News : July 2002
An update regarding the battle for the key to the kingdom, Macromedia and Adobe have settled out of court regarding their lawsuits. Adobe sued Macromedia claiming infringement on their tabbed palette patent. Macromedia countersued that Adobe infringed on their WYSIWYG web page editor. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
In this month's Cooper Newsletter, there's a nice article on requirements definition, an important part of the project cycle that is traditionally thought to be either boring, or unnecessary, or both. (Boring? Well, depends on how you look at it. Unnecessary? Definitely not.)
This week, to wrap the month, Jesse Nieminen has published three product reviews. The first one a brief review of Wildform Flix Pro 2.5 followed by a detailed review of Adobe Photoshop 7 and to wrap it up a Photoshop Plugin Roundup.
Five sample chapters for you to read from Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd Edition (AKA the polar bear book). [from IA Slash]
Only 14 more days left to register for WebVisions 2002 at a discounted rate. Yours truly will be MCing parts of the event. Speakers include Erik Natzke (Method, Natzke.com), Joe Shepter (Author, Adobe WebCenter), Gabe Kean (Born Magazine, Second Story), Jesse James Garrett (Adaptive Path, jjg.net) plus a panel with local experts of design and a student Flash competition. What are you waiting for? Register today!
A new issue of Boxes and Arrows is up. In this issue: What an IA Should Know About Prototypes for User Testing and Adventures in Low Fidelity: Designing Search for Egreetings both of which are by Chris Farnum.
Tim Haight interviews Molly E. Holzschlag [editors note: linked removed] which helps answer the burning question of why web builders must move to XHTML. Check it out!
George Olsen posts some thoughts on Pandering to your audience vs. caring for it.
Humanising Technology, or technologising humans? Matt Jones has some interesting comments on the subject of technology and its relation to the human race.
For those of you whom have not decided if you are going to go to the Web Builder Conference in Las Vegas this year you have 3 days left before the Early Bird discounted rate ends. If you do decide to register, use the promotional code "FINCK" to help benefit the writers of Digital Web Magazine. For every Web Builder registration using the promotional code FINCK we will donate $50 to the writers, cover artists and expenses needed to run Digital Web Magazine. So here is your chance to contribute to the independent spirit.
Design your own currency? ..only in cyberspace. The story goes on to say that apparently there is a newly discovered cluster of islands that have formed a new nation called Zambonia. Fact or fiction they are looking for people to submit designs for their currency. The deadline is September 30th, 2002.
There articles about the user experience, but rarely do we see articles about the user environment, here is a good one: The Interface in the Environment -'One size fits nobody' by Frank Long. This is a very interesting read as it strikes a chord with me. For example, Flash designers often include music in their designs to help define the environment. The problem, however, is that the user has already chosen their environment... in my case, I am typically already listening to my own MP3s. Have you ever played 2 audio files at once? I am sure you can relate. The first thing to look for is that button in the Flash to turn the audio off... assuming the Flash designer was that thoughtful. Most of the time the button doesn't exist. Food for thought. [form InfoDesign]
Blogathon 2002 is here. The blogging will commence on July 27th, prep your keyboards. If you are not sure what all the fuss is about, check out the FAQ page which summarizes the event in detail. Check out how many people are participating this year! To top things off it is all for charity. Hats off to Cat Connor for orchestrating such a great event!
Here is a good study on scanability and page design that may be of interest to those sites that consider themselves portals: Reading Online News: A Comparison of Three Presentation Formats by Ryan Baker, Michael Bernard, & Shannon Riley. [from InfoDesign]
For those of you who have been working with CSS and media types, here is a handy resource for you to bookmark: Print media browser conformance and compatibility.
ClickTracks is a tool that assists you in reviewing user behavior and patterns on your web site. The tool accesses your server log files and uses that data to give you on-page feedback about click-throughs, user paths, etc. This could be quite handy for usability testing as well as traffic analysis. [from LucDesk]
A new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. This issue focuses on map with an article on Information Ecology: Bayer's Book of Maps by Nate Burgos and You Are Here: Maps 101 by Lee McCormack. [from InfoDesign]
It's summertime... how do we know? Well, take a look around: Jeffrey is in Seattle, Shirley has gone scarce, Meryl is in Orlando, Daniel is on vacation, Michael is burn out, Tony has lost interest, Christina is buried under a pile of pulp and Jakob is simply out to lunch.
A little dated but still very usefull: The Seven Qualities of Highly Successful Web Writing by Kathy Henning.
Incomplete yet even more useful than ever before... the creators of the Web Style Guide, Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton, have published the 2nd edition of their book. With the book comes the online companion web site: Web Style Guide, 2nd Edition. This site has been the cornerstone of good design and style on the Web since it's conception in 1997. The same core values that I found on the website in 1997 still hold true today. The 2nd edition of the Web Style Guide only adds more value to what was already considered a timeless piece of guidence in web style. Enjoy!
A new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. In this issue Fred Leise writes about Improving Usability with a Website Index and Erin Malone writes about his experience at the AIGA Experience Design Summit #5. Check it out!
the current issue of New Architect features a great article by Janice Fraser called "The Culture of Usability: How To Spend Less And Get More From Your Usability-Testing Program." [from Tomalak's Realm]
Continuing the theme of search engines and their usability we are happy to publish a new issue of Digital Web Magazine. In this issue we have a great interview by Meryl K. Evans with search engine experts Danny Sullivan and Avi Rappoport. Also in this issue is an excellent feature article called "In Defense of Search" by Peter Morville. Next week we will have more articles on search engines and their usability.
Steve Pepper authors a great introduction to topic maps called The TAO of Topic Maps: Finding the Way in the Age of Infoglut. [from IA Slash]
Announcing WebVisions 2002. Speakers include Erik Natzke (Method, Natzke.com), Joe Shepter (Author, Adobe WebCenter), Gabe Kean (Born Magazine, Second Story), Jesse James Garrett (Adaptive Path, jjg.net) plus a panel with local experts of design and a student Flash competition. Yours truly will be MCing! Register today!
Bookmark this baby: Principles of Graphic Design... simply an amazing presentation. Notes: When you load the site, read the context then mouse-over the corresponding number on the left. Use the letters on the right to navigate sub-pages. From there you can interact with the art by mousing over items on the page. Brilliant.
Rob Graham said it best when he said "so what?" ...in his article "Click-Through Equals Effectiveness?" he talks about online ad metrics and what they really mean. This is something that has been worrying me of late. I monitor web traffic on my companie's Intranet and Internet sites; these reports are used as a determining factor in success of projects such as applications or documentation releases. I find that most people still can't distinguish between the metrics. No one on the management level really knows what the difference is between a hit, visit, or an impression, much less what a click-through really means (or does not mean) to ROI. Facts are facts, stats are just... well, stats. Use sales figures as metrics to effectiveness and use click-throughs as toilet paper.
Thank you Thomas Myer. Finally, an article that explains the different between an IA and a designer in terms we can all known and understand: Information architecture concepts. Sorry, I am having one of those "well why didn't you just say that in the first place" moments. [from WebWord]
As of today, the design, content and even markup of Digital Web Magazine has been lifted, copied, reproduced and out right stolen more than 25 times. Thankfully, of those 25 thefts all have been brought to justice one way or another. Some where kind enough to remove the stolen code or design, others just simply closed down their site while they redesigned. Some cases where the owners chose not to comply to our demands, their sites were shut down by their ISP and sometimes even by their own government. I bring this up because a dear friend of mine, Shirley Kaiser, has recently seen her hard work taken and abused. She explains it all and provides some handy resources on her site; Brainstorms and Raves.
37signals has been redesigned in pure XHTML 1.0 with a CSS-driven layout. People whom I have met at various speaking engagements have always been hesitant to adopt a purely CSS-driven layout and for good reason; they are concerned about their users with browsers that don't support this type of layout. All I can say is, "Remember when some browsers didn't support cell spanning in tables or table cell background colors? What do you think they did when sites like Yahoo and CNN didn't render properly?" I guess there will always be people who use older browsers, just like there are people who still use the DOS based version of WordPerfect on Windows 3.0 to write articles. There is nothing we can do about that. Denial is brought forth by the lack of awareness. [from Zeldman]
Simon Willison writes about Connected Earth, "BT's new million pound (yes that's £1,000,000) online museum devoted to the history of communications. It's so bad it isn't even funny." Using Win IE6 I found it to be hohum, if somewhat gaudy. But it's totally broken in Mozilla. And in IE5 I got a page that says "Your browser is not compatible with this site" despite the fact that the site claims to work in IE5+. Simon is flirting with the idea of googlebombing the site using the phrase Bad Web Design. He suggests other bloggers at least point it out.
Tony Ayres calls it quits... well, for weblogging anyway. You will be missed.
Quote of the day... displayed upon loading a certain web site:
"At this time your screen resolution is 1280x1024. In order to view this page correctly and to the best of the ability designed for the viewer you should be running a screen resolution of 1024x768. It is not a problem to view the page with your currently selected resolution, however the page may appear to be slightly irregular and sometimes certain features may not be capable of being used to their full potential. You can continue as you are, but we warned that the site will not be viewed correctly as intended by the web designer...."
...also see Zeldman's comments about how this site handles it's users.
Another great article from Google, but not quite so old (January 2000), A Model for Extensible Web Based Information Intensive Task Oriented Systems (Note: PDF file).
Here is a very old (1997) article I dug up on Google: Virtual Hierarchies and Virtual Networks: some lessons from hypermedia usability research applied to the World Wide Web by Pauline Smith from Nottingham Trent University as well as I.A. Newman and L.M. Parks from Loughborough University. Quite lengthy, out of date and hard to navigate, but it's interesting to see such an old study on navigation.
We forgot to mention it earlier last week but George Olsen has a great editorial up at Boxes and Arrows called (Over)simple Answers for Simple Minds. This should hold you over until next week's issue of Boxes and Arrows.
A new issue of Digital Web Magazine is out. This issue we focus on Search Engines and their usability. To kick things off we have some new cover art by Mathias Vejerslev and Jeff Lash joins us to write a tutorial about Three Ways to Improve External Search Engine Usability. We are also happy to have Christina Wodtke join is as our Information Architect. Christina comes to us with an extensive background in information architecture and a book in the works entitled "Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web." She will be helping us with our redesign and beyond. We are happy to have her as part of the team.
Over 130 people have shown interest in the redesign project for Digital Web Magazine. This includes logo designers, graphic designers, web designers, web developers, web programmers, information architects, copy editors and writers. Through this week we hope to review all URLs submitted and narrow down the list of potentials. From there I and a few other staff members will take a vote to see who fits the roles the best. I thank everyone for expressing so much interest and I wish you all the best of luck.
Peter Seebach writes about usability and The Cranky User. Case in point, as part of my job I am required to use SAP to enter my hours... As you may or may not know, SAP's web based portal happens to be the single most unusable piece of corporate infrastructure that has ever existed. This is not an opinion, it is backed by factual evidence. [from Info Design]
Jeffrey Zeldman writes up some good comments about accessibility. As always, Zeldman is a good read.
Christina Wodtke has posted a response to my question about IA in the form of a bad diagram (her words, not mine) which is actually quite helpful. I have been able to identify myself as somewhere in the middle of this diagram but covering all of the right side. Thus the justification for the emergence of the Hybrid Designer.
Two great resources from Grantastic Designs: Guidelines for selecting a logo design and Glossary of graphic design and web page design terms. [from LucDesk]
The article "What Mom Could Teach You About Your Website" covers some very interesting ground and very valid too. While the article does focus on e-commerce aspects of web building, it raises an interesting question. I am sure you have heard the phrase "Only your mom reads it all" ...now that put that into the context of a website, "only your mom would browse it all." Perhaps mothers should be included as a key figure in user testing? [from Meryl's Notes]
GUUUI.com has presented its results from a survey on Web prototyping tools usage. Its purpose was to find out what tools are used for prototyping, how happy users are with their tools, and what requirements they have for such tools. The site also offers a tutorial on how to use Visio for fast prototyping and it includes a download of tools for Visio.
Currently I have been searching for some source of inspiration, architecture typically is a good source for me, I stumbled upon this list of Portland architecture firms:
Another new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. In this week's issue Salvatore Palmisano writes about "Users In The Development Cycle: Effective Project Communication" and Dan Brown explains "Where the Wireframes Are" for item #3 in the Special Deliverables list.
Gabe Kean tells us that the Summer 2002 release of Born Magazine is out for your viewing and reading pleasure. There is a whole slew of new pieces, too many to list here... go and check it out!
Now, we all know Arial is not really the most elegant font out there on the Web, this article tells you How to Spot Arial. So that brings up the question of using Helvetica in place of Arial... good idea but flawed in reality. Helvetica is not a true cross-platform font as some would like to have assumed, for that matter, neither is Arial and certainly not Grotesque. The most ideal san-serif typeface to use on the Web for ASCII text is a combination of Helvetica, Arial and the default san-serif... in that order. Of course, if you were using CSS you might be able to get away with defining a font family rather than a face. [from Zeldman]
Joe Gillespie has a new issue of Web Page Design for Designers out. In this issue's editorial he talks about the return of The Web Standards Project. Also in this issue is a feature on selling yourself and putting a knockout portfolio together plus two mini book reviews about sources of inspiration. To wrap things up Joe has some tips for creating Webpage thumbnails. Check it out!