There is an old saying, meant to shame those of us working on websites into acknowledging that we really don’t care about other human beings. “The only two industries that call their customers “users” are software developers and drug dealers.” This raises the question of what the appropriate collective noun […]Continue Reading →
I recently signed up for a very interesting new online photo service called Picnik. The site is definitely worth a look — particularly if you are a Flickr fan like I am — but even if you don’t want to explore, take a gander at this lovely sign-up page: I love the simplicity of […]Continue Reading →
Best Practice: Explain how your site makes money, or how and why it is funded if this is not apparent. This adds to the site’s credibility and overcomes fears that the site may be a scam of some sort. Rationale: Not all sites are what they appear to be and […]Continue Reading →
There is a growing movement towards “less design and more constraints” in designing for the web — much of it sparked by Jason Fried of 37 Signals. At last month’s Torcamp I had an interesting conversation with Jon Lax about this concept and how the biggest problem facing companies that
If you’ve been to canada.com in the last few days, you’ll notice that Canwest’s flagship site has been given a makeover. Earlier this week Chris Powell at Marketing Magazine posted a brief overview of the changes: The revamped site–which draws content from 43 websites, including CanWest’s 11 daily newspapers, the […]Continue Reading →
This image is from a recent Globe And Mail article entitled (as you can see) Snow Storms The Big Apple. Now I’ll admit that this is damn clever copywriting. But as a headline for web-based content, this just doesn’t fly. Why? Well, if you read this out of context (just […]Continue Reading →
Unbelievable. I mean really unbelievable. The Gap, Gap Kids, Baby Gap, Gap Maternity, Gap Body, and Old Navy web sites are offline and according to USA Today have been for a while now: Hoping to minimize the customer inconvenience, Gap Inc. waited until after most back-to-school shopping had been finished […]Continue Reading →
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”).
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:
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”.
David Poteet at Computerworld gives a nice overview of new research from UIE in his article “Study Finds Patterns in Web Site User Motivations and Questions”. I’m working on a site redesign now where the audience is making a big life choice and the decision process can take a year […]Continue Reading →
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.”
I had the unfortunate luck to have my hard drive fail a few weeks ago. My back-up was about 8 days old but clients and Basecamp filled in most of the gaps. I thought I was in good shape until I realized that the back-up of “My Pictures” had only
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 →
“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.
Great column (as always) by Mark Hurst. This one, entitled Budgeting for Advertising and Customer Experience, deals with an all too common problem — companies that budget well for advertising to get people to their site but spend almost nothing to ensure that people can actually use the site once
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.
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.
The June 2004 issue of Usability News has an article called “Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts”. The research is summarized as: “In this study, reading performance with four white space layouts was compared. Margins surrounding the text and leading (space between lines) were manipulated to
Jessie Scanlon has a great essay in the NYT on simplicity in design (“A Design Epiphany: Keep It Simple”) that includes this line that intrigued me: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler,” Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying. His actual wording was a tad more convoluted, […]Continue Reading →
“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.”
Signal vs. Noise Weblog asks whether Separating Store From Products is the best strategy. My guess (and this is a brand new thought) is that for some sites there are three modes for using the site — browse, search, and shop. This implies that you should be able to access the same […]Continue Reading →
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.”
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.
Jakob Nielsen provides his “Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines” and includes compliance ratings from the site’s his company has audited. He notes that his US$10,000 home page audits generally get large corporations and governments as customers, which biases the data slightly, but it is unlikely that smaller companies are fairing much better.
Yes, the Internet Is Littered With Dead Web Sites. In general it’s a good idea to keep all links on your site live so that bookmarks, external links, and search engine databases can find the content or be redirected to newer information. But what to do if the entire site […]Continue Reading →
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″