May 24, 2002

Sticky fingers & hierarchical menus
Christina Wodtke is writing a book and has quietly released a short excerpt on her site Excellent, I mean Elegant Hack. There's a bit of discussion related to drop-down / pull-down / fly-over / rollover / dhtml hiermenus and navigation. It also touches on right-hand versus left-hand navigation.

May 22, 2002

More blows to online trust
And we thought online trust was bad before...things will never be the same after this.
Cool color tools: Palette Master & Visibone's Web Color KiloChart
Palette Master by Nebulus Designs lets you select a base color and instantly generate a 42 color palette that is complimentary to your base color. Could be a useful tool when picking colors for a design -- especially if you hit a creativity roadblock.

Visibone's Web Color KiloChart offers "Hundreds of the girly pastels and manly earth tones that are so scarce in the web-safe color palette" as well as "protective coating". Go'n git ya some o' dat protective coating!

[Via Brainstorms & Raves]
Google labs demos
Google now has a site that shows off some of the new ideas they are working on. They currently have four projects you can test drive: Google Glossary, Google Sets, Voice Search, and Keyboard Shortcuts. I think the Glossary and Keyboard Shortcuts look like they could be ready for prime time pretty quickly. Here are the glossary entries for usability and information architecture.

The Google Sets project is interesting, but not something that I could see being used soon. For instance, a Set search for "radio button, button, textarea, listbox and label", all UI controls or widgets yields a nice list of related search terms like "window, frame, canvas, and menubar". The problem is that if you then select one of the terms, like "canvas" or "window" the new search results have no relationship to the set of terms you provided -- you get plain old results based on a single generic term like "window". The idea looks promising, but they clearly have a ways to go yet.

Update: John Dowdell of Macromedia provides a scenario where he used Google Sets to help him in a web search. He also provides some suggestions for improvements. (Added May 22)
Why I love pop-up ads
Madhu "madman" Menon has written a parody of an article called "Why I love spam" from CNET. You might want to read the "Why I love spam" article first to get Madhu's humor. Here's an excerpt:

"Now, in addition to the products being sold by real salesmen, I get pop-up ads on Web sites. Lots of pop-up ads. And for the most part, I love them. They tell me about things I'm interested in, such as services and products that might satisfy some of my needs. Since I have a voyeuristic streak in me, I enjoy seeing the X10 camera ads that I'm constantly bombarded with. I plan to buy several of them and plant them in women's toilets. I also love seeing the Internet casino ads. I haven't been very successful gambling in Vegas; maybe doing it online from some foreign country's servers will improve my chances. Hey, you gotta believe in blind luck, my friend. And that's as blind as it gets - after all, I have no idea what the odds are, whether the software is rigged to make me win, whether the business taking my money is legal, and all those mundane things I have to worry about in real life."

More good articles from Madhu:
- Why Big Freaking Flash ads won't work
- Useful "Page not found" (404) error pages

- Pop-up ads are viruses

May 21, 2002

The Best Influences on Software Engineering
An IEEE Software magazine article from 2000 lists the top 11 influences the editors thought made the biggest impact on Software Engineering in the last 50 years (PDF). Here's their list:

- Reviews and Inspections
- Information Hiding
- Incremental Development
- User Involvement
- Automated Revision Control
- Development Using the Internet
- Programming Languages Hall of Fame: Fortran, Cobol, Turbo Pascal, Visual Basic
- Capability Maturity Model for Software
- Object-Oriented Programming
- Component-Based Development
- Metrics and Measurement

The field of "usability engineering" has activites related to many of these influences:
- Heuristic inspection and expert reviews
- Information Hiding is much like the concept of progressive disclosure in user interface design
- Incremental design involves prototyping
- User involvement -- that's what UE is all about
- Usability testing and other types of evaluations are ways to gather metrics

Previous article: Web projects don't iterate, they use the waterfall method

May 20, 2002

Bogroll my butt
Malevole -- the site that brought us lap dancers a few weeks ago -- has taken the traditional blogrolling concept and twisted it into something suitable for flushing down the toilet: a "bogroll". Here's the rationale.

- Better Living Through Software discusses blogrolling and linking, making a few good points:

"So the law of "link reciprocity" is based on the idea that flow is something that should be returned, if you can. And since there is no "law of conservation of flow", then flow that someone directs at you isn't necessarily diminshed by you directing flow back at them later."

"Blogrolling is sort of like making introductions between friends. There is no easy way to measure how "appropriate" readers find a particular blogroll. Probably blogrolls that have a low clickthrough ratio are less appropriate than blogrolls that have high clickthroughs (if only 5% of the readers click on a link, it was obviously not very interesting to the audience)."

- In Big media beats the blog drum -- Seven blogger traits threaten media incumbents, Pressflex says this about blogrolling:
"By regularly commending and linking to other blogger's posts, bloggers weave new broadcast networks. (If you don't own a network, invent your own!)