November 26, 2005

Workers Waste 10% of Their Time Fighting with Technology

From We have the technology, now tell us how to use it

"OFFICE workers waste up to a month a year trying to figure out how to use their computers properly because modern technology is so complicated, a new study warns.

Trying to get their heads round difficult programmes on the PC is costing firms both time and money, often because no-one has taught employees what to do."

"The survey of 500 workers and 300 bosses by the training body City & Guilds found that workers spent 10 per cent of their time battling against computer programmes or getting to grips with phones, handheld devices and other gadgets, equating to a month a year.

Thirty-seven per cent say they are frustrated by not being able to handle the technology.

About a third (32 per cent) of workers say they have failed to receive training from their company to teach them to use the technology in the office."

November 03, 2005

Today is World Usability Day

I'll be participating in events here in the Twin Cities along with representatives from many local companies.

"On November 3rd, 2005, World Usability Day, a worldwide series of events will promote the benefits of user-centered design, with the theme "Making It Easy." Local events are being held in over 100 locations in 35 different countries."

World Usability Day is getting quite a lot of attention from major media and press (and this is just the first one). For example, a Usability Professionals' Association spokesperson will be on CNN Headline News at 7:15 (Eastern time?) in the morning to talk about the event. Other representatives have been interviewed for radio and various publications. Here are links to a few early articles talking about the Day along with usability, and user-centered design:

USA TODAY: Why are tech gizmos so hard to figure out?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “World Usability Day” aims to make technology
more user-friendly

Sydney Morning Herald: Pushing the right buttons requires a human touch
(Talks about how even urinals have been improved using UCD.)

BBC: The secret of making things work

October 27, 2005

User Centered Products Are Market Winners - An example from Whirlpool

This recent Whirlpool Press Release is just one example of how a company that adopts and uses UCD (I know that Whirlpool has an active UCD/usability team) will create products that win in the marketplace. The press release shows that, by being user-centered, a company knows what product features or attributes have value to different audiences. Often these value points are learned when evaluating designs (e.g. in usability tests).

Here's an excerpt (note that Duet is a high-end model of Whirlpool front-loading washer and dryer):

"[T]he attribute that stands out most prominently with consumers may be the overall design of front loaders, and most prominently the features of the Duet(R). At the time it was introduced it was hailed for its sleek, sophisticated, user-friendly design, garnering praise from an impressive and diverse range of audiences, including the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), whose members appreciate the Duet(R) model's tactile and audible controls.

"We often find that technologically advanced products are difficult for blind people to use, because they often incorporate things like touch screens and LCD displays that require sight," said Betsy Zaboroski, executive director of NFB's Jernigan Institute. "With the Duet, you get the best of both worlds -- it's high tech, but usable by virtually everybody. That's great design."

Other accolades for the Whirlpool Duet(R) fabric care system include:
- The editors of Popular Mechanics, Graphic Design USA Magazine, and Appliance Manufacturer Magazine for design and/or engineering achievement.
- ID Magazine (International Design), one of the design industry's most respected publications, honored the Duet(R) system in its Consumer Products category
- A Human Factors & Ergonomic Society User-Centered Design Award because the pedestal drawers raise the unit off the floor by 13 inches, minimizing bending while providing additional shelf space."

Of course Whirlpool doesn't talk as much about it's usability team as we'd like. Why would you reveal a competitive advantage? But they have had some press. This article says that "Whirlpool assembled a global design team of industrial designers, human factors, and usability specialists from around the world, including Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States" to create the Duet line and that it "has been a consumer hit ever since. 'It’s been so successful that we’ve been playing catch up with production capacity,' says Joe Foster, director of Whirlpool Brand Fabric Care. 'We’ve had to invest in additional production capacity twice since the launching in 2001 to keep up with consumer demand.' [Date of article publication unknown.]

FastCompany published an article on Whirlpool's design innovation in June 2005. It's a great read and offers the savvy reader glimpses of usability testing at Whirlpool - in the first paragraph:

"Whirlpool design chief Chuck Jones stands behind a two-way mirror in a dimly lit observation room at the company's headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan. On the other side of the glass are a twentysomething volunteer and a shiny, black refrigerator. Jones and a small team of designers, engineers, and usability specialists watch as the woman loads groceries into the fridge. Her movements are mind-numbingly mundane, but the Whirlpool folks are rapt. "This is a very complex interaction between a user, a product, and her goals," whispers a human-factors expert."

The article goes on to say "At $2,000, the Duet is Whirlpool's most expensive washer-dryer set, yet it sells like an iPod: In the premium front-loading washer category, Whirlpool has gone from a market share of zero to more than 20% in three years."

Those that wonder about the return on investment (ROI) of User Centered Design (UCD) and usability should take note. Of course, I'll take market-disrupting innovative design over generic ROI any day. :-)

See also:
* New Generation of Innovators: Creating Extraordinary Products which talks about the design team at Whirlpool
* Whirlpool Finds Its Cool - To understand what good design can do for the bottom line, check out how Chuck Jones has revved up the sleepy, boring world of refrigerators and washers.
* Whirlpool Relies on Networking to Harmonize its Global Operations
* 2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists - Charles Jones -- a biography of Whirlpool's design chief

October 25, 2005

ROKR Phone Not Meeting Customer Expecations

ROKR Not Rocking, says Motorola

"Motorola's chief executive - Ed Zander has reportedly admitted that the company may have got it wrong with the recently released, iTunes-compatible, ROKR phone.
...the number of people returning the ROKR is six times higher than normal"

Seems to me that some early concept testing would have helped prevent some of this.

September 07, 2005

Now I've seen it all...

Talk about taking "user experience" to a whole new place:

September 01, 2005

Letter to Google - How you can help Hurricane Katrina survivors

I just emailed this to the Google Blog:

Just an idea I thought Google could help with.

Currently the Google home page has a link to Google News coverage of Hurricaine Katrina. Something that might help survivors and family members is to have a link to a site or sites with information about finding/notifying family members who have survived. Another idea is to link to a Google map of the area affected. Links to charitable organizations would be great too, but a basic web search turns those up quickly enough.

With thousands feared dead, a huge effort will be spent trying to locate familiy and friends in the area who have been displaced or injured. Traditional communications are majorly crippled, and people aren't in the locations where they can normally be reached. Online locations and addresses are more persistent for people the "real" ones. Google is as close to an Internet home page or "town square" as it gets, so you would be able to help a lot.

Please pass it on to those who might be able to help within the Googleplex!

More Information:

- Wikipedia Hurricane Katrina - Excellent information so far, and improving constantly!
- WDSU - New Orleans
- WDSU Page for Messages From Katrina Survivors - helps people let others know they are safe or try to find missing people

August 31, 2005

Muji - the Un-brand
BusinessWeek: The Serious Cachet of "Secret Brands"
"Muji certainly has made a business case for saving marketing dollars on brand building and plowing that money into better design at affordable prices. Its executives believe a brand name or a logo is extraneous and doesn't bring a specific benefit to consumers except to satisfy their ego. "Muji can focus on the basic essence of products instead of dedicating energies to the frills," says Hiroyoshi Azami, General Manager at Japan's Ryohin Keikaku, which owns the Muji stores."

[Via Web Globalization News]

July 25, 2005

Polishing your diamond search results

Amazon's AJAX diamond search is very cool. It's also dangerous...if you say "hey honey, come check THIS out" could set you back thousands of dollars! :-)

Compare it to their basic diamond search [Suffers from linkrot - as of 2008, can select "basic diamond search" from the AJAX page, but not sure if this is what the old one looked like.]

[via iaslash ]

Note: Ajax link fixed April, 2008

July 15, 2005

Change or Die

"What if you were given that choice? For real. ... You wouldn't change." Nine in ten people wouldn't change.

"You can train a rat to have a new skill. The rat solves a puzzle, and you give it a food reward. After 100 times, the rat can solve the puzzle flawlessly. After 200 times, it can remember how to solve it for nearly its lifetime. The rat has developed a habit. It can perform the task automatically because its brain has changed. Similarly, a person has thousands of habits -- such as how to use a pen -- that drive lasting changes in the brain. For highly trained specialists, such as professional musicians, the changes actually show up on MRI scans. Flute players, for instance, have especially large representations in their brains in the areas that control the fingers, tongue, and lips, Merzenich says. 'They've distorted their brains.'

"Businesspeople, like flutists, are highly trained specialists, and they've distorted their brains, too. An older executive 'has powers that a young person walking in the door doesn't have,' says Merzenich. He has lots of specialized skills and abilities. A specialist is a hard thing to create, and is valuable for a corporation, obviously, but specialization also instills an inherent 'rigidity.' The cumulative weight of experience makes it harder to change."

"What happens if you don't work at mental rejuvenation? Merzenich says that people who live to 85 have a 50-50 chance of being senile. While the issue for heart patients is "change or die," the issue for everyone is "change or lose your mind." Mastering the ability to change isn't just a crucial strategy for business. It's a necessity for health. And it's possibly the one thing that's most worth learning."

Read the whole article in Fast Company: Change or Die

[Via Laurie]

July 12, 2005

Usability Professionals Salary & Employment Survey

As President of a local Usability Professionals' Association Chapter, one of the topics I get asked about most often is salary benchmarking. Sometimes HR professionals have a hard time getting data about compensation for Usability related jobs. Well, UPA is doing something that will help answer those questions.

The UPA is running a survey to gather information on usability professionals, including employment/salary information. This survey is open to all who work in the field, whether a UPA member or not.

If any portion of your job relates to usability, please consider taking the survey. This might include many different kinds of positions like Usability practitioners, Interface Designers, Information Architects, Technical Writers, Business Analysts, Technical Analysts, Graphic Designers, Programmers, Trainers, Managers, and others.

Please take a minute to fill out the short survey online at It only takes about five minutes.

UPA is hoping to get enough entries - from both inside and outside of the U.S. - to report on employment conditions and practices confidently.

The results will be published in the UPA Voice.

Related Sites:
- UPA Job Postings
- Usability related jobs list - DFW UPA Chapter
- User Experience Job Titles and Their Meanings
Is PC Support fundamentally broken?

A thought-provoking quote from PC World's Techlog - Dell vs. the Blogosphere

"When my electricity goes fritz at home, I call in the electrician and tell him what's wrong and he fixes it and tests it and I pay him and thank him. I don't have to hang out with him and hand him wirestrippers.

But with computers, we are expected to suffer through the process; we aren't allowed to say, 'Just fix it: The machine you made is broken so fix it and make sure it's fixed.'

Why the hell do we tolerate this? "

July 11, 2005

Ipswitch & Usability

At the UPA 2005 conference, I sat on a panel with Dr. Carol Barnum, mentioned below. I've also been a long-time user of WS-FTP, one of Ipswitch's best-selling this press release caught my attention. I think it's a great example of business partnering with acedemic organizations for success. Carol is a really sharp lady, and it sounds like her group often partners with area businesses, educating them on the benefits of user-centered design.

Ipswitch to Give Presentation on Building User Centered Software

"Ipswitch Inc., a leading developer of messaging, network management and file transfer solutions for small to medium businesses (SMBs), will participate in the International Professional Communication Conference in Limerick, Ireland, July 10-13, 2005.

Three Ipswitch leaders, Ben Henderson, Chief Technologist; Kevin Gillis, Director of Product Management; and Joe O'Connor, Information Development Manager will team up with Dr. Carol Barnum, Co-Director of the Usability Center at Southern Polytechnic State to present 'Making Connections--Teaming Up to Connect Users, Developers, and Usability Experts'.

The presentation will discuss how Ipswitch is working with The Usability Center at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta (Atlanta), Georgia, to rigorously test Ipswitch's products. This testing allows Ipswitch to be in tune with what its customers want. Ipswitch has built its success around understanding and addressing the unique requests of the SMB market allowing Ipswitch to build software that works the ways Ipswitch's customers run their business. Starting with WS_FTP Professional, Ipswitch has now incorporated user-centered design and testing into all of its products.

Leading the collaborative effort to plan the testing at The Usability Center is Dr. Barnum, author of Usability Testing and Research (Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2002). 'The success Ipswitch is experiencing confirms our belief that usability testing can be promoted as part of a user-centered design process,' said Dr. Barnum. 'When connections are established between developers and users, between usability experts and developers, and between the product and documentation managers and the users, everyone reaps the rewards.'

Ipswitch is integrating usability into the front and middle stages of development, instead of being performed at the end of the product development cycle, early enough so that feedback can be incorporated into future versions of the software before it is commercially released. By doing so, Ipswitch is able to include user-centered design into the product development methodology."

July 06, 2005

Missing the point

This Is Broken points out that many hotels stick labels next to fire sprinklers in bathrooms rather than providing a convenient place (e.g. a hook) for hanging clothing on.

This is analogous to providing a good, clear error message rather than making the user interface more intuitive in order to avoid the error situation.

June 24, 2005

Top 10 Least Usable Everyday Items

From a recent User Vision survey, the top 10 "least usable items"were as follows:

1. Video Recorders
2. Child car seats
3. Digital TV systems
4. Digital cameras
5. Washing machines/dishwashers
6. Tin-openers
7. Packaging
8. Central heating systems
9. Handheld computers
10. Non-disposable nappies

User Vision is in the UK, and some of these names aren't what we call that item here. "Tin openers" would be called "can openers"...but I'm not sure what "non-disposable nappies" are...can someone fill me in?

I find it strange that they called "packaging" an "item", when it really is...well, packaging...that items come in. Note also that the survey used a list of 40 items and had 500 respondents identify their "top five" most difficult to use items. It would be interesting to see if the results were similar if they asked people to name items rather than selecting from a relatively small list.

June 23, 2005

Usability Guidelines Recommendation

"Through 'usability engineering' and these Guidelines, we have tested and redesigned our own site to reflect a citizen-centered approach. I see these Guidelines as a wonderful resource for improving the communication capabilities of HHS, as well as all government agencies. I recommend that these Guidelines be used by all who deliver information and services to the American public."
– Tommy G. Thompson
Secretary of Health and Human Services
June 2003

Related Items: gets some press, and quietly releases new version of guidelines

Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines

June 22, 2005

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

If you're a blogger...think about taking the survey.

[Via Mena at Six Apart]

June 21, 2005

Your web site might be a pain in the neck if...(with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy)

If your home page has four navigation bars, and "investor relations" is in two of them...your web site might be a pain in the neck.

If mousing over your main navigation bar causes content and colors to change in a totally different section of the page...your web site might (literally) be a pain in the neck.

If your global corporation's home page has seven main navigation sections and two of them are called 'Tools' and 'Information'...your web site might be a pain in the neck. (You've gotta love the "Customer Information" and "Hub of Excellence" pages under the "Information" section, not to mention the "Good Morning" greeting I'm seeing at a little past midnight!)

If your home page has a prominent "hints" link...your web site might be a pain in the neck.

"Our site is organized to help you quickly find the information you need with a minimum of “clicks”. In addition to the links on each page, you can use our drop down menus to find information sorted by product name, medical condition, even by Abbott division."
(Abbott Laboratories - Hints)

June 10, 2005

Blogger's doing Usability Testing

Send your blogging friends here if they live near Mountain View, California.

June 09, 2005

Welcoming 3D to the blog world

DeeDee DeMulling ("3D") has a blog. DeeDee is a usability/UCD/product design consultant in the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis / St. Paul).

Product Experience

June 08, 2005

Logo Trends 2005
Graphic Design USA -’s Third Annual Visual Trends Report

"Trends are not an accusation of some widespread lack of original thinking. Instead, they are a sign of design evolution in our ever-shrinking world."

June 07, 2005

Ten Years of Alertbox - Thanks Jakob

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox is 10 years old.

Jakob's Alertbox was one of, if not THE first usability column I started reading after taking a 5-day GUI design (UCD) class from Susan Weinschenck around June 1996 (she's now at HFI). I was designing web sites and had to keep asking Susan about how UCD concepts (or the design guidelines presented) would apply to a web user interface (WUI). Susan was very helpful (having consulted on some web projects). She left us with a list of "other resources" which included so I found Jakob.

In those days, the Alertbox was very informative, discussing web design issues I was dealing with on a daily basis...and I read it religiously every week and learned a great deal. Reading the Alertbox lead to more reading, and more learning from other experts in the field.

As the web/ecommerce thing "boomed", Jakob's public persona moved from mentor to "guru". He formed NNG, wrote lots of books that sold in huge numbers, and the Alertbox seemed to become reduced to a marketing vehicle: a way to sell research reports, books, and training. Meanwhile, Jakob was being interviewed by every tech publication imaginable, along with newspapers and traditional media. Jakob was on CNN TV news one night. Jakob became the poster boy for web usability. This earned him the ire of many practitioners and web designers...yet raised the awareness of usability nonetheless.

Jakob should get a lot of credit for the attention he's brought to usability issues and practitioners trying to address usability issues. Of course, I'm sure, Jakob's made a pretty penny along the way, and good for him...he's also happy to claim credit for improvements in web usability. Of course he's done his share of the work on that, but there are also tens of thousands of other practitioners out there spreading the "gospel" and doing the work.

I can't say I know Jakob well, but I have traded email with him a few times, chatted with him at conferences, and found him to be a decent fellow. While his public persona might come off as an egotistical, critical know-it-all, I like to remind myself and others that this is just his public face...probably not his real personality. My blog readers don't know the "real" me either...not that I become some Hyde to my everyday Jekyll once I hit's just that people only see bits and pieces of me through the pinhole which is my blog. So I try to cut Jakob some slack, and acknowledge that he's done me (personally) a lot of good not only by offering advice and opinions, but by being the visible, seemingly "know-it-all" guru of usability.

I don't read the Alertbox regularly anymore, but stay aware of what Jakob's talking about. Even if *I* don't learn much, or disagree with him, the fact is many people *read* Jakob's stuff, so I want to be aware of what he's talking about.

In his 10 year anniversary Alertbox article, Jakob said (emphasis mine):
"When I conducted my first user tests of websites and intranets in 1994, I was probably the only person in the world with this esoteric interest. Web people didn't care about usability, and usability people didn't care about the Web. After years of incessantly promoting user research findings for websites and intranets, the situation has changed: thousands of people now work on online usability."

Jakob helped educate me about usability, and ended up helping me convert from a "web person who cared about usability" to a "usability practitioner who cared about the Web." Now I'm helping to convert others. I feel like saying "the Alertbox is dead, long live the Alertbox!"

Thanks Jakob!

May 11, 2005

Yahoo plucks design guru

CNET reports:
"Internet giant Yahoo has named Larry Tesler, a veteran design engineer at, to lead efforts in shaping its consumer experience.

Tesler, 60, will be vice president of Yahoo's user experience and design group, reporting to Geoff Ralston, the company's chief product officer. He will also be a research fellow in Yahoo's Research Lab, focusing on 'human-computer interaction.'

Tesler helped craft Amazon's shopping experience over the last three-plus years as a vice president for the Web retail behemoth. He has also held positions at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, and at Apple Computer, where he worked for 17 years as chief scientist and vice president of engineering, among other roles.

At PARC, Tesler pioneered computing techniques such as 'cut and paste' that have become standard to graphical user interfaces.

'Larry has the ability to draw on his extensive knowledge of both computer science and user-centered design to help define and drive product strategy and innovation at Yahoo,' Ralston said in a statement."

May 03, 2005

Dvorak: "Kill Outlook Express Today"

John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine does a good scorch-job on Outlook Express, focusing on a number of usability issues in an article called "Kill Outlook Express Today".

"I can tell you this much. If Microsoft persists in using this old code as the free e-mail program in Longhorn, I'm switching to Linux. It would indicate that the company really does not care squat about its customers." [While not fixing OE might indicate some lack of concern for its users, he's clearly exaggerating here. A switch to Linux could clearly be a potential frying-pan-to-fire move as well.]

"And, mind you, this is Outlook Express 6! Microsoft has gone through six iterations of this code and still hasn't fixed this, even with their usability labs and usability experts? Incredible."

Inquiring usability minds want to know if MS consulted with or listened to their usability experts when it came to OE. MS has lots of capable UX folks.

Clearly a free, scaled down version of a commercial product shouldn't be expected to have all the same features as a full commercial product (e.g. you could argue this about the spell checker and color coding features), but issues like inconsistent menu bars and modal action buttons should be caught in usability testing and fixed. A good quality, "lite" version of a product, with fewer features should be thought of as a good sales tool for the full-fledged product (Outlook 2003 in this case). If Outlook Express' quality is poor, what user would want to fork over the cash for it's "big brother"?
Payphones of the World

An interesting survey of different pay phone designs.

Here's a crude looking example from Armenia

And here's a humorous looking one from Turkey.

Note the web site itself isn't the most usable. I had some problems trying to navigate using the maps and found the text links more reliable.

May 02, 2005

New Design

Congratulations to the team. A fresh new look has some nice before and after screenshots.
Band-Aid Design Evolution

The Journal Gazette has a nice story on the history of the Band-Aid and it's evolution:

Inventor stuck to design goals with earliest Band-Aid

April 27, 2005

How to say "hi" in 15 different countries

The Business of Touch from Aquent uses Flash (sometimes effectively, and sometimes gratuitously) to demonstrate the cultural differences in business greetings (e.g. shaking hands) in 15 different countries. The use of Flash helps show the action (e.g. a bowing motion). In some cases, the design uses animation to distraction - in the case of the China example where colored patches move and shake - obscuring the action of the illustrated actors. Another drawback of using Flash is you can't link to an individual example (i.e. "page"). The content is pretty interesting, although they could've done a better job of citing sources or linking to additional information.

It's intended as a marketing piece to get you to hire Aquent designers...and should be considered from that standpoint.

April 20, 2005

Dumb Email of the Day

I received an email today that just made me laugh because of how ridiculously written it was. It went a bit like this (details omitted to keep the source anonymous):

"I work with [Company name] a [blah blah] company that is looking for a [Job Title 1] and a [Job Title 2]. I was hoping to network with you and would appreciate any referrals. Perhaps you might be looking for a new opportunity?

[More about the Company]

"As we continue to grow, we are looking for professionals to help take us to the next level.

[Job Description 1]
[Job Description 2]

"For more information, visit and

[More about the Company]

"To apply, reply to this email or send your resume to

"For unwanted future emails reply with out in the subject line

[Company name]
[City, St, Zip]"

What really struck me was the line "I was hoping to network with you"...from a stranger, who, as far as I know, got my email address off a web site somewhere. What's more, this person who wants to "network" with me didn't even bother with the courtesy of signing their name to the email. Did they think I wanted to "network" with their faceless company? The jobs were very related to my field of work, but I wouldn't even consider for a moment refering anyone I know to a company that communicates this way. If they recruit in a selfish, semi-anonymous way using tactics similar to those espoused by spammers, who would want to actually work for them?

Here's a better way to go about it: "Hi, my name is John Doe, I work for SomeCompany. I noticed you are a member of the Usability Professionals Association (or whatever other group's site you got my name from), and we are looking for talented professionals in this field. I thought you might be interested in our open positions or know someone else who might be interested." Then tell me a bit about the jobs, with a link to your company's web site for more about what the company does. Feel free to tell me why this is going to be an exciting place to work in those roles. The more open you are, the more people might be interested. Include an email address and a phone number. Better yet, include the hiring manager's contact info (not just the HR person's who doesn't really know squat about the job).

...Another funny item is the last line of the email: "For unwanted future emails reply with out in the subject line" What this really states is "if you'd like unwanted future emails, reply with the word "out" in the subject line." All I can say is "Sure, sign me up for more of those 'unwanted future emails,' would you please?"

April 06, 2005

New Mobile Device Interaction Techniques?

In a press release from F-Origin entitled "F-Origin Announces Radical User Interface Technologies That Make Using Mobile Devices Easy and Intuitive"

"HaptiTouch, a touch screen system with tactile feedback, brings the simplicity of human touch to mobile devices, effectively removing the need for keypads, stylus, and other pen-like input devices. Through HaptiTouch software, users' interactions may be complemented with various tactile responses, producing a mechanical feedback sensation from the familiar key as well as audible effects when desired."

"Book UI is an innovative menu paging system that allows easy-to-understand book-like indexing while moving through items and categories by simple finger movements on the viewing display. Book UI allows the user to move from one menu page to another in the same manner a page on a book is turned. Once the desired item is found, the user presses on the item to select it."

"Iris, a motion-based viewing technology, views large content on small displays by tilting the device without repurposing the content. Iris software allows the user to navigate and pan across a viewing page, zooming and presenting the content vertically or horizontally depending on the orientation of the device in the user's hand."

Iris seems the most ambitious to me and the most likely to not work in mobile contexts. There's a visualization of how Iris might work on the F-origin site.
Innovation in Electronic Dictionaries

An example of trying to extend the usefulness of a tool by thinking about the user (and in this case, the word's) context:

"Rather than just looking at a single word that has been selected in a text, it analyzes the whole sentence in which the word appears, making use of extended linguistic and lexical data to arrive at precisely the meaning and the translation that will fit the given context."

March 30, 2005

Design Quote of the Day

"While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, another is busy making mistakes and becoming superior."
- Henry C. Link

This quotes makes me think about how, often in business, user-centered design (UCD) is used to help us learn from our mistakes. Companies or teams who hesitate (or fail to identify and understand their mistakes) remain inferior when compared with teams iteratively designing, testing, and redesigning... UCD helps build superior products and companies - by learning from mistakes, usability practitioners create competitive advantage.

March 29, 2005

Apple's iPod Shuffle Design Gets Ripped-off!

...or does it?

A story that broke a few days ago at CeBIT, a major electronics expo, has evolved. It initially looked like taiwanese company Luxpro had ripped off the design (and product concept) of the iPod Shuffle to make a "Super Shuffle". They also displayed it in ways that minimicked the Apple iPod marketing campaign. Apple lawyers were called. People got upset...and for good reasons.

Now it looks like it might have all been a publicity stunt. According to Jack Campbell of DVForge (quoted in the engadget article above):

"The Super Shuffle is not in production by LuxPro." and "The entire CeBit sideshow was planned from the start as a gambit to gain a hugely disproportionate share of the industry’s attention, so as to find a few customers for the Super Shuffle’s electronics."

So the moral of the story is basically, if you're a technology company with no product design expertise, it's okay to rip off another company's design and marketing campaign in order to market your own competing services and long as you don't put the product on the market.

March 22, 2005

If Your Home Page Could Only Talk

This article is quite funny. A great example of criticism via satire. Here are a couple of excerpts:

"First, let me say, I have no idea who you are, or why you came, but believe me when I say, I built my site just for you. My company and products are the best there is to offer."

"Contacting me is easy. Just fill out the form when you find it. When you find the privacy policy, please take an hour to read that. Basically it says I don't have time to record your data and don't care who you are. I'm only interested in selling you something that has my company name on it."

"The product catalog is to the left of that big fat image on the right of the homepage that's distracting you. Above the two global navigation schemes in the top header is your login area. To register, you need to first give me your phone number so I can call you at 3am and tell you about my specials. I put the search box at the bottom of the page, so you can find things quickly. The sitemap needs to be updated, sorry. We put it there for search engines to crawl and then forgot we had it. "

March 21, 2005

Do users really cares about culture when it comes to web design?

I found this quite curious:

"One of the most time consuming conversations in the company is the extent to which the look & feel of this template is appropriate for each local market, with country managers always claiming that the site needs to have a more local look & feel.

This is despite the fact that we have standardized our offline brochure design worldwide for years. The only country we have tested this on is Korea, where we implemented a 'Korean' looking homepage to appease the country manager, and found it had no impact on conversion."

From Standard Global Site Templates Beat Asia-Specific Design

And from an earlier story Exclusive Results Data from VistaPrint's Top 10 Marketing Tests:

Test #10. Generic versus cultural Web design

Although VistaPrint hires a native of each country to be in charge of marketing for his or her own country's site, the sites are constructed using generic templates. Language and prices are translated of course, but not overall style.

Holian figured it might not be optimum, but this system saved a great deal of wear and tear on the site design and engineering team.

But when VistaPrint launched in Japan, the Japanese-born marketer absolutely insisted the company develop a cultural-specific site.

Holian agreed to a test. So the company launched not one but two Japanese sites -- one using the standard template and the other copying typical Japanese site design -- and split incoming traffic.

The standard template won. Looking like a Japanese site wasn't critical as long as the language and pricing were localized.

Of course, they don't provide any details on their test methodology or any real I'm left curious what other research might confirm or dispute these findings.
Tim Berners-Lee, web inventor, compares mobile web design to accessible web design

"Web designers have learned to design for the visually impaired and for other people. They will learn in a few years how to make Web sites available for people with mobile devices, too," Tim Berners-Lee said today at a seminar on the future of the Web.

From Web design hampers mobile Internet, Berners-Lee says - Computerworld