Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/03/2003 | The Job | His work: Watching people use the Web

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.

UCD / UX / IA Salary survey

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

Widgetopia - Over time, Christina has pulled together a heap o' widgets... interesting... a blog being used as a notebook... ...

link [Other Blog (Tom Smith)]

Experience People recruting firm

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.

What being user-centered means for UX professional groups...

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:

  • Lou Rosenfeld discusses how defining the damn thing is a waste of time. (Not) Defining the damn thing - Discussions of how we should label ourselves and define our work are like flu epidemics. They break out from time to time, follow a fairly predictable course, and often make us want to barf. [Boxes and Arrows] Update: Lou dropped a note to let us know that he wrote this article before Tog's article was posted. Still very applicable.
  • Mark Hurst thinks that usability professionals should disappear...that a good UX professional is invisible like a good interface - we just facilitate things. While the point that the whole defining the damn thing discussion is narcissistic and not user centered at all, the notion of a disappearing act seems naive - unseen functions become re-engineered functions.
  • Finally, and most interesting, is Beth Mazur's notion that the key need is not a new dedicated specialist organization (as Tog is proposing), but an umbrella organization to evangelize user experience with executives, analysts, government, and media. Her nominee: spin off AIGA-ED from AIGA.
    I completely agree - the Interaction Architecture Association is all well and good, as is a new Information Design professional group, if some people have their way. But they don't address the real reasons the UX disciplines are seen as tactical. It's not a branding problem. It's an understanding problem...and largely for UX professionals not understanding business, and not speaking to business on its own terms.
    An umbrella organization can address executives and other decision makers and influencers with language and messages tailored to those audiences, and educate practitioners about how to do the same. That's being user-centered, instead of navel-gazing terminology debates. That's something to get excited about. I hope it happens soon.
Maybe usability is rocket science, after all.

The Usability Engineering Team at NASA's Glenn Research Center have a site that offers help to teams adopting user centered design. Highlights include:

IT & Society special issue on Web Navigation

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.

HelloWorld - socially networked software

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.

This social computing brochure (2.5mb pdf for 3 pg doc?) concisely captures CoSi's ambition. The Reviewer's Guide (800kb pdf, 36 pages) provides more depth.

They have a market is the conversation discussion area with topics on social computing, their product, etc. (thanks Yarone)

Jakob's best Alertbox in a long time.

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.

Steve Krug Interview

Tom pointed to the since1968 interview with Steve Krug.

Moving beyond the Web as a single-user system

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.

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