December 12, 2006

15 Ways You Should NOT Have Fun with Your Wii

Some entertaining graphics to decode:

Gizmodo: The Japanese Wii Safety Manual is Crazy

Thanks Paul

November 27, 2006

Spamarama 2006: Are you attending?

According to a Postini press release, spam has skyrocketted 59% from September to November, and 91% of all email is now spam.

"Postini processed nearly 70 billion email connections from September to November, and saw a 59 percent spike in spam over that period. Unwanted email is currently 91 percent of all email, and over the past 12 months the daily volume of spam rose by 120 percent. Postini also saw a dramatic increase in overall email traffic with 10 billion more connections in October than in September."

According to Postini's stats page, 10 out of 11 email messages are spam, and 1 out of every 184 messages is infected with a virus.

I personally have seen a huge increase in the amount of spam I'm receiving. How about you? Leave me a comment and tell me what your inbox is experiencing lately.

November 15, 2006

Nice Information Visualization Blog

Junk Charts is a neat blog that critiques charts, and then goes futher in some cases into redesigning them. If you enjoy Edward Tufte's work, you'll like this.

Thanks to Peter B.

November 09, 2006

Bad Usability Calendar

Thanks to the latest UPA Monthly (a UPA member newsletter), I learned of this frabjous "Bad Usability Calendar" for 2006 (PDF). It's bad...well, you'll know when you see it.

[Note: After blogging this it strikes me that it's totally in the spirit of this calendar to wait until November to tell you about it. :-) ]

October 30, 2006

Cryptography experts confess

CNET: At 30, crypto still lacks usability, experts say

" 'In the early years, we as an industry could blame the system for controlling the pace of innovation because the government was throwing up roadblocks,' Ozzie said. 'At this moment in time, it's laziness on the part of the industry in terms of not embracing architecture and the importance of human interface in design of secure systems.' "

I wonder what their plan is to address the issue...

To read the rest of this article enter the passphrase for your private key corresponding to the public key that was used to encrypt it. :-)
(See: PGP Tour: PGPmail for great examples and screen shots!)

September 26, 2006

New Podcast Installment: SpoolCast #2

As you may have noted in an earlier post, I'm part of a panel podcast that is geared toward user experience practitioners...called the "Spoolcast". The latest installment (#2) is just coming out now, and I must say I think it'll be enjoyable and thought-provoking for those in the "user experience biz". We engage in some light-hearted joking and debate, while actually talking about some serious UX and usability topics.

About Spoolcast #2:
Recorded September 11, 2006, we discuss dream panels, CUE studies, whether we’re an engineering discipline or a craft, the value of heuristic evaluations, and whether we should learn anything from Facebook’s recent loss of face.

(Note, each session is being released in four parts. Parts 1 and 2 of session #2 are online already...more to follow.)

Make a comment here or send me email to let me know what you think of the latest podcast installment.

Related Posts:
Hear the Croc Speak...Froggy Style in Podcastese

September 21, 2006

Reach Out and Observe Someone

Just found this small Remote Usability Testing Wiki - which has a couple of nice lists of remote testing tools and remote card sorting tools.

It also alerted me to a new tool from TechSmith - UserVue...which complements Morae very nicely!

[Thanks to Nate Bolt]

September 17, 2006

User Friendly Conference 2006 - Hangzhou, China

Nov 3-5, 2006

UPA China warmly invites you to User Friendly 2006 for 3 days, bringing together usability practitioners, designers and technologists from across China and internationally. Come to Hangzhou to continue the tradition of sharing, friendship and learning as experienced in Beijing (2004) and Shanghai (2005)

The conference will be in English with Chinese translation.

The program includes tutorials, plenary sessions and round-tables, as well as plenty of time to network and socialize. Speakers include: Bob Barlow-Busch (Quarry), Annie Chang (Microsoft), Apala Lahiri Chavan (HFI), Giles Colborne (CX Partners), Jian-Ming Dong (Paypal), Gerry Gaffney (I&D), So-Young Kim (DNA), Kun-Pyo Lee (KAIST), Whitney Quesenbery (WQusability), Daniel Rosenberg (SAP), Paul Sherman (Sage), Daniel Szuc (Apogee), and Yu Guo (Baidu).

[Thanks to Dano]

September 07, 2006

Card Sorting from the Bottom Up (and the Top Down)

If you're in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, check out this UPA Minnesota Chapter event on Card Sorting on September 14th.

September 05, 2006

Hear the Croc Speak...Froggy Style in Podcastese

I recently participated in a new panel podcast with a great group of folks put together by Jared Spool. The sessions have been coined "Spoolcasts", and I think the first one turned out pretty good.

During the first podcast, we talked about the new Brown University web site, what it means to be usable, MySpace, Craigslist, the importance of home page design (Jared thinks home pages are the least important page on a site...everyone else agrees that he's out of his mind), the UPA Body of Knowledge project, and conferences.

I should add that my voice was not (and still isn't) "normal" for the recording session. I had severe laryngitis for over three weeks and somehow my voice recovered enough that I could participate that day. It's still not 100%, but hopefully on the mend. So, as you listen to the podcast, keep in mind that the voice you're hearing is a bit more "froggy" sounding than my normal voice. I also had to pause a bit more between words to keep my vocal chords from cracking up.

(The real trick has been trying to be a consultant all day...talking on the phone, giving presentations, and leading a project team...with no voice to speak of...or with. A day or two was no problem...after that it got pretty stressful. Thankfully, it seems like it's on the upswing now.)

Oh, the podcast is also available on iTunes under UIE Brain Sparks or the RSS feed is available at

A few quotes from the first podcast:
- "You know the VP-based navigation scheme has not left us yet." - Me

- "We tell clients that their home page is the least important page on their site." - Jared

- "It's funny that a university site would be too academic." - Me

- "Trying to do charades through the Internet is really hard." - Jared

- "If you're going to see “Snake on a Plane”, seeing it with 25 sixteen year olds is probably the best way to see it." - Jared

- "I was just thinking it’s lucky their name is not Chartreuse University." - Me

For those of you not familiar with podcasts yet, think of them as being similar to college radio shows...without the college or the radio.

August 29, 2006

UPA 2007 Conference Submissions Open
Have you considered creating a submission for the Usability Professionals'
Association (UPA) Conference next June 11-15, in Austin, Texas? This is
an excellent opportunity for you to share your knowledge and experience
with other's who care about usability!

August 28, 2006

The Truth of User Experience: Three Stages

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
- Arthur Schopenhauer

This quote made me think about how usability (the concept) has been received by the technology elite in the last 10 years.

First, they seemed to reject it...refusing it flat out. Much like strung-out groupies who'd been riding the tour bus and partying backstage far too long with their rock and roll "gods" in the mythical band called "New Tech and The Latest Gizmos." They ridiculed those in the usability movement as if they were "New Kids on the Block" and promised that in time people would see that "New Tech" was where it's at.

Second, they opposed the messengers. The way to be cool was to take shots at Jakob Nielsen and other usability proponents. I seem to recall that Jakob's hair, website, sideburns, guidelines, thumbs and speaking style were favorite targets.

Third, they started accepting it (or the need for it) as self-evident. This doesn't mean they understand how to create usable products, but it's definitely not unusual for business people to have discussions about usability these days. In addition, lots of companies are trying to hire usability talent: lists over 1000 usability jobs, and CareerBuilder has 979. Design firms have all seemingly retooled...suddenly splashing a "user experience" coat of paint on their existing wares, no doubt in response to customer demand.

So now we've entered a phase where buyers are seeking "the truth"...with a lot of false prophets and snake-oil vendors selling cheap wares. Buyers aren't educated enough yet to know what to look for...but that's changing.

Consumers and markets have evolved to the point that usability will continue to be a huge factor in coming years. Just look at food for example: we no longer think much about food safety, about freshness or transportation, or about variety. Supermarkets in developed countries offer a huge variety of safe foods from all around the world. Food companies have started focusing on consumer convenience: packaging, portability and portion size for example. Convenience...analogous to "ease of use."

What do you think? Am I speaking the "truth" or telling a whopper? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Additional Resources:
- The Backlash against Jakob Nielsen and What it Teaches Us
- Usability Jobs: Usability Professionals' Association
- Directory of Usability Consultants: Usability Professionals' Association

August 25, 2006

Ease of Use and Usability Engineering as Marketing Tools

This press release from Red Gate shows how you can use ease of use as a competitive advantage:

Red Gate Poll Reveals Role Of Usability Engineers Critical To Future Of Software Development

A few nice quotes from Red Gate's Press Release:

"The company’s SQL Bundle customers were asked why they would recommend Red Gate products, with an expectation that the majority would choose one of the first three options: time-saving, speed, or accuracy. Instead a conclusive 65% chose the fourth option – ease of use."

"Unfortunately, the marketplace for packaged software solutions is cluttered with vendors trying to sell Swiss Army knives when most buyers are looking for a hammer, but good usability engineers will allow better products to be produced without hindering quality. We will continue to strive for better testing, as we always do, but will be taking on more Usability Engineers to improve user friendliness even further,” added Reed."

"The discipline of usability engineering has been an object of study and learning ever since computer technology emerged as a viable industry. Developers, testers and users are now recognising the increasing importance of usability as a significant driver of developing good software tools and customer satisfaction rates."

Check out their web site for screen shots of their software (in walk-throughs). I see evidence of good UI design:

August 08, 2006

Oz -IA 2006

An IA conference in Sydney, Australia looks to have a great lineup of presenters. I've met a few of the presenters, and just wish I didn't have all this "real work" to do, and could just attend conferences around the world for a living. (Anyone who'd like to gainfully employ me to attend conferences on their behalf, please email me at

Thomas Vander Wal, Dan Saffer, Donna Maurer, Eric Scheid, and Ash Donaldson are all folks I wouldn't mind seeing present. I just met Ash at the UPA 2006 conference in June - great guy. I recall we had a nifty discussion about Activity Theory over drinks one evening.

I also think the navigation on the Oz-IA site is neat. It's humorous and ironic that IA's would design and use an image of a Post-It note/whiteboard site map diagram for main made me chuckle. (The site's small enough that this design works just fine and conveys a certain "IA-ishness" to users.) It's very creative...I like it.

June 12, 2006

More Blogs About UPA 2006

I've updated the UPA Conference Wiki to include a list of bloggers who've posted something (so far) about the UPA 2006 conference. To login to the UPA Conference Wiki, use a password of "upa".
UPA 2006 Conference - Monday

This week I'm at the Usability Professionals' Association (UPA) Conference, just outside of Denver, Colorado. It's only Monday, and I'm already meeting new people and learning new things. The number of people trying to make more usable products around the world is really amazing. There's a great amount of international attendees. Last night I had dinner with 3 other people from the U.S., 2 from the UK, 2 from Hong Kong, and one from New Zealand. I guess it's not really surprising since UPA now actually has more chapters outside of the U.S. than within the U.S., but it's definitely exciting to find that such a diverse group shares the common language of "usability."

Here are some UPA 2006 photos from Daniel Szuc of Apogee Usability Asia (in Hong Kong). Hopefully other attendees will add to the set as the conference proceeds.

May 02, 2006

Card Sorting - The Book

A book in progress by Donna Maurer. Publisher: Rosenfeld Media. Anticipated publication date: January, 2007

Donna has been writing her weblog, DonnaM, since 2002, and is a Very Sharp Cookie. Donna says that many of the existing resources on card sorting don't answer the majority of questions practitioners face, so she's focusing on card sorting as a practical technique to be used in the design of information environments. As a practitioner who's had to learn most of what I know about card sorting by doing it, I love the focus she's got for this book, and I know Donna can pull it off.

If you have experience running card sorts, you might consider helping Donna by completing a survey on card sorting that she's running.

Donna has written a number of articles for Boxes and Arrows, including a "definitive guide on Card sorting".

Donna is also an active member of the Usability Professionals' Association (UPA), is a local ambassador for UXnet (the User Experience Network), and is very active in the IA Institute.

More Info: Rosenfeld Media - Card Sorting Book

Additional Card Sorting Resources:
- STC's Card Sorting Resource List
- Card Sorting at IAwiki
- Card sorting at iaslash

May 01, 2006

Online Photo Editor - A Lightweight PhotoShop Anywhere?
A new web application called Phixr (pronounced "fixer") is pretty slick. After playing with the online demo a bit, I'm impressed. You can do basic photo editing:
- resizing
- cropping
- red-eye removal
- rotating
- sharpening / blurring
- adding borders
- adding text
- and a number of other functions

What's impressive is it looks like the designers boiled photo editing down to the key 20% of functionality people need 80% of the time. The result is a nice, lightweight web app that does what many people need to do. It's also (for a photo editor) a pretty simple user interface - with nice previews of changes before they are executed, as well as undo and redo functions.

There are a number of improvements that can be made to the app, but it's still noteworthy as a rather simple photo editor, that's free, and requires no software installation.

Try out Phixr

April 28, 2006

Human Error, Design Flaw, or a Darwin Award Winner?
When you see a headline like "Man runs himself over in Burger King drive thru" - you just have to watch the video.

- Darwin Awards
- How To Jump Start A Car (Note it says to "make sure the cars are in park", but it omits the very important precautionary warning "don't lay underneath the car while performing the jump start.")

January 31, 2006

Caroline's Rules for labelling Buttons

1. Label the button with what it does.
2. If the user doesn't want to do it, don't have a button for it.

Read Caroline's nice, short article on the topic:

Related Info:

- MS Windows Interface Components - Controls - has a section on command buttons

- Apple Human Interface Guidelines > Controls > Buttons

- IBM: Using Web widgets wisely, Part 1 - Has a short section on command buttons

- Alertbox: Reset and Cancel Buttons - covers issues around using the dreaded reset button on web forms

- The Piece of HTML created just for Me: Reset - Caroline's explanation of why you should scrap your reset button.

- Research-Based Guidelines > Screen Based Controls (PDF) - discusses "PushButtons"
New Year, New Job, New Posts
Wow! It's been two months since my last post...I can't believe it. Well, I'm planning to change that and post more frequently. (Publicly declaring that means I'm all the more likely to actually do it.)

I recently took a new job...leaving my position as User Experience Director at Cargill. Cargill's a great place to work, and I really enjoyed the time there and will really miss the people I worked with there. Perhaps more on the new job later.