January 11, 2002

When you want to be a millionaire, you use Google
It's not a surprise, but more validation of something I've known for at least a few years: that Google is the best search engine out there.

"Google is so fast and accurate, it is used by millions of viewers of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Google's statistics show spikes in usage after each question." -- from an article in USA Today.

It's also worth pointing out that it's not JUST Google's technology that makes them the best --it's their design. Their interface, speed, accuracy and pure utility have all been "baked into" their design. The technical stuff (e.g. server farm) is just there to support the design.

Note that while some engines like Norhern Light are conceding that web advertising doesn't work, Google is proving that a better design can work. And it can provide something that both users and businesses want. In the last year I've probably clicked on more ads in Google's search results than on all other web sites combined...and I find stuff I like and need...therefore I click again in the future. Google doesn't annoy me with animation, popups or other trickery. They don't imply that the content I want is less important than some stupid banner ad that says "punch the monkey and win!". Rather, they deliver relevant ads with real content and build my trust.

Can you say "best practice"? I thought you could.

How would you feel if Google just vanished tomorrow? I think I'd feel like I lost a leg.

January 10, 2002

Buy our products and make us rich
A small software shop called OmniGroup uses a pretty catchy tone on their web site to get a leg up on the competition. The tone makes you want to buy their products because they are a small, likable company -- not some big faceless corporation. It's a great example of a small firm differentiating their brand image through the tone of writing on their site. Check out Peter's post that shows some of the text. Note you have to scroll down a bit.

Too bad they only develop Mac software. I'm just not cool enough for a Mac.

January 09, 2002

Excuse me, your Johnson & Johnson is showing...
Maybe I should have named this post "crappy mega-company-site-o-the-day". Johnson & Johnson is #57 in the Fortune 500 according to Hoovers Online, but could their corporate home page suck any more?

Why would a designer say "let's bombard our customers and potential investors with no less than nine, yes *9*, drop-down navigation boxes"? Notice that some drop-downs only have one choice -- why not just use a simple link?! I suppose someone said something about "we have to be consistent for usability's sake", bastardizing the precepts of User Interface Engineering like a religious zealot quoting scripture out of context. Also note that the "Company websites" drop-down has 368 options in it!!!! This has got to be some kind of nightmarish UI record. See the linkable list of web sites for a sense of the number of sites in the drop-down. (Scroll down to see the full list.) Evidently they need to learn the concept of "Information Architecture".

Oh, did I forget to mention the auto-scrolling Java applet for news headlines? I love it when sites determine how fast I can read, and then give me a moving target to catch with the cursor. What fun!

The "Johnsons" also choose to speak to us in a very friendly tone (in bigger bolder text than everything else on the page): "You are solely responsible for your interactions with that website [that we link to above]." I understand the need to give the lawyers their space, but don't let them command the spotlight on your front doorstep.

Any consulting IAs or usability types looking for work might want to give J&J a ring...they could use the help.

January 08, 2002

Amen to that...K.I.S.S. me
"Perhaps then we should design more simply? If we don't do any of the complex stuff then maybe it will display on everything just fine and we can sleep at night."
Edge of my Seat reminds us it doesn't have to look the same…

Note the elegant (and simple) CSS and XHMTL design. I count only two images on the site. Beautiful!

January 07, 2002

New ACM SIG-CHI mailing list
ACM's Special Interest Group (SIG) on computer-human interaction just announced a new listserv for announcements of resources of interest to the CHI community, for example: seminars, conferences, events, products, books, and web sites. Check out the CHI-Resources list page for more information. If you're looking for more community interaction and dialogue, check out the CHI-Web list it has about 3,200 subscribers.
Big changes @ Yahoo
A new CEO, and new directions. Check out the NY Times article: Mr. Semel's Internet Search.

Notable: No more free listings on Yahoo? -- "And soon Yahoo will no longer provide a directory of all the sites on the Web. Rather, any company that wants its site listed on Yahoo will need to pay an annual fee."
Handspring Treo: product of good design processes
I was impressed with the number of good design practices mentioned in an article about the new Handspring Treo, which combines PDA, wireless Internet access and a mobile phone

Prototyping: "You can sit around and argue for another hour, but with the prototype, it becomes obvious where you screwed up"

User profiling: "Novice users are supposed to find the most- used functions in an intuitive way, while more advanced users can find shortcuts through more complex button sequences."

Ethnographic research: "Celine Pering sat for hours near busy intersections or near entrances to subway stops in Europe and Japan, examining how people used their cell phones. She also hopped into the cars of friends and family of Handspring workers, snapping pictures and taking notes on drivers who were dialing."

Now I'm interested in actually playing with a Treo...I could use a better cell phone.