30 Nov

If architects had to work

If architects had to work like web programmers
"Dear Mr. Architect:
Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted."
05/14/01 update: Phrases guaranteed to make web developers want to kill you.
02/14/02 update: The Iceberg Secret, Revealed.
02/19/02 update: Extreme Programming vs. Interaction Design.

29 Nov

Are They Hot or Not?

Are They Hot or Not? – WebVoice Edition: AmIRealOrNot?
I’m kind enough to share with you a rationalized reason to look at hot chicks. Try to tell the "real" ones that did post their own pictures, from the pictures of professional models that don’t even read Wired.
Here are some hints: is the file named CCrawford098.jpg? Is the girl grinning while sitting half-naked in freezing water? Is she standing in front of a mirror while she’s undressing? Is she posing so that her ass is higher than her head? Well I won’t give you all my secrets, but this should help you getting started.

29 Nov

Security & Human Factors Shorter

Security & Human Factors
Shorter passwords on web sites look like a good idea. Although I’m not at all a security expert, I would think it’s a lot more difficult to crack passwords though brute force on the web, as someone should see the repeated attempts before they bear fruit. Files produced by desktop applications such Winzip or Excel are easier to crack that way: just copy the file you want to get into, and let some piece of software try millions of combinations per second till it pries the file open.
See, I’m still linking to Nielsen when he makes sense. But credibility is not an unlimited commodity.

29 Nov

Editor & Publisher doesn’t support

Editor & Publisher doesn’t support url navigation
I often remove the final part of a url in order to (hopefully) move to the sub-section home within a site I’m browsing. At E&P, moving from an article from Steve Outing’s Stop the Presses column to the directory it belongs to shows the other files there. If you don’t want to expose the guts of your site, just disable directory browsing (a common HTTP server setting.) Better yet, default the directory to a page that lists all the content in that section, or maybe to the latest article if the directory contains temporal entries.
Jakob Nielsen wrote an article on url navigation, back when he didn’t think game publishers need to follow his web design principles to create their games. I’m not making this up, just check out the current useit news. Of course gaming needs strong usability, but it follows its own principles. If every game looked the same, who would play them? And mastering a complex set of features is often part of the goals (it’s called proficiency, a very different thing than unnecessary complexity.) Nielsen should take it easy: just because some guys at EA bought his book doesn’t mean they want to use it for their games (they do have, you know, web sites), let alone that their competitors now change their strategy! Talk about wishful thinking.
But wait, I have just found some notes and a screenshot that mister Nielsen sent Epic, after they asked him how to improve on their pathetic track record.

"You can see some easy usability improvements at the top of the screen. For another $20,000 I can redesign the bottom section to look like Amazon.com because if they use thumbnails you should too. Also, you must add a "Freeze Other Players" feature because I found your game unusable and damn frustrating. I joined an online game and was killed 54 times before I could even move the mouse. Do you think users will want to learn your game before they can win?
Failing to act on my recommendations will drive users to other FPS’s (First Person Shooters) that make it clearer where you have to aim and get rid of all the distracting sound and visual effects. You have to remember that the players’ goal is to reach a very high score. You must not get in their way and should make it extra easy to finish the whole game in less than three minutes. My studies with users (5 will be enough, so I can keep most of the 20 grands for myself) show that with every extra minute you will lose 28.14% of them."
If you didn’t know, it’s been done before.
01/03/02 update: E&P redesigned and changed their urls doing so. Another butchered transition for lack of redirection from old urls or even a customized 404. But my original point about url navigation still stands: this article should logically lead to a list of columns (but it still doesn’t work).

29 Nov

What is your juridiction? The

What is your juridiction?
The ODP guidelines state in its illegal sites paragraph that "[s]ome nations outside the US may seek to exercise jurisdiction over websites available to users in their countries. Such jurisdictional claims may extend to websites like the ODP that merely list and describe other sites. Editors should therefore comply with the laws of their own jurisdictions regarding listing various types of websites."
Does that mean that Society: Issues: Race-Ethnic-Religious Relations: Racial Supremacy and Hate: White legality depends on the nationality of its editor? Or its place of residence? Nothing implies so in the form used to become an editor. And how sites that use the ODP would be legally involved if some of its content was declared illegal somewhere?
The recent French ruling opens a big can of worms. One wonders why plaintiffs didn’t target other companies beside Yahoo. In the meantime, the ODP staff obviously sweats about potential liability:
"The evaluation of the potential illegality of a given site is often difficult and requires case-by-case review. Editors should feel free to consult with ODP staff about such issues. The ODP staff reserves the right to delete or modify site listings at their discretion. ODP Staff are preparing an official FAQ about Illegal Sites and other illegal issues. A link will be provided here when these are ready. In the meantime, please contact ODP staff with any questions or concerns you have have about (real or potenial) illegal sites."
04/17/01 update: here’s the new phrasing: "Some nations outside the US may seek to exercise jurisdiction over websites available to users in their countries. Such jurisdictional claims may extend to websites like the ODP that merely list and describe other sites. Editors should therefore comply with the laws of their own jurisdictions regarding listing various types of websites." No more mention of a legal FAQ though.

29 Nov

Netscape Breaks Away from the

Netscape Breaks Away from the Pack
"By breaking away from the Yahoo look and feel, Netscape not only stands out from competing portals, but it has enhanced usability by elevating the importance of design and using it to present a clear view of Netscape’s (and AOL-Time Warner’s) new world order."
Yes, but. Click on the more netbusiness link, you’re taken to a personalization page that asks for a zip code. In other words, the main portal leads to US-only section that doesn’t even hint of international content. You have to backpedal to the main page and find country sites at its bottom.
Now click on any country, you’re being presented the same generic international page. An unnecessary step since you already selected a specific country. From here pick up, say, Netscape France, you’ll see it still dons the old clothes. (As a side note, the site announces Navigator 6.0 and promotes Communicator 4.75 at the same time. Oh yeah, one is the browser and the other is the full suite, but is that making any sense for the average user?)
The new Netscape home page might be well laid out, but its information architecture completely fails to serve worldwide users. It’s even worse if you navigate from the US site to its international counterparts, since this will take you back in time as well. Compare this with Yahoo’s consistent design across all countries, and clever promotion of local content on the US site.
Another issue with this redesign is the inconsistency between the home page and the pages within the site. Pick Fun for instance, the navigation/branding and bottom zones are different, the yellow color has disappeared, and the layout is centered while the previous page is aligned on the left. Did I leave to another site? I’m not saying the home page can’t be different (obviously on most sites it is and for good reasons), but I would advocate some sort of consistency to let people know they’re still within the same "place" (the help link for instance shouldn’t move.) Some of the pages inside the site hardly even hint of where you are.

29 Nov

Why Search Engines Must Continue

Why Search Engines Must Continue to Be Referees
"There are potentially rough seas ahead, then, for site owners who have in the past relied heavily on search engines. The changing environment threatens site owners with a double whammy: not only will site owners increasingly have to pay for listings and placement in or near search results, but the second special advantage of search engines – their perceived legitimacy from the end user’s standpoint – may be jeopardized.
However, this is not a cut-and-dried situation. In the first place, spider engines like Google will continue to drive a lot of traffic through their main (non-paid) listings, and will continue to be trusted by end users for their ability to point to relevant resources. That’s important for those millions of users who still see the spirit of the Internet as resource first, shopping mall second."
Andrew Goodman has more to come, and invoking "Aristotle, Hobbes, and Rousseau" makes it even more promising!