Saturday, September 29, 2007
Ever since I got to the company, I've been complaining about the usability of the site and the lack of functionality that it offers to users (when the employees complain about their own site...that's a problem!). Though artists loved it, it had some extremely limiting factors, such as the search function, design, and also lack of content necessary to jump into the program. It's safe to say that this period of relaunch has been a bit overwhelming because A) we didn't create and build the original site and B) there is just so much that needs fixing.
Nielsen actually took a bit of the heat off for me. Not everything can be fixed right out of the box, hence our relaunch and then future drafts for a 2.0. Comparing Nielsen's "Scale of Misery" (pg. 129) to his second pie chart ("Why Users Fail", pg. 132), it's easy to see that a few of the major problems users have cause both simple grief and also failure, pointing to the fact that these problems should be addressed sooner rather than later. Search, findability and Content are all high/relatively high on the same of problems users have.
I can gladly report that these are the aspects of our site that we are jumping on first thing.
We are broadening our search criteria, polishing up all our nav bars, changing out design/color schemes, and also freshening up our FAQs and About page to ensure it has the most up to date info possible. Despite general criticisms of some of Nielsen's findings, I found Ch. 4 to be quite helpful in my current situation.
Friday, September 28, 2007
I sort of have to agree that his comments on language and how the sound of a word can make it attractive or unattractive is a bit of a stretch, but I understand what he's getting at. I think if one studies linguistics they may be able to explain the concept better. I would say that if you consider some curse words, do you feel so happy when you hear them, especially that ones that have a hard consonant (I'm thinking of the f and c bombs)? I don't get that warm, fuzzy feeling when I hear them.
Cover stories and TV Watches (reviews of last night's popular TV shows) can both be found above the fold, to your immediate left, while EW's "Pop Watch" (their blog) is to your immediate right. The center usually displays some sort of commemorative story or photo gallery. Without even scrolling down once, you could spend hours reading the latest news and reviews of your favorite indulgences.
The site in general isn't too fancy. It uses flash and video, but sparingly. The site isn't in your face, but rather, simple and modest at times. It's perfect for casual browsing and also for killing countless hours of time as you sit at your work desk or cubicle.
These two links that I found while googling web usability. Again I have to say; I do not agree too much with Jacob Nielsen's approachings but of course he got some points:)
I know websites that is designed with usability obsession and can feel users like moron. Absolutely, we have to question the usability in every step of production but going too far can create disunity between users and producers. In that point, design approachings should be divided in the beginning of design. Designing a commercial site or a personal portfolio sites have different aims, the picture of your audience should determine the usability level so the question should be; Do Ireally know my audience as a designer?
Craigs List is a website that is so horribly designed that new users of the site are overwhelmed when they look at it. Its basically a list of links and when you click you are taken to more links. No cute pictures, no spam, no annoying popup ads...just links. Eventually when you sort through all the links you are taken to an ad (often posted by an individual) of a product, service, etc.
I find this site to be one of the greatest websites around because people can post for free, they don't have to deal with nonsense (the Craigs List creators monitor posts and flag and delete anything that is misplaced, inappropriate, etc.). There may be many people who disagree with me, but you have to try it out and see for yourself.
Craigs List is the one site where you can buy a house, buy a car, get a job, meet a friend, have a one nite stand, find community events (when you are bored with the one nite stand) and more.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
One of my favorite sites actually just went through a little change itself. Apple.com has changed some of its design. Take a look.... http://www.macuser.com/stores/online_apple_store_gets_faceli_1.php?lsrc=murss
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
This week’s reading was very interesting. It was interesting to see the usability issues that users face and how they have improved over time. Although it was clear why most of the issues discussed are considered problems, there were a few that I disagree with. One that I disagree with is “Opening new browser windows.” Although one can see how this can cause problems by going against a user’s expectations, I think it has more advantages than disadvantages. What if you do not want to lose your place at the homepage after you click a link? This is usually the case when you are not sure if that link is the one you want. Many would say that is what the back button is for, but it takes more time to back track than to simply click the tab of a previous browser. Also, what if you want several windows open at the same time. This is the case when you want to refer to several pages at once. It would be rather annoying if you had to back track and click links every time you needed a certain page. Some web sites are successfully dealing with this by giving the user the option to open a new browser or not.
The other usability finding that I disagree with is “design elements that look like advertisements.” Although I understand that studies have shown these to be ineffective, I still believe they can sometimes be useful. This comes from personal experience. “In fact, anything that’s overly large or colorful risks being ignored, particularly if it includes animation” (p. 76). As I mentioned in a previous blog, my favorite web sites are ones with dramatic and colorful design elements. I guess “overly” is the key word here. There can definitely be too much color and too much movement. However, dramatic design elements mixed with simple and straightforward ones can create a nice balance.
This site might help. They've got all kinds of utilities that are really useful. Many are freeware, quite a few are shareware and you have to pay a small fee. If you're willing to spend ten bucks, though, sometimes you can save yourself a whole lot of aggravation.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
You really can't judge a book by it's cover...rather a Dell Notebook. Norman's piece on aesthetically pleasing technology being easier to use paralleled the Apple iPhone for me. According to Norman this phenomena occurs, because using an attractive device makes a user more content and relaxed, enabling the user to be more focused and perform at a higher level.
Individuals are even opt to overlook slight imperfections as long as the device is easy on the eyes. One reviewer of the mini cooper recommended that since the car was enjoyable it's faults didn't matter (Norman, 2003). The same goes for the iPhone. Customers are willing to switch to AT&T, deal with scratched screens, and not be able to do basic functions like forward a text to own the coveted iPhone, which evokes an emotional sense of pride (Norman, 2007).
Click here to read further on how the Apple iPhone may be a case of technology that has it going on in the looks department, but otherwise falls short.
Finally, I thought the Norman's discussion of the relationship between sounds and meanings on pg. 9-10 to be somewhat of a stretch, does anyone else agree?
Please let me know if there are any websites out there that aim to solve this problem and not just the "Remember Me" box to checkoff! Although I am almost positive that any website like this that exists requires a log in!!!
So I obviously had trouble logging into this account and that is why I haven't blogged for awhile...now that Prof Callahan deleted my old account...I'm back!
So my first blog was in response to Umut's post about web design.
TemplateMonster.com is a great site for web templates. All of the templates are fairly inexpensive, but if you aren't looking to buy it is a great website for ideas on simple, yet effective web design.
Even though a certain content interface may not be the most effective way to get a person directly to where they think they want to be, there is the possibility of pulling users into other unintended parts of sites. If we strive to make all sites purely as tools to find information as quickly as possible, then we will actually be contributing to the problem of short attention spans of users. The more the user expects to find any and all information immediately, the quicker the user will exit the site when they do not find what they are looking for. In essence, by creating sites purely for usability, we are cutting our own windows of time to keep a user’s interest shorter and shorter.
By no means do I purpose to stop the design of sites for this purpose. Obviously we need to continue to let our information sharing techniques develop onward and upward. However, I do disagree with Nielsen that there is a set frame or template that a web designer should use when building. We need to maintain a creative relationship between the designer and the user on some level to keep people interested and demanding more.
The most remarkable fact to note about the article is that the design flaws experienced in one culture were once again replicated in a different culture. It is through the behavioral, reflective, and visceral levels of processing that these decisions are made and thus made it possible for the same conclusions. It would be interesting to discover whether or not the same environmental surroundings were in effect for the experiment to produce the similar results. As Don continues in his article, he notes that the brain's processing of the environmental stimuli tends to cause the effects of design creation and interaction.
If the experiment was to be re-done, I think I would like to see the users reactions and interaction with the ATM machines when presented with a variety of environmental stimuli as portrayed in the article. Maybe in some instances, the more complex machine may appear as aesthetically pleasing.
Anyway, here's the article. Hope you find it helpful in some way.
Aesthetics and Usability: A Look at Color and Balance
It showed me the new latest fashions for sweaters, offered me a ten-dollar off coupon if I purchased seventy-five dollars or more, and it had contests for people who looked at the site. I think this website is geared more toward women then men but offers men, women and baby clothing. I think the viewer of this webpage would revisit this site occasionally since it has great deals plus it offers coupons.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
After about a year of service with Netflix, I wanted to test out Blockbuster's alternative, Blockbuster Online, so I can see what it was like and compare. I quickly found out that I was quite turned off from the service, not because of the rate of shipping speed or the In-store policies attached (which weren't bad), but because of the website itself. The display of movies was shoddy; the movie information was never easy to read and was quite text-y. There was more black and white than I would've liked, and not enough flash or animation to make it engaging. Even the search function was very "click and load", as the pages didn't seem to change much. Rather, movies simply came up in lists.
One of the main reasons I enjoy the Netflix site is because I can literally get lost in it for 30 minutes at a time. Sometimes, I head over just to bump a movie to the top spot of my queue, but get caught up looking at recommendations, rating other films, or getting lost while I'm clicking away. I find their site not only aesthetically pleasing, but fun to use as well. Blockbuster's site was lacking majorly, and was one of the main reasons I switched back over to Netflix.
This remains a prime example of how one company's website could affect and deter customers and their decision-making. Netflix really won me over in both its service and design, and I know I'll continue being a customer for many years to come. I highly recommend checking it out if you havn't already!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
After reading Chapter 3 of Prioritizing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger, I thought it might be interesting to apply some of the usability findings in comparing several web sites of local environmental groups. Neilsen and Loranger’s observations are directed primarily to business managers, but in many cases, their findings apply equally to government and nonprofit sites in which usability plays, if anything, an even more critical role than in commerce. Although government sites rely on tax dollars, their issues must resonate with the public if they are to compete in a meaningful way for government funding. Where nonprofits are concerned, investment in environmental issues is critical to the survival of the organization. From a fund raising perspective, we know that a majority of new donors review an organization’s web site before deciding to provide support.
Two Government Sites
Mindful of Nielsen and Loranger’s observation that “government agencies are often the worst offenders” (p. 81) with regard to the usability problem of Dense and Unscannable Text, I decided to start by reviewing the sites of the Connecticut DEP http://www.ct.gov/dep/site/default.asp and the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality http://www.ct.gov/ceq/site/default.asp. Although the DEP site has a lot of information to organize, it does not feel so much copy-heavy as perhaps link-heavy. The CEQ site, however, requires the viewer to read several ponderous paragraphs to take in what it does. My timing was slightly less than the 1 minute, 49 seconds (p.78) that Neilsen and Loranger say it takes a viewer to decide whether it is worth investing time on the site. Both sites feature links that change color when visited, with the CEQ site offering a different color for the most recently viewed link from previously viewed links.
On the DEP site, the central visual offers a good indication of the range of issues covered by the agency: recreation, wildlife, and resource protection throughout the state. A prominent tagline offers a clear mission statement. New information is usually presented in a new browser window, rather than using the existing window. As Neilsen and Loranger point out, this has the potential to crowd the user’s workspace with more open windows than is necessary or desirable. The home page makes good use of multiple menus. While some of these could be condensed under other broader headings, reducing menu clutter, the plethora of headings is possibly due to each department having its own link, which in such a strongly bureaucratic and hierarchical setting may be a given.
The CEQ site is not visually stimulating, featuring as it does only a small image of a brown report. There is no mission statement or tagline, so the casual observer has to read several ponderous paragraphs to take in what the Council does. My timing to read and understand the copy was slightly less than the 1 minute, 49 seconds (p.78) that Neilsen and Loranger say it takes a viewer to decide whether it is worth investing time on the site. The language is not on an 8th grade level which would make it readily understandable by anyone. The links, however, open in the same browser window, rather than additional windows, keeping workspace clutter to a minimum for the viewer. The group’s main accomplishment lies in the report that they offer, which was easily downloadable and offered in various formats, including a print option by mail. The links were simple, clear and easy to understand.
One Non-Profit Site
For the purposes of comparison, I thought it might be interesting to then consider a non-governmental site. I chose Connecticut Clean Water Action at http://www.cleanwateraction.org/ct/. This site requires an inordinate amount of scrolling to take in the lengthy text, where links could provide a more user-friendly approach. A couple of appealing visuals are buried at the bottom of the scroll. The site is not visually stimulating, featuring as it does one tiny visual in the right-hand corner. Unlike the DEP site, there is no tagline or mission statement to present quick info on what the organization does. There is a description of the group’s history in a text box on the right, which might better have been employed as a “history” link. While the “print” option at the top is straightforward enough, the “email” option is confusing, since the viewer does not know whether the email is directed from the user to the organization or from the user to another user. (Clicking on the email indicates that the latter is the case.) The topics Health, Coastlines and Fisheries look as if they could be links, but they are not. In that regard, the words do not do what the user might expect, violating a convention of bold text prominently displayed above the fold.
Of the three sites, the most successful is the Connecticut DEP site. It conveys what the agency does quickly, is reasonably visually attractive, uses language that anyone can understand, does not require excessive scrolling and, although it features multiple menus, those menus are easy to understand.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
After our discussions in previous classes, I have been wondering why I like some of the web sites that I do. It turns out that most of the web sites that I visit most often all have one thing in common: they are easy to read and navigate. There is nothing more annoying than a web site that is confusing or takes a while to figure out. Even a couple of minutes is too long. The average user stays on a home page for a couple of seconds and if one site is not clear enough it is easy to go to the next. Wetseal.com is an example of a web site that I find pleasurable. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it has all the information you need to tell you if you will want to stay. The words jump out at you and they are fun and eye catching. Another reason I like this homepage is because it has people instead of items. By using people, it makes the experience more relatable and interesting. Most clothing websites have pictures of clothes all over but that does not speak to the user. Another good thing about this site is that the tabs are organized and tell you exactly what you will find if you click it. This makes the user’s experience faster and more enjoyable.
Not only can I search pretty much anywhere in the world to see what it looks like, but also I can see it from heights, making the whole picture much different each time.
Even though there is no real man made content within google earth, the images that one can find are just astonishing. Maybe it is the similiar feeling to being in a space shuttle and looking down at Earth from space.
Aesthetics are always better when its simple, and it is definitely almost 99% of the time better when it is achieved naturally. I don't think any great work of art compares to looking on the Rocky Mountains or flying in an airplane looking down at the landscape or snorkeling through a coral reef. Beauty doesn't need to be man-made.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
It's very simple, easy to use and sticks to all of the conventions that Nielsen recommends (pictures as links, links that are blue and underlined, etc. etc.). My five year old nephew loves this site, and I can see why. He can navigate it like a pro on his own without having to be able to actually read the links (the pictures link to the same place as the blue underlined links beneath them). The site's got a lot of Flash on it because of all the games, and I know Nielsen doesn't particularly like Flash, but that's the whole point on a site like this. It's for kids (although last time I saw my nephew, he got me hooked on building aliens. Go to the Arthur page, click on "Games" and try it out!)!
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
With that being said, what are the appetizers that can be used to tempt a person hunger and keep them wanting more from your site? Is it an over clear presentation, great video, great visuals, interactive options, etc...?
Friday, September 14, 2007
I think I know why. Most of the information on the Internet is someplace else, articles and data are inevitably on multiple websites. If I don't like the layout of one website, I'll search for the same data and read it someplace else. If the design is bad then I won't go to that website again. The websites I keep going back to are ones that I find easy to use, have a good layout and are visually pleasing to me. Why would I use a poorly designed website when there are some many other, better desgined ones out there?
According to the research, I gather all this information in 30 seconds. Who knew?
Since this class is mostly working with the Photoshop program, I thought it may be useful to let others like me know that you do NOT have to purchase the program for this class! Here is how you do it:
go to the MyQ site (from the Quinnipiac website just click on the "MyQ" link at the page top, or go to https://myq.quinnipiac.edu). From MyQ, click on the Citrix link on the left side of the page. Login to Citrix with your Quinnipiac network name and password. Next, a window will open with various programs the school has for use from their network. If you go into the ADOBE folder, you will find the entire CS3 package, including Photoshop.
Now, I have found that it is a little slow but if you don't feel like coming all the way to school to do work, then this may just work for you.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Beauty is seeing something in the whole at one given moment. It is the point where the imagination and the intellect come together along with the objective and the subjective to create one unified moment or feeling: beauty.
Take this example. I want you to think of the last time you saw roadkill on the road. When you remember the roadkill, you only remember the roadkill itself, not much else outside of the "frame". One doesn't remember the number across the street, the mailbox outside from the house, or even the color of a car outside of this frame. At the moment of apprehending the roadkill, there is a unity to one's being. You are apprehending a specific instance; the roadkill itself becomes etched into your mind.
This is the defining characteristic of aesthetics. The moment when one is wholly in the moment. Everything apprehended is just what it is.
The article begins with a ridiculous experiment using ATMs in Japan and Isreal. The designer thought it would be a good idea to arrange the buttons in "an attractive manner" and the other in "an unattractive manner" (why is that person classified as a "designer"?). It was no surprise that people preferred the "attractive" machine. I have to pose this; in saying "attractive manner" are we to believe he meant "organized" and if so, doesn't it seem kind of absurd to say that people gravitated toward the "attractive" machines? Point being, ATMs are supposed to be easy to use which is why people in both Japan and Israel (notice they didn't even try this in America) liked the attractive/organized machines.
The article goes on to present such revelations as "Emotions change the way people solve problems", "attractive things make people feel good" and of course "when people are happy, they are more imaginative". Norman goes on to say (not exactly in these words) happy people are also able to find alternative solutions to problems as opposed to people who are stressed or under a specific pressure; hence why creative people should not have deadlines.
After reading the 12 pages, the above is what stuck with me most...simply because he appeared to ramble through the last 8 pages; speaking about how humans have the ability to reflect upon previous experiences and utilize such experiences when encountering new challenges (a trait which I don't believe EVERY human has...yes, I do have a friend who lacks that ability). He also speaks about people who like roller coasters because of the correlation between fear and pride.
Norman also offers his version of positive and negative conditions that have an influence on the brain. The positive side includes such inquisitive items as "sweet tastes", "attractive people" (which in my opinion could be a negative as well) and "warm places". On the negative side; "heights" (which to some could be a positive), "extreme hot or cold" and "crowds".
I have to say that during my entire time reading this article, I too was very anxious...to get to the end of it. I now know that being anxious did not make me happy which is why I could not be creative while writing this entry. :)
I was a little surprised to read that the average web user, at least determined through Nielson/Loranger’s study, spends roughly only thirty seconds on a web page. When I thought about it, considering how much time I spend on a web page, I realized how much the calculation makes sense. When visiting a site for the first time, I spend little time to scan the page for the information that I am looking for. If I can’t find the information easily and quickly, then I move on to another site. I’ve never timed myself, but I’m sure it would be under a minute. If I find the site through a search engine or what Nielson/Loranger have called a deep-link, I am likely to spend more time on the web page because I believe the information that I’m seeking truly is on that page.
When designing a web page, it’s important to keep in mind that a page has very little time to do its job. If it’s inundated with irrelevant junk and is complicated to navigate, then the page will likely fail. Like a book cover, the homepage serves to attract the web user’s attention and quickly answer the questions who, what, and how. The homepage needs to confirm the user that they are in the right place and entice them to look further into the site’s interior pages, where more goodies reside.
Another theme that I thought was important that Nielson and Loranger briefly touched upon was the importance of getting third party sites and search engines to link directly to specific issues (pg 29). This idea is important because the Internet is a vast and endless network. By having third party sites link directly to a specific web page, new visitors will constantly be generated. Also, a site can establish itself as a good source by linking to other useful sites, possibly increasing the number of repeat customers.
Websites need to cater to the thirty second attention span, so it is worthwhile to invest in ways to direct a user to the specific information they are looking for. A strong website can answer a user’s question and also keep their interest to explore further into the site or establish a relationship for a repeat visit. This can all be accomplished through accessibility and easy usability.
It also made me think of the many web sites that I may have missed because I didn't spend enough time on them. There are many web sites that are under visited because users either don't stay long enough or are unsure of where to find what they are interested in. Deep links introduce users to sites they never knew existed but would be interested in. It is very important for web sites to take advantage of this option so they can add to their user base.
Rhapsody has a really good design. For those who don't know, Rhapsody is a music service that you can subscribe to to stream and download music (or sign up for the free account for 25 free plays a month!)
At first glance, it might look a little overwhelming, but upon further inspection...there's just lots of information that is easy to take advantage of. They have music "In the Spotlight", music by genre, new releases, charts, etc, all enabling you to find the music you want to hear as soon as possible (not to mention a great Search function too).
I'm currently working with a Software Development company that is currently building our own music site (albeit, indie-based), and Rhapsody is one of the sites we always praise and talk about for its simplistic, yet catchy design, and the many different ways to find new music. It's a fun site to use, and it keeps me coming back regularly.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
I thought that using these type of pictures to show Visual Aesthetics in pictures was a great idea. It showed the difference of color, emotion, and placing of objects.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
Welcome to the ICM 502 blog.
As an experiment I have decided that both sections of the class post to the same blog.
I hope it will provide an oportunity for more diverse discussions, but if it will become confusing, please let me know and we will split the blogs.