One of the most interesting topics for information architecture is search. There are ways to find, explore, browse and discover things in digital domains. The value of information increases with the possibility of being found. So design for findability becomes the most important strategy to increase the value of information.
One of the distinct experts in the field of Information Architecture is Peter Morville. He gave an interesting one-hour talk at Google about »Ambient Findability and the Future of Search«:
He talks a lot about the problem of search in general (he is speaking at a search engine company). How to enable better search and findability is a question of a) metadata and b) representation.
It is the representation aspect of searching and finding, that is still a huge area for design innovations. While improving the Google search result page may be too difficult, there are a lot of very specific problems where searching and navigating an information domain gets a very interesting and particular design issue.
A designer needs a good understanding of the fact that users have different approaches of locating things depending on
There constantly is a discussion about making the computer feel more “natural” to the user. I do think that this approach led to the graphical user interface we are all used to today and it is philosophically the right approach to deal with technology. But I also do believe technology is not yet ready to allow “natural” interaction in most occasions.
If you don’t believe me this video will hopefully bring this discussion to an end:
While researching some information about user interfaces for video sharing websites I stumbled over a statement in an article at news.com by Alonso Vera of NASA Ames Research:
»Design is starting to change who succeeds and who fails. A few years ago that wasn’t true. If I had a better algorithm, I would win!«
I had a conversation about this yesterday. Users are fed up with lousy interfaces. Whenever I do a research into a UI field – mobile phones, websites, software applications – I run into these strange situations, that the user is left alone with an error message and litterally no practical advice what to do. It really baffles me, that obvious pitfalls are left open until release of the software or product and kept unadressed for month if not years. So if Design comes a market driver, that is a very good sign!
Example: If you are a Macintosh Users (and some are indeed) and you go to hi5.com – a music/video community website with 50 million users (!) and you want to upload a video file (one of the core features), you will be presented with a form where you can enter title, tags and category for your video. Fine.
But after clicking you will see this error screen (above) telling you that someone named VideoEgg (What by the way do they have to do with it?) does not support the browser you are using and that you need to go to videoegg.com to check a list of supported browsers.
While I wondered that I was not presented with that list (or at least a link to that list) directly (Again when were Hyperlinks introduced to the World Wide Web??), I almost got angry after unsuccsessfully trying to find such a list anywhere on the proposed site. Remember: Hi5.com claims to serve 50 million users!
I took me half an hour to try all browsers available on my system – costing me time and quite some nerves AND money. And the effect of this really obvious and simple UI problem: I won’t give hi5.com a second shot on me or recommend that site.
What does that mean? Maybe the “web 2.0” market is one where idiots happyily buy stuff from slightly smarter idiots?
Tobias Jordans pointed to a new astonishing video of a 8-by-3 inch two-panel multi-touch sensitive wall mounted screen:
The video makes evident, that the interaction feels continuous and natural. And since Apple has shown with the iPhone that multi-touch can improve small interfaces as well, I think this technology could replace the mouse one day.
The business numbers were impressive. Apple sales and market share is growing. That is a change. Apple always had a small market share. The machines were said to be unstable, expensive and slow. Gimmicks for design geeks and fashion victims. I think this image changes. The hardware is top notch, capable of runing Windows if needed and comes with a very robust operating system and pre-installed software. The other applications of Apple are offered at fair prices. The new machines are priced very aggressiveley. Apple is now offering the best price/performance ratio for those that want to run Windows (see this blog post). The Mac Pro is a bargain.
The only thing I found pretty low during the Keynote was the Vista bashing. I takes more to compete with the market leader than picking few screenshots and claim Microsoft is ripping off MacOS X. This kind of “comparative marketing” is lousy.
But in any case people have to admit that Apple does in fact innovate. If Time Machine is as easy to use as it seems, this really a breakthrough to fight loss of data on your drives.
The new feature I personally like most is iChat 4. It now allows lecturers to give live presentations to remote audiences with Keynote. Lecturers could be invited to give presentations without the need to travel to remote places. This is very attractive for higher education.
How wonderful it would be if a presenter could stream this video to a QuickTime Streaming Server for viewing by a large audience?
Tim and Simon from send|recieve presented a verly early alpha version of Mnemomap one week ago on the Webmontag event in Cologne (which happened to be the first one in Cologne I couldn’t attend). I am sure they’d love anyone to try Mnemomap and drop some feedback about it.
mnemomap is a new way to search the internet. It combines technologies of social networking, search engines and other data sources to help you formulate search queries and find really relevant information.
There doesn’t appear to be any reliable way to notify screen readers of an update in the DOM. There are piecemeal approaches that work for one or more devices, but no overall approach or combination that would cover them all.
Tim Bruysten forgot his »Apple Mighty Mouse« after his presentation on Web Monday meet-up. I took it with me to hand it back to him later. I am using it now. And I have to say: I don’t like it.
I don’t want to go into too much detail, but generally the absence of physical feedback for the three different “buttons” requires the user to get that from the visual/acoustic feedback on screen. The presence of two more buttons is not visible and not haptic. So it remains a mental concept.
It is a nice object to explicate the notion of affordance.