October 18, 2007

Top 100 User Centred blogs

As the links says... Go read.

And for the lazy among you, here's the Top 10.

  1. Signal vs. Noise
  2. 456 Berea Street
  3. ./with Imagination
  4. Functioning Form
  5. This is Broken
  6. Adaptive Path
  7. Boxes and Arrows
  8. A List Apart
  9. UX Matters
  10. UX Magazine

June 19, 2007

Todoist

Maybe you're not as anal as me and don't have any need for crazy rock'n'roll things like todo lists. However, if by any chance you are then Todoist is what you need. Not only is it a very nice neat design, the interaction (via judicious use of ajax) is nigh on perfect. No click is left unacknowledged; no page leaves you wondering what you should click next; the help screen is always a single instant click away (as is most of it really).  You can add new lists, create sub-lists (via indenting), colour code, and even give every item a date (via a cunning little command based interface) which is all just lovely. There some screen casts to help you get started and a host of shortcuts, an api, gmail integration, mobile access etc etc etc.

Bye bye tadalists I have a new master now!

June 13, 2007

Apple goes Web 2.0

Another Apple post. Yawn....sorry, couldn't resist... Apple.com (US version) has gone all Web 2.0 and has been redesigned for the first time since 2000. The old Aqua look (which is still used on the current UK version of the site) has been replaced with this new future look, no doubt to coincide with the Lepoard release. Apple The top navigation has changed from the Aqua look to the new style. Everything is a lot darker - black background is now preferred. Navigating within the site you'll notice new menus such as the sideway scrollbar to flick through products, ala Cover Flow and the funky rollover/dropdown menus quite similar to what our Tom did on the old DU Studio. Best of all is the Live Web Search which works in the same way as Spotlight does on OS X Tiger, although a hell of a lot quick than Spotlight. All very neat and goes to show how little there is to differentiate between web and desktops these days. And yes, I do have an unhealthy obsession with Apple.

April 24, 2007

Understanding users, anywhere, anytime

Google lays out its Mobile User Experience strategy.

Which one are you?

A) Repetitive Now
The user is someone checking for the same piece of information over and over again, like checking the same stock quotes or weather. Google uses cookies to help cater to mobile users who check and recheck the same data points.

B) Bored Now
These are users who have time on their hands. People on trains or waiting in airports or sitting in cafes. Mobile users in this behavior group look a lot more like casual Web surfers, but mobile phones don't offer the robust user input of a desktop, so the applications have to be tailored.

C)Urgent Now
This is a request to find something specific fast, like the location of a bakery or directions to the airport. Since a lot of these questions are location-aware, Google tries to build location into the mobile versions of these queries.

Read more here.

Via Small Surfaces, a site that tracks articles about interaction design, user interface design, user experience, usability and social trends related to mobile devices.

March 07, 2007

Mobile Phones for OAP's

Why is this taking so long? Emporia Telecom (Austria) at the 3GSM congress in Barcelona showcased a phone designed to be used by old people. The handset they developed has no digital camera, Internet access or instant messaging capabilities, but it does include a button to call relatives or friends in an emergency, is compatible with hearing aids and can run on regular AAA batteries. None of the mainstream handset manufacturers has launched an oldies phone, but some appear to have recognised that enthusiasm for new products and flash handsets is not shared by everyone. This quote is pretty unbelievable: "Finnish manufacturer Nokia, which has a strong reputation for simplicity, has so far desisted from launching a special phone for the elderly" because their market research didn't show strong demand. Phone_old_people

Come in / Go away

This two-way doormat and door-hanger available from suck UK, feature a cleverly designed piece of typography that reads 'come in' or 'go away' depending from which side it is viewed. not a bad conversation starter... or stopper in some cases.

Go_big_1

March 01, 2007

Yahoo rubbishes Google usability

Logo_sm

"Poor usability is the main reason behind the limited adoption of Google's services such as Gmail and Google Talk"

An interesting comment from  Jeff Bonforte the Senior Director of Real-Time Communications at Yahoo!,which I would definitely challenge at first. However, I myself admit being one of those "dorks" or "geeks" he refers to who take up "anything new" and fight their way through the weird functionalities and freaky UIs, but to get something usable for the mainstream audience is much more difficult.

He also raises a very valid point on reducing functionality to make a product more useful, rather than adding more in; "As we take out features, it tends to do better with the mainstream users."

January 15, 2007

Undesigning the web

Loband_1 loband allows you to enter a URL and see the page in a text only version, stripping out all the design work! This is a useful tool for simulating how an audio screen reader or text only browser would render a page.  It should help avoid the major bad of paragraphs appearing in an unhelpful order once the styles have been removed.

Fangs1_3 Perhaps even better is the Fangs plugin for FireFox. Thi s is designed specifically to emulate an audio browser. As well as a pure text view (without even the basic formatting that loband provides) are two other screens which simulate the way a non-sighted user would skim-read a page.

Fangs2_2 The headings screen should give a good indication of the structure of a page, so that the user can jump to the section they want. Of course it depends whether the page has been correctly marked up with <h1>, <h2> tags, etc.

Fangs3_1 Another way that non-sighted users skim a page is to listen to the text of all the links in the page, so they can jump to the page they want straight away, without having to listen to the full text of any interim pages. Again, this depends on the quality of the link text. The worst case scenario here is a list of "click here"s, which meaning nothing when stripped of their context.

While these tools generally indicate shortfalls in content and in html markup, they also serve to highlight how import design is in providing secondary information to users.

December 21, 2006

Frustrated by door handles on doors you can't actually pull? Don't fret - call Usability Man!

To celebrate World Usability Day on November 14th , Flow Interactive unleashed their latest weapon in the struggle against loserbility.

Usability_man

A few of us from Orange were fortunate enough to meet UM back at his base in North London (can't divulge its location for obvious reasons though it does a nice pint of San Miguel).

UM's first day of battle included nasty skirmishes with tube ticket machines and an epic showdown with his arch-nemesis, ParkingTicketzilla.

Despite Flow's fairly lighthearted spin on World Usability Day, there's a serious point to it:

"World Usability Day 2006 promotes the value of usability engineering and user-centered design and the belief that every user has the responsibility to ask for things that work better. The Usability Professionals' Association is doing that by encouraging, organizing, and sponsoring 36 hours of activities at the local level around the globe, all occurring on November 14, 2006.

This Earth Day style event, focused on raising awareness and visibility of usability engineering and user centered design, is currently being organized by volunteers and local event coordinators from around the world. Whether a usability professional or just an enthusiastic (or frustrated) user, each participant is making a contribution to "making life easy".

The importance of usability is not trivial; it is connected to important everyday things such as education, healthcare and safety. Tools and systems that are usable are more effective in teaching students. Healthcare professionals can be more confident with safer and understandable tools providing better quality healthcare to their patients. Government institutions can rely on easy to use and understandable voting machines to insure accurate and democratic elections. Usable technology makes a difference to everyone, everywhere around the world."

See Usability Man in action by following this link!

"To Usability and Beyond!"

December 18, 2006

Google mapping is soooo 2005... get mapping reality, dude

I recently had the pleasure to visit the London leg of the Nielsen Norman Group rock'n'usability show.  If the names (Jakob) Nielsen and (Don) Norman are unfamiliar then I should explain that they are the prime proponents of usability during the last two decades and have seen fit to use their fame to further the cause of usability via this show. For more info, see http://www.nngroup.com/.

Anyway, for a discipline so obsessed with clarity and simplicity, I find its use of embarassing jargon most ironic. For example, one of the seminars I attended was  entitled "Getting from User Data to Design". I'd hoped this would be a practical tutorial to evaluating research feedback, spotting trends and applying it to the design process. This it achieved to some degree but not without trotting out some of the most jumped up jargon I've yet to hear in Usability Land.  Check out:

  • "Reality mapping" - process flows/storyboarding by another name.
  • "Experience Tree" - I quote: "An experience tree is a hierarchical, branching diagram that depicts the relationships between experiences, scenarios, situations, tasks and product features." Sounds cool but do they sell the seeds in my local Homebase? My garden could definitely benefit from an experience tree - I wonder if they yield fruits or nuts?

Anyway, you can probably tell I wasn't overwhelmed by these new techniques, but if your interest has been piqued check out "The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design" by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin.

Just try not to laugh if you hear me come out with any of these buzzwords in future meetings...

October 18, 2007

June 19, 2007

June 13, 2007

April 24, 2007

March 07, 2007

March 01, 2007

January 15, 2007

December 21, 2006

December 18, 2006

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