Thursday, 4 September 2008

Google Chrome pros and cons

Few days ago Google released a new beta open source browser “Google Chrome”. Some people think is another step forward for Google’s dominance on the web, while others advocate that is a visual effort of Google’s gathering of all those years’ latest technological achievements. As a first impression:

I like:

•That is an open source that you can download.

•“Most visited section” where you can have a history of latest pages visited either displayed in small web pages’ images or full history list.

•The comic approach book that describes how Google came up with this browser design.

•The “incognito window feature” where you can view pages without appearing in your browser history or search history, and they will not leave cookies, on your computer.

•The fact that it would make it easier and faster for web developers to test interfaces as they will use a new fast JavaScript engine, called V8.

I do not like:

•The new Url Tabs which are above the address bar, not below (like Mozilla browser). Despite the fact that each tab has its own controls (forward, back, address bar, etc.) I believe it gives a sense of different open browsers open at the same time. However, it is a new user experience that I have to get use to.

•The absence of menu bar at the top. It has only icon buttons that you have to click in order to view the browser settings.

It is soon to say anything more; as we have to wait to see what else Google will reveal for this new browser.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Survey for people who make web sites

I just completed a "Survey", conducted by "a list apart" for people who make web sites. It is for Information Architects, Web developers, Web designers, Project managers, Writers, Editors, Marketers, and everyone else who makes websites.

I strongly recommend you take the survey if you are working in the web development area. It is good to have some statistics of how many people get involved in this area, their qualifications and what is the future progression of our professions.

Before taking the Survey I had a look on the results of last year's Survey and two things made me an impression. The first one is the quite small percentage of women on the web development profession and the quite small percentage of Information Architects. Last year 33,000 took the Survey so maybe this is a reason for the small percentages. I am interested to view this year result.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Google "Lively" is a reality

As you will notice in the right column of my blog I have a new image. This is a virtual room I created for Persona's office (the company I work for). I wanted to test a virtual room myself before commending on the new Google’s application called "Lively". A lot of bloggers write that is Google's new attempt to copy "Second Life" 3-D world. Some others advocate is not so sophisticate as "Second Life" and its only purpose is to bring people together in 3-D virtual chat rooms.

My first impression is not that good as the application is still on beta stage so I had some navigation issues while trying to design my room. I was annoyed by the fact that I had to sign in whenever I had to navigate out of my room and go back in. Nevertheless, I really like the fact that you can upload videos from "you tube" on screens that you add in the room (picture 2) and I like the idea that you can customise your own avatar which again is not something new (picture 2). Furthermore, I like the idea that you can navigate on others public rooms (picture 3).

However in terms of how you customise the room is still in a 2-D environment so I guess I would be interested to see how Google will develop this new application and sure it would be nicer to see if the avatars would be able in the future to customise their rooms inside a 3-D environment rather that having a 2-D vertical menu bar on the left.

So what do you think about it? Visit Persona’s room to tell me your opinion. You only need a gmail account.

picture 1

picture 2

picture 3

Monday, 30 June 2008

More Information Architecture News

Hi all,

For those interested reading my blog which lately I have not updated due to numerous IA projects I am involved in ,
you can now read Per-so-na new blog of experience section for further Information Architecture issues.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Internet World Exhibition 2008 - Earls Court London

The company I work for – Persona took part in the Internet World Exhibition. As a result, I had the opportunity to participate for the first time in an exhibition as an exhibitor. In the image 2 underneath you can view Persona’s exhibition stand which uses the metaphor of the London tube map. Four screens were attached to the main four stations – divisions of the company which are Digital Creative Media & Experience. As an Information Architect, I was one of the representatives of Experience division. This exhibition was a nice opportunity for networking with other marketing and digital agencies as well as for people to come and learn what we do and how we can help with their work. Furthermore, a lot of seminars were going on throughout the day. I had the chance to attend one, “Persuasive Design - a new take on usability: just because people can, doesn’t mean they will” presented by Elisa Del Galdo.

Image 1. Earls court, London – Outside the exhibition

Image 2: Persona exhibition stand

Microsoft, IBM, and Webcredibles were among the companies having stands in Internet World Exhibition. In case you are interested to know which companies participated in the exhibition, you can visit the internet world website. It was really encouraging that most of the people I had the chance to speak with, were either web developers or company owners that do not have user experience section and were willing to know more about this area, in order to improve their products. I had also the opportunity to see other agencies that specialise in usability, information architecture, improving user experience, which proves the continuously growing necessity for usability tests.

Image 3: Microsoft exhibition stand

Image 4: An extraordinary exhibition stand from data partnership company

Friday, 25 April 2008

3-D Virtual World vs. Usability

Today, I read an interesting and great food for thought article, referring to the future of usability and Information Architects in the 3-D Virtual World. According to the article’s writer, Sean D. Williams, 3-D virtual worlds, present usability professionals with a new set of challenges. As efficiently Williams asks,

what will happen when we, the information experts, don't control the information anymore? What happens when a community constructs the information about a product or task? And what happens when we can't organize information according to users' cognitive maps anymore because they can "fly" and literally see the entire information space at once?... Or Do our information architectures break down when the information becomes truly spatial rather than an abstract hierarchy that we can predict through a card sort?”

Williams points out two major differences between 2-D and 3-D environments in terms of information issues. The first is that we should think “users” as “participants” in 3-D environments and that the 3-D virtual world demands a different navigation paradigm as the information is spatial and not conceptual.

Another question is whether 3-D virtual worlds support user friendly navigation paths. Jakob Nielsen, 10 years ago, stated that 3-D environments are almost always bad in terms of navigation versus to 2-D environments and he still supports this statement in the "Four bad designs" article.

As world changes and we move from 2-D to 3-D environments we should try to find answers in questions as how we will break the spatial information down. Among others, I am eager to see how the world of information will be transformed in a few years!!

Image 1: Example of virtual environments

Image 2 : Example of 3-D virtual environment

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Fold Line Conceptions

Reading the latest issue (175 issue) of .net magazine, I came across an interesting article “Anti-social networks” by Kath Moonan. In the article, there is a photo of her holding a big label “There is no Fold”. There is still a debate among designers, developers, Information Architects, web consultants whether there should be a fold line or not. A lot of people nowadays, as Milissa Tarquini tend to think that since web users have known how to scroll, there is no need to worry pushing everything above the fold line। Others advocate that people tend to spend a few seconds in a web site. As a result, if the main site elements as navigation bar are not viewable from the first sight (without the need to scroll to view important information) there is no chance this site to succeed. Of course these theories vary whether the page is the homepage, navigation page or content page (see guidelines). I personally believe, especially for the homepage, which usually is the first impression of a web site, fold line should be taken into consideration. All the critical information that contributes to the user experience in the web site, should be placed above fold line.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

IA position on Web Design

Reading a User Interface Design Update Newsletter from Human Factors International today, and following one of the attached links I came across this design. I found it interesting as it clearly indicates the position of Information Architecture (IA) in the Web Design process. According to the figure, Web Design progress has three major steps: a) Research and Planning, b) Conceptual Design and UI Structure and c) Detailed Page Design. In the first step the “Site Strategy” is being formed. Then the second step involves: “Knowing users and their goals”, “Navigation Design” and “Information Architecture”. From my experience, all these three are major responsibility of an Information Architect. However I would be interested to hear different views as well! Finally the third step involves the “Page types” (Interaction Design, Content Design and Presentation Design) which are directly linked to Navigation Design. How the pages will be formed is absolutely depended on the navigation structure. If major changes happen to the Navigation Structure the Web designer will have no other option but redesign the pages.

Monday, 17 March 2008

The flavours of Information Architecture

Patrick Kennedy, Senior Consultant in “Step Two Designs” based on Australia, mentions in his paper “The many faces of Information Architecture” eight different areas Information Architecture is involved in, which have slightly little differences. These eight areas according to the diagram underneath are a) Information Management (IM), b) Human Computer Interaction (HCI), c) Interaction Design (IxD), d) Usability Engineering (UE), e) Information Design (ID), f) User Experience (UX), g) Information Architecture (IA) and h) Experience Design (XD). People working in these sectors, (me included!) often find it hard to say where are the boundaries between them. By placing them in a circle and moving counter-clockwise from Information Management (IM) to Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is usually the chronological path a project takes.

The HCI Lifecycle

As Chris Johnson indicates in his diagram, there are three stages of Human Computer Interaction Lifecycle: Stage 1 is the Initial Design of an interface, Stage 2 is the Formative Evaluation of the interface and Stage 3 is the Summative Evaluation of the interface.

Stage 1 has five steps: a) Design Objectives, b) Task Analysis, c) Focus on Users, d) Design Guidelines and e) Structured Walk-Through. As you can see from the diagram from step five: Structured Walk - Through we might need to go back and Design new Objectives. Furthermore from step five we continue to the Stage 2 which has three steps: a) Rapid Prototyping, b) User-Defined Interfaces and c) User-Acceptance Testing.

Again from the final step of Stage 2 we might need to develop again Rapid Prototyping step. Likewise Stage 1, from the last step of Stage 2 we continue to the last Stage, Stage 3 which has also 3 steps : a) Operational Software Interface, b) Benchmarking and c) Formal Experimentation. From the output of the last step of this Stage we might need to go back to the Stage 1 and re-design the guidelines and from this procedure we might go again on the top, and re-design the objectives, if the Formal Experimentation results urge to an action like that.

This diagram is clearly showing that human computer interaction (HCI) is a cycle, where according to the inputs and outputs, we need to go back where we began and set new objectives. In the first two Stages, there are two smaller inner cycles which enforce the testing before ending to the last Stage.

Information Architecture is an important aspect of web design as well as human computer interaction lifecycle. These two areas have many fields in common as “task analysis”, “focus on users”, “user defined interfaces”, “user acceptance testing” and of course “formal experimentation”.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Adobe “Thermo” -> RIA

At Adobe Max Day 2, in Chicago 2007, a new application called “Thermo” was introduced.

Some key features of “Thermo”:

  • Use drawing tools to create original graphics, wireframe an application design, or manipulate artwork imported from Adobe Creative Suite tools.
  • Turn artwork from Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Fireworks directly into functional components that use the original artwork as a “skin”.
  • Define and wire up interactive behavior, such as what to do when a user clicks on something, without having to write code.
  • Easily design UIs that work with dynamic data, such as a list of contacts or product information, without having access to the actual data source. Design-time sample data can be used as a realistic placeholder when laying out an application, testing interactivity, and choreographing motion. (Adobe labs)

According to many experts, blogs and forums the Adobe’s new application will satisfy the designers and developers, who want to transform simple designs into interactive user experience, saving time and effort. This product allows designers to create engaging Flash/Flex experiences. As Aral Balkan, who attended the Adobe MAX Day in Chicago in 2007, comments: “Thermo is a new tool that lets designers create Rich Internet Applications (RIA) in a very visual manner. You can convert artwork into working components in a single click.

The new application will be fully launched this year (2008), but no official date has been announced yet. “Thermo” is considered as a designer-focused application for creating Flex applications. (Sean Corfield)

I look forward to testing the new application and seeing how interactive wireframes can be created. There are some considerations on whether the tool can automatically apply updates to the interface, once some changes have been done. Nevertheless, this is an answer to be given after “Thermo” is launched. However, the introduction of “Thermo” in Chicago caught the attention of the UX design community so there is a positive anticipation of the upcoming design tool.

You can watch on You Tube (or at the bottom of the page!) two videos (PART I and PART II) from the MAX Day in Chicago to get a taste of "Thermo"!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Information Architect position

Recently, as I was searching on the internet for Information Architecture books, I came across with: “The elements of user experience” by Jesse James Garrett. Apart from the interesting table of contents I also read the book’s introduction and a part of it describes my current situation; as I am the first information architect hired recently into the department of User Experience of a marketing and web development agency called “Persona Creative. Jesse James Garrett mentions in his introduction that: In late 1999, I became the first information architect hired into a long-established Web design consultancy. In many ways, I was responsible for defining my position and educating people both about what I did, and how it fit in with what they did. Initially, they were perhaps cautious and a bit wary, but soon they came to recognize that I was there to make their jobs easier, not harder, and that his presence did not mean their authority was diminished.” (Jesse James Garrett, 2002)

So I look forward, through the projects I am involved in, to showing my colleagues (software developers, web designers) how my work is connected with theirs :).