Process & techniques

Scope Creep article at A List Apart

Hal Helms takes on scope creep at ALA. Most interesting is a web-based wireframing tool and a tool for online annotation of prototypes called DevNotes. These both require ColdFusion on the server. (Though Hal mentions a PHP version of the wireframing tool, I couldn't find it).

thanks Scott

Article: Getting from Research to Personas

Cooper's Director of Design Kim Goodwin has an article in the latest UIE newsletter about distilling usable personas from that pile of research data.

Visio - the interaction designer's nail gun?

Christina pointed to Henrik Olsen's article on using Visio to rapid prototype. The article talks about the process of using background pages and links to create clickable prototypes. I tipped this technique in the discussion of Dan's Visio article on B&A.

I've been using Visio 5 for the last 3 years (the pre-MS version) and doing quick prototypes for applications that way -- sad to say I'm afraid to ask my company to cough up the dough for an upgrade. Visio is a very worthy tool, and because of the entrenched Microsoft environment I work in, it is the tool of choice. Lately, however, I've found that using the Omni tools (Graffle and Outline) I can produce nicer diagrams exported as PDF. I have also been looking at Inspiration for OS X, anything to be able to use my TiBook more and my ThinkPad less. But I'm not sure I can do it all yet with these Visio alternatives -- especially using background-pages to create global elements and exporting an entire project to create a click-through prototype. If I figure out how to do it, I'll write about it. If someone else can do it, tell me about it.

New Adaptive Path articles

Adaptive Path is cornerning the market on IA articles and mind share lately. Superstars write a lot.

Progress Paralysis: Eight steps to get your Web site moving again by Peter Merholz in New Architect.

The Culture of Usability: How to spend less and get more from your usability-testing program by Janice Fraser in New Architect.

Site Navigation: A Few Helpful Definitions by Indi Young in Adaptive Path Publications.

GUP: Say it five times quickly

Graphical Presentation of User Profiles (PDF) is a technique for creating visual representations of system users. Just as storyboards are 'visual scenarios', GUP can serve as a 'visual persona'. As useful as personas are, they are primarily textual. GUP and variants offer a 'user at a glance' format that complements the rich story a persona and scenarios can communicate. The rest of the between project looks pretty cool too.

The Age of Information Architecture

In a new issue of Digital Web Magazine and a brand new column entitled IAnything Goes, Jeff Lash takes an in-depth look at just what is the big deal with IA: what it is, why it's needed, who should do it, and how it came about. The Age of Information Architecture. Also in this issue David Wertheimer writes about going Beyond the IA Guy: Defining information architecture in his Wide Open column.

Quick Visio Tips

Boxes and Arrows is running Three Visio Tips: Special Deliverables #4 from our favorite deliverables ninja Dan Brown. Quick, but good.

Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side

HBS Working Knowledge interviewed Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School who has been researching the effect of time pressure on creativity in project work. Amabile has been studying the effect of various environmental and internal pressures on the ability to be creative. Her research subjects in the past have included artists and writers. At Harvard her subjects have been organizational employees -- 238 individuals on 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 industries -- who have been filling out project journals.

Amabile's research has been consistently finding that time pressure does not help creativity, but research subjects have consistenly believed that they have been more creative when faced with pressures including time pressure. In fact, subjects have often been producing less creative work. This is fascinating to me. I'm sure the majority of IA's who read this blog are consultants who are faced with constraints of time on an everyday basis. I have heard that designers in some agencies (perhaps more in the web heyday) sometimes take time off away from a design problem in order to allow other solutions to manifest. In the last place I worked, I heard of a case where a few designers took a long drive when they got a particularly interesting project in order to get away from their desks and talk about the design problem a while before considering solutions. Amabile suggests that this is one very good way to develop creative thinking. After working on a problem for some time, take a break and put that work aside for a few days to allow your original ideas and problems to incubate. She suggests that solutions or ideas often appear during this period. While giving yourself some buffer time for creative work may not seem allowable in your present situation, it seems very worthwhile to allow for this incubation period. Surely you can track your time creatively to allow for it :)

Chris Farum takes over Boxes and Arrows... sort of

Former Argonaut Chris Farnum has two great articles in this week's edition of Boxes & Arrows:

The Egreetings article is a case study of a project Chris worked on while at Argus Inc., wonderfully written from a very personal perspective, which talks about problems faced during and after the project was completed. Many of the lessons learned are detailed in the User Testing article, which, among other things, tackles the low fidelity vs. high fidelity prototyping arguement head on.

Using HTML for Early UI Prototyping

Joshua and Lucian pointed to this 4-5 step methodology for using HTML to create basic UI prototypes.

External Search Engine Usability

So it's good to know people are hitting your site with A, B and C keywords from certain search engines... but how good is that information... what is the user really looking for? Jeff Lash explains the Three Ways to Improve External Search Engine Usability.

There are three methods that can be used in improving how links to your site appears on external search engines, and how relevant and useful the resulting pages those links point to are:

  • Recreating search logs
  • Cognitive walkthrough
  • Usability testing
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