Clicks & Notes

19 April 2005

Technical Difficulties

Apologies once again for the lack of posts over the last several days. I’ve been having some ISP trouble, which will take a few more days (so I’m told) to resolve.

With any luck, there’ll be new content up here sometime early next week.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:24 pm

11 April 2005

Collage As Interface

In response to my previous post, a friend sent me this link:

Cultronix - The Conceptual Space of Collage

Collage is a critical paradigm of the information age because it opens the range of possibilities through which we interpret information artifacts. Cut and paste enables semiotic construction that simultaneously leverages and detourns the means of production embodied by particular media elements. The recombination of genetic codes of meaning creates hybrid forms. Through these cross-currents, culture, and even knowledge, evolve.

I got to thinking about a few online news sites that rely heavily on a collage effect to transmit many news items in a visual way:

  • Yahoo! Buzz Images and News – splays out a bunch of photos for you; mouse over them to get the textual summary
  • 10 x 10 – an array of 100 keywords and 100 pictures
  • newsmap – no pictures, but relies on size and placement of textual elements to convey importance or magnitude of coverage for a particular news item

Are we going to rely more on interfaces like this to cope with information overload? When are we going to get RSS aggregators that look this?

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 11:24 pm

08 April 2005

Moving beyond the page metaphor on the web

Atomiq - Beyond the Page and Atomiq - Beyond the Page (the return)

  • the “page” currently functions as the basic presentation and organizational unit – both for people browsing the web, and for people who produce content for the web
  • however, new trends on the web are challenging and disrupting the page metaphor:
    • Rich Internet Applications (RIA) – including those using Flash, Ajax, and Java
    • RSS / Atom / XML content – can be mixed/spliced with other content
    • “blurred boundaries” – between the desktop and the web, and between other devices that can share web content
  • current IA tools, such as site maps and wireframes, are inadequate for modelling the new breed of websites/content
  • new IA tools:
  • a new website, RIAIA.com will be covering issues pertaining to IA for RIAs (no content there at the moment)
  • see also: IAlog - RIAs and the death of the page (rumors greatly exaggerated)

Bloug - RIA and Log Analysis

  • moving beyond the page metaphor may also pose a difficulty for web analytics – how do we measure these new sites?
    • Flash has user event capture functionality
    • Ajax still makes use of http request, which are logged by the server
  • tracking inside these interfaces requires more tagging of content
  • the potential exists to capture even more information than what is available with convential log files, such as data on mouse gestures and movements
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 1:49 pm

07 April 2005

Doing a Content Inventory

alt tags - The Content Inventory: Roadmap to a Succesful CMS Implementation

  • when a company is setting up a content management system, there’s a tendency to focus too much on the technology and design of the CMS, and not enough on the content itself
  • inevitably, when it comes time to populate the CMS, the company runs into trouble – hence the need for a content inventory
  • things to list in your content inventory:
    • all content on the current website
    • content that is to be migrated to the new site
    • web-based applications or transactional systems to be integrated with the new website
  • information to capture for each piece of content:
    • description
    • content owner
    • content type
    • format
    • location
    • update frequency
    • status
    • general notes

(via Column Two)

Here are some additional resources on how to do a content inventory:

The following are examples that you can look at or download:

Update: See also Bloug - Applications to Aid in Content Inventories?, for ideas and pointers to tools for performing content inventories in large, distributed enterprise environments.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 11:40 am

05 April 2005

Working Memory and (So-Called) Magic Numbers

Spotted this quick news release via kottke (a while back now – this blog post has been sitting in my “Drafts” folder for a couple weeks):

EurekAlert! - How much can your mind keep track of?

  • new research has shown that, when someone is trying to solve a new problem or do an unfamiliar task, the number of individual variables that they can handle is relatively small; four variables are difficult, while five are nearly impossible
  • when problems are more familiar, people are able to break a larger number of variables into more manageable chunks, treating several variables as a single chunk

Which, of course reminded me of this (in)famous article:

The Psychological Review - The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information by George A. Miller (1956, vol. 63, pp. 81-97)

Everybody knows that there is a finite span of immediate memory and that for a lot of different kinds of test materials this span is about seven items in length. I have just shown you that there is a span of absolute judgment that can distinguish about seven categories and that there is a span of attention that will encompass about six objects at a glance.

Which has since been repudiated in its applicability to interface design:

Internetworking - Three Numbers That (Should) Have Nothing To Do With User Interface Design

(E)ven when it is cited correctly, Miller’s work is discussed as if the scientific understanding of short-term memory had not advanced at all in the last half century… More contemporary experiments show that an individual’s capacity for short-term remembering depends heavily on the nature of what is being remembered.

At best, Miller’s 7 ± 2 figure applies to immediate serial recall for a sequence of familiar, easy-to-pronounce, unrelated, verbal stimuli presented auditorily with no distracting sounds within earshot.

Net Return - Seven, plus or minus two. What’s the relevance for web design? (PDF, 90 kb)

  • it is information scent, and not a user’s ability to remember a list of items, that determines their success in using a navigation structure that presents a large number of links
  • information scent arises from wording used in labels and links that clearly conveys to the user what sort of information can be found if they click link

See also:

Also picking up on the news release from EurekAlert!:

beyond bullets - 7 x 20 = Overload

Many people justify 7 bullet points per slide by citing the George Miller article, but what’s always missing in the arithmetic is the total number of bullet points across all of the slides; e.g., 7 bullets per slide times 20 slides equals 140 bullet points.

In turn, beyond bullets links to these two items:

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:30 pm

© Jennifer Vetterli, 2005