November 5, 2004
UX and visibility
Speaking of filing things away, here's part of an email I just sent to the InfoD-Cafe list in response to Loren Needle's email re information design visibility. Many UX fields (usability, graphic design, IxD, IA, tech writing) have this same "why don't they value us?" kind of undercurrent, and I think Challis makes a critical point. Below is a linked version of my response.
Anyways, what I wanted to add to this discussion is to point to Challis Hodge's article titled Design is Broken and Needs to be Fixed. Here's a snippet:
I have listened for decades now as we designers have debated in circles, chased our tails and whined about business not understanding what we do and the value we bring. We talk about making things more usable, about creating brand loyalty, about making the world a better place. We struggle with ROI models, case studies and methods to communicate our value. Still we find ourselves in the same situation, having the same discussion. We just dont get why business doesnt understand.
I also think there's another theory that may be of use in these issues of visibility (for we share them with many, many other professions). It's diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers) aka crossing the chasm (Moore) aka the tipping point (Gladwell). It's a very complex and interesting theory, but I think the point that applies here is this: there is a gap/chasm/space between the point where something is used by the early adopters/visionaries and the early majority/pragmatists. And that space has everything to do with communication of value. The language we use is not the language used by those we would seek to convince. For me, this is exactly in line with what Challis is saying. And this is where we should look to find ways to make progress.
October 16, 2004
Your passive personalization profile
Not to pick on Verizon, but here's another interesting tidbit from
my online profile at Verizon.com. Apparently I can choose whether or
not to be part of their passive personalization (read: marketing).
Here's the relevant part of the profile:
On the one hand, it's nice that a company gives you some measure of control. On the other, it's not like I think Verizon isn't collecting info about me, I figure they just aren't using it in a way that's visible to me.
As I don't really spend that much time on Verizon's site, it's not a big deal. But I mention it here just as curious; I wonder if it is something that will start showing up on other sites.
User experience (not)
Well, my bad user experience story pales in comparison's to Mike's D H HELL. I just signed up for Verizon voicemail...for around $5 a month, it was added protection for getting messages when I'm on the phone or when my cats turn the answering machine off (a task they have gotten fairly good at).
I'd tried to sign up online Thursday night, but although I'd gotten thru 95% of the process, I was unable to finish the final step; clicking the "next" button kept re-loading the page. No error messages were displayed, so I guessed it was an incompatibility with my Mac version of Mozilla.
The next day, I signed up on the PC at work. I couldn't figure out why it was listing one optional service I already had (call waiting) but not another (caller ID). Not sure if I'll be double-billed for the call waiting, I guess I'll wait for the bill!
The service was turned on as promised. What wasn't delivered were the instructions for setting up the voicemail. I apparently had a message (was getting the interrupted dial tone), but didn't know how to retrieve it. A call to Verizon customer service was quite happy to walk me thru their automated system. Alas, there were no service agents...they were off until Monday.
The good news is that the repair line was 24x7. I was expecting to be told my issue wasn't a repair one, but the agent was able to give me the info I needed to get in. (Interestingly, she wasn't aware that an alternative was to simply dial my own number and press * ... rather than call the Verizon voicemail number.)
For me, the silver lining of this dark cloud of less than great user experience is that UX professionals have a long career ahead!
October 9, 2004
Rock 'n Roll Timeline
My DSL is out, so I'm going to postpone checking this site out in depth, but you may want to go ahead and take a look at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Timeline (thanks to Thom on the ID-Cafe mailing list for the pointer).
July 28, 2004
Announcing UXnet: What Lou said...
I've been waiting for Lou to go first, and he has:
Besides a minor quibble (it was UPA and DUX that were scheduled at the same time), Lou has really said this wonderfully. Please read the whole post and not just the part I've shamelessly stolen. Or visit the UXnet site and become part of the community. As Lou says:
But there's so much promise in this concept; what we right need now is support, encouragement and, perhaps, a little courage. And soon, volunteers.
Oh, and we're working on the $$ issue too :).
July 27, 2004
CFP: STC Annual Conference, Seattle, May 8-11, 2005
Do you have something to share about information architecture, usability, or information design? Then STC, the Society for Technical Communication, would like to hear from you! We're currently accepting proposals for our next annual conference.
"That's a tech writers conference." you say. Well, yes, there are many tech writers who attend. But STC is home to several thousand members who belong to its usability, information design, online, and indexing special interest groups, and our conferences attract many outside the "traditional" realm of writing and editing.
Here's just a sampling from last year's conference in Baltimore:
You can also see more sessions from last year.
Speakers receive a discount on an otherwise value-priced conference. We also welcome speakers from all levels, as our conference attracts those who are new to the field as well as those who have been in the field for decades. And Seattle is a *wonderful* conference city, with the conference is located in the heart of downtown.
To see the full Call or to submit a proposal, please visit the STC CFP site soon.
The deadline for proposals is 12 noon ET, August 12, 2004.
June 28, 2004
Clement Mok revisited
Jess had a pointer to an interview with Clement Mok from last fall that I'd seen but not really read carefully. In some respects, it is a follow on to his Designers: Time for a Change article from May 2004.
What's interesting is that he makes reference to a new organization (in the formative stage) called the American Design Council. I'll certainly be interested to hear more, since I'm really interested in the concept. It's nice to see that Jeff was kind enough to also link to a post of mine on this subject from a year ago...interestingly, I think it holds up relatively well.
I can't wait to see how things shake out (if you know what I mean).
May 4, 2004
Digital libraries and museums
The latest issue of First Monday is out. IAs and UX types should be interested in some of the articles which are selected from the recent Web-Wise 2004 conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital World.
As a Yinzer (you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh, but you can't take Pittsburgh out of the girl), I'm looking forward to reading the Imaging Pittsburgh paper and surfing the Historic Pittsburgh website.
April 14, 2004
Doing taxes on the web
Well, wasn't that easy? I just finished my 2003 taxes (US and Virginia) using TurboTax -- took me just over a half an hour. It cost me a chunk of change (probably could have done it for free via the IRS' eFile, but I've taken advantage of the AARP discount (employee, not member :) on TurboTax for a few years, and though it cost me this year (no AARP discount), it was really fast since I could reuse a lot of my 2002 return for 2003.
Anyways, the folks at Intuit have gotten the UX down pretty well. The application is fairly well designed to get you through it without asking you questions that aren't relative. That said, the ROI equation is stronger for the Federal return than for the state, so I was amused to get this question as it was processing my Virginia return:
Did you receive certification from the Virginia Department of Forestry valuing land you agreed to designate as a riparian buffer for a waterway?
Too bad I didn't think to see if there was help for this question. Riparian buffer? Uh, I think not!
Anyways, the good news is that I'm still getting (a little) money back even after the TurboTax fee. Now I just have to see about getting the AARP discount back :).
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
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.
January 27, 2004
Local buddy Thom Haller is doing a fun session at the upcoming IA Summit called "Stories from the field: Never consider yourself a failure, you can always serve as a bad example." First of all, this is perhaps one of the best session titles I've heard recently (the other is for a local event titled "Implementing User-Centric Design or 'How to make the customer king when your boss has an emperor complex' " ). Thom's an excellent speaker, so if you're in Austin, I'd stop by!
Second, here's an entry in the "bad examples" class--specifically bad maps--from Joshua Kaufman. At first glance, I would have made the same mistake Joshua did.
Finally, for not any good reason I can articulate, this example seems to me to be a counterpoint of sorts to this article on why you need to be wary of case studies (which hit the blog circuit a while back). Being cautious and understanding specific circumstances is good, but this struck me as being a bit too negative. Your mileage may vary!
Courtesy of the bad weather in DC, I'm home early and catching up on some blog entries that have been in the queue for a bit longer than normal. First, I want to offer an olive branch of sorts to Dan Saffer, who was the designer of a site I criticized last week for low contrast. In a comment to the entry, Dan offers the reasonable defense that he was designing for college students, not old farts like me. Like Dan, I really liked the warm blue, although I wonder if reverse type might have solved both problems--increasing contrast while also doing something different.
Which gets to the title of this entry (which was originally "unintended audiences"). It's a bit reminiscent of the designing for older browsers issue. How do you handle tiny--or unintended--audiences? Or other unintended consequences of design choices?
My personal philosophy is a spin off of the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm. Call me an optimist, but I think there is a space in which do good design but also keep those designs from breaking for your visitors. (Clearly I'm not a fan of sending people to "your browser is broken" pages.) Not necessarily an obvious (or easy) choice.
Anyways, I didn't mean to flippantly diss Dan's design, so mea culpa. BTW, I also meant to point to one of Dan's readings for his class. Some (most?) of them should be familiar to ID/IA/UX fans, but I don't remember coming across this article by Dick Buchanan, former director of the design school at CMU: Good Design in the Digital Age (pdf; an annoying Flash-based version is available by navigating here).
December 17, 2003
Norman in Scientific American
Just a quick lunchtime entry while blogsurfing. I just read Fred's blog entry in response to my previous mention of Don Norman's new book, Emotional Design. Fred notes that "Scientific American claims [Norman] may be off the mark; the January issue includes a brief, mildly critical article based largely on Don Norman's keynote address at the closing plenary at CHI2003."
I just did a quick search, and this article is online (for now): Why Machines Should Fear. The criticism is directed at Norman's ideas that machines should have some sort of emotions "for the same reason that people do: to keep them safe, make them curious and help them to learn." There's going out on a limb!
But emotional machines are only one (or maybe two) chapters in a book that otherwise makes an interesting point that emotions impact product effectiveness. The other criticism--that designing for emotion actually creates the kind of complexity that more directly impacts usability/effectiveness--is less of a criticism and more of a Catch-22 with design.
December 13, 2003
Ah, the joys of being Don Norman. His new book, Emotional Design, isn't yet available (will be released on 12/23), yet it is now 20,578 on Amazon's sales rank. Contrast that to the little academic book that Mike Albers and I worked on...which a year later has hit 580,099...woo baby, time to quit the day job (not :).
Seriously, Amazon's offering Emotional Design for under $20 for a hardcover. Such a deal! But if you're not yet convinced, you can take a look at some sample chapters on Don's site.
December 8, 2003
Over on the interaction design list, Hans Samuelson offered up two interesting resources in a discussion on beauty and transparency.
One was Alexander Nehamas' An essay on beauty and judgement, which Hans describes as "one of the best discussions I have found on the philosophical concept of beauty [which is] anchored in enough pop-culture references to make the Kant palatable."
The other, which I'm looking forward to exploring, is Caroline Hummels' doctoral dissertation on Gestural design tools: prototypes, experiments and scenarios (scroll down to 2000). Her abstract:
Digital products are generally controlled by buttons and icons, which emphasises the user's cognitive skills. I propose to take respect for the user as a whole as my starting point, including his perceptual-motor and emotional skills. Designers should create a context for experience rather than a product. Aesthetic interaction becomes the central theme. As a consequence, I believe that design tools should change, too. To create a context for experience, the designer needs tools which allow him to explore beautiful and engaging interactions. In this thesis, I have documented this experiental design framework and my search for such tools, especially gestural design tools.
I've only looked at the intro, but it looks like she has carried through the idea of beauty and design into her published dissertation. Thanks to Hans for the pointer...it may be a useful counterpoint to Don Norman's Emotional Design.
November 24, 2003
usability versus innovation
I'm off tomorrow for some family turkey day festivities, so the pickings here will be slim for the next several days. But in the spirit, let's leave you with this "meaty" question...are usability and innovation diammetrically opposed?
On one hand, we have Nico Macdonald, who asks whether design is for or by the people? He notes:
Usability and the cautious thinking it embodies has come to dominate thinking about the design process. ... If usability becomes the focus too early in the development of a product it is likely that a more ingenious and ambitious way of solving the problem will be missed, and a less useful and desirable solution will be polished to perfection.
Contrast this thinking with the latest from Jakob Nielsen, regarding the rather poor usability of current web applications:
A key lesson from many other fields is that continuous quality improvement is the way to true excellence. That's a lucky break: Web usability is so far behind that there's no hope of reaching acceptable quality in a single leap. Continuous improvement is our only chance.
Maybe it is my philosophical bent, but I continue to believe that there is a useful middle ground between user-centered design and designer-centered design. Thus the question shouldn't really be usability versus innovation, but more "given this specific project, what is ideal?" There are people in the UCD camp (like Whitney Quesenbery) who espouse this balanced view, but alas, it doesn't seem common yet.
October 28, 2003
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 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 6, 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!
September 25, 2003
To caption or not to caption?
This recent First Monday article on the writing photo captions for the web is an interesting counterpoint to nowords.org, a photo gallery of satellite images and illustrations (the latter almost look like they could have been microscopic images). At least in the case of the satellite imagery, I would have loved to have known what I was looking at. Alas, no clue, not even ALT text.
August 30, 2003
Priorities for the big picture
While I was off tailing after eight-year-old twins at the beach, Paula Thornton engaged a few folks behind the scenes for some more discussion about the "big picture." One of the resources she pointed folks to was a draft document Challis Hodge did in the spring called The Future of Design (PDF). In it, he makes some of the same great points that have appeared on his weblog and on a variety of lists, such as:
We talk about making things more usable, about creating brand loyalty, about making
the world a better place. We struggle with ROI models, case studies and methods to
communicate our value. Still we find ourselves in the same situation, having the same
discussion. We just don't get why business doesn't understand.
Designers can and should bring a strategic perspective and a set of unique skills capable of simplifying complexity, taming technology and yes making the world a better place. Before we can even begin we must recognize that the problem is not that business doesn't understand design. The problem is that businesses have no incentive to focus significant resources on the strategic benefits design can bring.
Quite simply, we need an umbrella organization for design advocacy. An organization that is capable of waging a serious and professional marketing and development campaign. An organization that is capable of driving political, social and cultural change.
I'm a bit bummed that someone who has such a great handle on the big picture (as Paula would say) has decided instead to focus on the roots of his elm tree instead of the canopy--as he's mentioned, he's focusing on a home for interaction designers these days.
I understand the attraction. I've often thought that had I started out as a user-interface programmer, I'd still be programming. Instead, I started out coding signal processing algorithms in Fortran for a subcontractor to the NSA. I came close again ten years later, when I was at MAYA, where I coded interface prototypes in Visual Basic. There is a lot that's interesting in interface/interaction development! But I had grown tired of Pittsburgh (again) just as the web became something one could make money working on. Anyways, I digress.
I get why interaction designers want their own space. Same reasons essentially that led to AIfIA. Ah well, I wish them luck! In the meantime, I'll continue to dabble in discussions about a potential "interfaith council" of sorts. For today, I want to explore a bit what this council/institute/association might actually do, given that I do not think that preaching to the choir is the big focus.
Here are some potential priorities that I "borrowed" from an existing association (it's usually easier to edit than create).
Do you have an idea which organization has these as its priorities? Did you guess this one?
My point isn't really that we should adopt their priorities or that our products are that similar. It's actually that we would be well served by doing a lot more looking outward to see how we can learn from others who have already solved similar problems, rather than our intensive navel-gazing about how our field is "the" answer or "the" umbrella discipline. Whitney Quesenbery (who really should write something on this subject for public consumption...hint hint) came up with the similarity of some of our discussions to that of the Kilkenny cats.
I continue to believe that none of the existing organizations (or the new interaction design organization) has the resources or the clout to do this on their own. I continue to hope that we'll see some kind of multi-disciplinary forum--our "interfaith council"--where we can find our common positions. Lyle's metaphor (described here) is the call: a rising tide raises all boats.
August 11, 2003
My left field idea
Nearly two years ago (November 2001), Lou Rosenfeld got a bunch of folks from a variety of disciplines together via email (and later at a number of conferences) to discuss organizations, infrastructure, and information architecture. Fairly early on, there were a handful of folks who were very interested in a new organization for IA (which subsequently became AIfIA) and another handful who were interested in what we referred to as the "interfaith council" -- a group meant to share what were clearly overlapping interests (DUX2003 came out of some of those discussions).
Now it's August 2003, and Tog wants to create a new title and a new organization: the Interaction Architects Association. I'm not sure that the title change will be worth the hassle, and I think that creating a new organization is not for lightweights. But I wish Tog luck, and if this new org's dues are as reasonable as AIfIA's, I'll join. But Tog's new organization is unlikely to solve what I see as the bigger problem...how to get business to make more (and better) use of these kinds of skills.
I've participated in both the early IA discussion and this more recent discussion for one real reason: I'm far more interested in the effort that will raise the visibility (and value) of all of these related skills, whether you call them UX, ED, ID, IA, usability, or whatever. I like the way that Lyle Kantrovich put it:
A rising tide raises all boats.
But up to this point, most of the "big picture" discussions have generated more quibbling than results (and I'll cop to being a grade-A quibbler myself). No single group has been able to position itself as the "umbrella" for these activities. Most often, terminology (whether it is experience design, user experience, information design, information architecture, usability, interaction whatever) carries some baggage with it that others are unwilling to carry.
So that's one problem. The other is I suspect that none of the individual organizations have sufficient resources to "raise the tide." I agree with Challis Hodge when he says:
What we need to be talking about is an organization that can wage a serious and professional marketing and development campaign--in the context of business.
What we don't really need (though I wouldn't mind them) are more conferences, lists, journals, etc., where we are primarily preaching to the choir. And my apologies to Mark Hurst, but as I wrote earlier, I'm not sure we want a field (or an organization) to "disappear" either. In short, I think we need to raise our visibility (and our perceived value) among the people who hold the purse strings.
So here is my left-field idea to do that.
That's it so far. My fundamental premise is that we'll have more success working together on a common goal than we will with a dozen different organizations focusing more on our differences. The original "interfaith council" used the religious symbolism intentionally...it's not about creating a single religion (or user experience field), but rather finding what we agree on, working to advance that, and then helping to educate about the differences. The rising tide and all that!
So now, it's your turn. I think there's a pony in this rhetorical BS, so I'm posting this to see if I can get some bright folk out there to help dig it out :). What do you think?
August 8, 2003
So Mark Hurst has jumped into the fray with the latest issue of his Good Experience newsletter. He writes:
Somehow "user experience practitioner" doesn't roll off the tongue so
easily. Hence the inevitable effort for UX-types to name what it is
they do: at conferences and in newsletters, for years, I've seen the
endless discussions. Should it be "usability professional"?
"Information designer"? "Interaction architect"? Some other
No surprise here...I care! That said, Mark makes a great point that the name may not really matter by noting all the different labels applied to the information technology field.
The highlight of his essay (and his title) is actually:
This brings me to my own highfalutin solution to the *real* issue
usability professionals are trying to address - namely, that they're
not taken seriously enough in the organization:
Actually, I couldn't disagree more. And perhaps I'm just picking apart words, but I think just the opposite is true. Mark describes the UX as facilitator role and notes:
As facilitators, truly caring about the organization and how it can best serve its customers, practitioners will then be more valued.
Business leaders are challenged with 90 day reporting cycles, growth as a primary business objective, limited resources, regulator scrutiny, competition, media, shareholder demands, political pressures, socio-cultural forces and more. ...
Now this may be arguing a bit strongly, as making products useful, usable, and satisfying can help business leaders. We just aren't yet making the case to them to hit critical mass.
One option is to increase the visibility of the case study. In the most recent issue of interactions, Microsoft's Dennis Wixon addresses this in "Evaluating Usabilty Methods." He suggests that all the energies directed at the "how many users are enough?" question re usability testing miss a bigger point: that the premises inherent in the current usability research "render most of the literature irrelevant to applied usabilty work." (Yikes...how's that for a position!) Instead, he suggests that:
If our discipline is serious about public discussion of usability methods as they are applied in industry, we will move beyond these lines of inquiry and take a broad-based case study approach, examining outcomes that are relevant to both practice and business. Our relevance as a discipline and our career success as practitioners depend on such a change.
Interesting timing. Just this summer, AIGA-ED created a case study archive as an outcome of DUX2003. Perhaps it's a start!
August 4, 2003
Yet another UX/ED organization?
Well, well, well. So what is one to think of the Nielsen/Norman Group's Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini's column Why We Get No Respect? In it, he notes that:
We've been complaining bitterly, these last 25 years, that we get no respect, that we are thought of as nothing more than decorators, if we are thought of at all. Guess what? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have sat on the sidelines, perpetually powerless, whining, instead of changing up the game so we can win.
Who, pray tell, could he be talking about? Graphic designers? Information designers? IAs? Usability specialists? Tech writers? The list of folks who feel undervalued and invisible (and nervous in this economic climate) is not a short one, and according to Tog, we need to add interaction designers to the list too.
His solution? We need a new title for the role of the "software designers, or interaction engineers, or human interface folks, or whatever we who create the interaction model for our products." Tog suggests interaction architect for the title, and he also suggests a new association to promote this new brand, the Interaction Architect's Association.
All I can say is, anyone remember the story of the Tower of Babel :).
Hmmm, perhaps it is time for the Order of the Elephant, whose logo can be based on the diagram that Lou Rosenfeld and Jess McMullin created a while back (see right, here for a large version). What's nice about this as an overarching organization is that it acknowleges the majority of those who have been making claims to either small or large parts of the UX/ED/IA/ID/etc space over the last few years.
Of course, since it is based on the fable, we're currently limited to only six distinct disciplines, which will likely be a problem down the road.
Seriously, I don't begrudge Tog and the interaction designers their need to find their own space--though it now looks like we may need a round-robin match in order to determine the owner of the overarching discipline :). I'm also amused that some IAs (that's information architects, not interaction architects), are seemingly unhappy with Tog's effort, when it was only a couple years ago that they rebuffed welcomes from organizations like AIGA and ASIS&T for the apparently desirous environment of their own organization.
BTW, the one point that I do fault (albeit in a friendly sort of way) in Tog's call is his distate for the label design. I think this is a red herring. Brands are re-positioned all the time, and buying the argument that design is undervalued or disrespected need not imply that it always needs to be that way, or that a new term is needed. This is what marketing is good at. And there are groups like the Corporate Design Foundation, the Design Management Institute, and the Design Council whose are doing the work of selling design to business through education and outreach and, if supported, might lead to the elimination of the "wimp" connotation of design in our field(s).
But that's just a disgression to the real issue, which is a potential new organization that will be added to the fold. Heck, what's one more :). Assuming Tog deals with AIfIA the same way he has with HFES and CHI (and given his emphasis on labels and brand, I suspect the answer will be "thanks, but no thanks"), it will be most interesting to see this play out. The IAs are so strong online, with their lists, and weblogs, and raw volunteer power. But while the IAs have their share of best-selling luminaries, Tog would seem to have more access to corporate America (and their attention and their dollars).
July 29, 2003
Eventually we may end up with a situation like the one in fig. 4 (at right). The digital hardware and the network behind it will form a platform for a seamless digital dimension. The various devices form the interface to the objects of our interest, the digital environment formed by software and information content, which can appear to us through any of our devices. This development will be driven by the simple fact that the software and the digital information are so much more important to us than the hardware. We change mobile telephones and computers, but we want to move the old information to the new machine.
He loses me a bit with the "features" at the same level as the "gadgets" but it's an interesting read (no matter what your perspective of the c-word) and the illustrations are nicely done.
Funding challenge for US e-gov
Yesterday's Edupage had the news that the US House Appropriations Committee has slashed the Electronic Government (E-Gov) Act budget for 2004 from $45M to just $1M. I realize this is a Republican administration (read: smaller government), but it was after all, the White House that had requested this funding. According to the quoted article, "the Bush Administration had not justified the $45 million funding request."
The article reports that the E-Gov Act:
proposes to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, save taxpayer dollars, and streamline citizen-to-government transactions [and] establishes an Office of Electronic Government, headed by a Bush-appointed administrator within the Office of Management and Budget.
Another interesting tidbit from the article is that the legislation also:
Authorizes funding for improvement of the federal Internet portal, Firstgov.gov, so that on-line government information and services are organized "according to citizen needs, not agency jurisdiction."
Interesting! As an aside, I attended FedWeb this spring, where Jared Spool did one of their keynotes. During some Q&A, he suggested that portals in general (and Firstgov in particular) were going to have a really tough time of it if their primary activity was pointing to interfaces they had no control over.
Apparently the House and Senate will come up with some compromise that will increase the funding somewhat. I'm certainly supportive of the premise (better access for citizens), just a tad skeptical about the implementation!
July 25, 2003
Another refreshed blog!
July 22, 2003
Veen on web design
Nick (of Digital Web Magazine fame) pointed out that Jeffrey Veen had posted his presentation from WebVisions 2003: Beyond Usability (PDF; 6.1M). I don't know if that title does it justice, but I'm certainly adding it to my list of interesting slide-based presentations.
There are a few slides that obviously need the related commentary (like the kitchen slide at the end--perhaps an example of great experience design?), but the bulk of it works quite nicely as a standalone. And I really enjoyed the example of the USDA's HayNet with it's simple "Need Hay" / "Have Hay" links on the home page.
July 14, 2003
Four truths from Southwest Airlines
Over the four-day weekend I just had, I did some late spring cleaning. One of the items I discovered in a pile was a handout from Southwest Airline's session at the STC conference this past May. First of all, I have to say that theirs was one of the best sessions from an experience design standpoint. Because of the location (in Dallas), they were able to have their entire "Technology Information Design" team there. Not everyone was speaking, so those that weren't greeted session attendees (who, in typical conference fashion entered at the back of the room and walked up to the front via a long center aisle). And when I say greeted attendees, I meant they were at the front of the room with baskets, handing out goodies, the very impressive (and bound) handouts, and of course, airline peanuts!
Very nice! Alas, I had other conference duties, so I couldn't stay for the session, but I made sure to grab one of their handouts. So just about two months later, I got a chance to review it. Alas, while you can't get the pen or the peanuts, you can get the handout: it's on STC's conference site: Meeting User Information Needs.
What's nice about this is that they included a copy of their proceedings paper in this handout, which describes a case study describing their efforts to revise the online help for one of their cargo tracking systems. In it, the authors describe four truths that helped them get to the point where they could know that their information products made a difference to the people who used them. They are:
Success is the result of achieving a measurable goal--before we begin, we must have a goal in mind, and we must have a way to measure if we've achieved that goal.
How very UCD! And of course, not exactly new truths. But what's nice is to read about these in the context of a real project. I suspect this is what motivated the AIGA Advance folks to focus so strongly on case studies at the recent DUX conference. Speaking of which, their case studies archive is launched! Looks like there's some great docs there.
June 24, 2003
What's in a name? The sequel
Tired of semantic arguments? Don't care what things are called? Quick! Bail out now...I recommend Dave Barry on synergy.
Still with me? Okay, but you've been warned :).
Not sure if you happened to notice it, but a week or so ago, peterme posted an entry to his weblog about that tricky word, design. In it he comments:
What's wrong with "design"? Well, there's nothing wrong with the practice, but plenty wrong with the word's associations. Right now, particularly in the field of web user experience, the word "design", without a modifier, means visual design. ... "Design" is what happens after the strategy has been settled, the specifications determined, the raison d'etre developed.
That said, he noted that "I see no need to be a champion for the cause of design." Peter isn't the first (nor probably the last) to comment on design's poor connotation. As I mentioned in the most recent what's in a name discussion here, Richard Saul Wurman intentionally chose the phrase information architecture rather than information design:
I selected the term information 'architect' rather than information
'designer' as the term 'designer' continues to be interpreted by the
public as an individual who is hired to come in after the fact to
make some project 'look beter' - as opposed to a professional part
of the initial team creatively solving a problem.
Well, I'm too much of a middle-of-the-roader to be the champion of design, although I must admit to a personal preference to change perceptions rather than create new terminology. But that's not something individual people are well suited to do (though every time someone bails, it certainly makes it harder).
All of this makes this article/response on the domain of design from Dirk Knemeyer to be an interesting read. He writes:
Design is in crisis for a variety of reasons, including:
However, unlike peterme or RSW, Dirk does see the value in championing design, in particular because he sees no real long-term value in terms like user experience, which he suggests are just as prone to being commodified. Given my preference for finding middle ground, I really resonated with this line:
What we need is focus and an acknowledgement that our consensus and collaboration will take us much further than being clever or doing our own thing.
This isn't just about Wurman coming up with a new term or Adaptive Path dropping 'design' from its marketing literature. IMO, the various niche groups (the IAs, the IDs, the usability folk, and so on) are to some extent all trying to create a market so that they can make a living doing interesting work that they tend to be good at.
Here's my question though. Wouldn't we all have an easier time of it if we worked together to create a paradigm shift in terms of how corporations work? Or what they value? If we did that, maybe the resulting shift would create more work than we all could actually do!
I see at least a tiny parallel to this idea when I read that Don Norman thinks that usability advocates don't understand business:
Until they understand it and how products get made, we will have little progress. In the field of design, people come from three very different backgrounds. They come from art and architecture schools and they know how to make attractive things. Or they trained in computer science and psychology and they know how to make usable things but they don't know how to build anything, they're just good at finding flaws. Or they come from ethnography, and they are superb at understanding what people really need, but don't know how to translate that into products. So all this has to come together, otherwise no decent products will result.
For me, I'd include the others who are also playing in a similar UX/user-centered design space. But there's another issue, which I think Dirk points out as well. Just because it is new media doesn't mean we need to reinvent the wheel. Okay, maybe there are some issues with the stereotype of the snooty, award-seeking graphic designer that is hurting us currently in our efforts to seek respect (and work) in the field of online design. But IMO, getting rid of 'design' is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There is a rich tradition in the study of design. Just because the web is new or young doesn't mean that no one has ever solved the problems we're now facing. I see considerable value in aligning ourselves with that tradition.
And maybe it is a grass is greener thing, but from my perspective, the fields of product design (or industrial design) do not seem to be having problems with the term, or the process, of design. (Okay, I grant you that maybe some, the computer manufacturers in particular, still need some work on getting the process down :). There are also a number of design-oriented groups, like the Design Management Institute (US), Corporate Design Foundation (US) and the Design Council (UK) that are among many who are looking at the issue of a better integration with business and design, some of which have government support (see the resource list from DMI for more).
So, I am in favor of seeking opportunities for collaboration and consensus that adds to an existing tradition -- design. I suppose that it is possible that I'm somehow caught up in horseless-carriage thinking. But I guess that's why I participate in all these discussions (and why I have comments turned on on my weblog :)
June 2, 2003
Usability vs market research
A post by Whitney Quesenbery on the experience design list pointed me to a (newish?) article on her website where she provides a nice overview of the difference between usability and market research. Quoting from her email:
Market research helps a company find out what its customers or users want. Usability evaluation helps you determine whether you have meet those needs and wants.
She's got some other great articles as well, including one which paints a much broader picture of usability--the 5 E's of usability. (Now if only we could get her to do a weblog :)
March 26, 2003
I've gone ahead and added some conference links at the bottom of the right-nav column. Enjoy!
March 25, 2003
Duh, duh, duh. For months now, I've been wanting to create a Washington/Baltimore weblog for the ID/IA/ED/UX space a la Exploit Boston. But I have so much on my plate now, the thought of having to customize MT to work this way was just not something I was ready to sign up to do. But in surfing my list of weblogs, I accidentally selected peterme.com and found out two things. One, he's back online as of today.
More importantly (and this is the duh thing), he's launched Beast Blog, a weblog for San Fran's East Bay area. Well, duh. Why not set up the weblog I want as a vanilla MT weblog and then worry about adding the custom features later?
So the real question is whether to do this as a regional (Washington and Baltimore) weblog or individual ones. If they were separate, I could do CapitolBlog (or maybe that should be CapitalBlog). And the folks up I95 could have HonBlog or some such.
I guess I'd rather do a joint one. Ay, but there's the rub. What the heck would you call it? Hmmm, BWUXblog. (Yikes, sounds like a disease.) BWblog? BashWaltBlog? I considered Chesapeake for a while, but that's actually an incredibly broad area that includes parts of Ohio and West Virginia.
I welcome your suggestions! Drop a comment below, or send me an email. Thanks!
UCD in sound bites
Back in 1994, I interviewed for a job with an amazing design firm in Pittsburgh, MAYA Design. I still remember being asked by one of its principals, Pete Lucas, what I knew about MAYA. When I said that I understood it to be a design firm that helped make things easy to use, he was quick to straighten me out and clarify that this type of usability was only one part of it, and that MAYA was just as much about understanding (and accommodating) business and technical constraints as it was making things easier to use.
I spent three great years there, before I got really itchy to leave Pittsburgh (again). Apprenticing there, just before the WWW really took off, was really one of my luckier career breaks.
So reading this excellent post from Whitney Quesenbery on the AIGA Experience Design list made me nostalgic for life in a design firm. It also says in just a few words the strength of the UCD approach, which has occasionally been a target in recent months, as various disciplines try and find meaning and work in a challenging time. Yes, there are some folks who seem to want to correct years worth of ignoring the user by over-swinging the pendulum and making it only about the user. But we'd all be well served by avoiding the tendency to over-swing it back again. There's a moderate position that seems to me to be something we could all agree on, and IMO, Whitney has nailed it here. I recommend reading her entire post, but just have to include my favorite sound bites here:
The point of UCD is that the user is placed at the center of the design
process, and other needs or constraints balanced against them. So, in a
Venn diagram or a triangle, we would see: user needs/usability goals,
business goals, technology constraints. A good design has the goal of
optimizing all three.
<self-serving mode on> For more from Whitney, I recommend her chapter "Dimensions of Usability" in Mike Albers' and my edited volume Content & Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication. Check out an overview of the chapters or order the book. <self-serving mode off>
Now if only I could talk MAYA into opening the DC office!
March 13, 2003
Mike brings new meaning to "I surf as much as I eat."
February 17, 2003
Tilting at power laws
(Three entries in an hour? Gee, someone's getting tired of being snow-bound.)
Over on the AIfIA list, Christina asked if anyone has tried to change the curve inherent in a power law and/or whether it was worth doing. In response, Eric Scheid (host of the fabulous IAwiki) submitted some useful links on the wiki, along with this one from Nature on language and power laws.
I suspect that most efforts to "change" the power law (e.g., this one) are really only effective at moving individual objects up or down the curve...they don't really change the shape of the curve itself. But if I make my brain hurt (and dust off the old college math), I'll study this and see if I can understand it better.
One thing I do think is that the effort, unless futile, is valuable. This may be true for weblogs, but I think it is even more true for wealth. The latest issue of UUWorld (alas, is not online yet) has an interesting story about Chuck Collins and his United for a Fair Economy. Collins is a grandson of Oscar Meyer, and he practices what he preaches; he donated a $500K trust fund to charity in his mid-twenties. He is working with Bill Gates' father on an effort to stop the repeal of the estate tax. Interesting stuff.
February 2, 2003
Learning about customers
When I mentioned a week ago that part of my grade for one of my classes will be based on my ability to do a regular weblog, I may not have mentioned that the fodder for the class would likely become fodder for IDblog. But there are obvious places where the interests overlap.
For instance, consider this reading (PDF) for my class on 2/3. This could have come out of the ID/IA/usability community, but instead, it comes out of the world of business:
Many B2B exchanges were launched because they were possible, not because there was a compelling customer problem they could solve. Thus, the first step is to shift the orientation to continuously learning about customers. It was once estimated that fewer than 15 percent of all web start-ups tested their sites with customers by living with them and observing their behavior. Winners will not make that mistake.
(Emphasis mine.) From my read of this paper, the authors can't really have meant this to apply only on B2Bs, particularly as they hold Amazon up as an example of a company with Bezos' vision of being the "most customer-centric company." How interesting that I'm taking this class together with one that is essentially all about user-centered design.
Finally, an unrelated postscript. I was watching Letterman recently and was blown away by one of his musical guests, Vienna Teng. I just got her album from Amazon, and if you like lyrical voice and piano along with songs with lots of relationship angst (think Tori Amos without the edge), you'll want to check Vienna out. What's even more amazing to me is that she almost wasn't a performer, having started out on the path to being a geeky computer nerd.
January 14, 2003
Fun with stats
January 7, 2003
So much for your HTML email
Am I the only one whose mailbox is cluttered with this kind of badly formatted email messages?
Could this be a mail sniffer problem? Yes, my vendor does provide a web option for reading email, but I use the 3.1 version of Eudora Lite, so I download my mail. Perhaps it's more a case of just assuming that HTML email is preferred. Well guess what? If I wanted your HTML email (and your ability to determine that I opened your email), I'd ask for it. Argh.
January 4, 2003
Loop Number 6, Archiving ED
One of the highlights is a virtual roundtable (i.e., all participants via email in traditional roundtable format) that included Challis, Nathan Shedroff, Brenda Laurel, and Peter Morville among the participants. The subject for the roundtable was the "critical question" of how those in the field could preserve (or archive) the field's artifacts.
I've not had the time to give this the thorough attention it deserves, but a few things caught my eye. One was that Loop's publishers built in the ability for readers to add their own comments. While this mechanism doesn't always lend itself to a necessarily high signal-to-noise ratio, I think that the ability for readers to interact with (and provide feedback to) authors in such a direct form is one of the reasons that the web contributes to what peterme called the inexorable march away from rigid, high cost journals and towards a wider, less costly distribution. It takes some courage for a journal to put out its prose and invite something between literary response and graffiti, so kudos to AIGA.
I did think it was curious that question one paired experience design and interaction design together in a way that suggested the terms were interchangeable ("Do you see value in explicitly addressing the history of Experience/Interaction Design?"). Nathan addressed this in his response to question 1:
When I use the term, Experience Design, Im not just using it as a euphemism for Digital Design. I mean the deliberate approach to building objects, services, environments, events and experiences with a focus (or, at least, an acknowledgement) of the experience that people have with these things (as opposed to focusing only on the traditional aspects of these solutions).
The panelists spend a good deal of time talking about the challenges of dealing with the issues of the user and context. For example, Brenda Laurel writes:
I would be surprised if anyone felt it were possible to record experience design without recording some of the experiences themselves with participation and responses from their contemporary audiences ...
That's a serious challenge. Another one seems to be the technological challenge. As the participants note, how do you archive an interactive experience without the hardware and software needed to enable the design?
January 1, 2003
What's in a name, revisited
Wow...there's one heck of an interesting discussion going on over on Christina's weblog regarding differences between ED, IA, and ID. I had to point out a similar discussion that we did for the ID SIG (see What's In a Name?") back in April 2001. I actually understand why there's a theory that IA and ID are the same. Maybe in principle they should be. But when I look at what the folks who call themselves IAs do versus what those who call themselves IDs do (and apparently Nathan and I know different IDs), we're focused on the differences rather than the similarities.
December 26, 2002
Design and emotion
How cool...maybe I'll make it into Don Norman's next book on design and emotion. I'd forgotten he'd asked for people's love/hate relationships with products back in May. After a more recent request on the CHI-WEB list, he's posted a summary of responses. My May contribution:
After plunking down $400 for an iPod, I almost wouldn't have cared about the product after having unwrapped the packaging, it was that nice. What I've said before is that this affect/engaging/enjoyment quality is above all else a market differentiator. If you're the only one selling a widget, then yeah, it can be unusable and unenjoyable. But once there gets to be competition, preference (rather than performance) becomes very important.
December 23, 2002
Jakob's top ten
Jakob's gone ahead and posted his top ten web design mistakes of 2002. There are no big surprises on the list. That said, is anyone else astonished that Jakob would post a page that weighs well over 220K? No complaints here (I like the cartoons), but it just seems so un-Jakob-like :).
December 22, 2002
It's clear that the studios' motivation in designing MovieLink is fear of piracy. But they forgot to make the service usable, appealing, or compelling. So MovieLink will fail, people will argue that you can't sell digital content on the Internet--and the studios will have proved nothing.
I had to check this out, though after being warned by Alsop about nearly gigabyte downloads that took five hours over DSL, I hadn't expected to actually try out the service. Good thing, for here's my experience with MovieLink:
User experience ... not.
December 18, 2002
Computers and common sense
Courtesy of my day job, I got a chance to talk with Walter Bender today. He's the executive director of the MIT Media Lab, and one of the projects he talked to us about was something called OpenMind, which is:
an attempt to make computers smarter by making it easy and fun for people all over the world to work together to give computers the millions of pieces of ordinary knowledge that constitute "common-sense", all those aspects of the world that we all understand so well we take them for granted.
All I want to know is how did it know how to ask such a relevant question when I gave it so little information :). My first teaching opportunity:
December 16, 2002
The sub-titles for this entry are "Why Auntie Beth isn't getting Chris and Lexi a sled for Christmas" and "Why you shouldn't shop online at Amazon.com if you were at the office happy hour too long." I know that you have to pay a premium for shopping late for Christmas, but this is a bit much:
Emphasis mine! You'd think if the shipping was three times as much as the product, maybe Amazon could alert you? Yikes!
BTW, it's not like I have any major grudge against Amazon. I just spent $50 in their apparel store (the nieces are getting nice Lands End mittens and I'm getting a gift or two too) in order to get the $30 to spend later on the site (which is a much better way to promo their new apparel offering than saying that people who bought some book like clean underwear from some store) . But I just couldn't pass up the chance to blog a $50 shipping charge for a plastic toboggan!
December 13, 2002
Users as designers
I wanna try and get in another quick entry before lunch is over. I've recently come across three papers that all touch on a seemingly serendipitous thread related to user-centered design.
First, Mike Lee just emailed me about an entry he just did on naked objects, which are:
core business objects, such as Customer, Product, and Order, that show directly through to the user, rather than being hidden behind the menus, forms, process-scripts and dialogue boxes that make up most user interfaces. ... naked objects give you less control over the detailed layout, typography and visual style of the presentation. However, this can be surprisingly liberating. (from here)
Mike wonders if these signal the impending death of visual and interaction design. Which brings us to paper #2: Usability and Open Source Software, which points out (among other things) that:
The OSS approach fails for end user usability because there are 'the wrong kind of eyeballs' looking at, but failing to see, usability issues. In some ways the relatively new problem with OSS usability reflects the earlier problem with commercial systems development ... The key difference between the two approaches is this: commercial software development has recognised these problems and can employ specific HCI experts to 're-balance' their processes in favour of users. However, volunteer-led software development does not have the ability to hire in missing skill sets to ensure that user-centred design expertise is present in the development team.
This brings us to paper #3 from the folks at First Monday: Beyond "Couch Potatoes": From Consumers to Designers and Active Contributors, which lays a case for users to be able to act as designers and not just consumers in personally meaningful activities. The author makes some interesting comparisons to architecture and open-source software regarding the designer/comsumer spectrum.
As Mike suggests, definitely fodder for a long train ride and not leisure online reading!
December 7, 2002
New direction for AIGA
Back before there was an AIfIA, there were a number of associations who wanted to convince the IA crowd that they'd be a good home. One of these was AIGA ED, who reasonably felt that experience design was a great umbrella for what the IA crowd were doing. However, this was not an obvious fit, particularly for the polar bear IAs. For them, AIGA was about graphic design, a presentation layer field, while IA was more about things not quite so visible...a structural layer field. (Yes, I oversimplify, and I certainly don't speak for any particular IA.) I bet that it didn't help that there was also the high cost of entry for AIGA.
But one thing is true...AIGA has apparently made good on its plans to become more than an association for graphic design. From the recent issue of Communique, AIGA's monthly email newsletter:
At its fall meeting, the AIGA national board ratified a new direction for the organization. AIGAs highest priority will be to communicate the value of designingas a way of problem solvingto the business community.
Indeed. This is apparently reflected in the fact that the latest issue of GAIN, AIGA's Journal of Design and Business, has as its feature an article on the Airstream trailer. Not exactly a graphic design subject!
I think this is an interesting move. On the one hand, I wish they'd simply moved to focusing more on communication design...Lord knows there are still horrible information/communication products out there. On the other hand, an association that helps shine a spotlight on design, the useful business process, can only be a good thing.
I am curious about how much the new AIGA's mission overlaps that of the IDSA, the Industrial Designers Society of America. Of course, having somewhat overlapping missions doesn't seem to have hurt IEEE and ACM.
Finally, one last note about IDSA. I made a similar observation over a year ago, but this continues to amaze me. The IDSA site is essentially the same today as it was when it was designed by MAYA Design in 1996. I was there, though I didn't make any contributions to the design (but I comfort myself thinking I may have done just a little in the production!). Of course, had I contributed to the design, I would never have let them do a framed site :). But nonetheless, wherever Nick Sabadosh and Noah Guyot are today, they should be very pleased!
November 26, 2002
Sean's comment (on Monday...can't link to the entry itself) about the high cost of entry to AIGA got me to 1) comment and then 2) update the following list, which was originally posted to the old IDblog a year or so ago.
This new version adds in AIfIA and updates each listing with the association's student membership rate and policy.
November 25, 2002
Big versus little
Christina asks is big IA dead? Of course, I can't resist the opportunity to comment, using the opportunity to once again bring up the film director metaphor. I do resist pointing out that the AIfIA has a Sisyphean task ahead of them trying to claim this "big" space.
November 22, 2002
Ouch! It's getting hot...
Everyone's blogging Adam Greenfield's interview with Nathan Shedroff on IA and UX. I'd describe Adam as a "big IA" sort in web design and development; Nathan wrote the book Experience Design. Makes IA quite the hotbed of sorts (what with the recent spate of heated posts on the SIGIA list).
November 12, 2002
What is Amazon thinking?!? Here's part of a screen I grabbed tonight:
This is perhaps not misleading in the sense that the pick your favorite color ad that Yahoo's been running lately, but still. Maybe it's swell that Amazon is selling clothes, but using their relatively well-trusted "customers who bought this bought that" functionality to get the word out is, IMO, more than a little sleazy.
But maybe this is supposed to be funny ha-ha funny? I notice that when Challis Hodge visited the link for this same book, he found Amazon suggesting Clean Underwear from Amazon's Eddie Bauer Store. By the time I'd clicked on the link (a day later), the same shoppers for this book were now looking for "Clean Underwear" from the Gap. And the appearance of the suggested apparel is obviously fleeting, as I found when I tried to visit other books whose shoppers had convenient clothing tastes for Amazon's marketing practices. All gone now!
Finally, I'm not sure when it happened, but Amazon is now pushing (even in the legit categories) that "customers who shopped for this also shopped for this" rather than the old "customers who bought this also bought this." I suppose that the former gives shoppers more options, but it's not quite as much of an endorsement that someone scanned a page compared to plunking down their cash.
November 7, 2002
Pittsburgh or Scottsdale?
Oh dear, another interesting conference for the 2003 season. The folks at Carnegie Mellon and ACM are bringing you the Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces, June 23-26, 2003, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I'd love to get to UPA, but daBurgh is home (and just a few hours drive from here).
How interesting that, given yesterday's (sort of) entry on the technical vs the artistic, they note that:
Issues of affective and emotional response to products are exceedingly important within the communities of human factors, product design, and design research. As people become more sensitive to the aesthetic and emotional dimensions of products that go beyond traditional aspects of usability, the need to understand and create resonance between people and products increases.
This may be, but is it just me, or is it a tad bizarro that they needed to do this page entirely with images?
November 4, 2002
Refuge from the sea
The new IA org, Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture has had its formal launch. Is it just me, or is the acronym AIFIA a wee bit long? (Its peers are AIGA, CHI, ASIS, UPA and STC). The reason that's minimally important is that, at least for now when the org is new, it's not a no-brainer to just pull the website address out of the air (oy, it s*cks to get old). Well, nevermind, I've added it to IDblog's right nav area under groups, so I no longer have to remember it :).
According to the About AIfIA page on their site:
The word Asilomar is Spanish for "refuge from the sea"; it is our intention to provide a refuge from the sea of information chaos.
I'm guessing that this sea metaphor is meant to tie in to Richard Saul Wurman's tsunami of data, as RSW is generally acknowleged as the originator of the term "information architect."
I remain curious to see how RSW's IA (which has been heavily graphic design/presentation/print oriented) will mesh with this new IA, which AIfIA describes as the "structural design of shared information environments" and the "art and science of organizing and labeling web sites."
Here's a hint. I think there is still room for those interested in information design to make a contribution!
October 28, 2002
Links and content
There's been an interesting discussion on the SIGCHI mailing list recently about putting hyperlinks in body text. In it, Steve paraphrased Gerry McGovern (author of Content Critical) as saying "If you put hypertext links in the body text, it disrupts readability."
Gee, if that's a problem, some of us webloggers are in deep doo-doo!
Based on the responses it sure seems it ultimately boils down to: it depends! Speaking of which, there's a history (and debate around origin) to the phrase it depends, but methinks it can apply here. If "readability" is really one's goal, then yes, sticking blue underlined text in the middle of a paragraph could well affect how readable something is. I.e, it's probably not the best thing to do in the middle of articles or longer paragraphs meant to be read and digested. But I'm not aware of anything that discounts Nielsen's 1997 finding: people scan web pages.
Now the percentages may have changed. I know that I have, on occasion, actually read an article on the web. But...then again, I'm probably conditioned enough to the crappy experience (low-res monitors, questionable design practices re tiny type,e tc) of reading on the web that a blue underline in the middle is the least of my problems.
Good Experience...the event
Ah, this just appeared in my inbox. Mark Hurst (from Creative Good, and author of the Good Experience weblog) is doing an event: GEL: Good Experience Live, in New York next May 2nd. He's lined up a few speakers, including Richard Saul Wurman (who I have yet to see in person). We've had Mark and the Creative Good folks do some work for us. They are great folks, tho if you are an old fart like me, it's amusing to see Mark in person...he looks a bit like a teenage hacker compared to the folks we had him speak to :). I think I'll put a tickler in the file for this one.
October 24, 2002
Bad to the bone
Ok, I admit it. Sometimes I'm just not a nice person. Here's what I provided the Washington Post when they insisted that I provide them info about me in order to read an article about the snipers:
But seriously. Do you tell websites all your personal info? If you aren't about to give them your credit card to buy something?
October 11, 2002
DUX2003: Designing for User Experiences
DUX2003 will gather together designers of all kinds from our intersecting communities who deliver user-centered designs for the digital age. Sponsored by three premiere societies, the conference program showcases the interaction between digital design, business, and users.
So many conferences, so little budget! See the IAwiki conferences page for other tempting destinations.
October 8, 2002
Why Mozilla rocks
Just say yes to Mozilla! Count me in as one of the proud single-digit percent who is using a browser other than IE at both home and work. I had originally done this just to avoid giving M$ the satisfaction, but now I'm just quite the happy camper.
When I first installed it, I wasn't so sure that the browser's tab functions would be that useful:
But what is really nice is this little feature:
October 5, 2002
A C- for TiVo
Do you TiVo? I was one of those who couldn't see the value of a digital VCR, but when I bought one as a gift off of eBay last year (hey, you couldn't find 'em in the stores!), I set it up at home to make sure it was functional. Well, after just a couple of days, I was hooked. The digital VCR functions are slick (particularly the ability to do "Season Passes" where your favorite shows are recorded no matter when they are on), but what is really nice is the ability to deal with live TV. Need to go to the loo, but a commercial is 10 minutes away? No problem, just pause it. Missed what happened in that last scene? No prob, just replay it. And since it is digital, you get fairly clear freeze frames or slow motion.
Lest you wonder, I'm not a stockholder, so this is not a ploy to elevate stock prices. Alas, it is a more depressing tail of hardware issues followed by UI issues. The unit I bought for myself last year (manufactured by a name-brand company) has flaked out. Given that I bought it from eBay, I'm not confident that the warranty will work out to my favor, and anyways, I'm really eager to upgrade the disk space (which increases how many programs you can record) and to get the USB port. (There are no peripherals yet, but it really s*cks to have to archive a digital program to analog tape just to save it!)
So...today I trotted off to BestBuy and picked up a new unit. You can use these as a standalone digital VCR, but if you're an average person, you'll want to pay for the TiVo service. This is what provides you with the on-screen program information (and what the TiVo unit uses to record anything other than manually selected programs). I got home, hooked up the new unit, and, since all looks good, went to go activate service for this new unit, because the service is tied directly to a serial number. I understand the biz decision for this, but alas, I'm not sure they worked out all the kinks. Anyways, activating the new unit is trivial, and I'm done with that in a flash. Now what I want to do is deactivate the old unit (the one with the fried hard drive).
I go to the TiVo account management page, and check out my options.
So, I've emailed TiVo to find out how to turn off their service. (Like, what are they thinking? "Gee, if we make it hard for people to disconnect the service from the website, maybe they won't." Duh!!!) Anyways, I had to laugh, yet again, when I got the following after submitting their customer service form:
September 29, 2002
Parrish Hanna has a great article in Boxes and Arrows titled From Satisfaction to Delight (thanks UXblog). There's very likely a connection to be made between Parrish's delight and Whitney Quesenbery's engaging.
Sigh...signs of old age
If you read my BU reminisces, you may have gleaned that I'm an old fart who is over 40. Often I don't really notice this, but every now and again, it comes home to me. Today, it was when I was surfing and came across a different Beth (who is 26) and her comment that she surfed this entire site. They lost me at "turn your sound up." Makes me realize that my typography prof is right on when she notes the importance of appropriateness, audience, and purpose.
Shades of grey
I love these optical illusions. This one is one of the best. If you follow the citation trail I did, from antenna to kotke to waxy.org, you can see one or two alternate versions. Or, if you're like me and lots of folks who see this, you can just open it in Photoshop and verify that they are the same.
September 17, 2002
Oh, how cool ... more cross-over :). Check out this article by Saul Carliner, ID SIG member, an author in Mike Albers' and my forthcoming edited volume, Content and Complexity (more in October), and a former president of STC.
In this article, he makes some interesting suggestions based on comparing web surfing to retail shopping. Saul has always had an interest in performance (compared to preference), so his insights here consider both usability from the user's perspective as well as business needs from a client's perspective. I'm looking forward to part two.
Names and labels
One of the projects I'm involved with now is to integrate our email subscriptions with our member database. Just yesterday we were going over the requirements and talking about the business rules that we'd need to follow when sending out email. Dear $first_name$ sounds like a great idea, but we know that we have records with missing first names or people who use their middle names. Thus we're working on rules that will substitute when the first name field is not suitable for email personalization.
So, I had a bit of a laugh today when I received the following message from Consumer Reports (I'm one of their online subscribers). Here's an excerpt of the email:
Subject: Mazur, Help us write a story
Ummm, Daviet? I think I'll take a pass!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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