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Archive for July, 2002

Insights from user research

Monday, July 15th, 2002

I’ve been doing a lot of user research lately. I love user research and cannot do a design project without first spending lots of time with users.

One of the best things about user research is that it reminds me of all the things I have forgotten, particularly about being a new Internet user. It is hard to remember what it was like to be new when you have been on the ‘net for 8 years.

Two things I had forgotten:

1. People don’t like using the Internet
Not everyone is like me – spending time at work researching on the web, then time at home reading email, following links, writing blogs, shunning television.

For people who are not interested in the Internet, but have to use it for work, it is a big, scary thing. They don’t know what to click on, don’t know what will happen if they do click, don’t know what they are looking at, and don’t know what to do about it.

2. People don’t know when one site ends and another begins.
Actually, sometimes they don’t even know what ‘site’ they start in. They click something, go somewhere, click something else until they find something that vaguely looks right. If they do know where they started, everything after that is the fault of the first site.

Of course, not all of the users I spoke with were like this, but enough to make an impact on me. It goes without saying that they aren’t silly people. The Internet is not a major part of their job, nor is computing a major part of their job.

The Internet is just a tool that is meant to help them do their jobs better. And in many cases, it doesn’t even come close.

User Research – Question Techniques

Friday, July 12th, 2002

Here is an interesting article called Nondirected Interviews: How to Get More Out of Your Research Questions by Mark Kuniavsky of AdaptivePath.

I have been interviewing for much of the last few weeks, and learned a lot of interesting things. I’ll write about it in the next few days.

Was Jesus a Persona

Thursday, July 11th, 2002

I was sitting in Hyde Park (Sydney) today having lunch, reading a book, when a Mormon lad came to talk with me. We got to talking religion (as you do with a Mormon) and he asked me whether I thought that Jesus really lived.

I told him about my personal idea of Jesus. That being, I don’t think that there was a living, breathing person called Jesus. I think the stories about Jesus are, and were always meant to be, metaphors. Now, people find it very difficult to understand metaphors and concepts, so we make up stories to illustrate them. And because people like hearing about other people, we give them names, histories and personalities.

It was at this point that I realised that this is what we do when we create personas in user-centred design processes. We learn about the users of an application, make up stories illustrating their goals, give them histories and personalities, all to communicate with developers.

What a profound thought (I don’t think the Mormon understood it, but he did offer me a book ;)

PS – I’m not trying to insult anyone’s religious beliefs. As I also told the Mormon, I was enjoying chatting with him as long as he didn’t tell me how to live my life. And to his credit, he was not trying to do this.

Uni results are in

Wednesday, July 10th, 2002

I got my results from my first semester of my Master of Internet Communication. This semester I studied Interactive Writing.

And…I got a HD (and if you are not familiar with this grading system, you can’t do any better than this!!)

Am I stoked!

Trackback

Tuesday, July 9th, 2002

I’ve been looking at Trackback tonight – a new feature of MovableType. I think I get the concept.

If I write something interesting (I’m sure it will happen eventually), and someone wants to make a comment on my interesting thought, they could either comment in my blog (with the comments link), or they could make the comment in their blog (using a trackback). This way, their comment stays in their blog, but people reading mine can see that someone has commented.

This was partly possible before. Someone could comment on my writing in their own blog, and link to mine, but I would never know, and readers of my blog would not know.

I’m a very visual thinker, and the visualisation of this net of linked information is pretty amazing.

I need to think a little more on this, but it sounds like it has very interesting potential.

Now I just have to write someting interesting ;)

A second trackback test

Tuesday, July 9th, 2002

Christina asked whether anyone was using trackback, so I thought I’d see if it would work. Let’s try…

Information Architecture

Testing trackback

Tuesday, July 9th, 2002

TrackBack Development

Canberra IA cocktail hour – report

Tuesday, July 9th, 2002

Last week, I arranged the first Canberra Information Architect’s cocktail hour.

We had good attendance – 9 people (plus a few apologies). Not bad for pulling names out of my head to invite.

One thing that was really interesting was the range of backgrounds we had. They included:
- librarians
- data managers
- software engineers (with some cognitive science in the mix)
- user-centred designers
- tech writing

We do a range of jobs, and have a range of skills, so we should be able to learn a lot from each other.

We talked housekeeping a bit (which reminds me, I have to set us up a yahoo group), decided on meeting times, and talked a bit about topics for future meetings.

We decided to meet monthly, on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. I have since had to reschedule slightly to the 3rd Wednesday. I hope this still suits.

So, thanks to those who came. I hope to see you next time. I’ll arrange the yahoo group, and will also keep meeting details here and on the IAwiki.

Two good online experiences

Tuesday, July 9th, 2002

Two thank-you notes to people I don’t know who have given me very good online experiences last week.

As you may be able to tell, I tackled setting up this blog last week. I considered doing a hosted blog, but wasn’t quite comfortable with putting all of my thoughts into someone else’s hands. So I decided to install and manage it myself.

However, I didn’t have anywhere to host it, so I also had to purchase a domain name and arrange hosting for the domain.

Although I design websites, make them usable etc, I don’t do a lot of the technical work, so this was all brand new for me. And a bit scary!

So, I’d like to say thank you to my new host, AVS Networks, for really good information on the website that allowed me to trust:
1. that they existed
2. that they were reasonably stable
3. that my money was not disappearing into the ether
4. that I could do all this myself.

And thank you to the clever folks at MovableType. Their documentation got me through this with only one or two minor mistakes (and my silly mistakes were easy to detect with good error messages).

It is nice to have online successes…

First entry

Monday, July 8th, 2002

Here is my first entry in my first ever blog.

So, what should I talk about for my first entry. Something profound? Something mundane? Something in-between?

I love blogs. Well, I love lots of other people’s blogs. I realised recently that I wasn’t really ‘surfing’ the Internet much any more (I have heard that many people don’t any more). I was reading people’s blogs, and following their links, and finding out lots of really groovy stuff.

I really want to get back to reading Peter Merholz’ article about Social Network Analysis, and following some of the links. And he has a new article on design that looks interesting. And just today I found some interesting information about complexity theory at ColumnTwo. What good stuff!

So, maybe I’ll be able to contribute to the interesting stuff around as well…

Now a side note about comments. Please include them if you find something interesting (hey, do so if you don’t find it interesting). That’s why I blog!