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User Experience Magazine: Volume 8, Issue 3, 2009

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Volume 8, Issue 3, 2009

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Feature Articles: Bridging the Global Digital Divide

Help! Where is it when you need it?
By Tania Lang
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Most usability practitioners would be aware of the heuristic relating to help and documentation that states “Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation”.  The next logical question is where should this help be located on a form?  Lang set out to explore user expectations regarding location of help within forms.

Her goal was to overcome two basic challenges: Most users won’t read instructions until they get stuck, and users ignore instructions if they are too far away from the problem.

Usability testing showed that users:

  • Expect to see help associated with the whole page in the upper right, and help for a form at the top of the form, but below the global header.
  • Want help links near the field, directly to the right of it.
  • Can easily identify a meaningful symbol such as a question mark.

Stepping In: An outsider's guide to crossing the digital divide
By Matt Jones, Andrew Dearden, Lynne Dunckley, David Frohlich & Ann Light
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Have you ever thought about working on a project that bridges geographic and cultural gaps and reaches out to people in distant locations? The UK’s “Bridging the Global Digital Divide” projects do that and go further than most HCI projects in working with diverse audiences by pairing researchers in the UK with those living in the project’s location.

This article looks at four projects to create services that use digital technology to enhance lives:

  • Fairtracing linked UK consumers with coffee producers in India and wine cooperatives in Chile.
  • StoryBank explored how the user-generated content revolution might play out in a context where there is low computer and textural literacy and minimal access to the internet.
  • Village e-Science deployed toolkits of gadgets to improve both education and agricultural practices in Kenya.
  • Rural e-Services worked with a farmers' co-operative in India to learn about participatory design in this cultural setting.

From the perspective of these projects, this article looks at some of the issues – practical, ethical and organizational – you might encounter when crossing the “digital divide,” and offers practical food for thought.

 

Role Reversal: Testing for Ease of Learning and Recall
By Keisha McKenzie & David A. Edgell
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What if you were as interested in the learnability and memorability of an application as how easy it is to use. This article looks at a method for testing those aspects of usability on a complex conference planning application used in a context where some users would have to train others.

McKenzie and Edgell adapted the usual participant and facilitator roles: we applied the standard roles for most of our test, but then reversed the roles of participant and facilitator during the last task so that the participant “taught” the facilitator a task learned earlier in the session.

  • Keeping the standard roles through part of the test allowed them to maintain some control over the test and also glean usability data regarding efficiency, errors, and satisfaction.
  • Reversing the roles at the end of the test then provided qualitative measures of learnability and memorability that they would not have gleaned from the standard protocols.

This adapted method was easy to implement at a negligible cost, but also offered valuable insights into the practical use of software, particularly in workplaces. It can be a valuable addition to any usability professional’s “toolkit” to help understand how easy a product is to learn and remember.

 

User Interview Techniques: Guidelines for Obtaining Better Results
By Michael Hawley
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This one-page summary of basic guidelines for interviewing will help you improve your own technique. Based on a tool developed by Mad*Pow, it includes with code numbers for each practice, provides a mechanism for constructive feedback and a forum for discussing potential improvements.

 

Model-driven Inquiry: A Streamlined Approach to Data Collection
By Larry Constantine
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Model-driven inquiry is an agile modeling approach to investigating, capturing, organizing, and defining user requirements of interest to interaction designers. By reversing the popular process of contextual inquiry and other ethnographic approaches, model-driven inquiry can significantly reduce the need for field study and accelerate analysis and design.

Instead of first gathering substantial quantities of data that must then be analyzed and from which insight must be extracted in order to build the desired requirements and design models, model-driven inquiry starts with modeling.

Exploratory modeling is used to quickly construct systematic but simplified models of users and user needs in provisional form, typically as simple inventories and brief descriptions of activities, task cases, and user roles or other user-oriented or task-oriented models useful to and of interest to the designers. The process of exploratory modeling generates inquiries about unclear or incomplete issues that are then used to shape a streamlined data gathering process, the results of which are, in turn, folded back into the exploratory models to transform them into a complete and final form of direct use in driving design and development.

Using this approach, systematic models that can inform design decisions are available in preliminary form very early in the process, and field research can become more sharply focused and potentially significantly reduced in scope and duration. The technique and its rationale are described and compared with contextual inquiry and combinations are considered.

 

New Standards to Help Screen Readers Navigate Web Forms
By Lisa Pappas and Linda Roberts
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Forms accessibility has traditionally been a challenge:  HTML forms lack the semantic cues that assistive technology needs to allow users of screen readers to use forms easily. Forms designed for visual presentation without proper tagging and inconsistency in how dynamic elements are rendered just exacerbate the accessibility challenges in web forms are exacerbated by limitations in keyboard navigation by tagged elements, the practice of tagging for visual presentation rather than intent, and the inconsistency of rendering dynamic elements.

Two new standards from the W3C:  WCAG version 2 and the new WAI Accessible Rich Internet Application (WAI-ARIA) give web authors the means to provide rich, dynamic forms that are accessible to people who cannot use a mouse or who require assistive technologies such as screen readers.

In this article, the authors focus on several of the most challenging barriers to web forms for screen reader users, the relationships among form elements, keyboard navigation to and within forms, required field and validation feedback, and handling of dynamic updates to a form.

With the addition of WAI-ARIA code, web forms can be made more usable for all users, especially those with disabilities. WAI-ARIA code is a progressive enhancement: if the user’s browser does not support the standards or if the user has older assistive technology, the WAI-ARIA code is simply ignored.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) through its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has advocated for coding practices to provide universal usability. With the addition of relatively simple WAI-ARIA code, web forms can be made more usable for all, especially people with disabilities.

 

Informations Graphics: An Eclectic Celebration
By Aaron Marcus
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Interested in visual communication? Although you may be familiar with Edward Tufte and Richard Saul Wurman, there are many other valuable contributions.

Aaron Marcus provides an eclectic celebration of works published over the past 80 years on the topic of information graphics, or information visualization. If you are new to this literature, this romp through the decades will awaken your interest. It brings to light treasures of the past, and aims to inspire more usable work in presenting information visually.

Books and other materials discussed in this article:
Bertin, Jacques (1984). Semiology of Graphics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 432 pp.

Brinton, Willard C. (1920). Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts. New YorK: The Engineering Magazine Company, Industrial Management Library. 371 pp.

Bowman, William (1968).  Graphic Communication. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 210 pp.

Carlsen, Robert D., and Vest, Donald L. (1977). Encyclopedia of Business Charts. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. 886pp.

Chernoff, Herman (1973). "The use of faces to represent points in k-dimensional space graphically," J. Am. Stat. Assoc., Vol. 68, 361-368.

Few, Stephen (2006). Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Press. 214 pp..

Few, Stephen (2004). Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten. Oakland: Analytics Press. 265 pp.

Goslin Ryllis, and Goslin, Omar (1939). Don’t Kill the Goose. New York: Harper and Brothers.  169 pp.

Harris, Robert (1996). Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference. Atlanta, GA: Managemenet Graphics. 448 pp.

Holmes, Nigel (1984). Designer’s Guide to Creating Charts and Diagrams. New York: Watson-Guptill. 192 pp.

Huff, Darrell (1954). How to Lie with Statistics. New York: W. W. Norton.142 pp.

Jarett, Irwin M. (1983). Computer Graphics and Reporting Financial Data. New York: John Wiley. 447 pp.

MacGregor, A. Jean (1979). Graphics Simplified: How to plan and prepare effective charts, graphs, illustrations, and other visual aids. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 64 pp.

Marcus, Aaron (1992). Graphic Design for Electronic Documents and User Interfaces. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. 266 pp., esp. Chapter 5, Visualizing Knowledge:  Charts, Diagrams, and Maps.

Marcus, Aaron (1983). “Managing Facts and Concepts.” Design Arts Program, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., March 1983, 48 pp.

Meyers, Cecil H. (1970). Handbook of Basic Graphs: A Modern Approach. Belmont, CA. 214 pp.

Neurath, Otto (1980). “International picture language/Internationale Bildersprache.” Facsimilie reprint of the 1936 English edition. Reading, UK: Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading. 70 pp.

Paller, Alan; Szoka, Kathryn; and Nelson, Nan (1981). “Choosing the Right Chart: A Comprehensive Guide for Computer Graphics Users.”  Booklet published by Integrated Software Systems Corporation (ISSCO), San Diego, CA. 39 pp.

Rose, Stephen J.  (1986). The American Profile Poster: Who Owns What, Who Makes How Much, Who Works Where, and Who Lives with Whom. New York: Pantheon Books. 37 pp.

Schmid, Calvin F., and Schmid, Stanton E. (1979(. Handbook of Graphic Presentation. New York: John Wiley. 308 pp.
Spence,  Robert (2001). Information Visualization. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. 206 pp.

Tufte, Edward (2006). “The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint: Pitching out Corrupts within.” New Haven, CT: Graphics Press, 32pp.

Tufte, Edward R. (2003). “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, LLC. 24 pp.

Tufte, Edward R.(1983).  The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press. 197 pp.

Twyman, Michael, ed. “Graphic communication through ISOTYPE”. Exhibition catalogue. Reading,UK: Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading. 47 pp.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (1978). Graphic Presentation of Statistical Information. Papers presented at the 136th Annual Meeting of the American Statistical Association, Boston, MA, 23-26 August 1976, 88 pp. Technical Paper No. 43, U. S. Bureau of the Census.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, (1976). STATUS. Monthly Chartbook of Social and Economic Trends. September 1976, Compiled by the Federal Statistical System. 94 pp.

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.  (1975). U. S. Working Women: A Chartbook. Washington: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin 1880. 63 pp.

Vinberg, Anders (c. 1981). “Designing a Good Graph.” Booklet distributed by Integrated Software Systems Corporation (ISSCO), San Diego, CA. 36 pp.

Wainer, Howard (1997). Visual Revelations: Graphical Tales of Fate and Deception from Napoleon Bonaparte to Ross Perot. New York: Copernicus, an imprint of Springer-Verlag New York,Inc. 180 pp.

Wildbur, Peter, and Michael Burke (1999). Information Graphics: Innovative Solutions in Contemporary Design. Thames and Hudson, London, ISBN 0-500-28077-0.  176 pp.

Woolman, Matt (2002). Digital Information Graphics. New  York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. 176 pp.

Wurman, Richard Saul (2000). Information Anxiety. New York: Que. 308 pp.

Departments

Editor's Note: A Gourmet Meal of Content, Context, and Analysis Awaits You
by Aaron Marcus, Editor in Chief
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What's News: Hey Good Lookin'
by Tema Frank
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Book Reviews

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Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction by Ben Shneiderman and Catherine Plaisant

Reviewed by Aaron Marcus

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Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories by Donna Spencer
Reviewed by Gerry Gaffney
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The View from Here: Raising the Floor
By Gregg Vanderheiden
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