PC Magazine's "Top 100 websites"

PC magazine's editors have announced their top 100 websites of 2000. They've picked the sites in ten categories, tested for design, performance, security, and usability.

Nielsen on Usability: Testing Goes Against Japanese

On a stop along the Usability World Tour Nielsen gets to discuss design and usability in Japan and discovers that the idea of usability testing is at odds with Japanese culture, "... in which invention must be instantly successful or it is cast away and forgotten." Read more about it in this article on InternetWorld.

ACIA White Paper: Extracting Value from Automated Classification Tools

Argus has posted a white paper discussing automated versus human versus hybrid automated/human processes for taxonomic control. My money is on the hybrid approach.

Available: http://argus-acia.com/white_papers/classification.html

Back to the Drawing Board

Article on the current state of design and usability in today's environment of information devices. Focusses on the Web and the analysis of common reasons for its usability problems, according to Nielsen/Norman and Cooper.

Here's a quote from the article that rings a familiar bell -- which is no surprise considering who was interviewed:

"All the experts agree on basic goals: Devices and interfaces need to be made simpler; the interface or Web site should closely match the task the user wants to accomplish; the brains of the device should work to adapt to the user and the task, not vice versa."

Available: (http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/stories/news/0,4164,2690660,00.html)

Creating Usable Systems

The mantra of this Nielsen, Coyne usability article focussed on IT applications is "Implement truly usable systems and you'll minimize the cost of training and support."

Available: http://www.idg.net/crd_usability_453048_102.html

IA Salaries and Benefits

Argus has updated their survey of Salaries and Benefits for Information Architects on January 24, 2001."For a bunch of youngsters, we're compensated decently, don't put in ridiculous hours, don't have to travel too much... And apparently our employers don't require too much experience. So who wouldn't want a job as an information architect?"

Thinking aloud

These articles are not new (Sep. 2000), but I came across them because I was looking for information on using the "thinking aloud" method when doing user tests. The two articles are "Thinking aloud: reconciling theory and practice" and "Thinking aloud as a method for testing the usability of Websites: the influence of task variation on the evaluation of hypertext". It's nice to read research literature rather than the weblogs and news sites sometimes so you can read the cited literature. If only the references in IEEE's PDF's linked to the documents on the web somewhere. Now, that would be something.

Available: Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on Volume: 43 Issue: 3 , Sept. 2000

Testing 1-2-3

This article on The Standard talks about the advantages of doing usability testing on the cheap. Discusses cost-effective uses of early stage paper prototype testing, task-oriented testing, and statistics analysis.

Available: http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,22338,00.html

Cost-effective User Centred Design: Web site design

This article by the TRUMP project describes a user-centered process for building Web sites. This article is one of a collection that describes simple user-centred methods recommended by the TRUMP project to improve the usability of end products and systems.

Available: (http://www.usability.serco.com/trump/methods/webdesign.htm)

The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DMCI) site goes live

OCLC has moved the Dublin Core information to the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DMCI) site.

"The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative is an open forum engaged in the development of interoperable online metadata standards that support a broad range of purposes and business models. DCMI's activities include consensus-driven working groups, global workshops, conferences, standards liaison, and educational efforts to promote widespread acceptance of metadata standards and practices."

Available: http://dublincore.org/

Controlled Vocabularies Resource Guide

Queensland University of Technology site maintained by Michael Middleton "...links to examples of thesauri and to classification schemes that may be used for controlling database or WWW page subject content. It also provides links to descriptive and critical material about such metainformation."

Available: http://www2.fit.qut.edu.au/InfoSys/middle/cont_voc.html

Are Users Stupid?

Jakob Nielsen strikes the familiar chord that design should not stand in the way of use and posits that design complexity, not users -- stupid or sophisticated -- is what keeps Web sites from being usable. Nielsen believes that as the Internet grows and reaches broader segments of the population, usability will become even more important to those wishing to keep from excluding these users.

Available: http://useit.com/alertbox/20010204.html

Software for Information Architects

From Peter Morville's Strange Connections column on Argus CIA. Looks at current tools for IAs.

Available: http://argus-acia.com/strange_connections/strange011.html

CHI conference 2001

The annual CHI conference is coming March 31 - April 5, 2001 to Seattle, WA.

"The annual CHI conference is an international forum for the exchange of ideas and information about human-computer interaction (HCI). Sponsored by Diamond Bullet Design, Microsoft Corporation, and Sun Microsystems, the conference enables diverse members of the global HCI community to meet and discuss topics including portable, wearable, and wireless computing; internalization and implications of culture on design; and theoretical foundations of HCI Devices and display systems."

Available: http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi2001/

A divided approach to Web site design: Separating content and visuals for rapid

Jeanette Fuccella (Human Factors Engineer) and Jack Pizzolato (Web Site Designer), both at IBM, have posted this paper on how to overcome obstacles in the site development cycle by separating content and visuals using wire frames.
Abstract from the paper:

    "A well-designed Web site fuses great content and effective visuals, among other elements. Ironically, integrating these elements too early in the design process can mask problems that might otherwise be detected early, and lengthen the design cycle. This paper describes a way to shorten your design cycle by getting focused, early user feedback on the different layers of your design."
Available online: http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/library/wireframe/wireframe.html

Boxes and Arrows: Defining IA Deliverables

Christina Wodke of Carbon IQ gives an excellent overview of the seven most common deliverables that Information Architects are, to varying degrees, responsible for.

We may use different names for each deliverable, but the concepts are universally applicable. They are: 1) Conceptual model, 2) Content inventory and organization, 3) User flows/scenarios, 4) Task analysis, 5) Site map, 6) Page architecture (Wireframes), and 7) Decision tables.

Available online: http://www.webmasterbase.com/article.php/326

ASIS&T 2001 Summit, Feb 3-4: Reflections and Projections Panel

Peter Merholz has posted notes from the "Reflections and Projections Panel" of the 2001 ASIS&T Summit 2001. "At the ASIS&T 2001 Summit on "Practicing Information Architecture," I had the pleasure of sitting on the Reflections and Projections Panel with Andrew Dillon, Andrea Gallagher, and Alison Head, where we were tasked to discuss "the past, present, and future of information architecture." (P. Merholz) Available online: http://peterme.com/asis/2001summit_intro.html

Presentations from ASIS Summit 2001

Presentations from ASIS&T Summit 2001: "Practicing Information Architecture".

Available online: http://www.asis.org/Conferences/SUMMITFINAL/index.html

webreference review: "Designing Easy-to-use Websites: A Hands-on Approach to

webreference review of the book "Designing Easy-to-use Websites" by Vanessa Donelly, from ibm's ease-of-use division. the review summarizes Donnely's thesis and includes an annotated list of usability tips excepted from the book.

"Jakob Nielsen has one. Jeffrey Veen has one. Steve Krug has one. Even Andy King has one. What the heck am I talking about? A usability checklist of course. These usability heuristics are guidelines for more usable sites and the big names in usability these days all seem to allude to lists they use (Jakob's is reportedly over 220 items long). The newest entry into the usability derby is IBM's Vanessa Donnelly. We review her new book Designing Easy-to-use Websites."

Available: http://www.webreference.com/reviews/easy/2.html

Interview with Vanessa Donelly available: http://www.webreference.com/interviews/donnelly/index.html

Why You Need to Test Your Web Site with Real Users

webreference.com article suggesting how to conduct user testing.

"Usability isn't sexy, but it certainly is becoming hot lately. With the mainstream press (U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 15, 2001) featuring cover stories on simplicity over complexity, you know it has arrived. Developers are learning that simple and streamlined are in, and complex and feature-laden are out. Just look at the Mac, or the Palm pilot, these products are models of elegance and simplicity. Lois Wakeman looks at various ways to assess your site's usability. Learn how to improve your site's usablility by testing real-live users."

Available: http://www.webreference.com/authoring/design/usability/testing/2.html