user desires. The principal novel components in this agent that make it possible are a scalable hierarchical clustering algorithm and a taxonomic label generator. In this paper, the overall architecture of this agent is described and the details of the algorithms within its key components are discussed.

Google voice search

While trying to find out what Google intends to do with the Voice Search they're testing out in the labs I came across a bbs posting where someone uncovered the following blurb from Google's press releases:

Partnering with BMW to provide voice-activated access to Google in upcoming Internet-ready automobiles. Search terms can be spoken into the car's speakerphone, and search results are quickly presented on a built-in LCD screen, or on a user's Internet-ready mobile phone.

Apparently they're using their users to test the voice recognition system. Pretty cool implications for the evolution Internet interfaces -- and the need to design them well -- I think.

Industry leaders on transformative technology and innovation

In By Design: Wisdom from the Industry, New Architect asks "...16 of your peers about the technologies and innovations that are changing their jobs." Among them are Don Norman, Jesse James Garrett, Evan Williams and Charles F. Goldfarb.

Could some IA work have helped avoid 9/11?

This may seem a big reach for some. But if you read Seymour Hersch's article in this week's New Yorker, and you actually DO information architecture for enough people to see the connections, it starts being pretty clear that the US government intelligence and law enforcement communities suffer from pretty much the same thing as any very-large corporation, only on a much bigger and more tragic scale.

Here are two telling quotations:

"These guys are buried under a mountain of paper, and the odds of this"—a report about suspicious passengers—"coming up to a higher level are very low." Even today, eight months after the hijacking, Onstad said, the question "Where would you effectively report something like this so that it would get attention?" has no practical answer.

And this one...

The F.B.I.'s computer systems have been in disarray for more than a decade, making it difficult, if not impossible, for analysts and agents to correlate and interpret intelligence. The F.B.I.'s technological weakness also hinders its ability to solve crimes. In March, for example, Leahy's committee was told that photographs of the nineteen suspected hijackers could not be sent electronically in the days immediately after September 11th to the F.B.I. office in Tampa, Florida, because the F.B.I.'s computer systems weren't compatible.

Huh???

You might think that what this points to is a lack of needed technology. But I think we all know that throwing a big CMS portal at a problem isn't effective in and of itself ... it takes intelligently researched and designed information architectures to create the connective tissue between a behemoth IT solution and the actual people who use it. Obviously, the problem isn't that they don't have ENOUGH intelligence & information. They just don't know what to do with it. Isn't fixing exactly this kind of problem our calling?

J R R Tolkien was an information architect

Gerry McGovern on Tolkien as an IA.

Information architecture is concerned with the organization and layout of content. It is a discipline that has evolved over centuries, finding its roots in writing and printing. J R R Tolkien was a master information architect. He created complex genealogical and geographical architectures. If you want to master information architecture you need to acquire the type of skills Tolkien exhibits.

Flash critic to coach Macromedia

According to this CNet News.com report "Nielsen and his consulting firm, Nielsen Norman Group, will work with Macromedia to develop guidelines for creating practical, easy-to-use Web applications with the new version of Flash. The arrangement marks another turning point in Macromedia's efforts to expand the role of Flash, once used mainly for colorful but essentially useless graphics tricks. The company is promoting the new version of the software, Flash MX, as the basis for delivering Web applications that make sites more useful and easier to navigate."

Determining Causes and Severity of End-End of User Frustration

This study attempts to measure, through 111 subjects, the frequency, cause, and the level of severity of frustrating experiences. The data showed that frustrating experiences happen on a frequent basis. The applications in which the frustrating experiences happened most frequently were web browsing, e-mail, and word processing. The most-cited causes of the frustrating experiences were error messages, dropped network connections, long download times, and hard-to-find features. The time lost due to the frustrating experiences ranged from 30.5% of time spent on the computer to 45.9% of time spent on the computer

Book Review for: Usability: the Site Speaks For Itself

According to this Book Review for the new book: Usability: the Site Speaks For Itself, "There are no hard-and-fast rules for usability on the Web, which is why this book steers away from the rigid rules of gurus. Instead, this book looks at six very different, but highly usable sites. The web professionals behind these sites discuss the design of each site from inception to today, how they solicited and responded to feedback, how they identified and dealt with problems, and how they meet the audience's needs and expectations."

Six Degrees of Separation

John Guare’s play and movie “Six Degrees of Separation” are based on the notion that any two people in the world selected at random can be linked together by no more than six degrees of separation. Guare’s script spawned the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which shows that movie actors from any era can be linked to Kevin Bacon.

Computer Programs for Social Network Analysis

Social Networks is the premier journal for the study of social networks. It is an inter-disciplinary and international quarterly that provides a common forum for representatives of anthropology, sociology, history, social psychology, political science, human geography, biology, economics, communications science and other disciplines who share an interest in the structure of social relations and associations. The journal publishes theoretical, methodological and substantive papers.

Here's an overview of computer programs for Social Network Analysis.

Perception of information, conventional media vs blogging

Tuesday, May 28, 2002::Who do I trust: the New York Times, or Adam Curry ( *)

note: this is NOT about the political issue.

Flash 99% Good and other Macromedia goodies

So this week is User-Centered Design week at Macromedia's Designer & Developer Center. That leads us to
- chapter excerpt from the new title Flash 99% Good
- Yet another intro to usability testing from the Otivo crew (hey, who am I to talk - I'm working on YAITUT myself)
- and most interesting for me an article on user research and field observation

That last article led me to the author, Jared Braiterman's site, where I found this cool paper co-authored with Richard SIGCHI Anderson - Strategies to make e-business more customer centered (pdf). Also, don't miss Jared's case studies on personas, lofi prototyping, rapid ethnography, and usability testing, all with accompanying pdf or other goodies.

Place on the web::map?

- Place on the web - A Picture of Weblogs shows us a rendering of a great many weblogs, and all the links that interconnect them.
There is also a slightly more complex (Java >= 1.3) interface to these data, courtesy of touchgraph.com

Place on the map - Nycbloggers.com shows us where the bloggers are, organized by subway stop.

Does it mean people who use the web as a communicating tool, seek a way to get...i don't know what..to find other people on their profile(on what they write), to discuss in the cafe around the corner? Geographical linking? Diana Ross;"i'm coming out"? WWWanna be known?....

Ps. as featured in the Wired 10.05; faces appeared next to the top blogs...

Linking: To the Brand Or to Bewilderment?

This article on ClickZ.com uses airport wayfinding as a metaphor for branding, while delving into chocolates, psychology and linking, all in about 10 paragraphs. There are a number of neat ideas here, but it feels like too many correlations and metaphors are packed together. It would have been much stronger if, instead of trying to tie everything together, he just focused on the idea of designing aspects of environments (signage, linkage) around users.

The author is really talking about IA, whether he intended to (or even knows what it is) or not:

  • “The environment feels good because it not only allows me to find my destination in a hurry but it also imparts a feeling of control. Every time I look about for helpful signage, there it is. When this occurs, it seems the planners must have anticipated my needs before I did.”
  • “For some reason, the intuitive element of sites seems to diminish in proportion to the amount of information sites attempts to expose. Desperate to tell the visitor everything, preferably all at once, the site instead drowns in chaos.”
  • “Often, the result of greater decision-making comfort is more people actually make a choice. Conversely, when a plethora of choices dazzles an individual the result is more likely to be the confused person makes no choice at all.”
[See also: Peter Morville on Findability]

Cooper Newsletter: May 2002

Cooper's May newsletter is out and it features two articles:

The content management article deals with preparing your organization to get the most out of CM by understanding the problem and best solution before buying the software, and the mapping article takes the classic “Which knob turns on which burner?” stove dillema and applies it to software. Useful and interesting as always.

Taxonomic Distress

Lane Becker at Adaptive Path writes about the challenge of developing effective taxonomies for web-facing businesses in the first of a series of articles discussing how to develop them. He gives a few examples, (one attributed to Amy J. Warner) and brief discussions about why taxonomies are important for business web sites and why they are a challenge to work with. He indicates that he will discuss how he deals with more pragmatic issues (synonymy, relationships) in his coming essays.

Using Wireframes

Christina found Nam Ho Park's Using Wireframes discussion on his Strange Systems blog.

Wireframes serve a central function in communicating the content and layout of each web page for internal discussion and client review as well as a blueprint from which graphic designers and web developers will derive final designs. It's importance, roles and implementations are discussed in this article.