Interaction Design

Comparing left- and right-justified site navigation menus

A comparison between left- and right-justified site navigation menus - James Kalbach and Tim Bosenick have published the results of recent usability testing on the location of navigation menus.

The punchline is that there was no significant difference in task time between the two conditions. They conclude that we should rethink our devotion to left hand menus. I disagree - when there's no significance performance difference, then user expectations, de facto standards, and project goals should guide these decisions. I think that still leaves left-hand menus with the upper hand. (thanks Column Two)

One title to rule them all, one title to bind them....

Well, over on Beth Mazur's IDblog Dirk Knemeyer suggests that information design should assume a director role over all the other disciplines in a project and that IA isn't a discipline, but a tactical practice. Hope he wore asbestos undies ;-)

Seriously, I'm not sure that one can argue for ID, IA, or interaction design as the 'director' without also making the case for the other two disciplines. Experience Architecture or Design seems a better fit for said director role. I've said more to that effect in the comments on Beth's blog.

(thanks Gunnar)

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.

IA Tools - The Comic Book Edition

Dan Willis has done a great job distilling core IA tools into 1 page explanations complete with quirky characters. Fun, and hopefully useful in explaining what IAs can offer.

Data visualization through facets

Pointed out by Steve Mulder on SIGIA: Iokio has a demo of a product selection tool that uses different facets to choose a digital camera. Sliders allow the user to adjust cost, weight, and resolution with real time feedback on available models. Thanks to Joe, who discovered a direct link to their Camera Finder Demo.

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)

About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design

Robert Reimann joins Alan Cooper to create the sequel to a classic. The Cooper Newsletter has some notes about the new edition. About Face 2.0 is now preordering at Amazon...sure to be one of the year's best UX reads.

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.

Diagramming software

I've been reminded of AT&T Labs' GraphViz again, most recently by a Drupal developer who's writing code to draw diagrams from Drupal's database. Lately, my organization has been pushing to get reports of user data. The reports we get generated from our sysadmin are mostly raw dumps of data that have some columnar formatting. What we're looking at right now is using log files to auto-generate diagrams that show usage data. Should be fun. If you've done this sort of thing with GraphViz before I'd love to hear about your experience. I've downloaded the Mac OS X package and am learning the languages now.

Other semi-automated diagramming packages (gleaned from the Tulip site).

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?

What's your method for settling interaction design disputes?

In speaking with a few project managers recently while consulting the topic of what to do when there are disputes over UI designs arose. This seems to be a recurring theme with more and more people I speak with these days. It's the old too many chiefs not enough indians problem.

Surely extensive user tests and hard evidence can silence a lot of this talk, but what if you only have time to do "quick and dirty" UI tests? How have others handled this in the past? What if you don't have access to actual users of the product? What if the sample size for users is very low (1-2 people)

I'm interested to hear other people's experiences in this subject...

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.

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.

Year-end wrap-up

Must be that time of year, since two usability-related year-in-review pieces came out yesterday:

Both are actually fairly level-headed and practical. Most of these things should be common knowledge for most IAs, but it's nice to see them summarized (and, in Nielsen's case, illustrated). HFI also has footnotes to all the relevant research, which is very useful for those ubiquitous “I'm looking for research that supports my opinion that ...” questions.

Eat Me, Drink Me, Push Me

In Digital Web, Christina Wodtke excerpts chapter 8 of Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web. This is the chapter discussing how to take your content and tasks and define them in terms of the interface. Nice examples of how tasks might be translated into UIs.

P.S. That floor plan is the second floor of my house! I diagrammed it in OmniGraffle. :)

International Children's Digital Library: Facet browsing ZUI

Peter V. pointed to the IDCL browser, a Java application that offers an interface for browsing an ebook catalog. What's unique about the catalog is that it offers a type of zoomable interface for browing categories such as About (Subject), Genre, Setting, Characters, etc. Clicking one facet drills you deeper into that facet tree, that is to say, reveals the sub-facets/categories and/or reveals the items within that node in a tiny thumbnail results window at top that you can expand to review hits. Each term you pick -- terms are the end-points, the buttons that don't have further sub-division -- is added to your collection (on top of the worm graphic) to show that you've combined terms in your search. You can click on one of the terms in that area to remove it from your search. The results window shows how your search terms have narrowed your results.

You have to have the Java Virtual Machine plug in installed to use this application. To start browsing by facet, click "Find books in category".

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