Oh, does my father have experience with this stuff?

Hendrek Hertzberg, in the course of reviewing Bob Woodword’s book Plan of Attack, goes looking for and finds relationship issues between the senior and junior Bush: I asked about his father in this way: ³Here is the one living human being who¹s held this office who had to make a decision to go to war. And it would not be credible if you did not at some point ask him, What are the ingredients of doing this right? Or what¹s your thought, this is what I¹m facing.²
³If it wouldn¹t be credible,² Bush replied, ³I guess I better make up an answer.²

New Blogger

Blogger relaunched with help from Adaptive Path and Douglas Bowman and it’s very nice. After not having used it in a long while, it’s a blast to revisit the old hood and see how much has changed. I published out an old blog (about teaching a distance education class) in one of the new fancy, schmancy templates. The profile is neat too:

On Blogger Since: August 1999
Posts Written 648
Words Written 45,191
Outbound Links 712

The law of fast processors reaches usability labs

Someone must have described this already, but for now I’ll modestly coin Lombardi’s Law of Fast Processors: as processor speed increases, software replaces dedicated hardware. In music or video production it means programs like GarageBand and Final Cut Pro and a stock Macintosh replace dedicated rack systems and DSP chips. In usability testing, it means a program like Morae — which wow’d my coworker at the recent CHI conference — replaces a rack of digitizing and video manipulation gear. So a laptop and a USB camera becomes a powerful, portable testing lab.

MT Alternatives

Surfing around lately looking at the blogging software landscape and wondering why Movable Type doesn’t have more competitors, it just seems like everyone is running it. The plug-in library is certainly attractive, but not exclusive. Interesting direct competitors include Textpattern and WordPress. Meyer has switched to the latter.

eContent on Enterprise IA

Tony Byrne writes a great overview of enterprise information architecture in the new eContent magazine. He also dishes out the tough love: ‘Some responsibility for the dearth of EIA activity also lies with IA specialists themselves. There is a bit of a tendency in the IA community to over-invest precious energy in KM-esque intellectual debates about ontologies and topic maps, when thought and research could better be applied to more pressing issues, like how to build compelling business cases for a corporate EIA team.’

Well yeah, the geeky techniques are more fun :) But of course the people, processes, and tools must support each other, and so Tony poses an excellent challenge we should rise to.

Expedia Link-Button

Just when you thought you knew how radio buttons should work, Expedia introduces the Link Button:

I stared for a few seconds, then guessed upon clicking the link it would give me an explanation of the term. Nope. It selects that option, same as if you clicked the radio button. Did Expedia do usability testing and found no one knew how to use radio buttons?

More interesting is what lies just above the radio buttons, another form of mutually exclusive navigation:

In this case the selected state is represented by a button which is not clickable. My personal preference is for links to load a new screen of information, not new form options, but that’s not a big deal. What’s odd is that they use two different and somewhat unconventional UI widgets right next to each other to do the same thing. Other options include putting some questions on the previous screen, inserting wizard questions, using all radio buttons, and even Amazon-style tabs might be more clear and exhibit more consistent behavior. Heck, why not use them all?

IHT design evolution

The IHT site received a lot of attention for its front-end code, but John Weir also put thoughtful work into the layout. Check out his case study on Smoking Gun (no permalink, click on the map of the world). It hurts that he strived to avoid scrolling and now IHT has two banner ads that push the article navigation below the fold, even on 1024×768.

Update: The editor was kind enough to write in to say they are working on the problem and in the meantime it’s possible to use the entire right column to link to the next page. Although there’s no perceivable affordance, it’s a pretty neat form of navigation.

Where are they now

A former student wrote to say she’s working as a ‘web planner’ (‘IA is not a general term‘) in Korea, and helped design www.kbs.co.kr, the national broadcasting service of Korea. ‘Someday I hope to meet you as your student also as a IA.‘ How sweet is that?