Articles, essays, editorials, white papers

Teaching taxonomies: a hands-on approach

If you happen to have a Montague Institute membership, you might want to check out this article (full text with screenshots only available to members) discussing how to get a diverse team of professionals thinking about taxonomies. The full article features some excellent examples from their learning lab that show how taxonomies can be utilized in enterprise applications, e.g. email, contacts, document management, taxonomy management. Their taxonomy administration UI and user-facing UI are excellent examples. If you attend one of their sessions, apparently, you get to work with the apps in the learning lab.

Ten Taxonomy Myths

The Montague Institute offers ten myths that need to be dispelled before embarking on a taxonomy project. They've got a *really* broad definition of taxonomy (think "classification system") but the myths are still useful to deflate before your client or boss goes taxonomy-happy.

How to create a Controlled Vocabulary

Over at Boxes and Arrows, Karl Fast, Fred Leise, and Mike Steckel deliver a great "how-to" tutorial on creating controlled vocabularies. It's one thing to talk about how great CVs are, it's even better to show how to build them.

Card-based Classification Evaluation method

Donna Maurer shares her technique for evaluating classification schemes over at Boxes and Arrows. Ten minutes from twenty users means that it's pragmatic, and it addresses classification specifically, instead of being part of a prototype with other issues to evaluate. Here's what you need to do this kind of evaluation:

  • A proposed classification system or proposed changes to an existing system. Some uncertainty, mess, and duplication are OK.
  • A large set of scenarios that will cover information-seeking tasks using the classification.
  • A pile of index cards and a marker.
  • Someone to scribe for you.

Looks great - thanks Donna!

A day in the life of BBCi Search

A glimpse behind the scenes for a site that should get as much attention as Amazon for the content producing crowd. BBC is doing a lot of innovative things, and more importantly, the process behind the innovation gets shared on a regular basis.

What-ML? Sorting out the extensible markup/metadata jungle.

Web Reference has sorted various flavors of XML in their very useful XMLMap™ including links to related articles. Like What's in a topic map? - explains topic maps and introduces ontologies. (thanks pixelcharmer)

History of Interaction Design

Marc Rettig is amazing. His history of interaction design (3.3mb pdf) is still something I'm unpacking (and will be for a couple more weeks).

At the core is the progression of interaction design as a practice focused on operating the machine, to using the software, to accomplishing a task, to pursuing experience, to making connections, and (in the future) to dynamically enabling opportunities. Along the way, he offers areas of concern for interaction design, from strategy to screen design. And he offers a model for user experience. All in one densely packed presentation. It's worth the download, even on dialup. (thanks PeterV)

iSociety "Mobiles in everyday life" debate

iSociety "Mobiles in everyday life" debate - Matt's (very) rough notes from last night's launch of the iSociety report into "mobiles and everyday life"

The 56 page pdf report is based on ethnographic observation of UK mobile users and can be downloaded for free.

Theories of Experience

Jodi Forlizzi is a pioneer for emotion, design, and experience. Her own experience framework and her distillation of other theories of experience should be read by all UX practitioners.

Closing the loop between theory and practice can be a challenge - we can catch glimpses of implication for Folizzi's framework in her portfolio and she also teaches a studio class for Carnegie Mellon's interaction design program. (thanks brightly colored chad) Progress Report has published a progress report detailing feedback they've received from users of the redesigned site and discussing progress they're making towards resolution of outstanding problems. They've been hit with a lot of complaints from Apple Safari users since they launched.

We have received a tremendous volume of feedback on the new experience. Your collective feedback has been thoughtful and detailed, and is helping to improve the experience.

Do Productivity Increases Generate Economic Gains?

Jakob Nielsen tackles the question Do Productivity Increases Generate Economic Gains? I've been thinking about this because of this article: Time saved—a misleading justification for KM

It makes sense to save the user's time, but the justification of the Knowledge Management system ultimately has to be demonstrated by better decisions and improved performance.

Why? Because users satisfice at the typical 20-25% mark for information seeking, no matter how successful they are. Because of that, making the time = value equation may be too simplistic, as illustrated here. (Shockwave required, not recommended for dial-up)

There are some interesting thoughts on activities that don't fit traditional models for ROI. But in all of this, I wonder if the industry's focus on ROI is neglecting the users' perspective? What's in it for them? What about the users' Return On Experience? (the User ROX ;) It's only when a project generates ROI for the business, and 'ROX' for the users that it truly creates sustainable value.

3 approaches to intranets

Digital Web's IAnything Goes column tackles three approaches to intranets. Knowledge Management, Collaboration and Communication, and Task Completion are suggested as three popular and valuable intranet uses.

Why you need your very own taxonomy.

Tom Smith has a great introductory article on Why You Need Your Own Taxonomy. Useful for explaining taxonomies and facets to management or clients.

Banking redesign case study

frog design has a case study about goal-oriented navigation and small iterative usability tests applied to redesign Credit Suisse private banking.

Wireless conceptual designs from Motorola and frog

Arstechnica linked up to a page showing concepts for devices that create a Personal Area Network. It's a new design challenge to create the interface for a federation of devices...and even more so for the applications used by those devices. Wireframes work fine for page design - what lo-fi tools work for glasses + audio + pda + wrist display? I guess we'll find out.

Design Research: Why you need it.

From the latest Cooper Newsletter: Steve Calde has a good summary of the necessity of design research from a business perspective. Not a lot new here, but a nice way of putting things for those who need to convince clients, managers, or others of the value of design research. thanks Ben

Exapanding on the Elements of User Experience.

Just over one years old, Boxes and Arrows continues to kick out great content. This week we have Expanding the Approaches to User Experience by George Olsen. Here George takes Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience diagram (PDF) and expands upon it to include interactive multimedia. It's an interesting read, I'm sure to be a bit controversial, but I think he makes some good points. I'd love to hear what others think about this.

Vocabulary, taxonomy, thesaurus, ontology and meta-model

Woody Pidcock of the Boeing company gives an excellent overview of the differences between a vocabulary, a taxonomy, a thesaurus, an ontology, and a meta-model on He summarizes the differences as such:

    Bottom line: Taxonomies and Thesauri may relate terms in a controlled vocabulary via parent-child and associative relationships, but do not contain explicit grammar rules to constrain how to use controlled vocabulary terms to express (model) something meaningful within a domain of interest. A meta-model is an ontology used by modelers. People make commitments to use a specific controlled vocabulary or ontology for a domain of interest.

Thanks, Matt Webb.

Location-based interaction design

Wired News reports on using a Bluetooth wireless enabled cell phone to interact with an Apple Powerbook. The interesting thing is using existing devices (the phone) to extend the interaction possible with the computer, rather than relying on yet another gadget. Examples from the article include controlling Keynote/PowerPoint presentations, or locking/unlocking the computer based on leaving or sitting down.

The implication is that design for mobile/wireless isn't just about tiny screens and impoverished keypads, as so many assume - it's about interaction with connected devices, connected services, and with movement through space. This might seem a no-brainer, but it certainly requires new thinking and techniques in addition to our traditional IA toolbox. Marc Rettig's Designing for Small Screens 1.4MB PDF touches on some of this, but I still think we've got a huge amount to learn about mobile user experience.

Designing Contact Forms

A practical application of captology (persuasive technology) is encouraging site visitors to contact the company. Miles Burke tackles design for contact forms and provides useful thoughts on getting more feedback and interaction from site visitors.

The rest of SitePoint's usability section is well worth browsing.

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