A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Signal vs. Noise

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But There's Only So Many Ways to do Something, Right?

We're often victims of design piracy. Roughly once a week someone emails us with an anonymous tip that someone has ripped off our "UI look and feel" and is using it for their own site or their own app. It's amazing what people and businesses think they can get away with. We send the violators an email letting them know they can't take our work, our words, our code, or our design. 98% of the time the violators respond favorably and take the design down or alter it sufficiently that it's no longer recognizable as our design. 1% of the time it takes a few emails before they acquiesce. And 1% of the time it requires legal intervention.

Signal vs. Noise (2007). Articles>Intellectual Property>Copyright>Web Design


Functional Specifications Subvert the Hierarchy of Nature

When you use a spec, you give your trust and authority to a piece of paper rather than the people on your team. You codify laws. You strip your 'judges' of the ability to act on intuitive feelings. There’s no fluidity. There’s no ability to respond, change, and evolve.

Fried, Jason. Signal vs. Noise. Articles>Collaboration>Specifications


Getting Real, Step 1: No Functional Spec

Don't write a functional specifications document. Why? Well, there's nothing functional about a functional specifications document.

Fried, Jason. Signal vs. Noise (2005). Articles>Writing>Specifications>Functional Specifications


The Long Road to Simple: Creating, Debating, and Iterating "Add an Event"

Sometimes there's a lot more to simple than meets the eye. To the customer, this is just a few obvious words in a small box. But really, that's the point.

Signal vs. Noise (2007). Design>Web Design>Forms>User Centered Design


Usability Myths?

UIE says that certain usability myths need reality checks. They may be right, but I have a big problem with their reasoning. For example, for the “users give up because pages take too long to download” myth they say: Testing shows no correlation between page download time and users giving up. Here’s my problem: People aren’t very likely to give up if you’re watching over their shoulder. One of the biggest, often ignored issues with formal usability testing is realizing that people don’t like to fail in front of other people. Plus, people are usually a lot more patient in the presence of someone else than they might if they were alone. Finally, did people know they could “give up” while you were conducting your tests? What were their expectations and instructions?

Signal vs. Noise (2003). Articles>Usability


Web Design Going in the Wrong Direction?

There’s way too much talk about CSS and XHTML and Standards and Accessibility and not enough talk about people. CSS and Standards Compliant Code are just tools — you have to know what to build with these tools.

Signal vs. Noise (2004). Articles>Web Design>Standards>XHTML

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