January 18, 2002

New "Polar Bear book" on the way
A second edition of the definitive book on Information Architecture for the web is underway. It should be out this summer -- around July, according to Lou Rosenfeld, one of the book's authors, in comments on his web log yesterday.

January 17, 2002

Information Architecture primer
Keeping hearing about "IA", and want to get up to speed? Check out John Rhodes' introductory article on the topic over at WebWord. He breaks it down into three basic components:
  • Orientation - determining your current position
  • Navigation - helping people figure out where they want to go
  • Routefinding - the art of finding the best path given your skills and equipment

January 16, 2002

How many ways can you fail...let me count the ways.
From USA Today: Designs that made consumers, reviewers cringe. What's amazing is how many of the products covered had huge design budgets and professional designers and engineers at the helm. Would be interesting to find out what they would do different if they knew then what they know now.
Agony of defeat for accessibility at the Olympics site (again)
Shirley Kaiser reviews the 2002 Olympics web site for accessibility on her blog, Brainstorms and Raves. I found it escpecially ironic (in a bad way) that even the Paralympics site doesn't follow accessibility guidelines. The Paralympics are the Olympics for athletes with a disability.

January 15, 2002

This site best viewed in a movie theatre
"Say you went to the video store and rented "Apocalypse Now," a movie that truly deserves to be seen in a theater on a big screen with surround sound. But, not unreasonably, you wanted to watch it at home on your 21" TV. You put the tape in your VCR and saw: "To view Apocalypse Now you must have a 54" or larger screen equipped with Dolby® Digital SurroundSound."

"Would you be impressed with Francis Ford Coppola's artistic vision? Or would you be angry at his arrogance?"
Design Not Found
One of my favorite sites lately is "Design Not Found": a site dedicated to "the best and worst of contingency design." They point out good and bad design elements. For example they show how Amazon helps users who enter the wrong URL, or how Apple further frustrates users who are already having trouble.

What is contingency design? Here's the answer from the Design Not Found FAQ:
"Things go wrong online. Contingency design is the way the creators of the site right the ship. It includes error messaging, instructive text, information architecture, programming, and graphic design. Successful contingency design helps wayward surfers succeed at their goals in obtaining information, completing a transaction, or other tasks. Poor contingency design results in frustration and lost visitors."

Although I really like Design Not Found, I have to say the company that created Design Not Found, 37signals, has a home page that is pretty...uh, shall we say "overly-creative".
Update: 37signals redesigned their site and the old home page can be seen here.

January 14, 2002

Usability is lacking in the consumer electronics world as well.
An LA Times article, The Curse of Complexity, shows how bad usability is becoming in electronics like TVs, satellite receivers and stereos.

Pretty good article, even with the obligatory 2 cents opinion from Jakob Nielsen. You have to wonder if Jakob accepts every possible interview opportunity...seems like he's the only usability "expert" professional writers can locate.

January 13, 2002

Divining standards from the most popular sites?
The Web Developer's Virtual Library (WDVL) presents an interesting survey of the most popular sites on the web. They compare the sites' designs, looking at fonts, colors, links, navigation, titles, page width, use of JavaScript, CSS and page download size.

While I'd never jump to the conclusion that being one of the most popular sites means you have the best design, I would concede that it means you probably haven't committed as many design sins as Boo.com. [Maybe we should just call design flaws "boo-boos"...]

I also think that many developers who are not experienced in the intricacies of UI design and usability should, whenever possible, copy aspects of well established designs rather than try to invent their own "creative" solutions.

I think it's interesting that Disney differs greatly from many of the other sites. I'm sure Jared would have a few words to say about that given that he seems to rip Disney in almost every interview, article, class, and book. You'd think Disney was the only bad site on the web.
Usability web sites du jour
The National Cancer Institute's Usability site is a great reference. I especially like the way they try to sort through the clutter of sometimes conflicting usability guidelines available by assessing the amount and types of evidence to support specific guidelines.

Also, what's up with our buddy Keith over at UsableWeb? Looks like he's been too busy with the new day job at IBM to do much updating. He even calls it a "stale" site himself . I'll have to pester him about it at CHI. ...but if your just starting out, there's no better place to immerse yourself to learn about usability as it relates to the web.