Debunking the myths of UI design

[picked up by HannaHodge] A lot of great stuff in HannaHodge's brainbox. Paul Smith of IBM developerWorks has a great article on the culture of software developers and looks at the myths related to the design of user interfaces.

Library User Interface Issues

Not much there yet, but an Electronic Resources Librarian at Sweet Briar college is developing Library User Interface Issues (LUII) to discuss Libraries and Usability issues.

Visual Architecture: The Rule of Three

[picked this gem up from eleganthack] Digital Web Magazine's feature, Visual Architecture, discusses the relation of image, word, and composition to suggest how to effectively communicate messages visually. The interaction of objects in a pyramidal composition carries a concept often used in painting over to design. The pyramid is used to convey stability while directing the eye around the corners of the composition. A classic example of this is Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks in the Louvre. Carole Guevin does a nice job of showing how to use triangular composition, dynamic placement, and color to achieve similar effects.

The anti user interface

The NYTimes Arts section is running this article about the art site which gives the public access to it's computer. What you really see is a directory listing of a *NIX machine, and when you follow a few links you are bombarded with pages that take you to different parts of this machine in fashion. Sites like these are about art not information provision, but they do challenge the idea of user experience on the web more boldly than just moving the home page link to the right side of the page.

MarchFirst latest casualty: Declares bankruptcy

[from The Standard] After months of speculation, failed Internet consulting firm MarchFirst last Thursday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A week earlier, the Chicago-based company sold its most valuable assets.

Looking for Metadata in All the Wrong Places

Ed Lehman discusses controlled vocabularies in this Webreference article. He makes the appropriate statement in saying that there is no off the shelf solution to satisfy everyone's needs. Knowledge representation for information retrieval is difficult work that ususally requires the work of humans. He does suggest strategies that are sound, one of which is to grow your controlled vocabulary over time.

CHI 2001: The state of Computer Usability

Computerworld covered the annual Computer/Human Interface (CHI) conference and reported back with this article, Experts: Computers slouching toward usability. The message from the conference was, software and hardware aren't nearly as usable as they should be. And more bluntly put, The devices we're forced to endure are crappy," said Donald Norman, president of in Deerfield, Ill., and author of The Design of Everyday Things (Doubleday, 1988). "Most human error is caused by design error." Well said. But will the word of Usability folks ensure careers for IAs?

2CE CubicEye

A colleague pointed me in the direction of the Cubic Eye, another new tool that attempts to render the web space in 3 dimensions. The search interface lets you view 5 URLs (as panels of an exploded cube) simultaneously. It appears that as you do a Web search in the center panel on a site like Google, the first sites would appear in the 4 adjacent panels.

Personalizing news content: Effects on society

The NYTimes interviewed law professor Cass Sunstein to talk about news filtering and effects on society. The discussion suggests some interesting ideas about democratization and the Internet, and Cass discusses the effects of getting personalized news -- which Nicholas Negroponte refers to as the "Daily Me".

TED review

New York Magazine's Michael Wolff reviews some recent conferences including Wurman's TED, since most of us are not C*O's or aren't wealthy enough to attend. If you are in this elite class. Good for you, don't tell anyone.

Cooper quickie

Caught this little blurb on Alan Cooper in Interactive Week.

Information design sighting: How the stud finder works

Came across these nice communication graphics in NYTimes' Circuits. When you get to the article, click on the picture with the caption, "Finding what lies beneath".

Figlet = ascii coolness

OK. I'm having one of those punchy early mornings. I had to post a link to figlet which I picked up from antenna.

The demise of "Clippy", the MS Paperclip

C|Net's ran this article confirming that Miscrosoft's Clippy has been handed its pink slip. MS has put up a mock site with Clippy's resume since it will be looking for a job. How cute, Microsoft [insert finger in mouth, follow with wretching sounds]. So why would MS axe the AI helper? Here's a quote: The campaign and a companion Web site trumpet Microsoft's forthcoming Office XP software as so easy to use that Clippy is out of a job. Hrmmmm. Or maybe, so many people were annoyed by Clippy that he was voted out like Survivor style. We'll be the judge of how easy to use Office XP turns out to be.

5k Award 2001: Voting time

5k Award time again. Submissions are in and it's time to take a look and vote. [Note: seems to be having some server problems as a result of the slashdot effect, so don't be surprised if their servers seem slow. Ironic isn't it?]

Call for papers: WebdevShare conference

The annual WebdevShare conference is the premier conference on the development and delivery of effective Web-based systems, geared specifically for professionals in higher education. The Fall 2001 conference will mark the sixth consecutive year of the conference on the Indiana University Bloomington campus. Call for participation information.


Have been using EQuill's IE toolbar to do screen annotation and screen capturing on my Usability reports lately. I have also read that they sell a server for checking in and out screens. Seems like it might be a good collaborative tool during Quality Assurance testing.

IT Accessibility 2001

IT Accessibility 2001: Ensuring Information Technology Access for People With Disabilities -- A two-day industry conference -- May 22-23, 2001 National Institute of Standards and Technology Gaithersburg, Maryland For more information about this conference, please see our website at You are invited to attend this new conference focusing on technology, as well as industry and government goals, challenges, and strategies for creating an environment with easy accessibility to Information Technology (IT) by people with disabilities, moving towards the ultimate goal of Universal Design and Accessibility. Leaders in information-technology accessibility from industry, academia and government will make presentations about their long-term strategies, goals, approaches, products, and projects, and how they plan to help improve IT accessibility. Featured conference speakers include executives, researchers, accessibility experts, and managers from Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, TRACE R&D Center, National Media Access Center (WGBH), Information Technology Assoc. of America (ITAA), National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), Dept. of Education, GA Tech Center for Rehabilitation Research, Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), Highway 1, Inclusive Technologies, Association of Tech Act Projects, Dept. of Justice, FCC, and The Benetech Initiative, and others. Planned Topics: - What are the Challenges and Motivations to the Industry? - Industry Perspectives - Long-range & Short-term - Legislative Trends - Section 508 Regulations - What Industry and Agencies are doing with respect to Accessibility - "I Have a Dream" - an Accessible IT Environment for the Future - Standards & Guidelines (including Digital Talking Books) - Educational Resources Available - Case Studies - Missteps (or ?What?s Gone Wrong in the Past?) - Exhibits on IT Assistive Technology Why You Should Attend: - To hear about the regulations and legislative trends - To learn from IT leaders and accessibility experts about: -- improved IT accessibility -- technical successes and problems -- current research in IT accessibility -- identifying future needs, markets, and capabilities -- the importance of accessibility in design - To gain an understanding of the issues and concerns of industry and users - To understand what is being done and what still needs to be done in IT accessibility - To communicate your needs and issues so they may be addressed - To establish valuable industry contacts To Register: Kimberly Snouffer, Phone: (301) 975-2776 Fax: (301) 948-2067 Email to: Online: Technical Contact: Leslie Collica, Phone: (301) 975-8516 Fax: (301) 975- 5287 Email to: For more information, see the conference website at

The curse of information design

Scott Jason Cohen posted this rant on A List Apart. Why is there so often an "Us" and "Them" attitude when it comes to IA and Usability versus Design? I don't think anyone should feel defensive of their turf when it comes to design. Just let your design speak for itself and hope that most of the integrity stays in tact if it demmands another iteration. Hopefully, you will have the IA informing the interface design and doing Usability testing along the way so you don't have to feel that your work was too butchered. Design on the web IS a multi-disciplinary effort. There is no reason why the different teams (Design, IA, Site Developer, Engineer) cannot work together with checkpoints along the way, instead of taking your design piece and hurling it over the wall to the next person.

Beef with the Usability Experts

Had to bring up this article that appeared in Web Techniques, February 2001 because it came up in an email exchange I had recently with a colleague. If this doesn't summarize the love/hate dichotomy with Usability people I don't know what does: What do these critics really know? Let them produce compelling work of their own rather than criticize others' work. Part of me just wants to ignore them. I want to ignore the certainty and finality of their arguments. I want to resist the idea that anyone really knows the right thing to do on the Web. . . . What I think Nielsen really wants us to do is right. We need to study user behavior and learn from the patterns that emerge. We can use this kind of learning to make sites better, which is really an endless design process. But remember what Larry Wall says about Perl programming—there's more than one way to do it. And I think that the last statement is right. There is more than one way to do things. We needn't sacrifice innovation at the hands of Usability. I think that's what a lot of people, creative designers and engineers alike, think when you refer to Usability recommendations. We get defensive and want to say, "You can't go by everything they say". But at the same time, we argue out of the other side of our mouths that we want to serve our users well, so we end up interpreting the the spirit of the Usability message -- often citing the current research to support decisions we make along the way. It is a struggle being an interface/user experience designer, and I often laugh at how I conceal what I've read in the Usability literature if it doesn't support the decisions I personally believe make sense for something and flaunt it when it supports another. As a sage septuagenarian friend of mine often said, "Such is life in the putty knife factory".