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Tags // Interface

Putting Context Into Context

This is a nice article that tries to analyze context, or elements of context that can influence design outcomes.

Design Checklists for Online Help

This is a must read article for anyone interested in providing easily accessible and usable online help (or instruction). "Online help systems have evolved over the past 20 years to meet the needs of our users. Designers must consider the content, format, presentation, navigation, and access methods of online help systems. A series of design checklists based on the past 20 years of research are presented in this paper, which summarizes a journal article currently being considered for publication. The latest trend in online help system design is embedded user assistance, which includes integrating information into the interface and including an embedded help pane within that interface to display a context-sensitive online help system." [thanks usable help]

“Click Nevermore”

Ted Manning from Allen Interactions sent me this lively poetic piece on e-learning: Once I took e-learning (dreary), and I pondered, weak and weary Why they forced me to go through it - who'd create this dreadful bore? While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping As of some one gently rapping, rapping on my chamber door. 'Tis Flash animation," I did mutter, "only this and nothing more." Wish I could retain some meaning, 'fore my interest careening From this dull, page-turning Fiend, Had me weeping on the floor. Yet I plodded, kicking, screaming, clicking clicks I did deplore. Then I stumbled 'pon a screen which did set my mind to reeling, Quoth instructions (Times New Raven), in a font typed very small: Click Nevermore. 'Round the interface, I peering, long I sat there wondering, fearing Doubting, dreaming dreams no learner ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, But now the words were clearly spoken, those instructions from before, A reedy, screechy chirpy voice through mine headphones: "Click Nevermore." Much I marveled - head was churning - was this teaching? Was I learning? Could I recall course objectives, witnessed by mine eyes before? Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing, Performance outcomes? All unknown, but this I did the screen implore: "Tell me truly, what thou wantest!" Quoth the screen: Click Nevermore. "Prophet!" cried I, "thing of evil! Wretched software! Damned upheaval! Dare I click this absurd button, or doest thou warn me to abhor? What behavior seekest thee - what change in my skills' core? Tell this soul with sorrow laden, how to grasp that distant shore!" Quoth e-learning: Click Nevermore. Now the screen doth mock me truly: flickering, winking, taunting coolly, And my eyes have all the seeming of a demon most unruly, As I wait for new instructions, those that guide me through a door To a Haven blessing users, peaceful Eden, where true learning is adored. Yet I grasp no hope of leaving, for in my mind those words still roar: Quoth e-learning, "Click Nevermore."

It’s Not Just Usability

Very entertaining post by Joel Spolsky on the design of the social interface -- interfaces for social networking, e-mail, discussion boards, etc. "Whereas the goal of user interface design is to help the user succeed, the goal of social interface design is to help the society succeed, even if it means one user has to fail."

Interfaces for Staying in the Flow

Archiving this for the weekend read: "This paper reviews the literature, and interprets the characteristics of flow within the context of interface design with the goal of understanding what kinds of interfaces are most conducive to supporting users being in the flow. Several examples to demonstrate the connection to flow are given."

Information Architecture Heuristics

Nice list of points to consider when doing site eval. The points are categorized under the following:
  1. Main page
  2. Search interface
  3. Search results
  4. Site-wide navigation
  5. Contextual navigation

The high cost of not finding information

A good read from the IDC research on the high cost of not finding online information (and in some cases finding too much information). Several examples of the same are also provided. Two nice recommendations are given: single search interface across several repositories and the ability to contact the right person for help.

Apple unveils Spoken Interface for blind OS X users

Finally OS X get an inbuilt screen reader: "Apple has introduced a new accessibility solution for visually impaired users that it will integrate with the next major release of Mac OS X."

HBS Working Knowledge: Take Your Cues from Customers

HBS Working Knowledge: Take Your Cues from Customers

"Think of the product as an artifact around which consumers have experiences. Or as an evolving interface between two equal problem solvers, the consumer and the firm. Product design must incorporate the problem-solving skills and behaviors of both sides to facilitate the co-construction of an individualized experience. It opens up or forecloses future capabilities, and introduces or eliminates constraints on both the consumer and the firm. Therefore, engaging the product development team in exploring how consumer experiences evolve can profoundly affect product and service design."

Academic Technologies for Learning: The Web: Design for Active Learning

Academic Technologies for Learning: The Web: Design for Active Learning

"This handbook will present the idea of interactivity as it applies to a cohesive design including high interface, content, and instructional design."
[thanks elearnspace]

Information Today: Personas: Setting the Stage                     for Building Usable Inf

Information Today: Personas: Setting the Stage for Building Usable Information Sites

"As long as personas are developed with diligence, the planning and development tool has three key benefits for interface design projects of all kinds. First, personas introduce teams to hypothetical users who have names, personal traits, and habits that in a relatively short time become believable constructs for honing design specifications. Second, personas are stand-ins with archetypal characteristics that represent a much larger group of users. Third, personas give design teams a strong sense of what users' goals are and what an interface needs to fulfill them."
[thanks infodesign]

Lego: Lego Builder

Lego: Lego Builder

Interesting tetris-like interface is used for assembling the pieces.

Poynter: The State of News Multimedia

Poynter: The State of News Multimedia

Finally, if your organization is interested in doing a better job of online storytelling -- and perhaps winning in next year's SND.ies -- here's some advice from the judges on multimedia news content:

Technology Source: Simulations and the Learning Revolution: An Interview with Clark Aldrich

Technology Source: Simulations and the Learning Revolution: An Interview with Clark Aldrich

"The good news is that the three elements of simulations -- story and graphics, interface, and complex interactive systems -- represent genuine opportunities for changing how we teach and learn. In order to make the most of their potential, designers will need to invent new, educationally oriented simulation genres. These new genres will be both similar to and different from computer game genres, in much the same way that current computer game genres are similar to and different from one another."

Clark MacLeod:  Information Design: An Introduction

Clark MacLeod: Information Design: An Introduction

"Information design is concerned with transforming data into information, making the complex easier to understand and to use. It is a rapidly growing discipline that draws on typography, graphic design, applied linguistics, applied psychology, applied ergonomics, computing, and other fields. It emerged as a response to people's need to understand and use such things as forms, legal documents, computer interfaces and technical information."

UIE: Field Studies: The Best Tool to Discover User Needs

UIE: Field Studies: The Best Tool to Discover User Needs

"The most valuable asset of a successful design team is the information they have about their users. When teams have the right information, the job of designing a powerful, intuitive, easy-to-use interface becomes tremendously easier. When they don't, every little design decision becomes a struggle. While techniques, such as focus groups, usability tests, and surveys, can lead to valuable insights, the most powerful tool in the toolbox is the 'field study'. Field studies get the team immersed in the environment of their users and allow them to observe critical details for which there is no other way of discovering."

Scott McCloud: The Right Number

Scott McCloud: The Right Number
Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics has started his own online comic called The Right Number. It's about math, sex, obsession and phone numbers. This time around he is trying a zoomable interface. Check it out; it only costs 25 cents.

MIT Tech Review: Will

MIT Tech Review: Will

User Interface 7 West: 5 Things To Know About Users

User Interface 7 West: 5 Things To Know About Users
"The user's intentions, context, knowledge, skills, and experience are the essential things that every designer needs to know. Without this, the team is going to design something that seems useful, but they'll never know if it actually helps the user... Unfortunately, these five things are beyond what normal market research can tell us. Market research can tell us age groups, income levels, geographic regions, even purchase behavior. But it can't tell us the key things we need to know."

Boxes and Arrows: Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization

Boxes and Arrows: Visible Narratives: Understanding Visual Organization
"Given the massive number of web pages and applications, users often rely on visual cues (especially initially) to assess web interfaces. Therefore, a well thought-out visual organization can greatly enhance usability by grouping information into meaningful page elements and sequences. Such a system relies on an understanding of how people use visual relationships to distinguish objects and what those relationships reveal to viewers (through visual weight and hierarchy)."

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