Articles, essays, editorials, white papers

Gestalt theory and design

In Visual perception and design, Tanya points to some resources for Gestalt theory and design, including Luke Wrobleski's Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization in Boxes and Arrows, which I didn't see last week. Don't know how I missed that one. Last week must have been busy.

Practical Applications: Visio or HTML for Wireframes

By Jeff Gothelf in Boxes and Arrows.

    Design organizations inevitably run across the debate of Visio versus HTML wireframes. The decision for one over the other is never a clear-cut one since, as with all things IA-related, it depends. This article seeks to sort out the issues by describing the pros and cons of each and identifying situations where one may be more effective than the other.
Tips for contextual interviews from Adaptive Path

Mike Kuniavsky offers practical advice on running a "nondirected interview" in his latest: Face to Face With Your Users: Running a Nondirected Interview.

Collaborative Knowledge Networks

Gunnar pointed me to Deloitte Consulting report, Collaborative Knowledge Networks: Driving Workforce Performance Through Web-enabled Communities, which I'm reading today. (Warning, lengthy regisration process to download the PDF). A lot of research reports available there for free if you register. This one is helping me with a KM article I'm writing presently.

Introduction to XFML

Peter published an article on XML.com that describes what XFML is and how to use it. Nice work, Peter.

Making Cents from Information Architecture

Article on the value of IA by Alan K'necht in Digital Web.

When it comes to Web development, everybody has taken short cuts over the years. This holds especially true when working on low budget projects. One of the most costly short cuts is skipping the development of a sound and highly functional information architecture (IA). While this short cut may take several forms, failure to devote enough resources and to document it properly will cost the owner of the Web site more than just a few cents.

Boxes and Arrows: Interaction and interface

What is a Web Application? by Bob Baxley

What distinguishes a web application from a traditional, content-based website and what are some of the unique design challenges associated with web applications? A reasonable launching point is the more fundamental question, ?What is an application?

Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization by Luke Wroblewski

Visual designers working on the web need an understanding of the medium in which they work, so many have taken to code. Many have entered the usability lab. But what about the other side? Are developers and human factors professionals immersed in literature on gestalt and color theory?

Understanding Information Architecture

Christina pointed to this article in Online Journalism Review.

Most journalists who have made the jump to working online are familiar with the experience of being told by some black-clad San Francisco hipster that they're doing everything wrong. Jesse James Garrett lives in San Francisco, and admits to having a black-only wardrobe. What's more, he is an Information Architect, a member of a discipline that has a reputation for being a preserve of the hipper-than-thou. So it came as a bit of a shock when he told me that he thinks "journalism still has more to teach information architecture than information architecture has to teach journalism."

Questions Information Architects Ask (London, 11/02)

More questions IAs ask from Lou Rosenfeld's tour with NN/g. This set is from his London stop.

Transmedia convergence

Interesting article in Technology Review about storytelling and the convergence of assets across media to deliver and sell content in multiple markets.

[W]e have entered an era of media convergence that makes the flow of content across multiple media channels almost inevitable.

...

While the technological infrastructure is ready, the economic prospects sweet, and the audience primed, the media industries haven't done a very good job of collaborating to produce compelling transmedia experiences. Even within the media conglomerates, units compete aggressively rather than collaborate.

Business apps get bad marks in usability

ZDNet reports on research conducted by Forrester that is part of a bigger report the firm is publishing that evaluates software companies that sell enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

Forrester has found that even commonplace tasks can take 'inordinate patience' to carry out - and that adds up to big expenses for companies.

Up my street

The Guardian has a good review of the UK site Upmystreet.com, which allows people to seek information/services within a neighborhood by entering a postal code. The site has gone a step further by connecting people in within that locale as well. The ability to mix information seeking and interpersonal interaction seems like an interesting idea. When you consider that mobile devices will can be used to access services like this, new possibilities as well as new concerns are inevitable. Apparently there are some issues of privacy and safety, such as concern over the safety of children using the service. Nevertheless, a cool new way of making connections via locale.

Managing Section 508 testing

William T. Kelly on Builder.com offers tips for managing Section 508 testing.

Project managers, developers, and quality assurance staff who embark on testing the first Section 508-compliant Web development project are often breaking new ground. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 mandates that U.S. government agencies provide people with disabilities access to electronic and information technology. These tips will help you find the right testing methodology to ensure that your Web development project is Section 508 compliant and also meets your client requirements.

We're #5!

Christina pointed to Challis Hodge's informal survey of job titles that returned results on Google. IA is #5.

Adaptive design for weblog software

Matt Webb's blog about adaptive and evolutionary design makes good reading for anyone interested in those concepts as they apply to software architecture and application development. Matt Jones is also linking to the blog.

I posted a short blog about the software ecology of Drupal on the Drop blog -- I've been spending a good deal of time talking to Drupal developers lately. I talk a lot about evolutionary design because I work in the the temple of Unix and C and the software ecology within my organization reflects that. I have learned to respect the wisdom of programmers that have spent decades using very elegant tools that have been refined over time. Webb's vision of the software ecology reflects the same -- small code components and an abstraction layer that are evolved slowly over time. The idea is that applications are developed separately to serve individual functions very well. The ecology is characterized by the slow evolution of software whose features remain shallow. The adaptability comes in the form of interoperability of individual applications across the software landscape.

I think it's good to reflect on this description of software development so that we understand, as contributers to the software selection process, what to consider when choosing software. Vendors of various content and document management solutions sell the concept of a platform that will serve as the panacea for your enterprise knowledge and content management and communication needs, but more important than the pitch is to understand how the platform and component pieces will allow for your solution to grow with your needs. As Gunnar has remarked in the Drupal discussion, the proof is in the pudding -- the pudding being the development team and I might add in the core software functionalities and solutions addressed by your tools.

Ubiquitous WiFi

In death of warchalking John S. Rhodes says that warchalking is dead with the inception of the WiFi zone program, backed by the non profit WiFi alliance, which will be marking WiFi Zones with a sticker logo. These logos are to replace the chalk markings that the warchalking folks were chalking on WiFi zones after war walking through neighborhoods looking for internet access on mobile devices.

The interesting part of this discussion has to do with some observations and predictions made by John, who points to an article on Fortune Magazine about Bell Canada using payphones for WiFi access. The article says that the U.S. will probably follow suit. John thinks that people will want and pay for WiFi access everywhere. If base stations start showing up in pay phones, WiFi may be ubiquitous in large cities.

It's pretty close to ubiquitous in heavily trafficked and affluent areas of NYC already. Living in WiFi saturated NYC and usually armed with a PowerBook, I can say that after using my laptop in Starbucks, I agree I want it everywhere. But I don't necessarily want to pay a lot for it. Starbucks' T-Mobile hot zones charge a little much in my opinion. What will be interesting in the development of pay for play WiFi zones is how pricing shakes out. NYC already has some kind of deregulated pay phone structure where multiple companies compete to put pay phones on the street, which makes it possible for some people to hike up prices for pay phone use and others to offer lower charges. But with WiFi, if there are multiple base stations available in an area, I want to go with the one with the lowest rate, so I wonder if this will mean competition over WiFi users and competitive pricing? Who knows. It's not a reality yet for us, but is in the near future in one way or another.

Questions Information Architects Ask (New York, 11/02)

Lou posts the questions he received during th NN/g tour.

Margaret Hanley and I taught yet another round of IA seminars for the Nielsen Norman Group in November, these in New York City and London. As usual, we asked attendees to write down their burning IA questions on index cards. And as usual, we're sharing them with you below. These might be helpful if you're preparing an IA seminar yourself, or, if nothing else, they're an interesting snapshot of what folks were interested in during late 2002.

ROI and Professional Usability Testing

Charles Mauro of Taskz will be publishing the white paper, "Professional Usability Testing and ROI For Web-based Products and Services." on Taskz.com soon and has subjected the paper to informal peer review. The paper explores, in detail, on-line and traditional lab-based testing methods and their impact on ROI for mission-critical web development projects. If you would like to send feedback to Charles, please contact me and I will forward his email address to you or you can post comments here as well.

Patterns of Cooperative Interaction

Matt Mower's blog pointed to the Pointer site. I'm spending a little time reading the Patterns of Cooperative Interaction, which discusses patterns for cooperative systems.

Web-based Card Sorting for Information Architecture

Lou pointed to this paper about WebSort, a web-based application developed at Brigham Young University for card-sorting like IBM's EZSort.

We have devloped a web-based interface which allows designers to do electronic "card sort" studies. With it, designers can provide descriptions of features for which they'd like users to provide labels and to "sort" into categories. The results can be used to organize information and services access for "interface" design.

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