jess mcmullin's blog

IA Heuristics

Lou Rosenfeld offers up his set of heuristics for information architecture. Much more useful for evaluating findability than Jakob and Rolf’s original usability heuristics that were developed in DOS days.

8 Ways to Improve Site Search

Jeff Veen and Darcy DiNucci recently offered a paid report on search. Jeff sums up lessons learned in the report with his article 8 Quick Ways to Fix Your Search Engine.

Victor Lombardi starts consulting

Smart cookie Victor Lombardi is going solo as a consultant. If your organization is looking for design management thinking, talking with Victor would be an excellent idea.

What to do about data in wireframes

There’s a problem with endless copied and pasted pseudo-data in wireframes - if the numbers in the shopping cart don’t add up, or clients struggle with lorem ipsum, what’s an IA to do? Fake data can distract stakeholders and take valuable time away from examining core functionality. Dan Brown offers a variety of ways to deal with data in wireframes in the latest Boxes and Arrows.

Tips for IA job hunters

Michael Angeles has a boatload of excellent advice for information architects looking for work. If you’re in the market for an IA job, particularly if you’re new in the field, go read it now. Caroline Jarrett’s recent take on how not to get a job in usability has similar themes with some other tips mixed in as well.

Book Review: Digital Ground

Andrew Ottwell’s eloquent commentary on Digital Ground makes me want to buy the book.

Malcolm McCullough’s new book…is a readable and timely contribution to current interaction design. Using ideas drawn from architectural and design theory, cognitive science, and philosophy, McCullough significantly extends current ideas about pervasive computing and so-called experience design, while building on the foundation of traditional task-centered interface design. It’s the best current book on interaction design, and should appeal to both designers and theorists.

Thanks Stewart

Innovate and Die?

Gary Feldman at Cheskin shares some insights into why innovation can lead to dead ends. This quote sums up the problem - becoming a "betamax first mover loser". His examples are Tivo (a great innovation) and satellite radio (a paid version of something you already have). The main difference between the two is that Tivo doesn’t integrate into the TV / Cable experience - buying a Tivo requires extra effort - while satellite radio is an option at the dealership.

The key insight for UX is that it’s the integrated experience that matters - not just the one specific product we might be working on.

btw, Cheskin’s company blog is consistently insightful and refreshing.

The Future of Information Architecture, A Retreat

Christina Wodtke and friends (including yours truly) are organizing a retreat to discuss the future of information architecture.

At a glance:

  • Oct. 1-3
  • At Asilomar, in Pacific Grove, CA
  • No cost beyond travel and lodging
  • Only 40 spots, so discussion stays personal.

It’s a great opportunity to mix with other IAs and look at the future of the practice. Hope to see you there.

Enhance Usability by Highlighting Search Terms

A List Apart offers a practical implementation of highlighting terms in the page that were searched for by the user. You can check out their demo search to see the script in action.

Interaction Design Group soft launch

It’s a summer of soft launches as the Interaction Design Group launches their new site. The IxDG (I’m not sure what the x is for, except to say it’s not info design) is modeled along similar lines to AIfIA. Props to those involved, though I think there’s some wheel reinvention going on - with tools, job board, and resource library being carbon copies of AIfIA initiatives.

The duplicate intitiatives (and the spread of UX related organizations in general) point to the fact that we’ll hit organizational fatigue in the UX space and need some consolidation. Right now we have a lot of groups doing some similar things (AIfIA, ASIS&T, UPA, CHI, STC, AIGA ED, HFES, IxDG, possibly some InfoDesign group in the near future…). Picking a professional organization to join or initiative to volunteer for requires travelling a crowded, even claustrophobic, space for the UX practitioner who crosses boundaries between interaction design, IA, info design, etc.

My personal preference is for more interdisciplinary work like UXnet, so I get benefits across the orgs even if I only belong to one or two. And I’m also biased to favor the younger organizations like IxDG and AIfIA - while they don’t have as much infrastructure, they are tailored to today’s practitioner.

Redesigning the Personal Video Recorder

Personal Video Recorders, like Tivo, have changed their owners’ viewing habits to the point of shifting advertising strategies. However, current PVRs have some significant interface drawbacks. Teehan+Lax, a Toronto UX consultancy, recently launched a free 40 page report about the user experience of two current PVRs, and show UI comps for their improved PVR. It’s like the 37better project, but with a lot more material. With the popularity of the report, they’ve now added a blog and are looking to build business in the PVR space.

Peek inside Peter Morville's head...or at least see what he's thinking about lately

The latest issue of Digital Web Magazine gives us a chance to see some of the big picture thinking that Peter Morville has been working on in his article on Ambient Findability. Interesting glimpse of what’s going into his new book.

Forrester: User Centered Design Key for Top Interactive Agencies

Forrester Research recently completed a ranking of 17 top interactive agencies - congratulations to Dave and the rest of the IA team at Critical Mass that came out with the best overall results. User centered practices were key to Forrester’s evaluation…

Along with the overall report, there’s a free report on persona best practices based on deliverables submitted by the above agencies, though actual samples aren’t included (registration required).

UXnet gets off the ground

A few UX peeps got invited by Lou Rosenfeld in late 2001 to chat about a bigger picture for something - at the time, the something was That group, with unofficial but senior representatives from UPA, CHI, AIGA ED, STC, ASIS&T had lots of conversations about cooperation, direction, reservations, and didn’t get that far with the effort. Which was fine, since many of that initial advisory council aren’t IAs. Two things were spawned from that group - what would become AIfIA, and a smaller group that continued the UX umbrella/network theme.

Today, UXnet has a public soft launch. Congratulations to all involved! It’s not the same world that the project started in, with AIfIA, Clement Mok’s American Design Council, and other cross disciplinary initiatives like Stanford’s D-school happening or lists like [experiencedesign]. But there’s still plenty of work to be done, and as long as user experience has specialties like IA and interaction design, then UXnet or something similar will be invaluable.

Peter Morville's sweet User Experience Honeycomb

When I broadened my interest from IA to UX, I found the need for a new diagram to illustrate the facets of user experience - especially to help clients understand why they must move beyond usability - and so with a little help from my friends developed the user experience honeycomb.
The ux honey comb is a value centered description of the different aspects of the user experience (unlike the experience cycle, with ux-as-user-process, or JJG’s famous ux-as-practice model). The UX facets Peter describes are useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, and credible - and these all contribute to the central facet - valuable As a value-centered design booster, I think this is the key, and builds a bridge between business and user value - projects need to produce both ROI and Return on Experience.

Would you turn down a lot of money?

37signals recently turned down a big job because the client wouldn’t agree that ownership depended on payment (details in the link). Saying no, even when it means losing revenues, is much, much better than having a difficult client. Good thoughts for everyone who does contract work.

John Maeda in NY Times : Simplicity

The NY Times profiles John Maeda’s new mantra at MIT - Simplicity (Free Login Req’d). I tracked down Maeda’s page at MIT, and that led me to the Simplicity program site. Interesting folks doing important things. Principles from the project so far (thanks SvN)

  1. Heed cultural patterns.
  2. Be transparent. People like to have a mental model [expectation!] of how things work.
  3. Edit. Simplicity hinges as much on cutting nonessential features as on adding helpful ones.
  4. Prototype.
Peter Merholz gets explicit

Peter’s new meme is explicit design. Peterme’s Guruhood must lie only a few dogmatic stances beyond ;-)

Seriously, the notion of explicit design is extremely valuable. Quoth Peterme: "Through my work, what I’ve observed is that the web is all about managing expectations. Setting expectations, and then fulfilling them. That’s it."

I mostly agree - in fact, I’ve been talking with clients about expectations, instead of mental models, for the last couple years. Expectation forms the foundation of my Experience Cycle model (created when I needed The Elements of the User’s Experience to explain what a good experience involves). And here’s a snippet from a 2001 presentation on the experience gap - the gap between expectations and actual experience. Take a look at the first slide for thoughts on what actually goes into creating expectations.

Like all models, these are simplifications, but I believe that the notion of user experience practice as understanding, managing, and supporting expectations will help us gain traction with decision makers. We’ll see if Peter’s label for it catches on. Having a great tag for a simple concept can help spread the meme - let’s hope we see more awareness about user experience practice from this. launches

Peter Morville has launched with the goal of "placing findability on a par with usability". The site is part Usable Web topical resources, and part Userati-style listing of, well, Finderati. Congratulations on the launch!

While its stated purpose is to be an advocacy site, it strikes me as yet another IA resource, like the IA Library, or Wiki. But maybe that’s just my warped perspective from reading too many IA resources. I wonder though - Who is the audience? Business folks? Other UX disciplines that have yet to acknowledge findability? We’ll see how this works out, though I think it might need to change to reach a business audience.

One other interesting snippet from the FAQ - Peter is writing a new O’Reilly Book on findability.

IDEO are the masters of design PR

IDEO’s work with Kaiser, a U.S. healthcare provider makes Business Week cover. As much as I love Design getting mainstream press, I’m disappointed that the article is so dumbed down - the level of insights discussed are significantly shallower than insights in conversations I’ve personally had with health care professionals in Canada. Karl apparently agrees. And Steve Portigal’s comment that the article overlooks the amazing contributions of plenty of others doing original work prior to IDEO is spot on. Chalk it up to IDEO’s amazing PR machine, and we’ll have to be satisfied by the thought that a rising tide raises all boats. Thanks Christina

XML feed