jess mcmullin's blog

Typepad Screenshots

The creators of the blogging application MoveableType are launching a hosted service called Typepad. There's now screenshots of the new UI, and it looks much cleaner than MoveableType's interface. Definitely a hotly contested race to see who can make blogging easy for the masses, with Blogger Pro being the other visible contender.

However much I like MoveableType though, I can't help thinking that Microsoft or AOL will be the one to take blogging mainstream.

The Quiet Death of the Major Launch

Jared Spool published a great article, The Quiet Death of the Major Re-Launch, about the advantages of a staged redesign approach vs. a major redesign done in one shot.

Quoth Keith:

I'm sure there are many of you who will find some of what he has to say very useful and while many of the examples he uses ring very true to my own experiences, I'm not sure this approach is right for every situation. Sometimes a site just needs to be torn down and built from scratch.

(Thanks Digital Web)

Views and Forms: Principles of Task Flow for Web Applications Part 1

Views and Forms: Principles of Task Flow for Web Applications Part 1 - One of the defining elements of web applications is their support for the editing and manipulation of stored data. Unlike the typical conversation that goes on between a user and a content-centric website however, this additional capability requires a more robust dialog between user and application. [Boxes and Arrows]

Keyword extraction and facet analysis for email archives

Kathryn La Barre and Chris Dent have been experimenting with computational methods for creating a faceted access structure of the Unrev-II mailing list archives.

The email archive of the unrev-ii list is the basis for this ongoing project, to build an access tool for an email archive that also functions as a knowledge repository. Methods utilized in future iterations of the project will include traditional semantic analysis, clustering algorithms, and facet analysis.
They have a preliminary prototype available, and have published a paper.

Chris' project page and Kathryn's project page offer more detail about the project and their hopes for their work. (thanks Bootstrap Alliance)

Open Prototyping project

From the MIT Media Lab, Carson Reynolds has started a blog where he shows ongoing prototypes from his work. Using DENIM as one main tool, the site aims to improve UIs for open source products. (thanks PeterV)

Good Experience Live writeup

Anil Dash writes up his thoughts on Mark Hurst's Good Experience Live conference.

The conference covered experience from a wide array of perspectives - from exploding dog to Amazon. While these kinds of events may not offer as much pragmatic know-how, they serve as inspiration for different disciplines.

While I'm hesitant about the dilution inherent in "everything is an experience, so experience design is about everything", innovation thrives at the periphery and at disciplinary intersections. Even without a New York conference, we can still gain a lot from exploring those edges through cross-training - talking with and learning from other disciplines.
(thanks Webword)

Update: Mark is collecting GEL wrapups.

15 tips for working with remote teams

Indi Young shares lessons learned from working with remote teams.

One of the challenges for remote work is contact with end-users. It's ok for working with clients to come up with concepts, but human-centered design assumes face-to-face contact with users through field research, participatory design, and usability testing.

Being in Canada, I'd like to be able to easily work remotely for U.S. projects. However, I'm not sure how to handle the immersion with users that I'd hope to have.

Any thoughts on how we can be user centered, with just remote contact with users?

Magnetic Prototyping Tool

Ben Speaks is selling a magnetic prototyping toolkit similar to many paper prototyping toolkits. It contains widgets and a magnetic board that can be written on with whiteboard markers.

I'm not sure what the benefit is beyond laminated widgets and post-it notes. Gimmick? Or real value? I guess I'd have to use it to see if I like it better than my laminated paper prototyping kit I made myself. Advantages to the home rolled version being that it was cheaper, and I have enough material for a dozen screens, not just one.

Whether or not it really works better than paper, I like to see people exploring with prototyping tools.

Constantine on the Magic Number 5 panel at CHI

At Usability News Larry Constantine gives a great rundown of the Magic Number 5 panel from CHI. The panel tackled the long accepted discount usability notion that 5 users will uncover 80% of the defects.

Usability testing seems to be the perceived gold standard for sites - one colleague called it the 'holy grail'. But as the panel showed, 5 users and the discount approach have some serious drawbacks.

I also find it pretty amusing that usability diehard Rolf Molich is suggesting a potential end for usability testing, while Cooper (who has long dismissed usability testing) now offers training and courses in same.

Christina's teaching at User Interface 8

While many of our talented colleagues have or are currently offering courses at one venue or another, Christina Wodtke is offering the opportunity for you to shape her upcoming course at User Interface 8. Let her know in her site comments what you'd like her to cover in a day, particularly if you've read Blueprints. If there were areas where her book fell a bit short for you, this might be an opportunity to address something in more depth.

Relation Browsers: a GUI for IAs

Garry Marchioni and Ben Brunk have been working on GUIs for visualizing nodes and relations in web sites - what they call a Relation Browser. They've published a paper on their work about the quest for a General Relation Browser that provides a picture of IA tools of the future.

JoDI's usability of digital information page other interesting papers, but I won't list them all here.

Comparing left- and right-justified site navigation menus

A comparison between left- and right-justified site navigation menus - James Kalbach and Tim Bosenick have published the results of recent usability testing on the location of navigation menus.

The punchline is that there was no significant difference in task time between the two conditions. They conclude that we should rethink our devotion to left hand menus. I disagree - when there's no significance performance difference, then user expectations, de facto standards, and project goals should guide these decisions. I think that still leaves left-hand menus with the upper hand. (thanks Column Two)

Advertising: A Cry for Usability

Advertising: A Cry for Usability - Advertising is frequently interruption-based, posing a serious usability flaw. It's very obvious on the Web as pop-up ads, audio, animation, Flash ads, and exit pops make the Internet increasingly difficult to navigate and use, and its content increasingly difficult to read.

I find the idea of usable advertising interesting - there seems to be a fundamental conflict between an advertiser's goals and a user's goals. But since advertising supports the service, the overall value is greatest when the two can be aligned. ( thanks Other Blog )

One title to rule them all, one title to bind them....

Well, over on Beth Mazur's IDblog Dirk Knemeyer suggests that information design should assume a director role over all the other disciplines in a project and that IA isn't a discipline, but a tactical practice. Hope he wore asbestos undies ;-)

Seriously, I'm not sure that one can argue for ID, IA, or interaction design as the 'director' without also making the case for the other two disciplines. Experience Architecture or Design seems a better fit for said director role. I've said more to that effect in the comments on Beth's blog.

(thanks Gunnar)

IT & Society special issue on Web Navigation

On SIGIA, Dick Hill points out this journal. Edited by Ben Schneiderman, the Winter Issue of IT & Society was dedicated to Web Navigation and contains articles ranging from user frustration, to PDAs, to browser design.

Introduction to social software

Lee Bryant has compiled a fantastic introduction to social software: Smarter, Simpler, Social.

Social Software is reaching early stage critical meme mass, and is sure to be fueled by the current Etech conference being blogged right now. One thing I've noticed is that there aren't that many connectors between the social software community and the user experience community. This strikes me as a bit odd, since social software is all about the user's experience. Maybe I'm wrong and those connections are prevalent, but so far I haven't seen a lot of them.

Matt Jones has discussed social software. Lou and Peter wanted to put more social things in Polar Bear 2. Many IAs blog. My point isn't that UX people aren't interested in socialware, but that socialware folks don't seem to be reaching out to UX. Last week, in a small group of social software developers, someone said "I think we have pretty much all the major players here" which totally blew me away.

Building a Metadata-Based Website

From Boxes and Arrows: Building a Metadata-Based Website - The online world has been flooded in recent years with talk of metadata, structured authoring, and cascading style sheets. The idea of a semantic web is gaining momentum. At the confluence of these two broad categories of activity, new models of websites are emerging.

Brett Lider's talk at the Summit was great - now folks who couldn't make it can see the early horizon for next-generation CMS.

IA Tools - The Comic Book Edition

Dan Willis has done a great job distilling core IA tools into 1 page explanations complete with quirky characters. Fun, and hopefully useful in explaining what IAs can offer.

Data visualization through facets

Pointed out by Steve Mulder on SIGIA: Iokio has a demo of a product selection tool that uses different facets to choose a digital camera. Sliders allow the user to adjust cost, weight, and resolution with real time feedback on available models. Thanks to Joe, who discovered a direct link to their Camera Finder Demo.

Trust By Design

Peter Morville tackles the credibility issue with his usual flair.

Since Studio Archtype and Cheskin released the first large online trust study in early 1999, I've been interested in trust, and particularly the propagation of credibility through social networks and word of mouth. While BJ Fogg has released research that includes whether or not a friend recommends a site, I have yet to see anything that addresses resonance effects within social networks. If two separate friends recommend a site, I'm more likely to visit. Whether it's word of mouth or RSS feeds, personal recommendations from people I trust are my biggest credibility factor, and I don't see credibility research addressing that as much as it could.

The collected resources in the 'see also' sidebar with Peter's article are a goldmine of recent thinking - I'll have to dig and see if there's much about resonance there.

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