Navigation

Ambient Findability

Peter muses on findabilty in the coming era of ambient interfaces/devices employing nanotechnology and wireless Internetworking.

IA, usability, controlled vocabularies, findability and more.

Digital Web Magazine interviews Jeffrey Veen and Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path and Christina Wodtke writes about using controlled vocabularies to improve findability in Mind your phraseology!

Breadcrumbs -- Good or bad?

InfoDesign points us to Website Structural Navigation, a test of the usefulness of breadcrumb navigation. To spoil the ending:

“The impact is clear—navigation bars are good, but more so for advanced users than novice ones. For large websites, they are invaluable.”

While I'm encouraged with the results, something about this study rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's the problems mentioned at the bottom of this page that seem like they could skew the results. Maybe it's the fact that users are probably more likely to navigate within a small section (i.e. from Fishing > Trout Fishing to Fishing > Carp Fishing to Fishing > Magazines) than jump from one section to something totally different (i.e. High School Cross Country to Fishing). Maybe it's the fact that breadcrumbs never stand alone, and work best in conjunction with other links. (In the Yahoo example, the bolded Yahoo! Sports link is much more prominent than the breadcrumbs, and I'd be willing to wager that, even when the breadcrumbs appeared, more people would select the Yahoo! Sports link than the Home > Recreation > Sports link.)

So, though the results will provide “proof” for those who seek to back up their belief that breadcrumbs are useful, there are enough flaws for the anti-breadcrumb lobby to jump on.

Serving suggestion: With grain of salt.

Endeca

This has been mentioned on peterme, but not here, so I thought I'd say a little something about it.

I got a card in the mail yesterday extolling the benefits of Endeca and their “Guided Navigation (SM).” Sounded like another company coming up with a proprietary term for a common technique. And, well, basically, it is.

“Guided Navigation (SM)” is faceted classification. They clean it up a bit, expose the facets in an intelligent way, and have an integrated search, but don't let their service marked slogan make you think they've invented something new.

What they do have, however, is probably the best explanation of faceted classification I've seen, and since many have mentioned the need for a simple FC example/tutorial (CrocoLyle, Parallax), I thought it was relevant. If you already understand FC and can explain it well to others, well, this is probably old news to you.

Their Flash demo with narration (also available without narration) is an easy-to-understand description of FC, applicable for developers, IAs, and business people, and it'd probably even pass the mom test too. (It's also a great example of a good use of Flash.)

I'll probably use the demo because it explains faceted classification at a high level better than I can, but I'll make sure to mention that the idea certainly is not proprietary, and there are other technologies and systems (i.e. FacetMap, Flamenco) that can do the same thing.

Search:

Look Before You Ask by David Wertheimer talks search on Digital Web Magazine:

    "Let search remain to maximize your site's usability, but tone down its presentation just enough to encourage a click or two. The goal is not to eliminate search as an option, but to expose the audience to an alternate, and possibly superior, mode of site navigation."
Amazon Light

Amazon Light is a Googlesque search interface using Amazon Web Services. Nice.

Thanks, Matt

In Defense of Search

Peter Morville takes Jared Spool to task on Spool's advice to keep users from using search because it stinks.

[T]o encourage taxonomy design at the expense of search system design is a bad message to be sending in today's web environment.

In the article in Digital Web, Peter says corporations do not invest enough in developing search systems. Peter has noticed in his engagements that corporations are spending lots of money on taxonomy and not enough on search. This is due in part because taxonomy is all the rage, but maybe also because people like Jared are panning search.

Improving Usability with a Website Index

The librarian (can I say that?) in me is pleased with Fred Liese's article in B&A on using indexes (the alphanumeric kind) on websites.

mc.clintock maps contents of house

Christina pointed to mc.clintock, which has mapped the contents of a house using floor plans to navigate by room and showing photos and illustrations of furniture. Clicking on furniture allows you to navigate to screens showing the contents of that furniture. Wow, what an incredible inventory of stuff! I would have liked if the floor plans labeled at least some of the rooms (study, bedroom), though. It's hard to tell from the initial page what's what until you cursor over a region. Here's an example from a series of floor plans I did of my house using OmniGraffle. I don't think I'll inventory any of my house's contents though.

Marti Hearst on Information Visualization

Peterme interviews Marti Hearst, professor in the School of Information Management Systems at UC Berkeley, on the topic of Information Visualization. They discuss the success and future of the field pointing out specific examples of applications that have and have not worked and why.

Magical numbers: the seven-plus-or-minus-two myth

Jean-Luc Doumont denounces the 7plus or minus 2 myth in this article (available from IEE as a PDF, membership required) in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. Doumont calls the myth a conventional absurdity that most people cite out of context.

Most interesting to me is Doumont's identification of this detail quoted from George Miller's paper in Psychology Review, "For memory, a chunk of information is loosely defined as, precisely, one of those items that the immediate memory can hold up to seven of. As Miller puts it, “The span of immediate memory seems to be almost independent of the number of bits per chunk”

Jean-Luc Doumont denounces the 7plus or minus 2 myth in this article in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. Doumont calls the myth a conventional absurdity that most people cite out of context because they've heard it somewhere. The article reviews George Miller's original article in Psychology Review to put it in perspective.

Most interesting to me is Doumont's identification of this detail quoted from Miller, "For memory, a chunk of information is loosely defined as, precisely, one of those items that the immediate memory can hold up to seven of. As Miller puts it, “The span of immediate memory seems to be almost independent of the number of bits per chunk." The crux of Miller's message is that "Our capacity for processing information and, specifically, our span of unidimensional absolute judgement is severely limited. To communicate effectively, then, we should take this limitation into account and, rather than attempting to quantify it."

Miller proposes that there are various devices one can use to get arround this limitation of the mind. One such device is to arrange the task in such a way that we make a sequence of several absolute judgments in a row. The example Doumont gives is recoding bits into chunks to expand our span of short term memory. Given the two groups of items below, if the 3x3 list of items is meaningfully chunked, it will be easier to process than the 9 item list below:

    * item
    * item
    * item
    * item
    * item
    * item
    * item
    * item
    * item   * item
    * item
    * item

    * item
    * item
    * item

    * item
    * item
    * item

What I took away from the article was that some visually presented depth helps the mind to deal with a broad list that might be harder to hold in memory. Doumont goes on to describe attributes of smaller integers, which was interesting, but was not of any practical use to me.

XML feed