March 29, 2004
Spare the rhetoric and spoil the reader?
I don't know if it's just the biz of trying to become a media darling, or something in the water, or what, but it's curious to me the extent to which spin is becoming part and parcel of some UX gurus' toolkits.
Earlier this month, Andrei called Jakob to task for this (essentially), and a week or two before, I'd commented about some language difficulties with an issue of Mark Hurst's Good Experience newsletter.
Not to be left behind, Gerry McGovern jumps on the spin wagon (again). It's not the first time I've found something he's written that I've disagreed with. There's the time a year ago he dissed IA and also the time he called for Jakob-like page weights.
But in his latest issue of new Thinking, Gerry warns readers about giving IT too much of a role in choosing a CMS. What I found to be off the spin-meter was that he could accuse CIO magazine of making a "ridiculous, surreal recommendation" while at the same time apparently having no problem with making a statement that is likewise (IMO) ridiculous:
Remember, the better the writer, the more techno phobic they are.
Uh, how about all generalizations are false?
Having been a victim of some CMS bloatware, I don't disagree with some of his other points about making sure whose needs are being met with a CMS package. Yes, our site is a busy site with lots of content being published. But I think that even small sites can benefit from a CMS package--and there are some great options out there. If we're lucky, maybe Gerry will focus on this in future newsletters.
March 24, 2004
Free speech and Howard Stern
This is probably tilting at windmills, but if you're so inclined, you may want to voice your opinion about the forthcoming legislation. Not just Howard fans are against this legislation. The ACLU has a way for you to voice your opposition, as does the Creative Coalition.
I don't know what Howard will do once his own assets are at risk (when the bill passes), but there are some interesting things going on on his website.
March 23, 2004
What is experience design?
The amazingly low-traffic (compared to some lists) AIGA Experience Design list has had an interesting discussion over the last two days about a one-sentence definition of experience design. I'm not going to quote (since the list archives aren't public), but it's easy to join and catch up on the discussion if you're so inclined.
From my perspective, usability and experience design share a user-centered design foundation. One is perceived as focusing more on utility while the other is perceived as focusing more on affect. Ultimately what's needed really depends on the product and context you're talking about. This focus on the specific is something I thought Whitney Quesenbery's 5 E's of usability addressed fairly nicely.
March 17, 2004
ID in motion
I'm into convergence. I have a combo TV/VCR, a combo TV/DVD, a phone/answering machine, and a Treo that does phone, WWW, and syncs with my Outlook. So I'm not one of those "convergence is a myth" folks. Thus I'm very interested in seeing what happens as broadband becomes commonplace on the Internet. This was part of the reason that I titled my chapter in Content and Complexity (more links in the bottom right nav) "Information Design in Motion."
Anyways, all this is a prequel to a couple of interesting video snippets that came across my inbox today. Not exactly in the traditional ID sense, but both are great examples of how motion on the Internet/WWW is so much more compelling than their broadcast counterparts.
First, there's MoveOn.org's snippet of Donald Rumsfeld who "got caught blatantly contradicting his past statements." You can probably count on one hand the number of people who watched Face the Nation (okay, just a gross exaggeration), thus the ability to actually see Rumsfeld squirm is so much more effective than reading a transcript. And given the blogosphere/email, this snippet is going to be seen a magnitude or more frequently than the original. (Hmmm...it's like Janet Jackson's breast...turnabout is fair play?)
On a completely different note is this slick page from the folks at Lebonze over in the UK. No, it's not exactly a great delivery of any critical information, but c'mon, even if you hate Flash, you have to be just a little bit impressed by the accomplishment. It's seeing this kind of experiment that may help someone else think about new possibilities for interacting with web readers/visitors (a la You Don't Know Jack).
Andrei takes on Jakob
I don't usually like to blog things that are going to appear on every UX-related blog, but this is going to be worth checking out ... the comments are nearly as interesting as the post. It's an open letter to Jakob Nielsen by Andrei Herasimchuk of Design by Fire.
There's so much I agree with in this letter, it's hard to pick just one snippet, but this one gets at the heart of it:
Mr. Nielsen, I respectfully request you stop posting articles like this. You do yourself and the usability field a disservice by speaking in terms that are vague, not backed up with research data, and filled with hyperbole. Further, until you learn more about what it takes to be a designer, and what it means to design a product with your own two hands, I respectfully request you stop trying to dictate any design agenda as some subset of what you view as the usability agenda.
Those of us in the design and usability biz need leaders to help us demand more from those who develop products and services. But while Jakob's spin may get him the press he clearly desires, I'm not sure it's our best choice for effecting real change in business.
Thanks to InfoDesign for the pointer.
March 16, 2004
Looking for a great conference to go to that's value-priced? Then I'd check out STC's annual conference in Baltimore. I'll stump more for this in the future (closer to the early registration date in late April), but here's are some highlights for the early birds.
and a whole lot more. Check out the full list of usability and information design sessions. And if you haven't been (or think Baltimore is just what you saw on Homicide), let me assure you that Baltimore is a *fab* conference city. Lots of fun for the whole family, or for the single visitor. (Or for the John Waters fan...one of my fave stops is the Papermoon Diner).
For more info, check out the registration page. Hope to see you there!
March 09, 2004
AARP and the page paradigm
Oh dear. I normally tend to stay relatively mum about my work life here, but Mark Hurst's 3/8 issue of Good Experience, Debating the Page Paradigm, is compelling me to respond publicly. (If you aren't familiar with Mark's Page Paradigm, you should check the 2/19 issue and peterme's response to get current first.)
Among other comments and responses to the comments in Mark's recent email was this criticism by peterme:
For those of you managing sites of more than 50 pages, heed Mark's suggestions at your own risk. It's been a while since I've worked on a site that had less than 1000 pages, and such sites require clear, coherent, and consistent navigation systems. Largely because this notion of "the Goal" doesn't apply -- many users have many different goals, and those goals will shift over time.
To which Mark responded:
(I invite Peter to count the pages of our clients' websites... AARP.com, AMD.com, WashingtonPost.com, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Travelocity, and the others listed on the Creative Good clients page..)
First, to be technically correct, it's AARP.org. While you might not think so given the recent Medicare press, AARP is actually a non-profit. We do serve AARP.com entries (actually, we redirect 'em to AARP.org), but externally we are AARP.org.
But that's a minor quibble. I realize that Mark's point is that Creative Good does work with clients that have large websites. And in fact, they did some listening labs for us just last Thursday. I think Creative Good is great (we must, we've done several projects with them and hope to do more).
I respectfully suggest that the original Page Paradigm email contained some language that could either be mis-interpreted and/or construed as contradictory. A colleague and I in AARP's web group found that we needed to correct a well-meaning content provider who happily emailed her staff that Mark Hurst said that users don't care where they are in the website, and so we should stop worrying about where content should live. It's not hard to see how she came up with this, as Mark had written:
For the record, at the listening labs I mentioned, most of our 8 participants followed Mark's page paradigm, where they either 1) clicked something that appeared to take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal, or 2) clicked the Back button on their Web browser.
But my point is that visitors may not care where they are in the website, but where content "lives" (essentially is linked to) has a considerable amount to do with whether they are able to click on something that will take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal. Similarly, once they are on a page relative to their goal, they are amenable to related navigation and promotional links. Shades of Jared Spool's seducible moment, which seems to be supported by the success of Google's AdSense program.
In the 3/8 issue responding to criticism from IAs, Mark wrote:
I said that for years I have observed users paying all their attention to completing their goal and no attention (outside of that) to navigation elements, which information architects fret over endlessly ...
But how do you separate the importance of navigation elements that help users complete their goal and the emphasis on navigation outside of that? And isn't it worth it to provide another alternative if someone's landed on a deep page besides going back to the home page?
I agree with the two-step Page Paradigm. Web visitors will either click something that looks like it takes them to their goal or go back (and in our case, it is with the Back button). But there's been language in the last two newsletters that has caused me just a bit of angst. I'm not sure if that's because Mark's doing a bit of Jakob-like rhetoric or just because this kind of communication is inherently difficult--or because even though we've come a long way baby, we're still dealing with some conceptually challenging issues.
If we have a foe in developing good user experiences, I don't think it's the endlessly fretting IAs--the West Coast ones or the polar bear ones :). For the record, AARP (or at least the people who I work with in the web group) IS committed to the use of a good IA and useful navigation to getting visitors closer to their (frankly very scary number of) goals.
March 08, 2004
Separation of church and state
Warning: political post to follow. Ignore if you're only here for the information design :) ... maybe I need some kind of icon, like Lou's hotdog icon, when I go off topic.
Anyways, by now, if you're gay or if you have any gay friends, you've probably seen this circulated around. Seems there is a Presidential Prayer Council and one of their prayers on February 26th was:
Now that the President has declared his decision to work for an amendment to the Constitution that will codify marriage as being between one man and one woman, pray for this effort. Pray that biblical values will be honored in this endeavor, and the the support needed will arise from many corners of the Nation.
Sigh. Truth be told, maybe it is the Catholic upbringing I can't shake off (try as I might) but I must admit that for me, it's not exactly obvious that there needs to be gay marriage. That said, I've no trouble with the idea that gay couples are entitled to all the same rights that marriage grants. If that's a civil union, fine. But if it needs to be a marriage, then that's what it should be.
Anyways, if you haven't seen it, here's the liberal response to the Presidential Prayer Council (thanks to swimfins for the HTML). If "biblical values" are an important part of marriage in the US, then perhaps the following should also be considered:
All of this reminded me of something I'd heard a while back from Alan Dershowitz, who had this response in a debate with Alan Keyes on religion in America. It was a letter to Dr. Laura that he'd found while Internet surfing:
Dear Dr. Laura, Thank you so much for trying to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:12 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
Now if you're still with me, you may be interested to know that the Republican National Committee is trying to get TV stations to stop airing MoveOn's ads against President Bush:
The RNC charges that because the ads are designed to help defeat President Bush, the group cannot pay for them with unlimited "soft money" contributions but only with contributions raised in amounts less than $5,000. ...
If you're so inclined, you might want to visit MoveOn.org and donate an amount less than $5,000 to help MoveOn get its message out.
From my perspective, the good news is that the RNC wouldn't be working this hard if they weren't really concerned that MoveOn was having a real impact. Not into donating cash? Then maybe you can sign up for the MoveOn PAC.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled IDblog :).
I hope that this doesn't really reduce donations to places like Goodwill. Or maybe I hope that there are organizations who can help connect people who might really benefit from Freecycle's goods even if they aren't digerati.
March 07, 2004
Serendipity and rainbows
Not sure if you can spot it, but that's the Washington Monument that is to the left of where the rainbow hits the horizon in the photo (about a half inch). And it's only in the photo that I see that there was a second rainbow that was slightly visible. Not sure how I missed that in the sky!
I snapped a full moonrise later that same evening:
March 02, 2004
Severe Weather Alert? Not!
What's up with the National Weather Service? Lately some of their Severe Weather Alerts (which I see on weather.com) have been questionable. I realize I live in DC (where I joke that people start having accidents when the humidity goes above 80%), but last week we got a severe weather alert for light rain, and this week it's for nuisance winds:
Severe Weather Alert from the National Weather Service
Winds that "may be enough to cause nuisance problems...but should not cause any major problems" do not justify a severe weather alert. I think the NWS can use some help from some IAs to deal with categorizing and labeling!
IDblog is Beth Mazur tilting at power law windmills. A little bit Internet, a little bit technology, a little bit society, and a lot about designing useful information products. Send your cards and letters to email@example.com.
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