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User Experience Magazine: Volume 5, Issue 1, 2006

User Experience magazine cover Volume 5, Issue 1, 2006

Volume 5, Issue 1, 2006

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Feature Articles



Designing an Arabic User Interface: Methods and Techniques for Bridging Cultures
By Hala Hemayssi, Elyse Sanchez, Robert Moll, and Charles Field

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An effective Arabic user experience can be designed employing a strategic approach to handling the unique aspects of the language and culture. Distinctive issues in Arabic challenge non-speakers of the language. The cultural is tightly woven with the linguistic. Successful design must accommodate the traditions and expectations of Gulf Arabic users and feel right in the context of their tasks and limitations. Essentially, User Experience designers function as “cultural translators.”

In creating two versions each of two successful custom applications, Pathfinder developed insights in designing for Arabic cultures. A primarily English-speaking team designed effective layouts supporting both English and Arabic speakers. By defining a disciplined approach to naming and translation and consulting with an Arabic expert, terms could be chosen that would be meaningful to both cultures. Additionally, Arabic visual patterns, preferred colors and clear icons were built into the design to appeal to Arabic users.

Additional reading

Usability for the Planet: World Usability Day 2005
By Elizabeth Rosenzweig

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Additional reading

Developing a Symbol System for the Healthcare Industry
By Jim Bolek and Jamie Cowgill

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To assist people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) to navigate health care facilities in the United States, JRC Design led a nationwide design team to develop an initial set of symbols for use on signs and printed materials. These symbols would help to identify departments and procedures that are likely to be encountered within medical facilities.

The goal was to have a set of common terms or “referents” with a translation pool of five or more languages, and their related symbols, available for use by medical and design professionals. The set now consists of twenty-eight referents and symbols.

Additional reading


  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, New Jersey, is the Nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant making in four goal areas: To assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost; to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse—tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs. [4]
  • Hablamos Juntos translates from Spanish to English as “We Speak Together”. [5] Hablamos Juntos: Improving Patient-Provider Communication for Latinos is a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation intended to eliminate language barriers and improve the quality of health care provided to Latinos with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). [6]
  • NHS Estates is an executive agency for the department of health in Great Britain. They play a significant role in elevating health care by providing “expert advice, information and guidance on estates and facilities management issues to ministers, the department of health and the NHS.” [7]

Standards Organizations

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from more than 140 countries, one from each country. ISO is a non-governmental organization established in 1947. The mission of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating the international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. ISO’s work results in international agreements which are published as International Standards. [10]

Other standards organizations include: Standards Australia (SA), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Österreichisches Normungsinstitut/ Austrian Standards Institute (ÖN) and the British Standards Institute (BSI).

Design Team
Jamie Cowgill, Jim Bolek, JRC Design; Project Administration, Symbol Design; Kate Keating, Kate Keating Design; Symbol Design; Meg Faye, Fayeworks Design LLC; Symbol Design; Gladys Brenner, AB Design; Symbol Design
Jack Biesek, Biesek Design; Symbol Design; Todd Pierce, Pictogram; Symbol Design


Wendy Olmstead, Ivy Tech State College; Survey Review and Results Compilation

Advisory Committee, Hablamos Juntos

Yolanda Partida, Cástulo de la Rocha; AltaMed; Deeana Jang; Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Edward L. Martinez; National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems; Hugo Morales; Radio Bilingüe, Inc., Guadalupe Pacheco; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Paul M. Schyve; Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization

Technical Advisory Committee, SEGD

Craig Berger,  John Bosio; Hillier, Dan Clements; Karlsberger Companies, Ken Ethridge, AIA, RIBA; IZone, AIA Health Care Consortium , David Gibson; Two Twelve Associates, AIGA Board, Phil Garvey; Pennsylvania State University
Lance Wyman; Lance Wyman Ltd, Roger Whitehouse; Columbia University School of Architecture


The original tests consisted of a five or six spoked wheel approximately 7” in diameter. At the center of the wheel was another circle 2” in diameter. This circle had the definition of the referent. Each spoke contained a white symbol within a black 1 5/16” square. At the top of each sheet were the instructions:

For each health care symbol shown, please estimate the percentage (%) of the United States population you think will understand what it means. 100% means everyone, and 0% means no one.

Each person was given a test form of twenty-nine pages, one for each referent and a cover instruction page. The tests were available in English and Spanish, and translators were available for other language groups.

The tests were administered by the ten grantee sites. Each round was to have ten participants: Two English speaking, two Spanish speaking, three speaking Asian languages and three speaking European languages.

Field testing included placing symbols over existing signs, directory mockups using symbols and text, and matching tests. Participants were asked to navigate a trail using the existing sign system only, a paper map with symbols to match the mockups, a paper with only the symbols, and a combination of all three. They were timed as they walked each path.

These tests were administered by Craig Berger of SEGD and Phil Garvey of Pennsylvania State University. Various designers volunteered to assist at the four sites.

The Ten Grantees

  • Molina Healthcare, Inc. Long Beach, CA
  • Inova Health System Falls Church, VA
  • Temple University Health System Philadelphia, PA
  • Central Nebraska Area Health Education Center, Inc. Grand Island, NE
  • En Español Birmingham, AL
  • Greenville Hospital System Foundation, Inc. Greenville, SC
  • School of Public Health–University of North Texas Health Science Center Fort Worth, TX
  • Regional Medical Center at Memphis Memphis, TN
  • Choice Regional Health Network Olympia, WA
  • Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island Providence, RI

Analyze This: A Task Analysis Primer for Web Design
By Catherine Gaddy and Aaron Marcus

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Task analysis may be one of the most important methods that usability professionals bring to a user-interface design project. A task analysis is a set of methods for decomposing people's tasks to understand their procedures better and to help provide computer support for those tasks. Task analysis also reminds us to describe and analyze what people want or need to do, not how they will use the technology to do it.

Task data can serve as a starting point in developing an information architecture, mental model, and navigation design for a website. When it comes time to do usability testing, the same task list can provide a framework from which to develop questions that correctly sample the range of tasks that users will perform on the website. An exercise to create a sample task analysis is included in this article.

In our experience, task analysis is often not performed, not documented succinctly, or performed but not used in design. We review reasons task analysis may not be done and ways to overcome them. In summary, this article will explain task analysis, how it is used, and why, too often, we ignore one of the most helpful tools in our toolboxes.

Additional reading

  • Hackos, J. T., & Redish, J. C. (1998). User and task analysis for interface design. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Lewis, C., & Rieman, J. (1994). Task-centered user interface design.
  • Luczak, H. (1997). Task analysis. In Salvendy, G. (Ed.), Handbook of human factors and ergonomics. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Marcus, A. (2005). User interface design's return on investment: Examples and statistics. In Bias, R. G., & Mayhew, D.J., (Eds.), Cost-justifying usability. San Francisco, CA: Elsevier. (Originally published as Marcus, A. (2002). Return on investment for usable UI design. User Experience, 1(3), 25-31.)
  • Mayhew, D. J. (1999). The usability engineering lifecycle: A practitioner’s handbook for user interface design. San Diego, CA: Morgan Kaufman Publishers.
  • Nielsen, J. (1994). Goal composition: Extending task analysis to predict things people may want to do.
  • Nielsen, J. (2000). Why you only need to test with 5 users.
  • Strybel, T. Z. (2005). Task analysis for the design of web applications. In Proctor, R. W., & Vu, K-P. L. (Eds.), Handbook of human factors in web design. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 385-407.


Editor's Note

User Experience: What? So What? Now What?
By Aaron Marcus

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What's News

Superphone to the Rescue!
By Tema Frank

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More on Superphones

Sound Sticks
By Tema Frank

More on Sound Sticks

The View from Here

Personal Usability: How Can We Make Ourselves More Usable to Others?
By Ilise Benun

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