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August 2006 Issue

By Luke Wroblewski

Published: August 28, 2006

“What goes in must eventually come out, and the information users provide to Web applications often makes its way back to users in the form of tabular data.”

Many articles have been written on what is probably the single most ubiquitous interface element within Web applications today: the form. Forms justifiably get a lot of attention because their design is critical to successfully gathering input from users. Registration forms are the gatekeepers to community membership. Checkout forms are how eCommerce vendors close deals. But what goes in must eventually come out, and the information users provide to Web applications often makes its way back to users in the form of tabular data.

After forms, data tables are likely the next most ubiquitous interface element designers create when constructing Web applications. Users often need to add, edit, delete, search for, and browse through lists of people, places, or things within Web applications. As a result, the design of tables plays a crucial role in such an application’s overall usefulness and usability. But just like the design of forms, there’s more than one way to design tabular data.

In a previous Communication Design column, “So the Necessary May Speak,” I discussed how to reduce the number of both visual design and content elements within a table to the absolute minimum necessary for effective communication. So, I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, I’ll focus on interface design solutions that enable users to find their way through large data sets. Read moreRead More>

“Boehm-Davis and Marshall presented an excellent course on the basics of planning, organizing, designing, and delivering a professional presentation.”

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: August 28, 2006

Wednesday brought greater diversity in my experience of the conference. In addition to attending a course, “The Art of Speaking,” I checked out the Exhibits in The Commons, heard part of a panel discussion titled “The Route to the Sea for User Value,” and in the evening, joined the crowd at the Hospitality Events. Read moreRead More>

“Anticipate and rehearse tough questions.”—Deborah Boehm-Davis and Lisa Marshall

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: August 28, 2006

On Thursday, the last day of the conference, I attended Part III of the three-part series on public speaking for HCI professionals and the closing plenary session. Read moreRead More>

By Whitney Quesenbery

Published: August 14, 2006

“I’ve seen some signs of life in the use of documentation for digital products recently.”

Here are some “truths” we’ve all heard: “Documentation is just a band-aid for poor design.” “Real users don’t read manuals.” “Super users never read anything.” “Help doesn’t.”

But are they really true? I’ve seen some signs of life in the use of documentation for digital products recently.

“I need it when I do something new.”

In a usability test of some small business financial software programs, we all froze when one participant reached for a fat manual. We were all wondering whether the rest of the session would be spent watching him read through the book, looking for an answer. Amazingly, it didn’t. Within a few minutes, he had found the answer and used it to successfully solve the problem he’d been stuck on.

Discussing this at the next break, we realized that we’d seen many of the participants using the online Help and How To… tips. They turned to them when they got stuck and couldn’t figure out the next step in a task, but mostly, they used them when they tried something new. We started asking about their use of Help. Was it just something they were doing during the test, or was it how they worked in their own offices? In retrospect, the answers were not surprising. Read moreRead More>

By Jonathan Follett

Published: August 14, 2006

“In the next few years, the adoption of high-resolution displays—with 150 or more pixels per inch—will significantly alter our conception of what the Web and networked applications can potentially be.”

In the next few years, the adoption of high-resolution displays—with 150 or more pixels per inch—will significantly alter our conception of what the Web and networked applications can potentially be. As the price of high-resolution displays comes down to earth and early adopters make way for mass consumers, beautiful visualizations of data will enrich the digital realm. High-resolution displays will allow us to chart greater depth in financial data on screen, render finer lines in maps and illustrations of technical designs, and show greater detail in photographs. In specialized areas of medicine, where the price tag of these displays is unimportant, this transformation of the online world has already begun. To describe the enhanced online experience high-resolution displays will make possible, I’ll build on a term from the broadcast, cable, and satellite industries—high-definition television (HDTV)—and coin the term high-definition Web (HDWeb).

The computer displays we use for viewing our digital world have evolved relatively slowly in comparison to other types of computer hardware and Internet infrastructure—processor speed, bandwidth, and storage capacity have all made leaps forward in the past decade. While such improvements have shaped the way designers create and what they create—affecting everything from visual style and site architecture to interaction flow and overall functionality—these changes have been incremental and manageable. However, our move to high-resolution displays will be transformative, because it will affect designers’ entire working medium. Digital designers will face numerous possibilities and challenges that huge increases in screen real estate and depth of detail will bring. Instead of a somewhat blurry and indistinct 72-pixels-per-inch working environment, high-resolution displays will provide richness and clarity. As high-resolution displays become more readily available, digital designers will find themselves at the forefront in navigating this new world. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: August 14, 2006

“A UX team can help define a company’s overall strategy.”
—Friedland and Innes

Conference: Day 2: Tuesday, April 25th

On Tuesday, I attended a full-day course, “Repositioning User Experience as a Strategic Process.” Then, in the evening, colleagues from the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) and the User Experience Network (UXnet) gathered for dinner at Buonanotte. Read moreRead More>