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Archive for January, 2004

IA Summit excitement

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

It’s less than 4 weeks until I leave here to go to Austin, Texas for the IA Summit. How exciting!!! The program is good and I’m looking forward to putting lots of faces to names. If you will be there, please come find me. I’m on committee, so I’ll be hanging around somewhere…

Welcome to the world of reading

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

My daughter did something exciting today – she read her first words all by herself. ON then ONE then NONE then TEN.

Welcome, bear, to the wonderful world of reading…

We don’t have to build it all

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

I was reading Lou’s post about an old article about spelling on ebay and the NY Times article about the same and noticed something that I thought was particularly interesting. From the ebay education guy:

“When will eBay get a spell checker?” His answer? “You go to a store called a bookstore, and you buy something called a dictionary.”

It reminded me that we actually don’t have to build every little thing that people think they want. Yes, a spell checker on ebay might be a good idea, but there are probably lots of good ideas that, when added up, would clutter the screen and make the whole thing a lot more complicated. Just like most of the difficult-to-use bloatware we have now…

Dangerous keyboard shortcuts

Thursday, January 22nd, 2004

I’m working on a spreadsheet at the moment, on my docked notebook.

In the spreadsheet, the shortcut for ‘delete rows’ is ALT-E-E. The ‘eject’ function (which turns off the notebook ready for undocking) is Window-E.

Given that the windows key is right next to the ALT key, guess how many times this week I’ve ejected instead of deleting a row!

Scenarios & closed card sorting

Tuesday, January 20th, 2004

I’ve written before about how I have reservations about how people use card sorting as a technique to develop an IA, but I’ve always talked about open sorting. Today I had a great experience that shows how useless closed card sorting is.

Just for background, in a closed sort, participants are asked to place content into pre-defined categories. Some people use it as a further exploratory method after an open sort, some as an evaluation method (can you tell that I use neither ;)

Today I was working with a team, exploring a new IA for a site and discussing where we would put various pieces of content. We’d talk about some content and one of us would suggest a place where it would fit (like you’d do in a closed sort). I’d turn it around and describe a scenario with someone looking for the content as part of a task.

So many times, after thinking about the scenario, we’d all say “no, I wouldn’t look there, I’d look in xx”.

I wish I could give you examples to clarify this, but I can’t. Believe me, it is amazing the amount of difference there is approaching content placement from a task-based perspective, rather than a content-based perspective. Try it!

Usability workshop

Monday, January 19th, 2004

I’ve been quiet here for a few days because I’ve been working hard writing material for the Intro to usability evaluation workshop that I’m running in March.

You should see this material. If I may say so (and I may, because it’s my blog), it’s pretty amazing – I’ve managed to write a good basic usability testing book.

Hmmm…now there’s a thought ;)

Search engines again

Thursday, January 15th, 2004

I should clarify – google was not down, nor was vivisimo – something else odd was happening as I can’t get to many websites.

Which search engine?

Thursday, January 15th, 2004

Had an interesting experience today – both Google (australia) and Vivisimo were down at the same time. My favourite search unavailable, and I can’t remember features of all of the other search engines.

Which would you use if these two were offline?

Type of search is relevant here – I’m doing a research type search looking for universities offering information architecture and usability classes. I usually use Vivisimo for this type of search both because it is a meta, and I like the filtering.

Five ways to identify intranet usability issues

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

My latest article for work has been published:

“Five ways to identify intranet usability issues”.

Go read it – it’s good ;)

And here’s a link to my previous article, which is also good:

“Escaping the organisation chart on your intranet “

Two lives

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while (I hadn’t posted in so long that I looked at my blog and found that there were no entries on the home page!) I’ve been on summer break, and have only returned to work this week.

Sometimes I feel like I have two entirely separate lives. Over the break, I only used the computer to check the TV guide, weather and flicked through email. Instead I hung around the house, wove curtains for my kitchen, lugged bricks and dirt around the yard, hung out with my family, and learned to concrete.

And here’s a pic of me doing so (yes, the Australian sun is so strong that my daughter needs to wear a sombrero):

Photo of Donna concreting

So this year’s resolution is to merge my two lives together better.

A new RSS aggregator

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

I’m onto my third RSS aggregator. Syndirella was OK, but didn’t let me to mark things unread. Feedreader was nice but too flaky (and has stopped being developed), so today I downloaded RSS bandit.

It’s nice so far. Its free (which was my number 1 criteria), lets me mark things as unread or for further interest, has a tabbed browser within, has good keyboard control, is easy to set up my feeds, and allows me to categorise them.

I’m pretty happy so far.

A trip to the bad neighbourhood

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

I usually hang out in the good neighbourhoods of the web – you know, the IA, usability, good corporate, good product sites. I sometimes think that the web is improving and that it’s actually a pretty usable place.

But today I visited the bad neighbourhood looking for some sites to use in a usability evaluation workshop. Wow – it’s still very scary out there! Sites with no credibility, terrible colour contrast, broken links and unreadable writing all over the place. I left slowly and quietly and returned to the nice places.

It is a useful thing to do occasionally – it reminds me of how other people experience the web and just how far we have to go for this place to be safe and secure.

Luckily, it’s still not as bad as walking through a bad neighbourhood in real life…

(Note: please don’t tell me that neighbourhood is spelt wrongly – I’m Australian, and that’s how we do things ’round here)