A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Spool, Jared M.

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1.
#37049

The $300 Million Button

It's hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year. What was even worse: the designers of the site had no clue there was even a problem.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Forms

2.
#33853

AJAX Aids Accessibility?

Yes, if you do it right, using Ajax techniques can improve accessibility. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Ajax is like most techniques and technologies on the web—they are what you make of them.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Ajax

3.
#14191

The Art of Being Human

Site visitors crave the sense that someone is there, within and behind your Web pages, your emails and newsletters. Dealing with the bare technology of online interactions is a cold experience for many, or even most of us. It makes us feel anxious. Technology isn't warm. It has no heart. It neither understands us, nor cares for us. For many Web sites, whether for businesses or organizations, we simply plug in and play the bare technology - the super-duper means of information delivery. All the site visitor sees and feels is the design, the interface, the links and the clicks. The experience is about as warm and human as banking with an ATM machine.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2002). Articles>Web Design>User Centered Design>Usability

4.
#33230

As the Page Scrolls

Users say they don’t like to scroll. As a result, many designers try to keep their web pages short. But one of the most significant findings of our research on web-site usability is that users are perfectly willing to scroll. However, they’ll only do it if the page gives them strong clues that scrolling will help them find what they’re looking for.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (1998). Articles>Web Design>Usability

5.
#38132

Beans and Noses

Over the years, I’ve received a lot of great advice. One piece of advice I keep coming back to is about managing expectations. It came from an old friend, just a few days after I’d started my consulting practice. He was a seasoned consultant himself and I had asked him what I should know, just starting out. He told me his First Rule of Consulting: No matter how much you try, you can’t stop people from sticking beans up their nose.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2011). Articles>Usability>User Centered Design

6.
#20676

The CAA: A Wicked Good Design Technique

Discusses Category Agreement Analysis, a card-sorting technique to help create usable information architectures.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2003). Articles>Information Design>Content Strategy>Card Sorting

7.
#13740

The Church of Usability

Jared Spool goes out of his way to position himself as anything but a user-interface designer. Yet through his company, User Interface Engineering (UIE), he is a frequent keynote speaker on effective Web design, produces a monthly publication reviewing Web sites for effectiveness, and runs a series of workshops of effective Web design. Founded in 1988, UIE is an independent research, training, and consulting firm specializing in user-interface design and product usability issues. It has grown into one of the United States' leading usability research practices, conducting more than 400 usability tests each year on software and Web sites.

Spool, Jared M. Builder.com (2001). Articles>Usability>User Interface

8.
#34562

Components, Patterns, and Frameworks! Oh My!

In our research, we've found that teams that build out a re-use strategy see tangible benefits: They are more likely to get a completed design sooner, with all the little nuances and details that make for a great experience. Their designs are more likely to meet users expectations by behaving consistently across the entire functionality. Plus, the teams iterate faster (always a good thing), giving them a chance to play with the design while it's still malleable.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Project Management>Collaboration>Methods

9.
#30297

Crappy Personas vs. Robust Personas

If you're just going to guess on the personas, why bother? Just design for yourself, like the 37Signals team does. However, when you do the field studies, you create relationships with the people in your research. You can return to those people and ask them questions. You can learn about the things they do.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2007). Articles>User Centered Design>Methods>Personas

10.
#19749

Design Patterns: An Evolutionary Step to Managing Complex Sites

When your organization's web site or intranet has hundreds of contributors, how do you ensure that every page is high quality and extremely usable? Especially, if these contributors have never designed a web page before? This is a problem that many of our clients are facing and they've tried a myriad of solutions, such as centralized approval processes, standardized templates, and style guides, all without success. However, the one solution that really excites us is now gaining a lot of attention -- design patterns.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering. Design>Web Design>Information Design

11.
#30801

Designing Embraceable Change

It's not that people resist change whole-scale. They just hate losing control and feeling stupid. When we make critical changes, we risk putting our users in that position. We must take care to ensure that we've considered the process of change as much as we've considered the technology changes themselves. Only then will we end up with changes that our users embrace.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2005). Design>User Interface>Redesign>Usability

12.
#37050

Designing with the Elements of Play

While earning points or miles has been a staple of loyalty programs for the last 30 years, few outfits make it easy to redeem the points. ThinkGeek not only makes it easy, but also uses the opportunity to highlight some of their lesser-known products.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2010). Articles>Web Design>Usability>User Experience

13.
#27969

Do Links Need Underlines?

During our recent Virtual Seminar on home page design, several people asked about whether it makes a difference if links are underlined or not. It's a good question and one we get frequently.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2006). Design>Web Design>Usability>Interaction Design

14.
#33415

Documenting Design with Dan Brown

If you ask designers what the most frustrating parts about designing a project are, one of the top answers would be undoubtedly be “communicating and documenting the design process.” And with good reason… it’s not easy. That’s why I interviewed Dan Brown for this week’s SpoolCast. I don’t know of anyone who knows more about solid design communications than Dan.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2008). Design>Collaboration>Communication>Podcasts

15.
#37055

The Essence of a Successful Persona Project

Personas are a flexible and powerful tool for user researchers. They're also one of the most misunderstood. When done well, they ensure the team focuses on the needs and delights of their users. Like other effective user research techniques, personas deliver confidence and insights to the team. Personas help the team make important design decisions with a thorough understanding of who the users are, what they need, and when they need it.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2010). Articles>User Centered Design>Personas

16.
#14193

Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines

'Use a Search Box instead of a link to a Search page.' This is one guideline from the plethora of recently created usability guidelines to help designers produce more usable web sites. It makes sense. After all, there are more than 42 million web sites on the Internet. It should be simple to study these sites and put together a list of 'do's' and 'don'ts' that, when followed, will produce easy-to-use sites. Designing a web site, either usable or unusable, is hard work. There are many details that designers need to take into account, such as browser differences, content management, information architecture, and graphic design. Providing proven guidelines to developers can reduce their already overburdened workload, making one aspect of design that much simpler. However, we are assuming the guidelines actually result in more usable sites. This is where things start to get murky.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2002). Design>Web Design>Usability

17.
#28095

Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines

'Use a Search Box instead of a link to a Search page.' This is one guideline from the plethora of recently created usability guidelines to help designers produce more usable web sites. It makes sense. After all, there are more than 42 million web sites on the Internet. It should be simple to study these sites and put together a list of 'do's' and 'don'ts' that, when followed, will produce easy-to-use sites. But...

Spool, Jared M. uiGarden (2006). Articles>Usability>Standards>Web Design

18.
#13738

An Eye on User Data: An Interview with Jared Spool, Founding Principal of User Interface Engineering

Our most striking finding is how bad web sites are in general. We have yet to find a site where, if you choose questions at random based on information the developers have placed on the site, users can find the answers more than 50% of the time. (The best we've found is 42% of the time.)

Spool, Jared M. WebWord (1999). Articles>Usability>Web Design

19.
#19748

Field Studies: The Best Tool to Discover User Needs

The most valuable asset of a successful design team is the information they have about their users. When teams have the right information, the job of designing a powerful, intuitive, easy-to-use interface becomes tremendously easier. When they don't, every little design decision becomes a struggle. While techniques, such as focus groups, usability tests, and surveys, can lead to valuable insights, the most powerful tool in the toolbox is the 'field study'. Field studies get the team immersed in the environment of their users and allow them to observe critical details for which there is no other way of discovering.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering. Articles>User Centered Design>Methods>Usability

20.
#33112

Five Things to Know About Users

Over the years, we've studied the usability of hundreds of product and web site designs. We've seen designs that were incredibly effective for users and designs that fell tremendously short. One emerging pattern in our ongoing research is that design teams that know a lot about their users are more likely to produce user experiences that are usable, effective, and pleasing.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2002). Articles>Web Design>Usability>User Centered Design

21.
#29814

Galleries: The Hardest Working Page on Your Site

Galleries -- the list of links to content -- are your site's hardest working pages. They are the final page that separates those users who find the content they are seeking from the users who won't. A well-designed gallery page will drive users to success every time. A poorly-designed site will only serve to drive users away.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2005). Design>Web Design>Usability

22.
#19751

Getting Confidence from Lincoln

A few years back, we conducted one of the most painful usability studies in the history of our research. We learned some really important things, but I'm not sure the users in that study will ever forgive us. Before that particular study, we'd noticed, when searching large web sites for information, there were some sites where users always seemed to know where to find the content. No matter what content they were seeking, every user somehow knew to make a bee-line for it. Not every site worked this way and we wanted to know what made these particular sites work so well.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering. Design>Web Design

23.
#26450

Global Site Navigation: Not Worthwhile?

Having global navigation isn't a bad thing. It's just not something that should garner a lot of resources, as it's unlikely to be important in the user experience. You're probably better off putting your resources elsewhere (such as increasing scent for the most important content on your site).

Spool, Jared M. GUUUI (2004). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design

24.
#34563

Great Designs Should Be Experienced and Not Seen

When things are going well in a design, we don't pay attention to them. We only pay attention to things that bother us. The same is true with online designs. We attend to things that aren't working far more than we attend to things that are. When the online experience frustrates us, we pay attention to its details, often because we're trying to figure out some way to outsmart it.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>User Experience>User Interface

25.
#34566

Harnessing the Power of Annotations -- An Interview with Dan Brown

Annotations come in all shapes and sizes depending on the artifact and the intent of the document. People are probably most familiar with wireframe annotations, where the author calls out areas of the screen to describe functionality not immediately discernible from the picture alone.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Interviews>Visual Rhetoric>Technical Illustration

 
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