— 13 October 2005 —

UI10 – Web Site Usability 2005

Jared Spool (LL Spool J) and Joshua Porter will be talking soon. Jared first, then Joshua after lunch.

UIE is essentially a Think Tank says Jared. I used to be a think tank. Today we will be talking about Effective Dissemination.

ARRRRGH! He said Web 2.0!

Talking now about amtrak.com problems. Jared says 3 out or 4 users cannot make a reservation on the site.

Talking about the use of Patterns, which UIE is excited about (Jared mentioned an article about Patterns from Yahoo! over at Boxes & Arrows). Patterns: a way to describe the design elements available for a team to use. Stored in a library for easy access. Each pattern description contains a single element with its purpose, history, and context. References patters of required elements… (putting slides by too fast for me to type).

Patterns, in this talk, seem to be based on user activities. A library of patterns would contain:

Descriptions (including screen shots)
Description of interaction
Purpose context of use
History of use (including usability findings)
Required patterns
Alternative patterns
Discussion of use

Patterns are a replacement for Standards & Guidelines. SandG have proven to be ineffective. SandG use a compliance and enforcement model which never seems to work. Patterns use an education model. SandG are context-ignorant, while patterns live in a specific context. SandG are frozen in time until the next update. Patterns are live documents, constantly updated. SandG stagnate innovation, patterns promote effective evolution.

Now dissing Bill Gates and saying how he is probably buying volcanoes around the world to put secret lairs in. Nice. Easy target. Not that funny. Slight chuckle.

Back to it. Suggesting a wiki to collect this library of patterns. Well, duh. Who doesn’t know about wikis. I mean honestly, wikis are the silver bullet.

link for later.

Goals for Dissemination

Report recent findings to make immediate improvements. Increase cultural understanding of what users need and what makes good design. Create discussions of future designs.

What we need to know about users

Intentions. Context. Knowledge. Skills. Experience.

Critical Design Knowledge

“You cannot disseminate this enough: reiterate the vision across the entire organisation.” And the philosophy too. Communicate these constantly (after you decide what they are of course).

Dissemination Options

Patterns, SandG, Personas, Reports, Issues Reporting and Recommendation, Presentations, Workshops, Blogs & Wikis (noting an MS blog on Office 12), Newsletters.

Talking about Personas. They “prevent grounding.” (didn’t quite catch why.) They promote the oral tradition. Utilize role playing.

He’s talking about “over the shoulder learning” of Xerox repair people who would meet at lunch and talk about funny things. They all were learning from each other and tended to be better repairers than those who ate lunch alone.

Reports: Written description of what happened. Often used to communicate results. Many teams are moving away from these. Very useful for archive purposes. Writing skils are critical. (I am a fabulous writer, but I would never want to spend all day writing reports!)

Usability Findings: Observation, Inference, Opinion, Recommendation. (If that is all it is, then we should just give up now.) He is digressing into ranting about eyetracking and how it doesn’t “tell us what we think it tells us.” UIE’s rules for Usability Recommendations: They avoid giving them. They describe what they saw and let the client make the decision. If clients insist, they charge a lot of money. They use additional finding to test their original findings.

If you do (or have to) make recommendations you need to be solid on your design skills. Bringing up that writing skills are important again. (It honestly is one of the most imprtant things we do. Jared mentioned SnagIt. :( I wish SnagIt was available on the Mac. C’mon Techsmith! Help a fella out here!)

Understand why you need to disseminate findings. Avoid Review and Improve instruments. Encourage Educate and Administrate instruments.

Now on to questions. And more importantly at this point: lunch.

UI10

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Snook Approved!