At the Ref Desk (8/18/17): So what happens if the moon just gets stuck? Then what do we do? #SolarEclipse2017 [more...]
Subscribe to RSS - IA-Usability

IA-Usability

Usability-Thursdays

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 2/16/17 (3:01pm)

MPOW: I set up shop at the computer lab in the Student Center and then hustled out to the hallway to ask students if they had time to test out a page. Some had to go to class. Others said yes (8 in total).

Results went on the writing pad and my cellphone served as a stopwatch.

Funniest moment: Someone who does webwork for another dept. said, "I wish we did testing too."

Topic: 
Institution: 

Dumb 'Security' Idea About to Be Axed by Bank of America - Finally

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 5/20/15 (3:27pm)

Well, it took them a while but Bank of America is finally saying 'bye-bye' to a particularly ineffective form of online security called 'SiteKey'. Probably better known as a 'security image', the idea was to assign you an image which you were then expected to remember every time you logged in. Yeah, good luck with that.

There actually was research on this. Not surprisingly, researchers found that "users will enter their passwords even if their site-authentication images are absent." Brad Stone summarizing the results in the New York Times put it this way, "Of 60 participants who got that far into the study and whose results could be verified, 58 entered passwords anyway. Only two chose not to log on, citing security concerns."

Of course that was 2007 or more than eight years ago. The NYT article concludes with a comment from one of the original researchers, "sometimes the appearance of security is more important than security itself.”

I'd only add that all too often, the mere mention of 'security' is expected to triumph over everything including common sense. The truth of course is that everything deserves a healthy measure of skepticism.

QOTD: Not Your Grandmother's Horse-Drawn Tractor

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 2/9/14 (12:34pm)

UX Quote of the Day*:

"The designers of the Phelps farm tractor in 1901 based their interface on a metaphor with the interface for the familiar horse: farmers used reins to control the tractor. The tractor was steered by pulling on the appropriate rein, both reins were loosened to go forward and pulled back to stop, and pulling back harder on the reins caused the tractor to back up."*

The authors go on to say:

"It’s clear in hindsight that this was a dead end, and automobiles have developed their own user interfaces without metaphors based on earlier technologies."

*Don Gentner and Jakob Nielsen. 1996. The Anti-Mac interface. Commun. ACM 39, 8 (August 1996), 70-82. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/232014.232032

Topic: 

Draft BBC Mobile Accessibility Standards and Guidelines

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 6/20/13 (11:45am)

Draft BBC Mobile Accessibility Standards and Guidelines:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet/posts/Accessibility-Mobile-Apps

Interesting that they worked with a firm from "the States" (USA! USA!). A summary of the guidelines can be found here...

Interesting points include:

  • Provide large enough touch areas
  • Provide visible changes of state

h/t .net magazine

Search Box Syndrome

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 9/30/11 (10:41am)

We've been here before -- from a usability study looking at how students use (or don't use as the case may be) various library database pages:

In 2006, Steve Krug said internet users were mostly looking for something clickable to click on; BGSU students, by contrast, often looked for a search box to search in. When a search was unsuccessful, instead of retooling it, the student looked for a different search box and tried the same search again. The students in the study tried to change the subset of information they were searching, not the search they had already decided was the best one.

Okay, so the next logical question might be, is this a student preference or is there something about the design of the website that drives them to it? Maybe yes, maybe no but considering the effort we put into all of this, it's certainly worth testing.

But hark! A bit further down in the same study -- apparently vendor consolidation will save the day:

Therefore, if we want students to use a wider range of our resources, it is crucial that we teach them to recognize the resources that will be useful for them. As the brand diversity of our resources narrows, vendors and publishers merge, and vendors market more and more to end users, this strategy may become easier to adopt.

MetaFilter - Happy 12th Anniversary!

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 7/24/11 (9:11pm)

MetaFilter was the original community blog. It's where everyone went to discuss everything from web design to politics. Last week it celebrated its 12th Anniversary.

The site was originally put together by Matt Haughey and frequented by techies. There was a lot of discussion in the early days about web design and development. Adherents of Jacob Nielsen and web designers would trade barbs particularly over the use of Flash (hence the 'Flash Wars'). This was a dispute not settled until the arrival of more reasonable adherents of usability like Jared Spool who knew how to speak to designers and thus had a far more positive impact.

Later on as membership grew, topics of more general interest such as news and politics became more prominent. MetaFilter was where we went to discuss the fall-out from the Bush-Gore election results in 2000 as well as the aftermath following 9/11.

Anyway, the local alternative weekly where Matt Haughey lives in Portland has run an interesting article on him called, "The Blogfather". Also, MetaFilter has its own page of user-submitted reminiscenes called, "MetaFilter Memories".

The World is not (only) a Search Box

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 5/4/10 (8:59am)

Interesting conclusion from a round of usability testing by Gerry McGovern:

The larger the website, the more important it becomes to have quality search. However, the foundation of all great websites is, and always will be, quality navigation. In fact, there is a direct correlation between the quality of your navigation and the quality of your search. The better the navigation, the better the search results will be.

Topic: 

Why I Love Task Analysis

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 2/3/10 (1:43pm)

So we were developing some survey or the other and I thought I'd try it on a couple real live students before releasing it to the world.

Our first real-live student (guinea pig) comes in and is completely stumped by the drop-down menu asking her to indicate her major.

"What's the problem," I ask.

"Well," she replied, "I'm a freshman and I haven't decided."

Hello, Homer Simpson -- Duh!

And yes, we immediately added "Major Not Yet Chosen" to the thing, and lived happily ever after.

Topic: 

Yes, Virginia, in Interface Design, There are Winners & Losers

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 7/11/09 (9:43pm)

Usability is a major objective for Drupal 7, the new upcoming version -- so much so that they've set up a site entirely devoted to it called, 'Drupal 7 User Experience Project' -- or 'D7UX.org' for short.

You've got to love a site which wears a declaration like this on its sleeve:

"Our UX Principles: 1. Make the most frequent tasks easy and less frequent tasks achievable. 2. Design for the 80% 3. Privilege the Content Creator 4. Make the default settings smart"

Pages