Articles & research papers

Information Architecture

Designing for Faceted Search

Faceted search, or guided navigation, has become the de facto standard for e-commerce and product-related websites, from big box stores to product review sites. But e-commerce sites aren’t the only ones joining the facets club. Other content-heavy sites such as media publishers (e.g. Financial Times: ft.com), libraries (e.g. NCSU Libraries: lib.ncsu.edu/), and even non-profits (e.g. Urban Land Institute: uli.org) are tapping into faceted search to make their often broad-range of content more findable.

Essentially, faceted search has become so ubiquitous that users are not only getting used to it, they are coming to expect it. The power of faceted search lies in the ability of users to create their own custom navigation by combining various perspectives rather than forcing them through a specific path.

Designing for Faceted Search

Design at Facebook

Facebook’s design team walks the author through their philosophy and approach to designing for a quarter billion users. In particular, they emphasized the importance of writing code, sharing designs early and often, being involved with a project from start to finish, and not falling in love with your work. Making sure designers are technical enough to write code came up a lot.

This is an article from 2009.

Design at Facebook

Education in HCI

The HCI Education page is a collection of resources for students and educators interested in Human-Computer Interaction. The following are key resources for HCI Education:

  1. Curriculum: The SIGCHI Curriculum Development Group report Curricula in Human-Computer Interaction.
  2. Affordable Textbook: Clayton Lewis and John Rieman's shareware book Task-Centered User Interface Development.
  3. Readings: Gary Perlman's Suggested Readings in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), User Interface (UI) Development & Human Factors (HF).
  4. Educator's Mailing List: The SIGCHI Mailing List: CHI-Educators (chi-educators-request@acm.org) CHI-Educators is archived on the Web
  5. Student's Mailing List: The SIGCHI Mailing List: CHI-Students (chi-students-request@acm.org) CHI-Students is archived on the Web
  6. Program Ratings: Because it is so often asked, I have created: Gary Perlman's Ratings of HCI Education Programs

Education in HCI

Personas Make Users Memorable for Product Team Members

A persona is a fictional, yet realistic, description of a typical or target user of the product. A persona is an archetype instead of an actual living human, but personas should be described as if they were real people.

When based on user research, personas support user-centered design throughout a project’s life cycle by making characteristics of key user segments more salient.

Personas work because designers and developers have the same tendency as all other people to be captivated more by concrete instances than by abstractions and generalizations. We need all product-team members to empathize with users and be willing to go the extra step to develop something that will work for the actual users. But if users are described in statistical terms and as broad profiles, that information will simply not lodge itself as deeply in team members’ brains as a distinct persona will.

Personas Make Users Memorable for Product Team Members

Fill Your Portfolio With Stories

On the trail of exploring our next career move, it’s likely we’ll need to show the path we’ve been on. As part of a design team, that usually means displaying our work.

However, if we didn’t make proper arrangements before we took the job, it’s very likely we can’t show much of our work to anyone. Consultants, contractors, and full-time employees are usually covered (in the US at least, but most other places as well) by a "work for hire" agreement, which means that the people we work for own all the work product we produce.

Wireframes, sketches, and other deliverables are not ours to show. If the final design isn’t publicly visible, such as internal application, there might not be any evidence of what we’ve done.

This puts us in an uncomfortable position when it comes time to show our work to a prospective employer. How do we show what we’re capable of when we don’t have access to our work? What can you put into your portfolio when your work is all locked up? The simple answer: Fill your portfolio with stories.

Fill Your Portfolio With Stories

Flat vs. Deep Website Hierarchies

Information can be organized in either flat or deep hierarchies; both have their advantages and pitfalls.

Should your website's hierarchy be flat or deep? Like most design questions, there's no single right answer, and going too far to either extreme will backfire. Flat hierarchies tend to work well if you have distinct, recognizable categories, because people don't have to click through as many levels. When users know what they want, simply get out of the way and let them find it.

But there are exceptions to every rule. In some situations, there are simply too many categories to show them all at one level. In other cases, showing specific topics too soon will just confuse your audience, and users will understand your offerings much better if you include some intermediate category pages to establish context.

Observing your users—via usability testing, analytics, and search logs—can help you understand what problems your audience needs to solve, and how familiar users are with your content. This background knowledge is essential to achieving the right balance between a breadth and depth in your hierarchy.

Flat vs. Deep Website Hierarchies

DSIA Portal of Information Architecture

The DSIA Portal of Information Architecture provides a public body of knowledge that offers educational and technical content to the general public, business stakeholders, information architects, as well as user experience design practitioners whose responsibilities include or must consider the organizational function of information architecture.

DSIA portal of Information Architecture

Opinion- There Is No Mobile Internet

It’s time to stop thinking about the Internet and online communication in the context of a device, be it desktop, tablet or mobile. Advances by Google and Apple have heightened consumer expectations, which now require stricter focus from us to create seamless online communications — communications that work everywhere and that get their point across. We need to embrace a device-agnostic approach to communicating with connected consumers and forget the idea of a "mobile Internet". There is only One Web to experience.

There Is No Mobile Internet

The Design Of Effective Online Help In Web Applications

The usability and ultimately the success of web-based services are partly due to effective user support. Although the use of online support tools is now more prevalent in Web applications, these often overwhelm the user with information poorly organized, or are simply ignored (Parush and Kaporovsky Parush, 2001). This paper proposes a guide for the appropriate choice and design of task support tools based on user profiles, tasks and characteristics of help tools.

An increasing number of applications are being developed on the Web, and their usability is considered as being critical for success (Donahue et al., 1999). One important aspect of Web application usability is its capacity to successfully support users while they are completing their tasks. The best way to support users is to provide task support tools that are embedded in the application. Very few guidelines have been proposed to help designers choose the appropriate tools based on users types, needs and tasks.

The main purpose of this paper is to explore the different ways of supporting users electronically, the current trends in task support, and the effectiveness of the different tools available. It provides a guide that could be useful to anyone interested in developing online help to improve the usability of their Web applications.

The Design Of Effective Online Help In Web Applications

Top 5 posts at The UX Bookmark in 2012

I wish you, all my readers, a wonderful 2013. These are the five posts which people read the most in 2012.

  1. A huge list of Style Guides and UI Guidelines
  2. Free User Experience books (Interaction design, HCI, web accessibility & Information Architecture)
  3. Download IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit
  4. Ergonomics for Interaction Designers
  5. Mobile Prototyping Essentials