DonnaM » 2004 » July

Archive for July, 2004

Nielsen on card sorting

Monday, July 19th, 2004

You could hardly expect me not to comment on Jakob Nielsen’s alertbox on card sorting. I get the feeling that people expect me to disagree just on principle ;)

There is some good stuff in here – the same points that I return to frequently:

  • card sorting is a generative method, not an evaluation method
  • much of the value comes from listening to people’s comments
  • it is important not to design an information architecture on similarity scores

Also good is that he points out that the findings were based on one research study. I have done card sorts on enough information domains to know that some domains cluster easily, some don’t. I can think of a couple of homogeneous domains where high correlation would be possible with many fewer participants.

Actually, there are only a couple of things I disagree with:

  • a card sort is not a ‘test’ so the language of ‘testing’ users confuses the issues of generative and evaluative activities
  • I truly don’t believe that users have a mental model of an information space. A card sort doesn’t elicit this model – it just gets some ideas of what things people think are similar.
  • I can’t tell whether the number of users is in reference to individual sorts or group sorts. I expect it must refer to individual sorts (so you are after 15 sets of results, not 15 sorts). However, if this is the case, then the reference to ‘listening to users comments’ is irrelevant as people don’t tend to talk to themselves when they sort!

If you would like to know more, read my definitive guide to card sorting over on Boxes and Arrows or have a look at previous musings in my card sorting category.

An intranet truism

Thursday, July 15th, 2004

Putting the name of your team on the home page with the intent of ‘making people understand what you do’ will not have that result. If there is any affect at all, it will only be that staff will vaguely wonder what ‘blah blah’ is – they will never click on it.

Site use – insights from user research

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

Some interesting insights from a day of user research into an intranet:

  • People don’t know that links are links if they look like headings. Don’t make links large, bold, blue and not underlined.
  • Some people love long lists of relatively random links because they can see everything at once. Some people hate them because they are long, ungrouped and inconsistent in scope and granularity.
  • People like flyout menus (despite problems with slipperiness). It is easier to scan and re-scan the items than to think about where something might be.
  • You could put the names of your pets in the top level of a flyout menu – people only look at the items underneath anyway.
  • People can’t remember what they tried to do that didn’t work, but they remember how it made them feel. The feeling lingers longer than the task.
  • People don’t think about why something worked on one system but not another. They only know that sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. Life is trial and error; hit and miss.

New information architecture workshop

Tuesday, July 13th, 2004

At work, we’ve just announced a new workshop – one that is very special to me. Introductory Information Architecture. It will be intially running in Canberra and Sydney, Australia in October this year.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to teach core information architecture skills in a short time (it is a one-day workshop) and in a way that involves practical work to maximise learning and retention. I think the workshop will do this pretty well…

Weekend in Sydney

Monday, July 5th, 2004

We’ve just returned from a fun weekend in Sydney.

Amber and Tony went to the Sydney Aquarium on Friday:

Amber in front of tank at Sydney aquarium

We also went to the stage show for the Lion King on Friday night, which was amazing (but have no photos for it of course).

On Saturday we did some shopping at Paddy’s market then met up with old friends and had a very yummy lunch of seafood, divine desert (it was divine partly because I pinched everyone else’s), and an excellent Sauvignon Blanc at Nick’s Seafood.

On Sunday we caught the ferry across to Taronga Zoo where we saw lots of interesting animals, including a very lonely elephant:

On the ferry going to Taronga Zoo, Harbour Bridge behind us

Amber, Tony and a sad elephant

and returned to an afternoon snack at the Belgian Beer Cafe where we had a lot of amazing Belgian beer and belgian chocolate mousse:

Belgian cholcolate mouse with rochefort no 10

Fab weekend!