By the People, for the People

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher & Editor in Chief

Published: November 6, 2006

“We began publication of this magazine for the UX community … in conjunction with the first ever World Usability Day.”

This month, UXmatters is celebrating its First Year Anniversary. We began publication of this magazine for the UX community last year on November 3rd, in conjunction with the first ever World Usability Day.

Over just one year, we have built up a collection of 64 articles from 29 different authors, including

  • columns
    • From the beginning, Dirk Knemeyer (Imagine), Whitney Quesenbery (Universal Usability), and Luke Wroblewski (Communication Design) have contributed thought-provoking columns that have helped set the editorial tone for UXmatters.
    • We have just added two new columnists to the UXmatters team. Jonathan Follett’s new column Beautiful Information covers information design. Steve Baty is writing a column on user research, which is titled User Dialogues.
  • featuresMany authors have contributed feature articles covering the breadth of user experience, and we have published series of articles on eyetracking studies and color theory for digital displays.
  • conference reviews—Our conference reviews have covered DUX2005, User Friendly 2005, IA Summit 2006, SXSW 2006, CHI 2006, Strategy06, and The Web and Beyond.
  • book reviews—We’ve published several book reviews, and there are more in the pipeline.
  • news—Thanks to Peter Bogaards of InfoDesign and Mark Vanderbeeken of eventful.com, we have had a steady stream of news about publications and events, respectively.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our authors for their excellent contributions to UXmatters—and a special thanks to Luke Wroblewski for his fabulous column logos.

Created by the people, for the people, UXmatters is your magazine.

We are a small team of volunteers, and our resources have been stretched thin since the launch of the magazine, so our focus has been on bringing you great content rather than on completing implementation of the site design. However, we are now hopeful that some recent additions to our Web development team will enable us to refine the site implementation and add some new features to the site.

Created by the people, for the people, UXmatters is your magazine. If you have not yet contributed an article to UXmatters, I encourage you to do so. And please let us know what you want and need UXmatters to be by participating in our 2006 UXmatters Reader Survey, which is currently underway.

Voting As User Experience

“It is ironic that, at a time when we’re making great progress in ensuring that voting systems are accessible to all, the corruptibility of those same systems has the potential to disenfranchise the populous at large.”

With the 2006 midterm elections almost upon us here in the United States, our publication of Whitney Quesenbery’s column “Creating a Universal Usability Agenda” is timely. It describes her experiences chairing the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), which is endeavoring to make voting systems accessible to all US citizens with disabilities by creating federal standards for such systems. As Whitney informs us, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires voting systems that allow people with disabilities to vote “in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters.” This is important work.

It is ironic that, at a time when we’re making great progress in ensuring that voting systems are accessible to all, the corruptibility of those same systems has the potential to disenfranchise the populous at large. HBO is now running a great documentary about voting systems that are currently in use in the United States called Hacking Democracy. I highly recommend that you watch it. It’s eye opening.

Rather than elected representatives of the US citizenry, the corporations that manufacture voting systems have dictated the features of these systems, and some have chosen to give us black-box voting systems that provide no voter-verifiable audit trail. These systems do not meet the needs of the voting public. Voters should receive verification in print that the votes they have cast were recorded correctly, and the outcomes of elections should be verifiable through a paper audit trail. A committee similar to the one that Whitney participated in should dictate the design requirements for all voting systems in the United States.

“All of the progress we’re making in the usability and accessibility of voting systems will be for naught if those systems aren’t accurate, reliable, and credible.”

At present, the architectures of these voting systems are proprietary and, therefore secret, which means there is no objective oversight regarding their accuracy. Some of these systems can be hacked and voting results altered, without there being any record that changes were made. If there ever was a class of software that should be open source, this is it. (Australia is way ahead of us on this front.) To ensure that election results reflect the will of the electorate, our voting systems must be transparent and the results of elections verifiable.

As UX professionals, we know how frustrated users become when systems do not work as expected. We want to make our voting systems both usable and accessible for all citizens, but we also know how important credibility is. All of the progress we’re making in the usability and accessibility of voting systems will be for naught if those systems aren’t accurate, reliable, and credible.

Please exercise your right to vote and vote for candidates that support election reform.

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