Google Wave mania begins
The just announced Google Wave is getting a lot of people interested. The Wave is not just another application, it's a whole new way of using online information. If you have not seen the demo yet, you should. The Wave takes collaboration to a whole new level. When I was watching the collaboration demo, I felt the entire experience was more like an extension into multiple minds rather than the 'switch-type' collaboration we see in the likes of Sharepoint and Lotus Notes. The engagement just felt more organic, more emergent, more fun. There are many people thinking along these lines, Gabor Cselle, for one talk about how to build a business using Wave, and he has some pretty viable suggestions. There are going to be many more ideas around the Wave in the coming days as more people come to grips with a new mental model of working online. These are definitely interesting times.
30 Examples of Attractive Nav
Web Designer Wall has put up a collection of appealing navigation systems:
"Web designers always have to strike a balance between usability and visual appeal when designing a website. Without this balance, a website might be nice to look at or difficult to navigate. Or, it might be easy to navigate, but not easy on the eyes. With this in mind, balancing attractive navigation with usability does not need to be overly difficult. To help you generate new ideas and inspiration for user navigation, here are 30 great examples of attractive and usable navigation."
Designing site structures for intranets and websites
My new article over at PebbleRoad looks at design of site structures:
"A good site structure makes users happy. They can easily find, understand and use the information on your site. For the business, this makes all the difference. In this article I’ll go through principles behind good site structures and describe a methodology for creating site structures."
Folksonomies, findability, and the evolution of information organization
Alexis Wichowski traces the emergence of tagging and how it relates to other information organization systems.
"Folksonomies have emerged as a means to create order in a rapidly expanding information environment whose existing means to organize content have been strained. This paper examines folksonomies from an evolutionary perspective, viewing the changing conditions of the information environment as having given rise to organization adaptations in order to ensure information “survival” — remaining findable. This essay traces historical information organization mechanisms, the conditions that gave rise to folksonomies, and the scholarly response, review, and recommendations for the future of folksonomies."
Jump Into The Stream
Erick Schonfeld analyses the changing pattern of content on the web. First it was all about 'pages' and now it is about the 'stream'. It started with RSS and now its galloping ahead with Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and the like.
"Someone might notice an obscure blog post on Twitter, where it starts spreading, then it moves to FriendFeed and Facebook and desktop stream readers such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic desktop and before you know it, a hundred thousand people are reading that article. The stream creates a different form of syndication which cannot be licensed and cannot be controlled."
Why content strategy matters (and size doesn’t)
Craig Bromberg writes about the recent blog entries on Content Strategy (CS) and tries to make sense of one angle: big and little CS.
As far as I can see, this is the real differentiator between CS and most other content work: Unlike traditional editorial work, content strategy isn’t steeped in grand narratives so much as in bits, in data. “CS big” isn’t custom publishing (although there are definitely narrative and brand strategies one wants to be aware of). And “CS little” isn’t just those deliverables: content without context, from the container to the brand, is all essential if you want to sell in the Googlesphere.
Top 10 Information Architecture Mistakes
Jakob has grouped his article around two issues: structure and navigation. His views around structure are the same I come across in IA projects: Why focus so much on structure when we have such an fantastic (read 'expensive') search engine?
"The most notable structural problem is when designers treat a site like one big swamp with no organizing principle for individual items. Yes, users can fish the swamp using search or by following links from current promotions or outside sites. But whatever they dredge up is it. No opportunities for understanding the site's other offerings or locating related items."
Lean intranets - part 2
Patrick Walsh continues his analysis of managing intranets the lean way and comparing it to how car manufacturers manage their factories the lean way.
"So, there you have it. Basically, in the Lean Intranet, information professionals will be removing barriers, minimising and assessing content and continually improving their intranet using a customer-focused approach. Hard to achieve? I won't say that the transition to a lean approach in intranets will be without problems but I know it's possible. I've seen ‘lean' working for many years in the automotive sector helping to produce better cars through more efficient processes. Why not better, more efficient intranets?"
Issue 1, Volume 1 of the Journal of IA
Issue 1 of the Journal of IA is now available for download. Here are the contents:
- Dorte Madsen's Editorial - Shall We Dance?
- Gianluca Brugnoli - Connecting the Dots of User Experience
- Helena Francke - Towards an Architectural Document Analysis
- Andrew Hinton - The Machineries of Context
- James Kalbach - On Uncertainty in Information Architecture
The Elements of Social Architecture
An article by Christina Wodkte published in A List Apart on the 3 attributes of social architecture and how to cater for it: Identity, Relationships; and Activity.
"While your designs can never control people, they can encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior. The psychologist Kurt Lewin developed an equation that explains why people do the crazy things they do. Lewin asserts that behavior is a function of a person and his environment: B=f(P,E). You can’t change a person’s nature, but you can design the environment he moves around in. Let’s explore some of Alexander’s patterns I’ve observed in my work and the design work of my fellow practitioners."
Conducting a Knowledge Audit
Here’s another in our series of video tutorials to different practical knowledge management techniques. It’s taken from a workshop we conducted last week on knowledge audits and knowledge mapping. For ease of use it’s split into three short parts: Different types of knowledge; Different strategies for different knowledge types; and conducting a knowledge audit and building knowledge maps.
Designing for Faceted Search
"Faceted search lets users refine or navigate a collection of information by using a number of discrete attributes – the so-called facets. A facet represents a specific perspective on content that is typically clearly bounded and mutually exclusive. The values within a facet can be a flat list that allows only one choice (e.g. a list of possible shoe sizes) or a hierarchical list that allow you to drill-down through multiple levels (e.g. product types, Computers > Laptops). The combination of all facets and values are often called a faceted taxonomy. These faceted values can be added directly to content as metadata or extracted automatically using text mining software."
The House That Ogilvy Built
Interesting read from Strategy+Business. In this piece author Kenneth Roman describes the business genius of David Ogilvy and the principles he used to build the enduring firm.
More than anything else, the glue that held together the organization as it grew around the world was training. Ogilvy used the metaphor of a teaching hospital. “Great hospitals do two things,” he said. “They look after patients, and they teach young doctors. Ogilvy & Mather does two things: We look after clients, and we teach young advertising people. Ogilvy & Mather is the teaching hospital of the advertising world. And as such, it is to be respected above all other agencies.”
IDEO’s Ten Tips For Creating a 21st–Century Classroom Experience
Metropolis magazine lists 10 tips that IDEO has learnt creating the Ormondale Elementary School in Portola Valley, California. It seems the items in this list have been around for many years now. So the problem is not about knowing what to do, but how to do it. Jay Mathews's book, Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America is a much better read on how to bring change to the classroom.
Here are some items from IDEO's list:
Change the discourse.
If you want to drive new behavior, you have to measure new things. Skills such as creativity and collaboration can’t be measured on a bubble chart. We need to create new assessments that help us understand and talk about the developmental progress of 21st-century skills. This is not just about measuring outcomes, but also measuring process. We need formative assessments that are just as important as numeric ones. And here’s the trick: we can’t just have the measures. We actually have to value them.
Teachers are designers.
Let them create. Build an environment where your teachers are actively engaged in learning by doing. Shift the conversation from prescriptive rules to permissive guidance. Even though the resulting environment may be more complicated to manage, the teachers will produce amazing results.
IA Task Failures Remain Costly
"Although usability has improved overall, IA is becoming a sore thumb that's preventing websites from meeting their business goals... Bad IA is now the greatest cause of task failures because it's the stumbling block for getting anywhere on a site. Users try to find their way around a site, and if they're particularly motivated, they might even try again if they fail. But if users are repeatedly led in circles or dumped into no-man's land by weak search, they give up and leave for another site. That's why deficiencies in your IA are costing you a lot of money, right now. "
Problem Solving 101
Every now and then comes a book that makes me think about my practice and shines a light on how to do it better. Ken Watanabe's Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People is one such book. Initially written to teach kids problem-solving approaches, this book became the most popular business book in Japan in 2007. In 120 pages Ken brilliantly describes explorative and iterative problem-solving approaches that make so much sense. Here is his approach:
- Understand the current situation
- Identify the root cause of the problem
- Develop an effective action plan
- Execute until the problem is solved, making modifications as necessary
He describes this approach in 3 fun-filled stories:
- Mushroom Lovers, a kids rock band, trying to get more people to attend their monthly concert
- John Octopus on figuring out how to save enough money to buy a computer to pursue his dream to become a CGI artist in Hollywood
- Kiwi on deciding which soccer school to attend
One thing is quite clear: this needs a rapid or iterative approach and will not fit well into a prescriptive approach.
The problem that I see is that most clients demand a prescriptive approach. For example, clients want to know upfront the number of interviews that will be done or the number of usability tests that will be conducted in the research study. Such decisions I think are to be made in context and only if there is a need for them. But I also acknowledge that clients need some indication of effort to plan for resources needed. So we have a problem. The rapid development approach seems to be a possible solution (a hypothesis) but I'll need to test it out on a few projects to see if it works!
Toward Content Quality
Continuing on the content strategy thread, here is a bunch of checklists that can be used to evaluate the quality of content on the website or intranet.
"In my experience, a common misperception of the evaluation of content quality is that its scope is limited to the correction of typos and grammatical errors. Correcting spelling and grammar only scratches the surface. To truly consider content quality, we need to examine its quality along several dimensions."
Content strategy articles
Business week has put up a useful list of content strategy links. Good starting points to the growing awareness of content strategy. In addition here is a link to content strategy presentations made during the last IA Summit.
IA Summit 09- Jesse James Garrett
Jesses James Garrett delivered the IA Summit 09 closing plenary. Some nice pointers.
"With perception covered by visual designers, sound designers, and industrial designers, cognition and emotion are the manifest destiny of IA. User experience is not about information, rather, it is always about people and how they relate to information.
By structuring the information, User Experience Designers structure the tools that humanity uses. And, as a result, we influence how people think and feel. The final result is that those tools, in turn, shape humanity. We should embrace that responsibility."
Reviewing intranet-based collaboration setups
My new article at PebbleRoad: Reviewing intranet-based collaboration setups
"The ability to form groups and collaborate on the intranet is key to making the intranet a place for ‘doing work’. A well-planned collaboration setup allows staff to use the setup easily and effectively. Here are 7 heuristics that can help review existing collaboration setups in organizations."
History of HCI
John Caroll explains how HCI came into being:
"In the early 1980s, HCI was a small and focused specialty area. It was a cabal trying to establish what was then a heretical view of computing. Today, largely due to the success of that endeavor, HCI is a vast and multifaceted community, loosely bound by the evolving concept of usability, and the integrating commitment to value human concerns as the primary consideration in creating interactive systems."
When Internal Collaboration Is Bad for Your Company
Key idea from the latest HBR article on internal collaboration:
"The problem here wasn’t collaboration per se; our statistical analysis found that novice teams at the firm actually benefited from exchanging ideas with their peers. Rather, the problem was determining when it makes sense and, crucially, when it doesn’t. Too often a business leader asks, How can we get people to collaborate more? That’s the wrong question. It should be, Will collaboration on this project create or destroy value? In fact, to collaborate well is to know when not to do it. "
Donation Usability: Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities
Jakob Nielsen's new piece tackles donation usability. I'm not surprised at his findings. We found similar themes when we did the redesign for the National University of Singapore Giving website. We found that there was a need to inform donors on why their gifts were needed and how they will be used (the LEARN section). Also we found that there was a need to pay-back in kind by honouring donors (the HONOUR section). It goes without saying the the DONATE section had to be without flaws. So glad to know that the findings are similar across continents.
Jeff Bezos Works In Kentucky Distribution Center For A Week
I just wish this was mandatory for CEOs.
"Jeff Bezos is spending this week working in an Amazon distribution center in Lexington, Kentucky. He apparently wants to see what it's like to be a rank-and-file Amazon employee. More CEOs should try that once in a while."