December 27, 2004

December 17, 2004

  • Looking Back At 2004

    Last year I published some predictions for 2004 on my blog on on the AIMS discussion list.

    Here’s a summary:

    1. SEM rises to dominate online marketing.

    2. Blogs become the best way to find out about most stuff.

    3. Increased focus on meeting user needs instead of corporate goals.

    4. A more pragmatic approach to e-mail.

    5. RSS prepares to take centre stage in 2005.

    6. Social Networks will have a make or break year in 2004.

    I’m feeling pretty good about these predictions a year later. Most of this rings true to me, but I was assuming a “make” year for social networks when in hindsight I think it was more of a “break”.

    What do you think the trends of 2005 will be? More of the same, or are we ready for some breakthroughs?

    (I think the big trend I missed was that business was going to boom! At the end of 2003 things still seemed kind of gloomy, but 2004 turned out to be a stellar year for my business and hopefully for yours.)

    In a few days I’ll provide my predictions for trends in 2005.

December 10, 2004

  • Thought

    Jakob Nielsen’s most recent Alertbox entitled Most Hated Advertising Techniquesprovides some hard data on what many of us have known for a while now — aggressive online ads alienate site visitors out of proportion with the potential upside of clickthroughs.

    Here’s a particularly relevant part of the article:

    “Users have started to defend themselves against pop-ups. The percentage of users who report using pop-up or ad-blocking software increased from 26% in April 2003 to 69% in September 2004, which is an astonishing growth rate.

    Users not only dislike pop-ups, they transfer their dislike to the advertisers behind the ad and to the website that exposed them to it. In a survey of 18,808 users, more than 50% reported that a pop-up ad affected their opinion of the advertiser very negatively and nearly 40% reported that it affected their opinion of the website very negatively.”

December 8, 2004

  • Roads Gone Wild

    Okay, Wired’s Roads Gone Wild article is now available online.

    I quite enjoyed this article although the thought of curbless, signless intersections with fountains in the middle is a bit disturbing.

    I loved this quote, which I think also represents wise words for web teams: “‘The trouble with traffic engineers is that when there’s a problem with a road, they always try to add something,’ Monderman says. ‘To my mind, it’s much better to remove things.’”

    However, I wouldn’t try to overanalyze this article from a web user experience perspective as the basic concept of the article (that you should make people stop and think so they don’t mindlessly kill themselves) doesn’t apply to the web. Online you want to remove stuff from your site so there is less thinking thinking to do, not more. Since no one gets hurt if a user is going racing through your site, design to help avoid thinking as much as possible.

December 6, 2004

  • Thought

    Kathleen Straub has written a nice overview of the difference between an Expert Review and User Testing called “Cleaning Up For The Housekeeper”.

    The whole article is good, but here’s a key point she makes:

    “Expert Review examines details of human computer interaction guided by basic research about how humans interpret, understand and interact with objects in the world. As such, Heuristic Review exploits our generic understanding of human cognition to identify design/presentation details that may facilitate or impede a user’s progress within a task. These include issues such as affordances (How obvious the right next-thing-to-do is.), consistency and the effectiveness of layout and color to guide the user experience.

    Usability testing identifies gaps between the site model and representative user conceptual use model in the specific context of use. Meaningful usability testing means observing representative users doing things on the site. Users bring unique domain knowledge and experience to their user experience. Designers — even experts — don’t have the same perspective.”

    The title comes from the distinction between “straightening” and “cleaning”. You don’t hire a “straightening lady” so you need to straighten first so she can do her job. In the same way, it makes sense to do an expert review first (to “straighten”) and then do usability testing (to “clean”).

December 5, 2004

  • Thought

    Hi really like what the folks at 37 Signals are doing.

    I found out about them via someone’s feed and subscribed to their Signal vs Noise feed. It was through their feed that I learned about Basecamp, which I am an early and happy subscriber to.

    So I found it interesting that they’ve begun experimenting with ads within their feeds. Here’s what they look like:

    In general, I have no problem with ads in feeds if the publisher is sending the entire post to me. Personally I think sending summaries to drive people to ad-supported pages will be more effective.

    But I think that 37 Signals is making a mistake that goes back to the purpose of the feed. 37 Signals is a design shop (and now online application provider). The feed is a way for them to keep their expertise and news about current initiatives in front of potential customers. So in one sense, every post to their feed is already an ad. And ads inserted in posts are ads within ads.

    And since they (wisely) decided that contextual ads will make more sense from a user’s perspective, they are now in the awkward situation where they are including advertising for other web developers in their feeds.

    So, my general advice is, if you are using blogs and feeds to promote services you sell, avoid the temptation to make a few bucks by inserting ads on your blog or feed. Keep the message pure and simple, and about you.

  • Thought

    So I was reading the current (December 2004) issue of Wired Magazine and I came across an interesting article called “Roads Gone Wild”. I planned on taking a bit of my Sunday morning to link to the article and comment on it.

    But here is what I get when I go to the Wired site today:

    <image missing>

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the magazine holding back the online version of an article for a few days, weeks, or even until the next issue is on the stands. They make money off the current newsstand edition so not posting online immediately makes sense.

    But it would be nice if they put a dummy page up for each article they will post. In that way, I would already have a permalink to post now even if the article won’t be live for a while.

    “Pointing To” things online and in the real world is becoming essential and I think we’ll see a trend over time to all media (and physical objects) becoming “pointable”.

December 4, 2004