A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Rhodes, John S.

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About Freeloading

Jess McMullin, a Usability Analyst at Cognissa, and a long time reader of WebWord, wrote me a lettera couple of days ago. His basic complaint was that I don't give my readers enough credit. I'm pretty sure that he feels offended that I have called my readers a bunch of 'freeloaders'. What does that mean and what is freeloading?

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Articles>Publishing>Online


Amazon, You Just Lost $82.62

The purpose of this article is to openly display my disgust with Amazon and to discuss the implications. On Monday, 11-June-2000, I ordered a gift certificate from Amazon.com. I was going to use the certificate for Father's Day, however Amazon failed to send the certificate in time. So, I drove to Barnes and Noble, bought some books, and bought a gift certificate. Amazon just lost $82.62.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design>Usability>E Commerce


Are You Creating a Path of Resistance?

I've been watching people type in web site addresses for a long time now. However, I only started watching people closely about 4 weeks ago. I recorded 75 observations of people typing in URLs in the address bar (I kept a notepad with a running tally). I'll be the first to admit that this was not scientific and, as you might guess, I was acting in a biased manner. Nevertheless, I think the results are somewhat useful as a starting point. I found that in about 20 of the 75 observations, when people typed in a new URL they first tried the address without the 'www'. So, my findings indicate that about 27% of the time, users did not use the 'www'.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (1999). Design>Web Design>Usability


Attack of the Back Button

Getting stuck on a web page can be painful. The back button doesn't always work. While there are many ways to escape from web pages, many users don't know the tricks. A company can stop hurting users by doing more testing, using proper development methods, and being aware of the issue.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design>Usability


A Business Case for Usability

This is a business case for usability in an organization. It is based on academic research, industrial research, case studies, consulting experience, and common knowledge found in the usability community. 

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Articles>Usability>Management>Business Case


Call Them Demons, Call Them Heroes

The language you use on your web site is critically important and shapes the user experience in ways that you might not expect. You can seriously harm or augment the experience by changing words in small ways.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2000). Design>Web Design>Writing


CEOs and Usability

As a usability professional, there are many reasons why you might speak with your CEO or other senior leaders. For example, you might need funding for a new laboratory or testing equipment. You might also need to justify current or future expenses, such as salaries, end user remuneration, or your travel budget. Most conversations are financial in nature.

Rhodes, John S. and Daniel Szuc. uiGarden (2006). Articles>Usability>Management


CEOs and Usability

Talking to a CEO about usability can be wonderful or terrifying. The difference between raging success and total failure comes down to understanding exactly what the CEO needs to know and then adjusting your usability message to fit. This article explains how to understand various contexts, and in turn, how to position your usability message.

Rhodes, John S. and Daniel Szuc. Apogee (2006). Articles>Management>Usability>Collaboration


Donation Gravity: An Analysis of Donations Made to the Red Cross through Amazon's Honor System

In light of recent terrorist attacks on the United States, Amazon.com set up a page to collect donations for the Red Cross. Over the course of about two and half days, I recorded the donation activity on that page. An analysis of the data revealed that the average amount of money donated by each person steadily increased (i.e., donation gravity). This manifestation of donation gravity is discussed, along with several usability ideas that can help you design a better online donation web page.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design>E Commerce>Usability


Driving, Death, and Usability

This article discusses turn signals and how they are used. Turn signals improve safety because they give people time to react and they reduce driving ambiguity. However, they are only effective when people actually use them. Several lessons are applied to web usability.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Articles>Usability>User Interface


Eight Quick Tips for a More Usable E-Commerce Web Site

If you are a Web site developer and you want to create a safe, warm, and comfortable e-commerce environment for your users, then you will want to consider several issues. Start first by thinking about your own online shopping and purchasing concerns. What do you like? What don't you like? What do think are the indicators of online security and personal and financial privacy?

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (1999). Design>Web Design>Usability>E Commerce


Every Click is an Investment

You must treat each click on your web site as an investment. If your site is satisfying, and if your site is easy to use, then every click will provide your customers with value. When they see that value, they will not want to leave your web site. If customers don't want to leave your site, then your competitors are not just a click away.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design


Evolution, Usability, and Web Design

The purpose of this article is to explain how evolution and natural selection relate to the web development process. It is suggested that it is wise to encourage designers to create many quick and dirty designs over many short intervals. This is in contrast to asking designers to create a lower number of better designs over fewer intervals. The ideas of failure, prototyping, usability testing, and iterative design are explored.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2002). Design>Web Design>Usability


Focus on User Responses

What do you really want your users to do once you get them to your site? What information do you want to get to them? How do you want to them to use your site? What responses do you want from your users?

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (1999). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design>Usability


The Four Horsemen of Usability

As of June 2001, four web properties control more than 50% of all the time spent online by U.S. surfers. This means that you can throw away your usability guidelines and follow these companies. They spend millions on usability testing and they are driving standards by sheer market force. You have no choice but to follow their lead.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design>Usability


Free Stuff and Web Usability

Everyone loves free stuff. Capitalize on this and you can make your site more user-centered. It can also drive up sales, profits, and user satisfaction.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (1999). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design>Usability


The Ghost!

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the things Dave Winer has talked about in the last few months. Just today, for no good reason, my mind lit up like a firestorm and I think I put several of his ideas together. At the least, I have started to describe a vision of life where technology is so important you would be shocked. However, at the same time the technology takes over, we are all as human as ever. We get what we want, exactly how we want it, without ever suffering through the pain of the technology.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Articles>Technology


Google 2.0

People using Microsoft's Internet Explorer are now being redirected to Microsoft's MSN when they make certain kinds of mistakes. This means that Microsoft is taking control of another part of the user experience. This article discusses how Google might be able to help users and solve a few other problems others along the way.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design>Usability>Search


Google Voice Search

Google Voice Search allows you to make a telephone call to Google with a search query and get the results on a web page. The purpose of this article is to briefly describe the user experience and investigate the usability implications of this tool.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2003). Articles>Web Design>User Interface>Audio


Greymatter, RSS, and Syndication

Greymatter is an excellent web content management system. After you install it, you can begin to syndicate your content using XML. This article gives you an explicit step-by-step overview of how I created RSS 1.0 and RSS 0.92 files using Greymatter. It is assumed that you have some knowledge of HTML and XML, and that you have already installed Greymatter. Many examples and references are provided to help you along the way.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2001). Design>Content Management>XML>RSS


The Hidden Truth About Web Content

Many Web developers have failed to realize that Web content goes far beyond the text of the site. Most people throw around the word 'content' as if Web sites that have many pages and many words are great. Take a moment and reflect on this key question: Is text the same thing as content?  The answer is simple: No, text is not synonymous or identical to content. You shouldn't think that content is all about words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. Here is the reality: Web content is about user interactivity.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (1999). Design>Web Design>Writing


How Product Teams Benefit from Usability

Product teams can leverage usability in three simple ways. First, usability can disambiguate requirements. Second, it can push a product closer to perfection with a small investment. Finally, usability helps product teams inform the organization about potential and expected support issues.

Rhodes, John S. Apogee (2006). Articles>Usability>Collaboration


How to Deliver Bad News to Customers

In order to be effective in the usability business, you have to face the fact that you'll have to deliver bad news. You have to talk about what's not working. You might have to bruise egos and make your client uncomfortable.

Rhodes, John S. Apogee. Careers>Consulting>Usability>Collaboration


How To Drive Free, Massive Traffic Using Simple RSS   (PDF)

This report is going to show you a couple of brief, but extremely powerful secrets to increase the traffic to your website. RSS drives frequent search engine (spider) visits and that translates to higher search engine rankings.

Rhodes, John S. and Matthew W. Rhodes. Wordpreneur (2007). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>RSS


Hyperlinks in Email

Email usability can be dramatically increased or decreased by how URLs are designed and placed in messages. An example of one problem is described in detail in this article. Also, a couple of simple tips are provided to help you improve the URLs in your email messages.

Rhodes, John S. WebWord (2002). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Email



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