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).

New IA mentoring program connects AIfIA members

The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture announces the IA mentoring program.

AIfIA members now have the chance to share experiences with leaders in the field through the institute’s new mentoring program. The IA mentoring program aims to improve the skills of current and future information architects by providing them with the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced IA. Mentees must be AIfIA members, but mentors do not.

First Things First: IA and CSS

Christina Wodtke and Nate Koechley delivered an excellent presentation at the Web Visions conference that discusses how to improve the processes of IA and web site development by using the semantic meaning produced in IA deliverables provide CSS references that can be used by site developers.

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 info-arch.org. 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 info-arch.org 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.

Find.com: Business search engine

FIND/SVP, Empire Media and Triplehop Technologies launched www.Find.com, a search egnine for business professionals that aggregates results from several major search engines and hand-picked business-related sites.

A results sidebar shows you found topics that can be used for filtering by ANDing one or many terms to your search input. You have to re-submit the form to see your results. It takes a bit of figuring out at first, but functionally, it allows you to select multiple terms (I assume clusters your intial term fell into) before refining (re-executing) your search. This interaction could be improved quite a bit, I think. Sidebar tabs allow you to also filter by format, sites and source.

Probably most interesting is that they have a “Research” search tab that allows you to find results from premium research sources including Find’s research, Frost and Sullivan, and more. Other tabs include Directory (open directory listings) and News. I’ve been finding that their beta release is also not withouts its DHTML bugs (using Firefox). It looks like it might become a business user search alternative to watch, however.

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.

Wilshire Metadata Conference 2004 Trip Report

Not all metadata are created equal as I learned last year when I attended the Wilshire Metadata & DAMA International Conference in Orlando, FL. However, when I sat in their meetings and learned this new aspect of metadata I discovered that there are some similarlities of concern, basically information organization, management, access, and retrievable.

If you come from the database modeling/administration world, I hear this is their equivalent to the IA Summit or CHI. The 2004 just concluded in Los Angeles. Their trip report is very informative, with enough information to get you to dig into new ways of thinking about information management.

Wilshire Metadata & DAMA International Conference 2004 Trip Report

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.

The Truth About Federated Searching

WebFeat, a provider of federated search technology has compiled a list of the five most commonly repeated misconceptions about federated searching, published in Information Today.

Findability.org launches

Peter Morville has launched Findability.org 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

Best Buy uses Personas to shape retail experience

Electronics giant Best Buy is using personas to focus its stores on particular customer segments -

From USA Today:
Best Buy’s plan is to revamp its stores according to the types of customers they serve, a strategy it calls customer centricity. The company came up with five prototypical customers, all of whom have been given names: “Jill,” a busy suburban mom; “Buzz,” a focused, active younger male; “Ray,” a family man who likes his technology practical; “BB4B” (short for Best Buy for Business), a small employer; and “Barry,” an affluent professional male who’s likely to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a home theater system.

Over the next few years, each of Best Buy’s 608 stores will focus on one or two of the five segments…

It’s interesting that they are focusing stores on just one or two segments - that there is a primary persona for a retail location. While we know that each primary persona needs an interface tailored for them, creating a new interface usually doesn’t take the same capital costs as opening a store. What does a store’s focus on soccer mom Jill mean for the Best Buy customer who is more like Buzz, the young active geek? Thanks IDBlog

Formal knowledge management ontology: Conduct, activities, resources, and influences

This article by CW Holsapple and KD Joshi describes an ontology for knowledge management. The abstract below is taken from the JASIST TOC for Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology V55, 7, MAY, 2004, p593-612.

This article describes a collaboratively engineered general-purpose knowledge management (KM) ontology that can be used by practitioners, researchers, and educators. The ontology is formally characterized in terms of nearly one hundred definitions and axioms that evolved from a Delphi-like process involving a diverse panel of over 30 KM practitioners and researchers. The ontology identifies and relates knowledge manipulation activities that an entity (e.g., an organization) can perform to operate on knowledge resources. It introduces a taxonomy for these resources, which indicates classes of knowledge that may be stored, embedded, and/or represented in an entity. It recognizes factors that influence the conduct of KM both within and across KM episodes. The Delphi panelists judge the ontology favorably overall: its ability to unify KM concepts, its comprehensiveness, and utility. Moreover, various implications of the ontology for the KM field are examined as indicators of its utility for practitioners, educators, and researchers.

More visualisation goodness

Jibbajabba’s post of ‘They Rule’ made me think about Visualization and after a bit of poking around and some help from a friend (thanks Mikey) I found a couple more Visualization that really did it for me.

One of the nicest applications of The Brain style, mind mapy type things is Visual Thesaurus. In fact it impressed me so much I subscribed within about 10 minutes of having seen it. Since then I have used it no less then 12 times. Not bad for 3 days.

Michael Zelter also pointed me at Music Plasma, which seems great not only as an information source of discogrpahy but also to find similar and related artists. Trace the links from some of your favorate artists to someone you haven’t heard before.

Finally I found a flash artist by the name of Marcos Weskamp, he is of recent fame for newsmap a Flash apps which presents a visualization of Google news. His project which caught my eye was Synapsis which renders network traffic visually. I just love the ‘auto-centering’ of this visualization it is both smooth and non-confusing, keep the users attension on the appropriate piece of the visualisation. Very nice indeed.

re:con gel 2004

Heath Row’s Fast Company blog summarizes the sessions at Good Experience Live 2004.

They Rule

They Rule is an interesting demonstration of how to visualize the connections between powerful corporate officers. This is the kind of thing that Anacubis does really well with different database vendor sources.

They Rule allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top companies in the US in 2004. The data was collected from their websites and SEC filings in early 2004, so it may not be completely accurate - companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards.