Usability

Usability vs. Open Source

This article comparing the usability of Joomla vs. WordPress has already been linked by everybody’s uncle, but it’s still worth a look.

I find it amusing, however, that none of the comments so far on that blog post mention the commitment that the core WordPress team appears to have on making blogging fun. If you start with the goal of making something fun, then add sophistication to make it flexible without being complex, you’ll get a very different result than you would if you started with different goals.

World Usability Day Today

The Usability Professionals’ Association says “a cell phone should be as easy to access as a doorknob.” And since 2005 they’ve been organizing World Usability Day to help make that happen. Locally the UPA Boston chapter is holding events at the Boston Museum of Science (in Cambridge, actually) that explore the clues we use to […] » about 200 words

Free Report On Accessible Web Design From Jakob Nielsen

Free from Nielsen Norman Group: Beyond ALT Text, Making the Web Easy to Use for Users With Disabilities, a report on web design for users with disabilities. “Seventy-five best practices for design of websites and intranets, based on usability studies with people who use assistive technology” According to the blog post, usability is three times better for non-disabled users.

Cataloging Errors

A bibliographic instruction quiz we used to use asked students how many of Dan Brown’s books could be found in our catalog. The idea was that attentive students would dutifully search by author for “brown, dan,” get redirected to “Brown, Dan 1964-,” and find three books. Indeed, the expected answer was “three.”

As it turns out, my library has all four of Dan Brown’s published books, including the missing Digital Fortress. The problem is that three books are cataloged under the more common Brown, Dan 1964-, but Fortress was cataloged under Brown, Danielle.

The problem is that cataloging is imperfect.

Yeah, it takes some marbles to say that, but the fact is that cataloging is a human endeavor. Humans make mistakes. The challenge we face is to build systems that tolerate error, and then make it easy to fix those errors when discovered.

Context, Language, Systems

“Bagged products” is little better than “cookery.” I’m gonna bet that no customer has ever asked the sales people for “bagged products,” that nobody’s ever checked the yellow pages for “bagged products,” and without context, nobody would come close to answering a question on what the heck “bagged products” are all about. But we do […] » about 300 words

Donald Norman — Everyday Things

I was especially young and impressionable when I discovered Don Norman‘s The Design of Everyday Things, but I still claim it’s required reading for anybody who’s read more than one post here at MaisonBisson. That’s self selection at work, but let me put it this way: unless you’re the only consumer of the things you create, then you need to read this. Now.

I feel foolish to have only recently discovered Norman’s website and essays. It’s there that I found he’s giving the commencement address today at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering Professional Masters Programs. He summarizes his prepared statement thusly:

If you work very hard, perhaps you too can get a silly hat like this (wearing my silly racoon-tail hat from the University of Padua). What is the moral? Take your work seriously, so someone might award you the hat (and the honorary degree that goes with it). But, as the hat illustrates, never take yourself seriously: strive to do things that matter, that make a difference, but have fun while doing so.

It’s cutesie, but I kinda like the message, and not just because today is also my birthday and I’m especially susceptible to schmaltz. Eh…

The URLs From My Portland Talk

Following Edward Tufte’s advice, I’ve been wanting to offer a presentation without slides for a long time now; I finally got my chance in Portland. The downside is that now I don’t have anything to offer as a takeaway memory aid for my talk. My speaking notes are too abstract to offer for public consumption, […] » about 800 words

Who Makes These Decisions Anyway?

Brian’s comment at RemainingRelevant should resonate with many of us: Something to consider about why libraries end up with bad interfaces (at least as far as catalogs go) is that it might be that the people who use the interface (and help the public use it) are not the people who decide which interface to […] » about 300 words

User Experience Map

I was this close to posting soldierant‘s Gobbledy Gook map, but, well… I guess I wanted to make a point with his user experience map, done in collaboration with the smart folks at Experience Dynamics. Take a careful look at the role of your competitors and a user’s expectations and goals. Yeah, we’ve all got […] » about 100 words