Category Archives: HCI (Human-Computer Interaction)

Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning

Communicating Design - BookI recently finished reading this excellent book.

Even the first part not clearly explained like other books, the personas chapter is very good to present this good resource. It worth to keep in mind this phrase: “I think our users want this“, which is a common idea in developing / designing I’ve found between several people I know.

The second part keeps you engaged and the third part is very good since as the concepts are already explained the author can connect it through commonly used deliverables: Site Maps, Flow charts, Wireframes, Screen Designs.

The author try to advise some of the deliverables could be outdated in a short term due the fast developing in dynamic web sites, but I think rather to been outdated they will be adapted in newer models. The Software engineering field still using several techniques and ideas from the start of this field some decades ago and only have polish many of their techniques and models (of course also have developed new techniques and models like UML).

Without doubt a book to read and ground several concepts that are of daily use in usability working.

Links:

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Article: Untangling the Usability of Fisheye Menus

I’ve read at ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), the following article:
Untangling the Usability of Fisheye Menus

The article does a user testing on the usability of fisheye menus and reveals in terms of text menu they are worse than normal menus; and the best menu is the hierarchical menus.

Fisheye menus are those which when you pass the mouse over an item, this item is focused showing it more bigger than actually is and the other elements are reduced in size. For example [taken from: http://www.cs.umd.edu/class/fall2002/cmsc838s/tichi/fisheye.html]:

Fisheye Example

Some points are interesting of the research:

However, the level of magnification had significant effect: Participants performed faster at a magnification level of two twice normal size) than at both lower and higher levels of magnification. Also, the three fisheye interfaces were significantly faster than two overview+detail ones.

….

Scanpath length, … Bonferroni-adjusted post hoc tests indicated that participants’ scanpaths were shorter with the hierarchical
menu than with the multifocus and overview menus, suggesting that participants engaged in less visual search with the former. [...] Bonferroni-adjusted post hoc tests indicated that fixations may be longer with the fisheye menu than with hierarchical and multifocus menus.

….

Participants’ selection times with fisheye, multifocus, and overview menus show a bell-shaped distribution, meaning that items at the beginning and end of the menus were selected much faster than those in the middle [...]. Linear contrasts indicated that the first 10% of the menu items were selected the fastest, followed by the last 10%, and finally, the selection of middle items . Fast selection of the first menu items is expectable. Fast selection of the last items may be attributable to the fact that these items are in an area that is easy to identify; selecting the menu item “Zen” with the alphabetical dataset is almost certain to involve some of the last menu items, facilitating a decision to make a fast coarse movement toward the end of the menu.

One explanation is that while participants using the hierarchical menu take more time getting close to the target menu item, they take substantially less time selecting it. Getting close to a menu item is slow with the hierarchical menu because of the changes required in the direction of mouse movement, the small delay before menu items at lower levels expand, and the laborious backtracking necessary to correct erroneous selections.

A final explanation for why participants perform well with the hierarchical menu is that it simplifies navigation.With fisheye and overview menus, participants made longer fixations, suggesting increased mental activity [Goldberg and Kotval 1999], compared with the hierarchical menu. Also, participants’ scanpaths were longer with the multifocus and overview menus, indicating
more visual search. Reasons for this could include: (a) the need with nonhierarchical menus to determine or remember which part of the menu structure one is currently in; and (b) difficulties operating the focus-lock mode. While these explanations are somewhat speculative, they are supported by participants’ comments after the experiment and by their usage patterns.

I think fisheye menus should be used only on graphical elements like youtube’s menu at the end of embedded videos.

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Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
I’ve finished reading this compact but excellent book:
Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

The book is written in an easy to read form; you will pick up the basic aspects of usability in this book.
The cartoons are funny and help to understand the main ideas. It use several examples from real world showing you common mistakes and easy to implement solutions for making a site really usable.

http://safari.oreilly.com/0321344758

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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd Edition

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd EditionI’ve finished reading this excellent book, I think in some parts have a lot of content and some chapters are barely explained.

This book mandatory for HCI / usability areas, it clearly explain the role of information architecture through examples, but of course some of the links in the book are outdated

I’ve read through Safari Books (with my ACM Professional account), I’ve used Safari before with subscription for about a year, but I think now their main problem is they aren’t allowing read new books / editions (this book is in third edition for about a year, also I want to read the Ambient Findability book of the same author).

http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/infotecture2/

By the way, talking about HCI / usability, a good link is: http://scobleizer.com/2006/03/04/the-role-of-anti-marketing-design/ about ugly design =) ( I prefer to have a good looking professional site, even on that free sites ;-) )

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Who said “Usability is Free”?

I read this article in the Interactions Magazine of this month, you can check from here:
http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1273971

The main point in this article is the lack of usability on most linux programs (including distros), without doubt there have been several advantages on good presentation of programs (“eye candy“) like Beryl, but unfortunately some of these changes are only eye candy and doesn’t provides more usability than other solutions.

I think one of the problems which lead to this was the lack of a high level language for developing in Linux, now Mono is available to fast developing but we have really few Mono applications compared with C developed applications (with UI code mixed with normal code).

A good option for UI developing is (in theorical aspect) is XUL because it’s similar to Glade, in XUL you can add Javascript to handle windows and events (and other things like file handling), the problem is the lack of good examples/tutorials for desktop applications (not web developing which I think is now outdated with AJAX and Javascript pure solutions) and the constant use of C++ to develop applications.

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