April 10, 2011

Book Review of Steve Krug's "Rocket Surgery Made Easy"

Susan Weinschenk posted a video review of Steve Krug's latest book on YouTube.  If you're looking to learn more about how to conduct a usability test, Steve's books are a great place to start.

January 09, 2009

Have they broken Google Search?
It seems that Google has made a major change to how search queries work. So much of a change that for "power users" of Google search, they may have just "broken" their search engine. Google's boolean search capabilities are relied on every day by researchers, scientists, marketers and other web users.

I've been using Google since it was first in "beta" and as long as I can remember, it has always done a boolean "ANDed" search by default. This means that it looks for pages the include ALL your search terms if you type in multiple keywords or phrases.

Recently I've noticed some strange behavior in that on some occasions adding more search terms actually INCREASES the number of results I get - which is the opposite of what should happen. Let me illustrate with some example queries:

1. A search for auto dealer service hazmat charges estimate yielded 25,500 results. 
[For context, imagine an unpleasant surprise when getting my dealer's repair bill after a front end alignment.]  

2. A search for auto dealer service hazmat charges estimate -anatomy yielded 54,500 results
[I kept finding the same article on copied on multiple sites - the article used the word anatomy - so I was trying to eliminate that same content from my results.]

Some playing around with different keywords yields this surprise
3. auto dealer service hazmat charges estimate wrecking yields 5,320 results, while 

In my understanding of boolean logic, if you add the number of results from searches #3 and #4, they should total the results from search #1.  But search #1's 25,500 results are less than half of the 61,920 you get from #3 and #4 together.

What is Google up to? It's not exactly obvious.

It doesn't seem to be a simple factor of using too many search terms, as the searches below (#5) show the expected refinement and reduction of results. 

5. A search for auto dealer service hazmat charges estimate -out yields only 5,660 results, and auto dealer service hazmat charges estimate -for only gets 86 results.

Looking at the results from search #4 above yields at least a partial answer:  Google is including results that don't actually match the query.

One of the results returned for search #4 was this page:
Pulling up Google's cached version shows that it INCLUDES the words auto service hazmat estimate, but DOESN'T INCLUDE either "dealer" or "charges", which were specified in the query. 

I'm guessing Google is trying to "help" the user by returning partially-matching results rather than a "no results" page which you can still get if you do something like #6. 

6. A search for auto dealer service hazmat charges estimate lyle123 yields a page saying "Your search - auto dealer service hazmat charges estimate lyle123 - did not match any documents."

Now for the really SAD (or FUNNY) example:
If you scroll to the bottom of the search page and click "Search within results" and then search for "dealer" within the results what should you get?  If search #4 worked predictably as a proper "AND" boolean search, then it should be all 56,600 results.  Given that Google is including results that don't have the work "dealer" in them, you'd expect to get a subset of the 56,600 results when you "search within results."  Somehow Google finds it proper to return a mind-numbing 207,000 results!!!  Yes, searching *within* 56,600 results yields nearly 4 times as many results.  How's that for "search refinement?"

If anyone can explain this strange behavior to me, I'd really appreciate it.  I can imagine it may have something to do with how Google may eliminate (or not eliminate) "duplicate" results, but somehow that just doesn't seem explain it all in my train of thinking.

Not sure if I've uncovered something new here.  The hardcore SEO folks have probably noticed this already. I tried a few searches for things like "Google boolean broken" but then again I was using Google, so evidently I can't trust the results it brings up anymore. Sigh.

November 20, 2008

The One-Click Rule of Web Design
I been thinking the 3-Click rule is outdated and needs to be updated. Let's face it, three clicks is way too many. Why should we optimize for three? I think we can do better than that.

Therefore, let me introduce you to the One-Click rule.

"Users should be able to get to everything in just one click (or less)."

Just some of the benefits of this rule are that users:
1) can get to everything with just one click
2) suffer less from "clickitis" - an RSI type of syndrome involving inflammation of the clicking digit on their mousing extremities
3) spend more time doing things other than clicking links on your web site

If you're not following this rule, then
A) you just aren't following "best practice" or
B) you actually have some common sense and know what user-centered design is *really* all about.

If you don't believe me, just ask me.

Hi, my name's Lyle, I'm the sarcastic one.

Note: I also have started developing the Zero-Click Rule, but am awaiting some development in terms of a new user-input device...a peripheral currently code named the "ThinkBall" by Sarah Bellum Technologies.

Related Posts:
- Sitemaps are Stupid
Additional Resources:
- UIE: Testing the Three-Click Rule

Note to self: Great job, this is the first site (according to Google) to use the phrase "mousing extremities"!

October 31, 2008

Balsamiq Mockups Home | Balsamiq

New Sketching tool

Discovered this via Twitter (thanks Kevin!)

Balsamiq Mockups

Balsamiq Mockups

Related Concepts:
Prototyping, sketching, wireframe, mockups, storyboards, prototype, visio

July 22, 2008

Presentation Zen: When bar charts go bad

Keep your condoms out of my information design

Interesting discussion on use of imagery in charts on Presentation Zen: When bar charts go bad

...resisting the urge to post sarcastic comments...

Be sure to note the "Click for larger size" link. :)

July 18, 2008

Goodbye to faulty software?

This article I discovered via ACM entitled "Goodbye to faulty software?" highlights how often researchers just don't "get it". Here are a few key quotes:

"Will it ever be possible to buy software guaranteed to be free from bugs? A team of European researchers think so."

"The key lies in an esoteric reformulation of mathematics called ‘type theory’ based on the notion of computation. In this approach, the specification for a computational task is stated as a mathematical theorem. The program that performs the computation is equivalent to the proof of the theorem. By proving the theorem the program is guaranteed to be correct."

While they've been working on this "type theory" concept since 1989, I can't see how it's going to ever create a golden age of well designed software. Most problems with software are not that some technical bug causes it to fail, but that it has poorly conceived and poorly design features and functions. It's not bad code...it's bad design that's the problem. Still, some engineers fail to recognize that software serves humans, often in many varying situations, organizations, locales and cultures, and therefore is a much more complex and difficult challenge than building a simple bridge (one locale, simple, clear purpose and very few "use cases").

Matematics and engineering are great, and important to creating good software...but psychology, human factors and Design are pieces of the puzzle that can't be overlooked.

Nevertheless, when you're applying for grants, I'm sure it sounds better if you assert that your Math theory is going to save the world from bad software.

June 30, 2008

How To Be A Good Product Manager

Jeff Lash is a fellow "UXer" who's made the leap into product management. His blog, How To Be A Good Product Manager, is a great resource.

Posts like "Stop gathering requirements" and "Do not be afraid to remove features" are refreshing.