Marketing Strategy and Innovation Blog

New Year’s UX News Round-Up

In the tradition of the New Year, best-of lists and some things to look forward to…

Ten Best Intranets 2008

From the Alertbox, Mr. Nielsen reports the Ten Best Intranets of 2008. Half the winners are from the U.S., among them Bank of America, Barnes and Noble, Campbell Soup and Coldwell Banker. The financial industry is strongly represented with three winners, while the technology sector produced only one winner, SAP AG. Features of these best sites include prominent, feature-rich company news sections, improved day-to-day productivity support and knowledge management, and overall improved integration.

Sign-In Design: Mistakes to Avoid

Using Cisco Systems‘ online “Marketplace” as an example of what not to do, Jared Spool gives the run down on eight mistakes to avoid when designing sign-on pages. The lesson in brief: Avoid sign-in if you can, don’t require sign-in too soon, state the benefit, make the sign-in prominent, help your users with “I forgot‚Ķ” buttons, provide sign-in opportunities at key locations, ask as few registration questions as necessary, and, lastly, don’t forget to tell the user how their information will–or will not–be put to use.

Virtual Hosting: The List Bonanza

Over the holiday season, Virtual Hosting published seven new lists. One is charitable: The Top 80 Charities and Open Source/Access Advocates. Two are geeky: 50+ Resources for Computer Science Students and 100 Tools, Tips, Resources for Building Your Own Computer. And several might just help us get back into gear in the New Year: 50 Ways for Web Workers to Bring in More Business, a Video Blogging Toolbox, 30 Google Apps You’ve Never Heard Of, and the Web Stats Motherload.

Usability and User Experience Specialist Named Best Career

Back in mid-December, U.S. News and World Report included “Usability/User Experience Specialist” in its list of 31 “Best Careers 2008.” The article reports the career to have a median income of $98,000 and that professionals will be in high demand, given that the “number of new, complex products is proliferating.” Careers were selected for the list on the basis of both qualitative and quantitative criteria: job satisfaction, training difficulty, prestige, job market outlook and pay.

Though any publicity may be good publicity, there are those on the Interaction Design Association discussion board who take issue with the U.S. News article. Points of the argument: that the high median pay would fluctuate greatly depending on experience, training and geographic location, that the use of the term “specialist” and the generality of the job description are inaccurate, and that the Day-in-the-Life section excludes the design aspect of user experience work.

Blackberry Keyboard: Breaking the Crackberry Habit?

CNET news reports that Research in Motion has filed a patent with the USPTO for an angled Blackberry keyboard. The new keyboard may help alleviate hand and wrist pain, if it can convince users to learn a new method of text-entry.

Consumer Electronics Show 2008

The Consumer Electronics Show kicked off this Monday in Las Vegas. Forbes offered a preview last week, namedropping speechmakers Bill Gates, Brian Roberts of Comcast, Paul Otellini of Intel, and Rick Wagoner of GM. Since MacWorld is next week, Forbes also reports, Steve Jobs will not be in attendance.

The New York Times offered insight yesterday into the size of the show, observing that since “technology has wormed its way into so many products‚Ķit’s hard to say exactly what an electronics trade show should be about.” “It is as much of a place to get lost as to get discovered.”

Notable items at the show include a phone running Google’s Android mobile software platform, the Sony Rolly robot, and a 150″ Panasonic plasma television. CNET‘s coverage picks out the XstreamHD media server, Yahoo Go 3.0, and a Bug Labs build-your-own-dream-gadget platform among highlights so far. CNET Best in Show winners will be announced on Wednesday.

Last But Not Least: Interactions Magazine

Interactions Magazine relaunched itself this month with a new website to complement its print edition. Contributors for the January and February issue include Don Norman, Steve Portigal on Personas, Elizabeth Churchill on “Idioms, Metaphors and Design”, and Hugh Dubberly on Innovation. Expect full articles to be posted soon.

Montparnas’ weekly news installment posts every Tuesday at lunchtime.

Winter Holiday UX News Round-Up

On November 7th, 2007, RollingStone published an interview with William Gibson, author of Neuromancer and the man who coined the term ‘cyberspace’. In the interview, Gibson suggests that one of the “challenges” we will face is the prospect of ubiquitous computing. He prophesizes:

One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible.

Richard Titus, now acting head of user experience at the BBC and executive producer of Who Killed the Electric Car, responded to the RollingStone interview on his blog. He wrote:

The net today is a thing we can only take brief momentary snapshots of, like photos out of a moving vehicle – in fact that’s really what widgets are are [sic] special cameras which allow us to capture some of the data running around the net into a single, momentary user experience.

Inspired by the comments of William Gibson and Richard Titus, and in the spirit of the season, of people coming together, this week’s News Round-Up takes a look at things coming together: “widgets” and innovations that break the boundary between the virtual and the real, bringing us into a state of perma-connectivity…

Need a New Phone? TryPhone beta

Forbes.com reports a new interactive service called “TryPhone.” The service allows cellular phone shoppers to try out phone interfaces online. Among featured phones available for test drive are the popular Apple iPhone and the BlackBerry Pearl. Although it could be more interactive and offer more phones, the service, created by MobileComplete, debuted in beta on Monday, December 10.

E-tools for E-Retailers

In a similar vein, if completely different industry, Internet Retailer brings us news of features e-retailers are offering in order to help customers get closer to the merchandise. New site features like Coach.com’s “Try This Bag On”, 6pm.com’s “Fit Survey”, and Gap.com’s “Quick Look” allow users to get a better idea of how the goods will look and feel on their person. Good news for holiday gift-buying?

BetaBlue

This week, JetBlue became the first U.S. domestic carrier to offer free in-flight e-mail and instant messaging services. Through a partnership with Yahoo!, Research in Motion, and LiveTV, JetBlue’s “BetaBlue”, an Airbus A320 equipped with onboard wireless network, took its inaugural flight this Tuesday morning. Cnet News blogger Caroline McCarthy had the chance to write from this flight. Not to be outdone by the competition, American Airlines, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines are reported to have plans to offer Web access in the next several months, for a cost of around $10 a flight.

Thanks to UXnet for the reference to ubiquity. News Round-Up will return on January 8th, 2008.

Happy Holidays.

UX News Round-Up

Like Pointillism, Web Metrics?

This past week, The Economist ran an article on web metrics and banner advertisement. The piece explores the difficulty involved in interpreting metrics and the meaning and evolution of measurements like page hits, page views, and user sessions. But perhaps the most important point in the article is its last sentence: “Advertisers just have to consider all these new measures as they would a pointillist painting by George Seurat: looking at one dot is no fun; taking them all in can be rewarding.”

LiveJournal Sale

Yesterday, Six Apart announced the sale of LiveJournal to the Russian media company, SUP, for an undisclosed amount. Russia boasts the second largest community of LiveJournal users after the U.S., and the sale follows a year-long partnership between Six Apart and SUP in which SUP operated the Russian LiveJournal. Though reports say that traffic to LiveJournal has been mostly static in the last year, the number of users to the Russian site has almost doubled in the same time.

The Not-So-Quiet Death of the Major Re-Launch

Way back in 2003, Jared Spool wrote the article “The Quiet Death of the Major Re-Launch.” In August of last year, UIE republished the article to significant commentary. Though there was ample discussion on the benefits of major re-launches from a technological and operational perspective, the main point of contention was the impact of the major re-launch on user experience. Now, a year later, one commentator comes back to say, “We were warned. You have been warned.”

Our weekly news installment posts every Tuesday at lunchtime.

User Experience Events in December

Below is a listing of events in December 2007 related to user experience design in the San Francisco Bay Area, North America, and throughout the world. If you would like to add an event, feel free to leave a comment below with its details.

User Experience Events in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Future of Search
December 3, 2007
Berkeley, CA

Voices That Matter: Google Web Toolkit Conference
December 3-6, 2007
San Francisco, CA

Learning to create engaging apps for Facebook: What works & what does not
December 11, 2007
Palo Alto, CA

Major User Experience Events in North America

(Not including San Francisco Bay Area)

Using the Semantic Web: Interaction Design Clinic with Duane Degler
December 1, 2007
West Trenton, NJ

User Experience 2007
December 2 to December 7, 2007
Las Vegas, NV

Evaluating Collaboration Techniques in Social Settings
December 3, 2007
Ann Arbor, MI

Web Association Holiday Party
December 4, 2007
Cleveland, OH

December Web Standards Meetup
December 4, 2007
Cleveland, OH

NH UX Poster Session/Holiday Social
December 5, 2007
Portsmouth, NH

Design Trivia
December 5, 2007
Cleveland, OH

PhizzPop in Chicago
December 5, 2007
Chicago, IL

Reputation Economies in Cyberspace
December 8, 2007
New Haven, CT

WAP Design Course with Scott Weiss
December 11, 2007
New York, NY

NYC UX Holiday Party 2007
December 11, 2007
New York, New York

Designer Dialogue VI: The Bank of New York Mellon
December 12, 2007
Pittsburgh, PA

UPA – DC Networking and Holiday Cheer
December 12, 2007
Washington, DC

Major User Experience Events World-Wide

(Not including North America)

IE 2007
December 3 to December 5, 2007
Melbourne, Australia

UX Roundtable Hamburg
December 3, 2007
Hamburg, Germany

Online Information 2007
December 4 to December 6, 2007
London, UK

DESIGN IT 2007
December 11 to December 12, 2007
Tokyo, Japan

CII-NID Design Summit 2007
December 12 to December 13, 2007
Bangalore, India

International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2007)
December 15 to December 16, 2007
Bangalore, India

The above events were collected from the following sources: BayCHI, UC Berkeley School of Information, User Experience Network, and IxDA.

Post-Thanksgiving Usability News Round-Up

Amazon releases the Kindle

With a 6″ display, 600×800 pixel resolution, 4.9″ x 7.5″ x 0.7″ dimensions, free EV-DO, and the “visual flair of an Apple IIc“, the Kindle sold out within 5.5 hours of its release on November 19th. Though many books are available for $9.99, including 101 of the 112 current New York Times Best Sellers, some have misgivings about the Kindle’s proprietary file-format, SD capability, key placement and $399 price tag.

Are eye-tracking studies useful?

23 Actionable Lessons from Eye-Tracking Studies” suggests they are, in at least 23 ways. But contributors to the IxDA forum bring up interesting questions: Are they useful when applied without consideration of context? Do they simply state the obvious, or merely prove that habits of usage are correlated to design standards?

There is no Google Phone

Two years ago, Google acquired Android. Earlier this month, they unveiled Android – An Open Handset Alliance Project. Speculation abounds as to what this means for the future of the mobile phone and the wireless industry.

There is no Fold

This past summer, Melissa Tarquini published an article at Boxes and Arrows on the myth of the “fold” in web design. Jeff Parks had the opportunity to interview her this month on the same topic. Conclusion? The same. Just because it’s not immediately on the screen doesn’t mean users won’t see it. Users understand scrolling. Don’t assume they will scroll, but stop designing like they won’t.

This is the first of our new weekly news installment, posted every Tuesday at lunchtime.

Google Is NOT a Magical Money Machine

I enjoy reading Read/WriteWeb, but Alex Iskold recently published a much hyped yet ill-conceived article titled “Google – The Ultimate Money Making Machine“. The article had some very interesting points, but the main analysis was simply wrong.

Iskold’s claim that there is an infinite demand for Google’s goods and services is an erroneous claim. Google primarily makes its money by selling advertising, and there is certainly a limit to the size of online and other advertising markets. In 2006, for example, eMarketer estimated that the size of the online advertising market in the US was roughly $15.6 billion, and Google captured about a quarter of that pie. Undoubtedly, the world wide advertising market is bigger. And as companies move toward internet marketing from traditional advertising and as Google moves into traditional advertising, the pie will get bigger. However, this is a far cry from ‘unlimited’. Google’s market is neither unlimited nor is Google the only player. In fact, as stated above, Google only capitalized on a quarter of the online advertising market – its forte.

Google is not the darling, magical money machine that Iskold and others believe it to be. It is a very well situated company in a large market that is becoming increasingly competitive and will continue getting more competitive in the future. We do live in a free market global economy (roughly), and why would anyone pass up on the opportunity to eat from the succulent advertising money pie?

February UX Re-cap

Well, February was an extremely busy month, and for the shortest month of the year was packed with quite a few gems from the User Experience community. Here is a re-cap of a few articles and concepts that should not go without mention:

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Bank of America Website Verification Meaningless to Users

An MIT and Harvard study (via Slashdot) unveils that the SiteKey system employed by Bank of America, ING Direct and Yahoo!, among others are likely ineffective at protecting users against fraudulent sites. The SiteKey system is based on assigning an image to a user’s account and presenting it prior to the user entering a password. If the SiteKey does not match the user’s account image, he/she should deduce that the site is not authentic, and thus not safe to enter private information. The results of the study (based on Bank of America site and users) shows that a vast majority of people ignore the SiteKey clues along with the often-overlooked HTTPS indicators. In fact, only 2 of the 25 (8%) participants using their own account, and none of the other 42, chose not to enter their passwords when the site-authentication image was replaced by an upgrade message.

Another interesting finding in the study was the contrast between behaviors of participants that were role playing for the study and those that were actually inputting sensitive information. Definitely worth a read and the final paper is set to appear at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy from May 20-27, 2007 in Oakland, California.

Eye Tracking Study of Image-Rich Web Pages

The latest issue of Usability News from the Software Usability and Research Lab (SURL), has a very interesting study – “Eye Gaze Patterns while Searching vs. Browsing a Website” – on web users’ eye gaze patterns while browsing and searching web sites. Findings from the study show that the ‘F’ pattern as described by Jakob Nielson does not hold true for some kinds of web sites.

Results show that users follow a fairly uniform scan path when browsing through pictures, and a more random path while specifically searching through them.

In fact, not only does the study suggest that users’ viewing patterns depend on the nature of the web page (text-rich versus image-rich) but also by the users’ tasks (browsing versus searching).

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Revealing Navigation Pathways to Web Site Users

In a previous article, ‘4 Principles of Effective Navigation on the Web‘, one of the stated keys is letting users know where they can go. One of the most effective ways to let users know what paths are available to them is to expose subsequent destination points. In other words, bubbling up subsections and pages found within top-level sections helps users gain context as well as unearths particular destinations within those sections. Let’s start with an example to illustrate what I mean.

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