October 31, 2003
A Google Halloween
Since I really enjoyed the Halloween edition this year, I felt it was time again to pay homage to Google's logo designer, Dennis Hwang.
If you're really a fan, you can pick up a couple of Dennis' logos on tees at the Google store. IMO, not enough selection...there should probably be a poster of logos per year at least!
UCD meets XP/Agile
And here's another list pointer. William Hudson alerted folks to a draft of an article he's done for the Cutter IT Journal. It's a simulated conversation between a UCD consultant and an XP team leader: Adopting User-centered Design within an Agile Process (PDF). It starts:
eXtreme Programming and other Agile processes provide a middle ground between chaos and over-elaborate processes sometimes referred to as "death by documentation." A particularly attractive aspect of the Agile approach for many teams is its willingness to accommodate change no matter how advanced development might be. However, this very flexibility can cause user interface design issues and ensuing usability problems.
I'm assuming that XP/Agile are primarily relevant in software applications development. Are people using it for web sites or web applications? Inquiring minds and all that!
Skills Framework for the Information Age
Here's another email list tidbit. Whitney Quesenbery pointed to an interesting initiative across the pond: it's the UK-based Skills Framework for the Information Age Foundation (SFIA). From the what is SFIA? page:
The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective Information Systems (IS) making use of Information Communications Technologies (ICT). It is a simple and logical two-dimensional framework consisting of areas of work on one axis and levels of responsibility on the other.
There's a section that describes the structure of the SFIA framework, which describes "what ICT practitioners and users do."
When I get a few moments, I'm looking forward to exploring this in more detail. There may well be some useful concepts for the whole "big picture" UX/ED issue.
October 30, 2003
Graphic Design USA
My apologies to those across the ponds for this US-centric entry, but I came across Graphic Design USA magazine in a Google search and thought it worth a mention. Turns out you can get a free subscription if you're stateside and remotely involved with the field. They also have a feature or two per issue online; you can review their archives page, which goes back to 2001.
This month's feature is on edgy stock visuals from leading agencies. My fave is the Rupert Everett lookalike in the desert (see right).
Other interesting features include designer-friendly companies (who "understand the creative community, develop products and services for that community, and support its endeavors and interests"), trends in logo design, and standout annual reports.
Info literacy and the digital divide
The SIGIA and aoir lists had some interesting pointers today for folks interested in the issues of information literacy and the digital divide. On the info literacy side, there's this executive summary of Adult Literacy in America (for free) and this slightly older, and international piece on Literacy in the Information Age (for a fee). The first took an interesting approach in their study, surveying 26,000 adults in order to get a richer picture of the literacy issue rather than simply estimating the number of "illiterates."
The aim of this survey is to profile the English literacy of adults in the United States based on their performance across a wide array of tasks that reflect the types of materials and demands they encounter in their daily lives.
Lack of access to the Internet and related digital technologies is a problem not only in emerging markets but also in advanced countries, a comparative study of eight markets has shown.
This study also touches on the issue of non-use by people who actually have Internet access (something the Pew Internet Project has also reported).
October 28, 2003
The Tipping Point
How about you?
Design conference borgashmord
I meant to get to this earlier, but peterme has written volumes on his weblog about some recent UX/ED conferences. First, he writes four entries about the HITS 2003 conference (one, two, three, and a postscript). If you're so inclined, you can get HITS slides and posters.
Next, he waxed poetic about About, With and For in two parts (one and two). This conference was a 1+ day event at IIT immediately after HITS2003 and seemingly geared towards a student audience (IIT students attend free).
He was less happy with a conference he didn't attend: AIGA's Power of Design. Peter was not impressed with the seeming "circle jerk" supposedly described by Dirk Kneymeyer's notes from the conference. Not sure I agree with him there, but his view seems widely shared among the non-AIGA UX/ED folks. Perhaps a challenge for DUX2005?
October 27, 2003
The any key
I got a few yucks out of this one. Here's FAQ2859 from Compaq:
Where do I find the "Any" key on my keyboard?
This FAQ entry was created on 10/8/2001 and updated on 10/25/2002. Why the update? According to Ralph Lord (who frequents the same lists I do), the original version was written by author bgates and read:
Compaq is aware of this problem and is currently researching a solution. Please check back with our website for patches or updates which may address this problem.
Ralph writes that the author of this first entry was fired. Interesting that it apparently took a year or so to discover! While amusing, there is also some semblance of cautionary tale there too. It had been a while, so I went and did a Google search for disease of familiarity. Interesting that buddy Thom Haller had slots 1 and 2, while I had number 3. But poking through the other search results ultimately sent me back to Richard Saul Wurman, who talked about the "disease of familiarity" in both the original Information Anxiety and its sequel: Information Anxiety 2. Wurman writes:
Familiarity breeds confusion. Those afflicted are the experts in the world who, so bogged down by their own knowledge, regularly miss the key points as they try to explain what they know. ... We have all had teachers who we have said are extraordinarily bright, yet we cannot understand what they are saying.
Sigh...the more I think about it, the less this FAQ is that amusing. On the other hand, the original response (and author) is still pretty funny...just not that helpful!
October 26, 2003
I spent the first fifteen or so years of my career in fairly serious software development. In '97, I moved to the web, and while there are some healthy tech challenges there (particularly doing web-based applications development), the two worlds tend to exist separately. Or so I'm thinking, because I've been completely unaware about the agile software development and extreme programming (XP) movements--both of which have recently been discussed on the interaction design/architects list.
Presumably these will have a lot of relevance to the web, yet I'm not sure how much cross-pollination is occurring. What am I missing?
October 25, 2003
Practices in web design
The site has been developed by Heidi Adkisson (an "interactive architect" ... oy!) in order to make her masters thesis (an MS in Technical Communication...yes!) more accessible. In it, she reveals the results of surveying 75 leading e-commerce sites...how they handled web design essentials such as global navigation, breadcrumbs, search, and link colors. As she notes, common practice doesn't equal best practice, but knowing what is common can help inform your own design decisions.
Heidi has recently launched a new weblog, called IA THINK, which looks at "Interactive architecture, writing, and design." One of her recent entries is about Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm which I'm reading for class (after having read The Tipping Point just for fun...my masters thesis used diffusion of innovation theory as its framework). Looks like another feed to add to the aggregator!
October 23, 2003
Congrats to Mike Lee on an amazing accomplishment: the first photo in the to-be-released-on-Monday photography compilation called America 24/7. You've probably heard of this project, but if not, all the photos in the volume were taken with digital cameras during a one week period last May. A (perhaps?) surprisingly few photos were from amateurs, which makes Mike's one-in-a-million contribution truly noteworthy.
The 24/7 folks (publishers Dorling Kindersley, who also do the cool Eyewitness Travel Guides) have previews of the covers of the state volumes that will be available a year from now. This may be damaging to the pocketbook, as I am very likely to pick up the volumes from states that I've spent time in (or want to spend time in). Too bad they don't have larger images...many of them are visually stunning.
As Mike notes, there is a tendency towards the sentimental, family-oriented photos, but the publishers aren't dummies...at the discounted prices ($35 at either Amazon or Barnes & Noble) this is likely to be one popular coffee table book. And the personalized cover option is a slick feature. This could make a very nice holiday gift this year!
October 21, 2003
E-commerce and the environment
According to the announcement:
Articles in the special issue analyze the environmental consequences of telecommuting and assess the transformation of the wholesale, warehouse and retail sectors of the economy by network technology. The environmental impact of conventional and electronic approaches to grocery shopping, book selling and scholarly journals are compared and the possibility of using product tags to improve recycling is explored. The research ranges from the U.S. to Germany, from Finland to Japan.
A lot of the articles are really about the environment (including one on greenhouse gas emissions and home grocery delivery in Finland! Others are more generically relevant to the whole society and technology conversation, particularly the reviews of books like Castells' Rise of the Network Society and Brown and Daguid's The Social Life of Information. Interesting that their method for making these available is to simply create PDFs of the relevant print pages...so in some cases, you'll need to skip over text in the first column!
Funding from the NSF (where I would love to work some day) has enabled them to make this issue available for free. However, you do have to register to download articles.
October 20, 2003
Conrad on line thickness
Once again, Conrad Taylor does not disappoint. His Line thickness, a means of expression (PDF, 1.7M) looks at both the reasons why lines in illustrations are important from a cognitive perspective as well as how intentionally manipulating them (both in drawing and through computer-based tools like Illustrator) can aid in reader understanding. I can't wait for part 2!
October 19, 2003
Get yer icons here, hon...
I'm just back from a weekend in Baltimore, where the seven other program committee members and I turned over 400 proposals into what will be STC's 51st annual conference in May. Alas, you'll have to wait a bit before I give any sneak session previews!
We managed to spend at least as much time getting a look at all that balmer (as the locals say) has to offer attendees. From our fab location in the Inner Harbor, we walked or water taxi'd to places like the Aquarium, the touristy Harborplace and the more historic (but full of nightlife) Fells Point. This morning, a few of us took off a bit north for brunch at the very kitschy Papermoon Diner, which has to be seen to be believed...ya gotta love a place that hot glues hundreds of kewpie dolls to the walls for decor!
Anyways, the icon ref in the title refers to an article in Boxes and Arrows titled Learning to Love the Pixel: Exploring the Craft of Icon Design. I'm looking forward to taking some time and giving it the proper read it deserves. But I'm intrigued already by the top pullquote:
Discussing craft as a value of the user-centered process will expand upon typical issues confronting designers, highlighting matters of moral value, innovative potential, and aesthetic character.
Years ago, I did a special issue of Design Matters (PDF; the newsletter of the STC Information Design SIG) that focused on the future of information design as a profession. Some interesting responses there, and the topic of craft came up there as well...see David Sless' comment in particular.
October 16, 2003
More from Clement Mok
Oy, I've had to change the channel...the Yankees have tied it up :(. Courtesy of TiVo, I can watch the rest of the game later if it doesn't go even more downhill. In the meantime, here's a quickie post to take my mind off the game (and the MLB.com score card in the background).
The latest issue of NextD journal has come out with an interview with Clement Mok [ framed | unframed ]. This follows up on his recent Time for a Change call to design professionals, which has also appeared in Communication Arts.
Over on Contact Sheet, Scott provides an interesting take on this call. He also points out that you can get the snazzy version of of this pitch here. I don't mind the Flash presentation, but think it might not have been the best design to assume the reading speed they did. Making folks click next would be bad, but a small speed and/or rewind control wouldn't have hurt!
October 15, 2003
I came across the byrdhouse review today. It's tagline is "Smart talk about architecture, design, and photography." Very nice!
Two entries I particularly enjoyed were modHouse, which shows a series of logo comps that were developed for a client, and a recipe for color, which describes a neat way for coming up with a natural color palette for design.
The latter is cool just because it is such an easy technique to reproduce. The former is cool because it exposes something from the field of design that I'm not sure is common in the field of web design, and that's the idea of exploring lots and lots of solutions to a design problem.
I think this is related to the problem with high-fidelity prototypes. Once you get close to something that is real, it makes it much harder to go outside the box and consider a design that isn't simply an extension of a known design.
More spam measures
Well, I don't know why I didn't do this sooner. But after having to delete hundreds of spam messages (and files like vicodin.gif), I'm crying uncle and signing on with a spam filter service...one of those where they check to see if it there's actually a human on the other side of that email.
My transition wasn't a smooth one, but that was largely due to my use of an embarrassingly old mailer. Now that I've upgraded, life is good! And I have to give a huge thumbs up to knowspam for their above and beyond tech support to help diagnose this. I'll be signing up long before the free trial is over!
BTW, I've made a tiny hack to MT so that folks who comment on IDblog will not need to prove they are humans :). I think the content of the comment will do that nicely.
October 13, 2003
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde...
If you enjoyed the "According to a Cambridge researcher..." parlor trick that went around a while ago, you may also enjoy this page, which has a lot more useful stuff. Matt Davis provides some very interesting info about what's true and what's not necessarily true, and also a summary of what may have been the source of the theory. You can also find the same text in a whole bunch of different languages.
CFP: Visual and Spatial Reasoning in Design
Into visualization? This may work for you...it's the call for papers for VR'04: Visual and Spatial Reasoning in Design, which will be held at MIT in Cambridge, MA, next July 22-24, 2004:
The design process has become the focus of an increasingly intense research effort. Of central importance in designing is the interplay between two types of knowledge - abstract, conceptual knowledge and perceptually based knowledge. Visual and spatial reasoning are the cognitive and/or computational processes that link these two types of knowledge and it is this aspect of the design process that forms the focus of the conference.
Based on the last conference's accepted papers, this is fairly academic. Submissions due January 23, 2004.
October 12, 2003
Caleb goes TypePad
Oops...that's what I get for trusting the blogroll...Yinzer buddy Ken has migrated his weblog, caleb walker, to TypePad and I just noticed!
Big yeah, there's now an RSS feed so he can now go in the reader with all my other favorite haunts! Now I can read about cool things like the blogger boobiethon (oy, now there's a project for class). And I can see that he has the same bearded visage as he did when I was last in Pittsburgh. Love the funky crop :).
Kids and design
Sugata ... Mitra's passion is computer-based education, specifically for India's poor. He believes that children, even terribly poor kids with little education, can quickly teach themselves the rudiments of computer literacy. The key, he contends, is for teachers and other adults to give them free rein, so their natural curiosity takes over and they teach themselves. He calls the concept "minimally invasive education."
Too bad this effect doesn't carry over as one ages!
October 11, 2003
Fighting comment spam
I've been intrigued by the relevance of the double-edged sword as a metaphor in life, particularly regarding technology. Everyone's on the Internet? Big yeah! But now we have millions of computers that have security holes you can fly a 747 through. Yikes.
Similarly, I've been enjoying blogs both as a reader and an author for years, but now I'm being forced to deal with the dark side of it--spam via blog comments. Yuck!
Over on Brainstorms and Raves, there's a great summary of the problems and potential solutions for dealing with unwanted comments. I've gone ahead and implemented the "Screen Your Comments" option (i.e., comment moderation) for IDblog.
So, my apologies to my readers, but I'm getting really tired of deleting porn spam from my comments. Since I think the universe of spammers is much larger than the universe of IDblog commenters, I'm choosing to moderate the comments rather than try and keep up with blocking the spammers.Check out the extended entry if you want to read more of the technical details.
The solution I implemented involves two different authors/plug-ins and instructions from a third. Here is what I did to install this for the first time on IDblog, which is Perl-based and uses the Berkely db format (see scriptygoddess if you want comment moderation but use PHP and MySQL).
Here are the steps:
Update: This is the code I now have to do the recent comments section on the home page. Alas, "unapproved" comments don't appear in the specific blog entry post, but they are showing up via the <MTComments> tag:
October 09, 2003
The site is Independent Testers.org. Not sure if this can scale, but seems well worth the look!
Do you believe in miracles?
Meg inspired me to add my own right-nav decoration to IDblog. Having lived in Boston from 1976 to 1994, I'm afraid to hope. But there's just something so perfect about a 7-game Sox/Cubs World Series. Now if the teams can just deliver...
Too little time, too much to read
Livia Labate emailed AIfIA folks today about a cool service by Emerald Publishing. It's their Journals of the Week feature, where they give people free access to full-text versions of two different journals each week.
For next week, the interesting looking journal is The Electronic Library, which "aims to be the definitive source of information for the application of technology in information environments." The week of the 26th, one of the featured journals is foresight, which "provides an effective forum for debate on the important social, economic, political and technological issues, which are shaping all our futures."
You can also sign up for a twice-a-month email to get notified about future journals of the week. Slick!
October 07, 2003
Information on the Assembly Line
Rats...it's a class night, and I've got to catch up on a couple chapters. So I can't do much more than make a quick blog entry for Jason Nichols' very intriguing looking masters thesis called Information on the Assembly Line (subtitled A review of Information Design and its Implications for Technical Communicators). Here's the PDF link if you prefer that to his HTML version (which is nicely designed).
I jumped right to the Defining Information Design chapter, and appreciated this comment for its general relevance in UX/ED/ID/IA:
While very few people seem to agree on just what information design is, everyone does agree that the reason it is so hard to define is that it draws from so many other disciplines and professions. ... As Robert Jacobson explains, the emerging field of information design possesses very little research, experimentation results, case studies, or anecdotal evidence that it can call its own. It thereby lacks a "coherent corpus of rules or principles a novice can obey".
I can't wait to dive into this and find out why the final chapter is called The Need to Learn Database Design Principles. Hmmmm.
BTW, thanks to Peter for another great tip.
October 06, 2003
Zen and UX
Peter blogged this interesting piece by Adam Greenfield on compassion and the crafting of user experience. As a card-carrying UU and dabbler in Buddhism (or at least the Western version), I appreciated the essence of Adam's piece. For example:
How I, at least, ensure that my work meets my criteria for right livelihood is by practicing it with compassion. This may, at first blush, appear to be a strange word to stumble across in this context. But to my mind, this is the crucial insight at the heart of the discipline: a good user-experience practitioner has to be able to imagine, and share the frustrations of, the human users of the artifact in question, in the hope that these frustrations can be reduced or eliminated. This primary understanding is something that I'd like to see explicitly incorporated into the professional education of user-experience professionals, at all levels: not because we should all be Buddhists, not because we should all be concerned with the ethics of our livelihood, but simply because it would make for better design.
Adam wasn't the first to explore the issue of Zen and design; the CSS Zen garden pre-dated him, though their emphases are a bit different!
October's First Monday
October 05, 2003
Internet research blogs
October 02, 2003
Logo change wikipedia style
I was doing a paper on wikis and stumbled across an interesting logo design effort for the Wikipedia. On the left is the old logo; on the right is the new logo:
What's really interesting is how they went about changing their logo wiki-style. You can find information about the voting, the logo ratification process, among lots of others. But what's really interesting are the final logo variants -- they are already discussing alternates to the new logo. Some very slick designs there.
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