Thursday, December 27, 2001
So, perhaps that is a sign. Although my eight months with Blogger have been great, it’s time to upgrade IDblog with its own domain and Moveable Type (get ready all you comments fans :).
So…IDblog may be offline for a bit while I make that transition (especially since I have some more holiday visiting to fit in too). I expect IDblog to be back online no later than January 7th (and hopefully well before that). Thanks to those of you who wrote recently…I greatly appreciated hearing from you!
Happy New Year!
####Monday, December 24, 2001
Okay, one more before I’m off to help the nieces put out cookies and milk for Santa. Last week, Christina wrote a longish missive on Elegant Hack in defense of visited links. Some of her readers, including Jared Spool (of UIE fame) and Mark Bernstein have been having an interesting discussion in the comments. My favorite so far is from Jared:
When a user has to move a mouse over an element to see if Netscape gives them the finger, they’ve stopped concentrating on the content and are now concentrating on the design of the page.
Mark and Jared discuss the issue of slowing readers down with underlined, blue text. It’s a risk, but less of one in an environment where, per Nielsen, you’re anticipating that people scan rather than read. My pet peeve? Designers who feel compelled to use black link text for either visited or unvisited links. Those, like myself, who have underlining turned off in our browsers are thus forced to mouse around all over the place, waiting for our browsers to give us the finger :).
And on that note, happy holidays!
Have you seen this one yet? The folks at Creative Good tell me they put it in their newsletter, but I saw it first on rini.org. It’s the (soon-to-be?) infamous You Have a Very Bad Hotel PowerPoint presentation.
It’s not very good information design from a technical perspective. There are some font problems and the graphics are scaled poorly. But who cares! Tom Farmer and Shane Atchison know how to make a point in a way that a letter on some corporate stationery just wouldn’t have done it. And can you picture the scene at the media relations department at DoubleTree? Glad I’m not Mike the Night Clerk :).
####Friday, December 21, 2001
Gee, I hadn’t realized that LucDesk, one of the blogs I check on a daily basis, is published out of Israel. “Luc” is Lucian Millis, and he finds some good stuff, including yet another gem out of Google: their Year-End Google Zeitgeist.
It’s a very interesting example of information design. They’ve got interesting info chunked in a useful (and visually distinct) fashion. The Beatles were the #1 search in music in 2001. Wow.
####Thursday, December 20, 2001
Okay, so on the apropos of nothing theme for tonight, and in keeping with the recent discussion on ID-Cafe about humour, communication and information design, it can only be time for something from the Onion. How about Helvetica Bold Oblique Sweeps Fontys? A lifetime achievement award for Times New Roman? But of course :).
BTW, speaking of bad user experience (why me? why me all the time?), do you think that I really am enjoying spending this much time (over 15 minutes now) holding with Verizon to tell them that my credit card expiration date is two years later than the one they have on record? Sigh.
####Wednesday, December 19, 2001
Abel Lenz (writing from my old haunt of Somerville, MA) “insists” that IA really is a creative pursuit. Thanks to Erin for the pointer; she’s managing to blog even tho she’s working hard on boxesandarrows.
Wow…this is almost as good as Photoshop Tennis! Rageboy, aka Chris Locke (the author of the most fabulous tagline “where we write at night when we should be sleeping. and it shows”) goes up against Cameron Barrett about whether it’s worth winning a Dave Winer weblog award. See the running commentary here.
Can you turn your website into the online equivalent of a bar of Ivory soap? That’s what Mike Sockol is asking over on ZDNet, with Yearning for Web site simplicity. He writes:
Ironically, this yearning for simplicity remains closely tied to our enjoyment for all things complex. We don’t consider how the water reached the bathtub, or why a Palm Pilot works when we press a button. We cover these complex systems with a veneer of simplicity, so we can use them effortlessly.
This reminds me a lot of the philosophy of a design firm I worked at a few years back, whose tagline was “taming complexity.” (As an aside, check out those wraparound whiteboards…boy, I miss those!) It’s also inherent in the ideas of Don Norman, as well as Ben Shneiderman, and also the folks over at Cognetics, who have their LUCID framework for user-centered development.
####Tuesday, December 18, 2001
I can’t help myself from commenting. But a book I ordered on Amazon.com on December 11th (also nicely labeled with “Use standard shipping to get by Christmas”) is now not scheduled to ship until sometime between 12/25 and 1/10. Well, at least that one I could cancel. And I did. Ummm, yeah…just a few more glitches to work out on our way to online shopping nirvana :).
Have I blogged this before? I don’t think so…see A Brief History of Human Computer Interaction Technology, which I found blogged today on bradlauster.com (who’s seemingly Brady Bunch-inspired home page graphic is too funny).
Lou Rosenfeld is pleased to announce that the SIGIA-L list archives are now available, courtesy of the hard work of Jared Folkmann, Andrew McNaughton, Karl Fast, and David Schneider. They’re having some problems with it on NS4.7, but they are looking in to it as I write this.
While I’m at it, other list archives include:
####Monday, December 17, 2001
Okay, after that whine, I need to put up some useful info. So, let’s take a peek at some of the cool stuff that Michael Angeles has listed over on iaslash that you might find interesting:
- A list of notable graphic designers compiled by Sean Brennan as part of his masters thesis at Pratt.
- Gerry McGovern’s spin on IA versus graphic design on the web. See if you think the web is a shopping mall, a library, or both.
- A link to the “hiatus” of the Web Standards Project. (And see at least one reaction.)
Sigh. I had planned to write about my new iPod and why it was such a good example of “user experience” and instead, I’m compelled to complain about a less-than-great example from, of all folks, Amazon.com.
The scenario: Auntie Beth shops for some of her favorite people for Christmas, her nieces and nephew. Amazon has now got a deal with ToysRUs, and I’ve been a loyal Amazon shopper for years. It’s December 13th, and I figure I got plenty of time. So I order a toy (“Usually ships in 24 hours”) and although I know that this refers to after it gets to Amazon, I’m still thinking I’m okay.
Fast forward to today. Here’s the nice message I get from Amazon:
We wanted to let you know that there is a delay with one or more items in the order you placed …
It is not possible to cancel any items that have already entered the shipping process; however, if your shipment arrives too late, you should know that you may always refuse delivery or return it to us for a refund. …
Please note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message.
Moments after receiving this email, I click on the link thinking, no prob, I’ll change from standard to overnight shipping and I’m still okay. But…you guessed it. I cannot change shipping since it’s “being prepared for shipment and cannot be changed.” Now I’m annoyed. It’s a $25 toy, and not one that was the “end-all, be-all” toy that will make me my niece’s favorite aunt until the end of time. But it’s just all the little things adding up:
- Can’t deliver as suggested.
- Can’t give sufficient notice to remedy.
- Can’t realize that any orders scheduled to arrive on 12/25 are problematic.
- Can’t even make it easy to respond…I had to click thru about 6 pages before finding the form I could paste their email into with my comment.
Am I overcritical? Perhaps. But since I spend some time on IDblog trying to figure out how IA is different from ID is different from usability is different from user experience, I just had to say that this was user experience and it was not good. It’s nice to see that Amazon’s back end technology is now capable of giving me info about my orders on nearly every page I surf to, but hey, I’d like help where it makes a real difference…get my Christmas presents to me on time!
Remember the big IA versus little IA discussion? This big versus little discussion happens in other fields too, including usability (sorry, no pointer, but was from Whitney Quesenbery) and information design (see Ginny Redish’s commentary), although the terminology may vary.
Not everyone is wild about the connotations of “big” versus “little.” In fact, peterme, wondered if perhaps “precise” was a better term for little, which seemed reasonable until Christina pointed out that the opposite of “precise” was “sloppy.” Yikes. Not there yet.
So…Eric Scheid may have found a yin/yang pair that works well without any unwanted side effects: Strategic IA and Technical IA. A must-read if you are trying to figure out where you fit! Or add a comment…they’re already piling up.
####Saturday, December 15, 2001
Depressing news from Phil Agre about Access guides, the travel guides that Richard Saul Wurman and Nathan Shedroff worked on (and made famous) years ago before they became uber-designers. I am a big fan of Access guides; the only change I would have made would be to print the map numbers in the same colors as their text counterparts (so you could easily tell on the map what was a restaurant and what was a hotel). Thanks to infoDesign and designwritings for the pointer.
####Thursday, December 13, 2001
Today on the SIGCHI list, Jérôme Ernu shared some info regarding the accessibility version of Amazon.com. Alas, he reports that the blind users they queried in France are not that impressed, commenting about issues like “feeling they have the ‘poor site’ ” and ” ‘ghettos’ for the blind.”
This is a tricky one. Where I work, we’re approaching both a site redesign and a content management system implementation. We’re still planning on a single site, following Section 508 guidelines (this is my fave reference for those). But even we are planning on “exempting” some content on our site that is geared towards entertainment, rather than informational, value.
####Tuesday, December 11, 2001
Oh, this looks like another good site to add to our list of cool weblogs. This one has a goal “to foster free trade of hypertext interface design information.” Okay, that’s a bit on the spin side. It looks like they’re going to put up some cool stuff. For starters, I really like the way they give the user a way of changing text size. Neat!
####Monday, December 10, 2001
I hate overdoing the poaching of other blog’s links, but this one from Christina at Elegant Hack is worth the read if you have to deal with the back end of complex site design. It’s basically the story of Salon.com and their roll-your-own content management system, a subject very near and dear to my heart.
My favorite quote?
[Regarding big CMS packages, they all] cost a fortune and still would not have allowed us to do what we wanted to.
Umm, yeah. Having had peripheral experience with two of these, I can second that. We’re building ours now with Zope. This may not work either (i.e., it’s an overswinging of the pendulum and won’t scale), but at least we won’t have mortgaged the farm to build it!
And even if content management systems aren’t your thing, it’s still an interesting read to realize they are publishing the site with about a dozen editors and only two design staff to do publishing and any related artwork.
Boy, while there are some great conferences on the calendar for next year, I suspect that most will see record low attendance…this is about the third or fourth call that’s extended their submission deadline: WCC2002, the World Computer Congress, August 25-30, Montreal, Canada.
This one is a bit heavy on the information technology side, but there are some interesting streams, including one for choice and quality of life in the information society and one for “gaining a competitive edge” via usability. And Montreal is on my list of “must visit soon” cities. So many conferences, so little money :).
####Sunday, December 09, 2001
The December issue of First Monday is out. The following articles are likely to be of interest to some:
- Communicating Information about the World Trade Center Disaster
- Libraries, the Internet and September 11
- The Day the World Changed: Implications for Archival, Library, and Information Science Education
If you’re so inclined, you may also want to take a look at David Lancashire’s intriguing article on open source development, in which he suggests that it is “immature” markets for certain types of software and not altruism that is the key. Should be some interesting responses next issue!
####Friday, December 07, 2001
Wow…a good day for blog surfing. Check out this piece by Adam Greenfield on A List Apart on the difference between the designer and the stylist.
The important part of this idea is that the task of the designer is to present the client with a solution within an ambit circumscribed by factors beyond his or her control, factors that limit the ability to unrestrainedly impose personal taste. … Exercises in pure styling … fail this test. [Such an exercise] addresses no issue, solves no problem, admits no constraints.
I’ve always thought that this differentiated information designers from their “out for the glory of my peers” design counterparts.
[To] draw the general conclusion that search is an ineffective tool from these specific observations of existing e-commerce web sites is like eating a frozen egg roll and declaring that all Chinese food is bad.
####Thursday, December 06, 2001
A few weeks ago, peterme argued:
for a more focused definition of information architecture, something of a cross between Argus’ “Information architecture involves the design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems to help people find and manage information more successfully,” and Jesse James Garrett’s “Stuctural design of the information space to facilitate intuitive access to content.” The Argus definition comes from a library background, and Jesse’s from journalism. Both, though, are focused on finding, managing, retrieving, accessing, and understanding content and/or information.
He’s now revisiting the topic, only in this go-round, the earlier comment:
“information architecture” was meaningless before the Web
information architecture … never existed before The Web
While I agree with peterme’s call for a narrower scope of IA (rather than having IA include info design, interface design, and/or interaction design, as some are inclined to do), I don’t know that I’d say IA didn’t exist before the web.
In his earlier post, Peter says that the fact that Richard Saul Wurman’s term never caught on meant that “it was inappropriate for what he was labelling.” Yes and no. It is certainly true that RSW’s version of IA has a lot more focus on visual aspects than current LIS-flavored IA (see this article for an interesting discussion of this).And yes, some info design folks, like the ID SIG, have embraced RSW’s description of “making the complex clear,” just as some IAs have. But presentation layer aside, RSW’s LATCH schemes for organization (location, alphabetical, time, categorical, and hierarchy; Nathan Shedroff later added continuum and random to this group) certainly seem part of what might be called IA today. I also think that his restructuring of travel guides (the Access series) qualifies as a design “design of the information space to facilitate intuitive access to content.”
The other question is semantic or pedantic…your choice. If it wasn’t called IA, was it IA? I’m not an LIS person (nor do I play one on TV…oh, that dates me :), but I find it hard to believe that modern web-based IA’s are breaking all new ground that the LIS folks haven’t already explored as far as “organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems.”
All this said, I do agree that the web is a unique environment that the traditional LIS folks were perhaps slow to embrace. And the information design folks were off in Europe worrying more about forms and signage, and the graphic design folks were playing around with GIFs and JPEGs. So…a lot of new folks working at web design firms dealing with monstrous sites may have felt like they were traversing uncharted territory. The problems were bigger, the timeframes were shorter, the pressure intense. But is the problem and the solution really different? Hyperlinks may make this a magnitude harder, but is it like night and day compared to finding a book in a several-thousand (or million) volume library? Or a record in a monstrous database? I’m not yet convinced.
####Tuesday, December 04, 2001
Another conference, this time across the pond (from moi). A week in London? I gotta see what I can do about getting to HCI 2002/EUPA 2002. Still a bit light on the website, but the conference runs from September 2-6, 2002.
A rhetorical question for you. If you are sending out a newsletter which reported on a study that tested a “group of 101 website designers and usability professionals,” would you title it:
Predicting Human Performance – How good are designers at predicting user performance?
I guess I’m a bit sensitive given the whole usability/design Mars/Venus thing that’s going on in ours and related fields. But…maybe this article could have used some usability testing itself! For if Dr. Bailey meant designer in a “we’re all designers” sort of way in the title, then it should have been used consistently throughout. Or else he should have reported that the “website designers” did more poorly than the “usability professionals” (if that was true).
This bit of pedantry aside, I don’t dispute the value of usability testing (although some usability professionals do). I do think that the more experienced the professional, the better the “educated” guess. Hey, it works for Nielsen Norman. Of course, expertise is relative. Nielsen (whose emphasis is more along the lines of software interface design) might have had no better luck than I guessing something that was ergonomically based (which these studies were).
BTW, the article hadn’t made it to their web archive as of this blog entry, so check back if you’re interested. Actually, the link is there, but the newsletter isn’t…ooops! The cobbler’s children phenomenon strikes :).
####Monday, December 03, 2001
Like those visual puzzles which play on the way our eyes and brain work together? Here’s a selection to have fun with. This particular illusion was really amazing…I must admit to opening this graphic in Photoshop and magnifying it 16x before realizing that the black dots were indeed created by my brain!
Interested in design research? Ken Friedman writes:
To build an emerging field, we must develop a rich network of social institutions. These include a research literature in books and journals, professional conferences, research seminars, research centers, professional associations, and a broad institutional infrastructure that encourages the flow of information among our many colleagues around the world.
Hmmmm…sounds familiar! Ken asks DRS newsletter subscribers to ask just two people to consider joining their list. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you visited their site. They’ve also got a specific list for those interested in the PhD in design.
####Sunday, December 02, 2001
I’d like to thank the handful of IDblog visitors who’ve clicked through our booklist to Amazon and bought something. One or two more of you, and we’ll get our first referral check :). Okay, so the dough’s not rolling in, but since the ID SIG is part of a non-profit membership association, it’s not like folks are supplementing my next vacation!
More interesting is the fact that we get credit for anything that folks buy when they go to Amazon from one of our links. So to the person who bought the Ruff ‘n’ Tumble Ball Pit, thank you! Now who needs a DVD player :).
####Saturday, December 01, 2001
Christina (or should I say Octopussy 🙂 has torn down the old weblog and put a brand spanking new Elegant Hack in its place. Oy…more weblog envy!