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Noise Between Stations
Off the top
Signal vs. Noise
Here's a zen question from the weird, wired world of the Web: Can there be an architect of something that will never exist in a three-dimensional form?
This is Ben Levin's zone.
His business card says 'User Experience Architect,' and the title isn't something cutesy dreamed up by a human-resource consultant who has been to too many motivational seminars.
In the Web world, this is a common job title in the field of usability - the interaction of humans and computers.
The article gets a few things wrong here and there but it's interesting nonetheless to see how our profession is depicted in lay terms.
There's a new salary survey that's open for participation until March 31, 2004 (The official announcement is available here). It's is focused on UCD & HCI but has a number of questions where Information Architecture can be selected, and it's fairly comprehensive in many other respects.
I think that it is beneficial for both practitioners and hiring managers to have accurate, realistic compensation information, and hopefully participating in this survey will help.
FYI, more salary and compensation info is available at the Salary Surveys page on the IAwiki.
Widgetopia - Over time, Christina has pulled together a heap o' widgets... interesting... a blog being used as a notebook... ...
Challis Hodge has launched the UX recruiting firm, Experience People, LLC.
Experience People (XP) is a specialty firm with a laser focus on recruiting Experience Design and User Experience professionals for intermediate to senior level executive positions.
XP works across industries matching the best companies with industry leaders in Design Management, Experience Planning, Creative Direction, Interaction Design, Information Architecture, User Research, Interface Design, Graphic Design and Academia.
Tog's initial branding argument for Interaction Architects has touched off a lot of discussion (even a mailing list dedicated to defining the damn thing). So far, it's generated a lot of heat and little light.
However, three more formal responses have been interesting:
The Usability Engineering Team at NASA's Glenn Research Center have a site that offers help to teams adopting user centered design. Highlights include:
On SIGIA, Dick Hill points out this journal. Edited by Ben Schneiderman, the Winter Issue of IT & Society was dedicated to Web Navigation and contains articles ranging from user frustration, to PDAs, to browser design.
Cooperating Systems released a downloadable version of HelloWorld this week. HelloWorld aims to create a platform for "social computing".
Alongside the chat, file transfer, personal publishing, HelloWorld displays geographic visualization of nodes in the network. I'm not sure what level of detail the visualization has - my own social network has multiple nodes close together. Not sure how well I can separate a cluster of 8 people in Edmonton at the level shown in the screenshots.
The advice on intranets and staff directories is useful in Jakob's latest piece Employee Directory Search: Resolving Conflicting Usability Guidelines. But that's not why I think it's the best Alertbox in recent memory. It's because it shows the complex and paradoxical issues that comes with any signficant design.
"It is very common to have conflicting usability guidelines. They are called "guidelines" rather than "specifications" for a reason: they are necessarily fuzzy because they relate to human behavior.
Interface design requires trade-offs. The challenge is in knowing how to balance the conflicting guidelines and in understanding what is most important in a given situation."
While he still suggests usability testing as the resolution to the guideline conflict (not always true), it's a refreshing dose of dogma-lite Nielsen.
Update: Christina's got an interesting take on why guidelines don't really help novices.
In the final issue of New Architect JJG's article All Those Opposed refutes common objections to a user-centered design approach.
There are some instances of Web sites that begin to have interaction that extends beyond the client/server model. Tag Board for weblogs is a subtle example of it. However, the Web itself remains a single-user system. Arguably, the Web becomes more valuable as a greater number of people use and contribute to it. We see the same in Web sites. And yet, the very same Web sites lack the ability to have direct discourse with other people who are looking at the same book at an e-commerce site at the same moment.