Wireless web market

From the LA Times: The Wireless Web Gains a Following Niche by Niche. It's catching on, as cellular phone users find that Internet access answers specific needs. In the US, use of WAP mobile phones are on the rise with 35-40% penetration. In Japan, with the popularity of the more sophisticated i-Mode phones, pentetration is at more than half the population. Problem is, the user interfaces of these phones are so unsophisticated that user adoption of the technology is not as fast as developers had hoped. Here's a few quotes from the article to illustrate this point: The wireless world is still waiting for its equivalent of the easy-to-use browser, which opened the Internet to the masses in the mid-1990s. It's also waiting for a way to simplify or eliminate the need for typing words out using a cell phone keypad--one of the top complaints about Internet phones. For example, sending a short "hi" requires tapping the "4" key two times for "H," then three more times for "I." Technologies such as predictive text software and voice-command systems are helping, but they have not yet solved the problem. ... "I just don't think they have the right platform. . . . Typing in URLs on a 10-key pad is very, very annoying, and it's very easy to make a mistake," said Barney Dewey, a consultant and wireless data expert with the Andrew Seybold Group. "It's a horrible implementation of an interesting idea."

Internet search engine update

Online Magazine had a roundup of the latest features added to the top Search Engines in it's March issue. Most interesting to me, since I am doing a lot of offline research (i.e. poring through Usability literature), is the approach that Altavista is taking with their Raging Search [ragingsearch.altavista.com]. It looks a lot like Google, but allows users to customize the search interface. I'd like to see the stats on this over the next few months.

Paper prototyping, Marc Rettig article

Am working on paper prototypes at the moment and came across Marc Rettig's prototyping for tiny fingers article, published in Communications of the ACM, Volume 37, Issue 4 (1994). The scan is pretty crappy but there are some gems there.

NIST Web Metrics Testbed 2.0 released

Release 2.0 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Web Metrics Testbed is now available. The following is downloadable:

  • Web Static Analyzer Tool (WebSAT 2.0) checks web page HTML against typical usability guidelines
  • Web Category Analysis Tool (WebCAT 1.1) lets the usability engineer construct/conduct a web category analysis
  • Web Variable Instrumenter Program (WebVIP 2.0) instruments a website to capture a log of user interaction
  • Framework for Logging Usability Data (FLUD 1.0) a file format and parser for representation of user interaction logs
  • VisVIP Tool (VisVIP 2.0) 3D visualizations of user navigation paths through a website
The future of Web design from one who knows it

Someone tell Jakob Nielsen to take a vacation. SilliconValley.com posted this short Q&A session with Nielsen to discuss the future of Web design. If anything could drive me away from wanting to design usable sites and start using Flash for everything, it would have to be the omnipresence of the word of Jakob. The resonance of his words start to resound in one's mind like a mechanical buzz. He's as ever present these days as the Energizer® bunny. Too bad he doesn't stick as well as catchy shaving cream jingle... "Byyyyyy Mennen® [Buy Mennen]."

Information Architecture jobs

ACIA has created a new section of its site that indexes information architecture jobs posted on one of the large Web job placement services.

ASIST 2001 Summit Summary

Information Today has a nicely written summary of the ASIST 2001 Summit, by Alice Klingener. I haven't been to an ASIS conference since I was in Library School in 1997, mainly because they have been known to cover very obscure areas of information retrieval research. After hearing about this renaissance of ASIS and reading about all of the interest in IA, I'm sorry I didn't get to this one.

Using Library School Skills at a Dot-Com

Information Today is running this article about Paul Blake, a Librarian turned Dot Commer who confesses that in his most recent job in the Web space, "I used the skills I learned at library school more than I had for the preceding 15 years." Blake describes how professionals with information retrieval skills -- experience with classification and information structure -- add value to the Internet.

Corporate Websites Get a "D" in PR

In this alertbox entry Nielsen and Coyne observe journalists information-use behaviors to come up with recommendations for designing usable Press areas on corporate Web sites. The information behavior of the journalists they studied turned out to be predictable. They can be characterized by the need to get information quickly and to get direct access to names and contact information for real people not generic email addresses. Also obvious, but somewhat troublesome, was the fact that journalists in their study worked in PC environments where formats such as PDF were non-standard. Yet another argument from Nielsen that calls for the necessity of dumbing down your technology to meet the lowest common denominator.

The Psychology of Menu Selection

[picked up from SIG-IA] Kent L. Norman's 1991 book, The Psychology of Menu Selection: Designing Cognitive Control at the Human/Computer Interface is available online. Note that the online version is a pre-publication draft.

CHIBLOG 2001

The unofficial just in time web log for the CHI conference: http://www.chiblog.org/. Kind of a neat idea.

Real world usability rules

On the other side of the usability coin is practical usability -- the kind where one considers the spirit of a rule and makes informed judgements on their own. A good summary of how to interpret the usability gurus is on Christina Wodtke's elegant hack in an entry titled, "The Rules". I think that the usability evangelists like Nielsen make statements that tend to sound like laws, but that they might argue that the rules based on their research are meant to be broken when logic indicates that some bending is needed.

Adobe Gallery: Valerie Casey on the other side of usability

Here is an interesting quote in an interview with one of Adobe's featured designers: Casey: Current practice is overrationalized and focuses too deeply on task analysis, and not enough on empathy. I think that now, Web design has really crossed over to another point. I think that usability was a hot issue, and it's fading because people are getting used to computers. Now all of a sudden, the focus isn't "we aren't meeting our usability standards." Now it's "what kind of cool user experience can we make that has motion and user interactivity?" And on the next page... Adobe: So is there no place for the Jakob Nielsens of the world? Casey: I think that usability is dead. How's that for bold!

Usability.gov

Usability.gov, provided by the National Cancer Institute has an extensive offering of news and resources including self-published reports such as their Usability Guidelines & Checklists document.

Search usability

Been working with a team that is assessing usability of database search pages using a Web interface. Thought it migt be helpful to capture the current literature we are referring to. Have any other suggestions that you have used and find valuable? Nielsen/Norman Group. "Search: Design Guidelines for E-Commerce User Experience". -- $45, I would say it is worth it to buy this. Nielsen, Jakob. "Search and You May Find". Spool, Jared. "Web site usability: A Designer's Guide". -- 1997 study that tested 7 sites for usability issues -- one of the sections is search.

Waking up to Good Design

Cooper Interactive's March newsletter includes this article by Tony Zambito on the flood of media attention being paid to the importance of good design and ease of use. With the too many product choices floating around, companies are beginning to build an "increased awareness of customer needs and goals are helping to ensure lower-risk product releases." Zambito suggests that with all this attention, designers should step back and review some key questions that will tell you whether you are on the track to producing a product that meets user's needs and ensures a good user experience -- that increases the probability that your product or service will be universally hailed and widely adopted.

New feature on iaslash: News filter

I've added a News filter page that lists the places I go daily to look for IA, HCI and usability articles and resources. Includes some headlines from news sites, and canned searches on sites like findarticle.com. You can find the link to News filter in the right column of iaslash under "Recommended reading".

Mac OSX

I got my Mac OS X final release disks from the UPS guy yesterday. Whoa I can start having fun with my mac again. It's like having a completely new computer and still having my trusted Mac apps available -- although I may be abandonning them when OS X versions become available. Right now I'm spending my time on macosx.com and stepwise.com to figure out how to install tomcat (to serve jsp) and mysql. I hope to have Apache's Coccon as well. Personally, I like having to learn a new interface, and I like the Black Cave terminal window. It is a boon to power users to be able to run stuff like shell scripts and stuff. In the end we'll all be using Unix. As a Bell Labs person, I hope to see the day when this really becomes true, and when using Micro apps becomes more of an alternative than the standard. The NYTimes had an article on OS X today, written by David Pogue of course.

Information Architecture standards?

This site may be one to watch. As far as I can tell from SIG-IA, someone has taken it upon himself to create a group to develop some sort of standards or best practices for Information Architects. IAStandards.org's mission, iastandards.org was created as a center for awareness, coordination, and focusing of the efforts of members of the Information Architecture community interested in the development of open standards for information architecture and related aspects of web development. Topics to be explored include notations, processes, and tools to support the increasingly complex work of the profession. This site aims to give direction to the enthusiasm, shown recently in mailing lists and at conferences, of practicing Information Architects discovering their common connections and challenges while seeking collective enlightenment. Additionally, this site is intended to serve as an open laboratory for exploring IA-related topics in site development. Thus, as the site evolves, artifacts and processes used in its development should serve as real-world examples of common IA best practices. This should be interesting. Currently the bulk of the discussion on this site is focussing on the label "Standards".

Informatica: Faster alerting from post-usage data analysis tool

I found this article on Interactive Week interesting because our programming staff has been working on using clustering to pre-filter data before it is indexed. We have not looked at data analysis from post-transaction perspective before, except in doing log analysis using WebTrends and some visualization tools, but the concept of doing more granular data analysis with a tool like Informatica is compelling. Informatica, while focussed on commerce/financial side of transactions also integrates with other CRM data. "Connectors already exist between PowerCenter 5 and PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel Systems Enterprise Resource Planning applications, which contain customer relationship data. The $200,000 PowerCenter software may also receive eXtensible Markup Language-tagged data or clickstream data and send it to an analytical application." Apparently, with the acquisition of Zimba, now it will also send alerts via the Internet or mobile devices.