Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Internet, It isn’t just for your computer anymore

The Internet isn’t just for your computer anymore. Web connected devices are being found in more and more devices each day. Today you can find the Internet in cars, appliances and even in medical devices! According to a study done by IMS Research it is estimated that there will be 22 billion web-connected devices in the world by 2020. Another interesting fact is that machines are outnumbering humans in new subscribers for AT&T and Verizon.

Uses for web connected devices in your home

There are several uses for Internet enabled devices in your home. Imagine if you could be notified that your refrigerator was using more energy than normal? This could help you recognize an issue with your refrigerator before it costs you a small fortune! The can also be technology to allow you to know when you ran out of milk. The Internet, combined with electronic scales can let you know when the place you keep your milk is too light, signaling that you need some more milk. In your car, you can have the Internet help you not only with navigation but with things such as communication.

Web connected devices are also making their way into the healthcare industry. A new concept that is arising is the Body Area Network. This BAN is a network of computer devices that are “wearable” and can provide information on a patients vitals. This could be especially helpful for patients who may be in a high risk category or who have a medical condition which requires constant monitoring, such as diabetes.

Will the Internet ever go too far? Are there some places that the Internet just shouldn’t go?

Advertisements

Innovating the User Experience on the Web

In the SpoolCast from UIE (User Interface Engineering) on October 7th, 2010, Jared Spool interviews Luke Wroblewski. In this SpoolCast, Jared and Luke discuss Google’s new instant search feature. While Luke was working with Yahoo, he had a chance to work with the same concept called “Live Search”. For Yahoo, this ultimately never made it to market.

The Google Instant has brings up the question if forms in general will begin to change due to these types of concepts. If you stop and think about it though, a lot of forms on the web offer this instant gratification. Sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn both offer a way for you to search that provides instant results.

Well that’s all great but what’s the catch?

Not everybody who implements these instant searches has the ability to take out the distracting results. For example, when you type something into the Google Instant, after the first letter is entered search results are returned, however, Google has no way of knowing what my entire search string is going to be. Google appears to use my recent and common searches and puts those at the top of the list. As Luke and Jared discuss though, not every company will have the resources to implement something quite this well.

Inline Processes

Another topic that Jared and Luke discuss is an in line approach to input. I know your probably thinking, input is already inline in a form, I don’t have to go somewhere else to fill out the form. But stop and think about that. Many times you actually DO have to go somewhere else to fill out a form. Luke brings up the example of Quora for a site that makes good use of inline input. On this site much of the interaction actually occurs through quick pop-up windows instead of taking you to a whole new page. Luke also discusses the Comcast site where he encountered a sign up process that was done entirely in a pop-up window. Inline input is good, but sometimes it just isn’t appropriate. In the case of Comcast, Luke felt it was inappropriate for the sign up process to be in line, rather than in its own page.

This has just been a very brief recap and explanation of the topics discussed by Jared and Luke. Beyond what I have discussed here, Jared and Luke go on to discuss topics such as Apple’s Ping network and reusing information you have already loaded onto another site such as Facebook.


>Navigating the Maze that is the Web

>

Even the most experienced users of the web come across difficult web sites from time to time.  Navigating the web can quite literally be a maze.  Check out this mouse maze to experience the frustration that comes from inconsistent navigation.  Navigation schemes differ from site to site, and even some times within the same site!  Why do we encounter sites such as those?  Quite simply because the people who create them probably never knew much about web usability.  Now, I’m not trying to knock anyone’s website but let’s face it, not every site on the web is usable.


Tips for increasing web usability….

The following tips come from (http://www.humanfactors.com/downloads/10tips.asp)

  1. Motivate users – you need to draw in your users to your site
  2. Define user task flow – your site design needs to match what the users expect
  3. Architecture – it’s 80% of usability.  Navigation needs to be intuitive and obvious to the user.  Remember – if they can’t find it in 3 clicks, they’re gone.  
  4. Affordance means obvious – leave no doubt as to what you mean with everything in your design
  5. Replicate – learn from others and use the resources available to you
  6. Usability test along the way – test early and test often to avoid headaches later in the process
  7. Know the technology limitations – Identify and optimize for target browsers and user hardware.Test HTML, JavaScript, etc for compatibility.  
  8. Know user tolerances – Users are impatient. Design for a 2-10 second maximum download. Reuse header graphics so they can load from cache. Avoid excessive scrolling.  
  9. Multimedia – be discriminating – animation can be great for drawing attention but don’t overdo it
  10. Use a stats package – monitor traffic through your site. Which pages pique user interest? Which pages make users leave? Adjust your site accordingly. 

As you can see there is a lot that goes into designing a usable web site.  What may be usable to you, may not be usable to someone else.  I know from experience that what I find to be usable is many times not usable to others.  I have a tendency to look at web sites from the perspective of the developer of the site and I have to make a conscious effort to place myself in the role of a user of the site I am building.  This is not an easy task to accomplish so I rely on the opinions of others to make sure I am on the right track with a site design.  Hopefully these tips can help you create a more usable site.