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Current Cites for Sept. 2019

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 10/1/19 (12:04am)

go to Current Cites
Current Cites for Sept. 2019 is out! You can find the issue here...

Usability studies on the effectiveness of library research guides are popping up all over the place. The one I recommended appeared in the latest issue of Information Technology and Libraries. Naturally in the meantime another example popped up -- this one in the latest issue of Journal of Web Librarianship. Hot topic!



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."


First Books of 2017

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 1/22/17 (6:41pm)

Actually I've had the 'Handbook of Usability Testing' for years -- the first edition, that is.


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.


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:

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

Holiday Readings

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 12/26/11 (1:43pm)

Ethan Marcotte on the inadvisability of setting up a purely mobile site:

responsive_web_design_book_cover.png "...Fragmenting our content across different 'device-optimized' experiences is a losing proposition, or at least an unsustainable one. As the past few years have shown us, we simply can't compete with the pace of technology. Are we going to create a custom experience for every new browser or device that appears?"

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.