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5 posts from November 2006

Friday, 24 November 2006

Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture

Joshua Porter, of UIE, writes in his personal blog Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture.

In many ways, the success of Google’s Pagerank algorithm was the harbinger of all this. The simple idea that people’s actions model meaning better than a directory (even a flexible directory) is a critical step forward in thinking about the Web. The innovation we’re seeing with folksonomies, recommendation systems, social networking sites…all have their roots in the idea that modeling what people actually do on the Web is the best way to provide answers for them. And, perhaps more importantly, it is an admission that we simply can’t predict the future…we can’t design a perfect information architecture, and to attempt to implies that the world we’re modeling doesn’t change.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Continuous Little Changes

Jeff Patton asks us in his blog to Consider Changing Your Product’s UI More Frequently. Prompted by a discussion with Alistair Cockburn, who just released the 2nd edition of Agile Software Development, on the flow of decisions in software development, Patton goes further in wondering how the frequent changes affects end users.

B'Bye Button

Joel Spolsky has written a short and quite funny article called Choices = Headaches. In the article he describes the 9+ options available when shutting down a computer and slims them down to 1 option... the "b'bye" button.

This highlights a style of software design shared by Microsoft and the open source movement, in both cases driven by a desire for consensus and for "Making Everybody Happy," but it's based on the misconceived notion that lots of choices make people happy, which we really need to rethink.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Freedom of Fast Iterations

A new UIE article looks the design cycles of Netflix and Google: The Freedom of Fast Iterations: How Netflix Designs a Winning Web Site.

This "try and see" attitude is taking hold. The designers at Netflix told us they try out many new features with every site iteration to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of the Web, as well as their customers' increasing comfort with the current site. Much of what they do try doesn't survive to the next iteration.

So how often does Netflix update its site? Every 2 weeks.

Every 2 weeks they make significant changes. They understand that some of the changes will work, but most won't.

The article summarizes the benefits and side effects of fast iterations.

Wednesday, 08 November 2006

Five Usability Challenges of Web-based Applications

A new UIE article summarizes the Five Usability Challenges of Web-based Applications to help advertise their latest research report.

#1 Scalability

Many e-commerce sites give users the option of storing their shipping and billing information. What happens when users have multiple payment methods (such as a work credit card and a home credit card) or have multiple shipping addresses? For some gift sites, such as Proflowers.com, users could have many people they wish to send flowers to on a regular basis. That implies building sophisticated address book functionality into their order processing application.

#2 Visual Design

Take the common practice of supplying an “Advanced Search” capability alongside the standard search. A typical implementation will have a text box (for entering the query), a “Search” function (for the standard search), and an “Advanced Search” function. Should the designers make both functions into buttons? Will that confuse the user? If they make “Advanced Search” a link, will users understand it’s an alternative command (versus an explanation or some other site feature)?

#3 Comprehension

Web-based applications often help people by doing things outside their expertise. They turn to the application to help guide them through a decision making process they couldn’t do on their own. Yet, if they make the wrong decision, it negatively affects their experience and their relationship with the organization.

#4 Interactivity

Users don’t always follow the “happy path.” They enter data incorrectly. They decide they need to go back and change something they’ve already entered. They discover they need to learn more about what the application is asking of them and, thereby, need more detailed assistance.

#5 Change Management

While users are resistant to change, they are willing to do it when given enough support and structure. The problem with quick changes often happens when users frequently use an application and the old design conditioned them to things being a certain way. Even when the change is to their advantage, they often need warning and support to go from the old to the new.

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