DonnaM » 2003 » March

Archive for March, 2003

“React” to this article

Friday, March 28th, 2003

Interesting wording at the bottom of articles on the Sydney Morning Herald website:

‘React to this article’ simply creates an email message. Haven’t I already reacted to the article before clicking this link?

Fixed blog

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003


my weblog is fixed.

Thank you to my host AVS networks for sorting it out for me.

Alas, I’m far too tired to write tonight, and still have to read a pile of job applications before bed.


Thursday, March 20th, 2003

I went to a seminar by Gerry McGovern today, titled “Simplicity in Information Architecture Design: How to Design a Simple, Yet Robust Information Architecture”.

Interestingly, when people were describing why they were attending, many mentioned that they were there to learn about content management, content management systems, and perhaps how information architecture fitted in.

Hmmm…not sure what to think about that, but I did think that it was odd that they weren’t there to learn about information architecture.

On criticism

Wednesday, March 19th, 2003

I’ve been thinking about criticism recently. You can probably guess why – we do it a lot to each other. For example, I create a design, someone criticises it. There may be one person or lots, and they may criticise different things.

What is interesting is how some people criticise, and how I react. Some critique – offering good feedback, and explaining why they think what they do (often clumsily, sometimes rudely, and occasionally politely). Some bite, either at me, or about me to others.

The first is great criticism. I don’t feel threatened, can probe and find out lots of useful information about what it is that doesn’t work. I can take that criticism and do something useful with it, to the benefit of the overall user experience.

The second type forces me into a place where I am either being defensive or in damage control. In this place, I have less chance of listening well and doing anything constructive. I hate being there.

But, I’m getting better at it. I’m finding ways to place myself more in the first situation and less in the second – by involving people earlier in a process, being polite myself and respecting their opinions. I still occasionally end up in the second place, and am learning to cope with it better.

Unfortunately, this all seems to be inherently part of our profession and our culture. Creation involves criticism…

A new use for scenarios

Thursday, March 13th, 2003

I used scenarios in a new, effective way this week (look, I’m sure this isn’t new really, but I thought it was interesting).

I usually use scenarios in two ways:
- in evaluating a system (either real utest or expert evaluation)
- as descriptions of real tasks in a user-centred design method (usually when communicating with developers)

This week I used them differently. We have a new project for a new web-based app (that, of course I can’t talk about). We spoke with the client last week, who filled us in on what this new app would do etc. I thought I understood, but wanted to make sure. So, I wrote what I understood of the requirements in scenario form, not to communicate with the developers, but to show the client that I had understood.

They thought this was a fantastic idea – they could quickly see that I was thinking in the same way, that I understood the issues. It highlighted some things that they hadn’t thought through yet, and showed how real people may use the system. They now have more trust in me (given that this is the first project I have done for this client, this is important). And they are thinking of using the scenarios in focus groups, training etc.

So, a good use of a method traditionally used differently…

Designing for invisibility

Wednesday, March 12th, 2003

I had an interesting conversation today. I suspect this is not new (I even suspect that some of it may have come from Allan Cooper)

One of the things that is odd about the software development process is focus. When we are designing, and probably more so when we are developing (I’m a designer, not a developer), the thing we are working on is the focus of our lives for a period of time. We think about it endlessly and take it to heart when someone can’t work it, doesn’t understand it or criticises it.

But on the other end (the user end), the thing that we create is just one more thing that is part of their job (and their job is amazingly different to ours). In most of the applications I have worked on recently, what I really need to do is make them as invisible as possible to the user – so they get in, do what they need to do, and get out, almost without thought.

This is a very challenging thing to do – design something that is intensely important to us, but intensely uninteresting to the user…

Tired & grumpy

Tuesday, March 11th, 2003

Gosh I’ve been grumpy lately (I just re-read my last few posts).

I promise tomorrow I’ll talk about something more fun instead of complaining…

Messing with my spec

Tuesday, March 11th, 2003

And why do developers do the same.

If I say I want it to work in a particular way, I want it to work like that! I don’t want it to work differently or I would have written it that way in the first place…

Messing with my wireframes

Tuesday, March 11th, 2003

So why is it that graphic designers think that a wireframe (when they do know what a wireframe is) is only a vague suggestion on how the page should be laid out.

Before I give anyone a wireframe, I have thought long and hard about what I need to communicate, placement of elements, and relationships between items.

Why would anyone think that I’d want a whole section of the page to be removed from the interface and hidden in a drop-down item, or the most-used interaction item to be hidden away in the corner. If I wanted a drop-down or a hidden utility, I would have hidden them in the first place!

The wrong users – update

Wednesday, March 5th, 2003

OK…yesterday’s post wasn’t quite clear – you don’t usually get to choose your users.

I was talking about choosing the wrong users in research and representation. I don’t usually talk to every user of a system, but when I do research I choose a subset. If people don’t like my conclusions, the first thing they usually attack is my choice of representatives.

The wrong users

Tuesday, March 4th, 2003

Have you ever found, when undertaking a user-centred design process, that as soon as someone hears a result that they don’t like, you somehow must have chosen the ‘wrong users’.

I’d love to know where the ‘right users’ are. It would make life a lot easier ;)