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Archive for September, 2002

When is card sorting useful

Wednesday, September 25th, 2002

I have always thought that open card sorting is a great thing. With this technique, you give end users a set of content written on index cards, and ask them to group it in ways that make sense for them in context of the application.

I’ve had great successes in the past, and I use the technique in training courses.

However, I have been running a card sort over the last few days, and am not as confident that the outcomes will be useful.

I realised today what has happened. In the past, and on training courses, I have done the exercise on either smallish groups of content (where up to 80 cards represent all content), or on large groups of content that already have some type of pattern (for example, large content but of a limited range of content types).

In my current exercise, I’m trying to sort a large amount of content, and it is incredibly varied. Because it is so varied (and I’m not a user of the information), I didn’t want to pre-group much of it. My participants have a very daunting task of trying to group individual pieces of very varied content. No wonder they are telling me it is hard (luckily they understand much of the content fairly well).

I suspect that open card sorting is most useful when:
1. The content set is reasonably small; and/or
2. The content already has patterns that allow some pre-grouping
3. The participants understand the content well.

I will get some useful information out of the process, but nowhere near enough to create a reliable navigation structure…

Odd conversations

Thursday, September 19th, 2002

So, what makes a relatively normal (if geeky), relatively sensible girl hang out at a bar on a Wednesday night, drinking cider, talking about:
- how and why people put full-stops in metadata fields
- the pros and cons of automatic linking
- what is organisational culture and can you identify it if you are part of an organisation
- how to do the writing to present information a number of ways with a single content source
- whether Jakob Nielsen is helping or harming the usability community…

Why, it was a Canberra information architect’s cocktail hour of course!

I can’t evaluate my work

Wednesday, September 18th, 2002

I am frequently asked to provide feedback or an expert review on a website or application. I’m pretty good at it – I find out what the users will be doing with the site/application and provide feedback on whether I think it will work for them.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working on a small (12 pages) website. I looked at it today and couldn’t evaluate it. I can’t tell whether the graphics look amateur, whether they take up too much space, whether people will be able to find the secondary navigation, whether the images are too big and whether the colour scheme is good or too green.

I always thought that I would be able to tell whether my own work was good or bad. But I can’t.

So, in a week or two (when it is released), I will ask you for feedback, because I’m beyond the point of being able to do it.

One more day

Monday, September 16th, 2002

I have one more day as a permanent employee of the government. When I go home tomorrow, I’ll have resigned from the Australian Public Service (I’ve been a public servant for more than 10 years, so this is a big deal). On Thursday I start my new life as a contractor.

So what am I doing on my last day? Taking the morning off of course!

Am I a nerd too?

Friday, September 13th, 2002

PeterMe comments that nerds are the same the world over.

I read this and thought “yeah, OK, fairly normal day” (well, I don’t go out in Tokyo for nabe for dinner, but you get the idea).

I sit in front of a computer most of the day doing Intranet design (right now), I come home and study (Masters in Internet Communication – done online), I tutor HCI every week, I spend a lot of time reading stuff on the Internet, I write a blog entry, and this weekend I’ll be spending much of it doing a website for my local community group.

Yep, I’m a nerd too ;)

PS – I spent a lovely day today at the National Museum with my daughter and a friend. I actually do get out of the house frequently;)

What is culture?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2002

I attended an Intranet conference recently. Almost every speaker commented that their organisation had an unusual or particular culture that they needed to consider in designing the Intranet.

Initially I thought this was good – it sounded like they were learning about their users and considering them in the design.

Then I started to think more about it and started to worry. How did they know what their culture was? How do you measure culture? What are the important aspects? And can someone who has been part of an organisation for a long time know about the organisation’s culture.

I have been asked about the culture of my last workplace. I don’t know what their culture was – I think I was too much a part of it and too close. However, as a newcomer to my current employer, I can notice broad differences in the ways people work and communicate. But are these differences enough to label one place as having a particular culture?

Hmm…needs more thought.

Information needs

Wednesday, September 4th, 2002

I had a really interesting conversation today.

I’m helping some people prepare content for the Intraweb. I suggested that they talk to their target users and find out what their information needs were. Some of the users were going to be in town together today, so I arranged to talk to them about their information needs.

These people are about to change jobs, so I mostly wanted to know what information they needed before they started their new jobs. I expected that they would tell me that they needed a detailed list of steps that they needed to do, the forms they needed to fill in, and some information about their new jobs.

I was surprised when the conversation took a turn. What they really wanted was to find people who had done these jobs before. They wanted to have a chat, and get the inside information about all of the little things that they may need to know. The steps, forms etc, they just took for granted – somehow or other this would happen, so they weren’t worried about it. But boy were they having trouble getting to the really useful stuff – the information hanging around in people’s heads.

How interesting…

Busy, busy

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2002

In the last two weeks, I have:
- spent two days in Sydney at an Intranet conference
- spent a day in Melbourne having meetings for work
- guest lectured at Canberra Uni on user-centred design & usability testing
- completed my first assignment for the semester for a subject in my Masters
- marked a big pile of assignments for the class I tutor at university
- done the graphics for a community site I volunteered for…

No wonder I haven’t kept my blog up to date!

More soon ;)

No entries

Sunday, September 1st, 2002

I haven’t fallen off the end of the earth. I’m just very, very busy…