Thought at 4:32pm December 6th, 2004

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”).

Thought at 6:03pm December 5th, 2004

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:

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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”.

Thought at 10:59pm November 29th, 2004

Donald Norman posted an article called Ad-Hoc Personas & Empathetic Focus that includes some great examples of personas in action. Norman suggests that made up personas that ring true are better than none, even though Forrester Research disagrees with this approach.

I particularly liked this explanation of “Empathetic Focus” in site design:

“The purpose of the Persona, I believe, is to add empathetic focus to the design. Empathetic focus. By focus I mean that the design must be clean and coherent. It is not a collection of features added willy-nilly through the life-span of the product, even if each feature by itself makes sense. Rather it is having a clear image of what the product is meant to be — and what it is not meant to be — and rejecting features that do not fit, only accepting ones that do. By empathy, I mean an understanding of and identification with the user population, the better to ensure that they will be able to take advantage of the product, to use it readily and easily — not with frustration but with pleasure.”

Thought at 10:33pm September 6th, 2004

Jakob Nielsen’s “Preparing a Website for the Holiday Shopping Season” makes a great point that site architects often forget — with the rise of search as the dominant traffic generator on many sites, it is now possible for most of your traffic will not be coming through your home page and other key landing pages. That means that every page has to do double duty. First they must cover the topic under discussion so that you add enough value to get the search listing in the first pace and deliver the value the user was seeking. And secondly, pages must convey why your site is a trustworthy source and ask for the sale (whatever that may be).

As Jakob states: “A website is like a house with a thousand front doors: visitors can enter anywhere.”


I just posted this to Eric Petersen’s wonderful Web Metrics Discussion Group: Subject: HBX V2 I’m delurking to point the list to the log-in for HBX which has this notice (that I noticed for the first time today): WebSideStory will soon release the latest version of its flagship service, HBX. Version […]Continue Reading →

Thought at 10:04pm July 31st, 2004

CIO Insight has a brief interview with Jakob Nielsen called Time for a Redesign.

“an average mid-size company can expect a return on investment of 1,000 percent, and a gain of $5 million a year in employee productivity, simply by improving the usability of its intranet.”

I’m just about to start on an intranet redesign project so this article was timely. In fact it probably would have made the case for me. Fortunately the company and their web agency were open minded enough to get me on board early on without needing a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

While I didn’t have Nielsen’s numbers at hand during the initial meeting, I did say something to the effect of “okay, you have over 10,000 employees, 70% of them access your intranet on a regular basis. That means at least 35,000 visits to the site we are redesigning each week, or 1.75 million visits a year. Let’s say that my work shaves only 3 minutes off each visit by reducing confusion and the time it takes to get to key tasks. That works out to over 10,000 staff days in savings. That’s the equivalent of 32 full time staff a year.”

I can’t imagine a more compelling argument for getting expert help in redesigning internal sites as well as customer facing ones.

Thought at 11:57pm July 28th, 2004

Christina Wodtke and Nate Koechley delivered a very interesting presentation at webvisions 2004 conference in July.

Essentially they are suggesting a model whereby a lot of the IA (particularly wireframing) is done in a style that supports easy integration into a standards-based web design. One can imagine using divs & classes to define the structure of the page without needing to step into the “little box on the top right” kind of wireframe that really limits designers for no real reason.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’m very interested in the idea of the XHTML almost being the wireframe for the site. “CSS Styling” is then the job of the designer. Replacing placeholder code with database and application hooks is the job of the developers. And the wireframe/XHTML is the site structure, page layout, and requirements documentation.

This is a big idea and I plan to work on this more.

If any designers with a passion for CSS want to discuss breaking up workflow between XHTML creation and CSS design, I’d like to hear from them.

Thought at 6:13am July 22nd, 2004

Read and Pass is the blog for Seth Godin’s wonderful new project ChangeThis.

Funny though, the blog is in chronological order instead of the almost universal reverse chronological order.

I find it endlessly confusing that the posts are in the “wrong” order and I’d like them to change it right away. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s noticed this even though Feedster shows few links to Read and Pass.

So here is my first “minifesto”:

All blogs should be in reverse chronological order to avoid needless scrolling and to stick with conventional usage.

Thought at 5:06pm February 17th, 2004

Wired News: Webmonkey, RIP: 1996–2004:

“They finally pulled the plug. Webmonkey, the site that turned humble Web developers into attention-grabbing authors, said last week it is closing down following a round of layoffs in the U.S. division of its parent company, Terra Lycos (also the parent company of Wired News). Judging by blog posts and e-mails, the site’s fans aren’t surprised. Still, they’re sad to see the end of an era.”

Thought at 2:52pm November 18th, 2003

Kevin Werbach has an article on TheFeature called The Triumph of Good Enough. The article is about how the Treo 600 smartphone has made enough small changes to its design and functionality that Kevin has reassessed his doubts about the future of converged mobile devices.

The entire article is a good one for anyone who doubts that (as Kevin says) “Subtle improvements can have huge consequences.”

Thought at 7:43pm November 12th, 2003

Dave Winer seems to be developing the new Scripting News site in real-time. The page is getting slowly modified as Dave blogs his progress and people comment on how he’s doing. Not something I’d recommend to the faint of heart, but interesting to watch.

Wonder when a nav bar will appear.

Thought at 3:43am October 31st, 2003

Metafilter: Where is Boing Boing?:

“We’re having server problems and working on them — I hope to be up in a day or so again, but it’s exacerbated by my crazy travel schedule.

Please direct your friends to this note, and ask for their forebearance in sending email asking what’s up with Boing Boing. I’m getting several hundred of these a day, and it’s gotten so that answering those messages is actively interfering with my efforts to reestablish service.

In the meantime, we’re still blogging, and the mailblog still works:

posted by doctorow at 1:36 PM PST on October 30″