A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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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


Ask Jeeves and Urinating Canines

First, there were butlers. Then, there were search engines. Today, there is Jeeves, a hybrid less expensive than the former and more user-friendly than the latter. Others have followed in Jeeves's footsteps, but his loafers are hard to fill. While he is no longer an original, he continues to be invaluable for net-novices and net-addicts alike.

Berkowitz, David. WebWord (2000). Articles>Web Design>Search


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


Care to Invest in Usability?

Making decisions regarding your investments is difficult, even during the best of times, and it is interesting to look at the reasons and drivers behind 'putting your money where your mouth is'. Usability, I believe, is a key part of the investment decision process. In an increasingly complex and technological world, a lot of people are perusing, gathering, and analyzing financial information using the internet. This is often the key material that helps people make their investment decisions in one particular way or another. 

Harrison, Nick. WebWord (2001). Articles>Usability>Marketing


Colorblindness and Usability

You might do a lot of usability testing on your web site but you still might lose up to 10% of your audience because of some simple mistakes with colors. Specifically, your web site may be designed in a way that doesn't work well for people with colorblindness. Generally the fix is quite simple: be sure to provide excellent contrast between your various web page elements.

Follansbee, Todd. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Color


Complicate Your Web Site

When you're designing a transactional web site, you need to complicate it with extra steps and customization. Anticipate the most likely problems, provide clear error handling, and build informative confirmation messages to keep your users happy.

Ledwell, Joshua. WebWord (2001). Design>Web Design


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


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


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


Going Global Gracefully: Strategies for Building the Global Gateway  (link broken)

The world speaks many languages, and so do an increasing number of Web sites. Yet with these languages and locales come a host of challenges for the Web teams who manage them, challenges that are not likely to go away. As companies 'localize' their Web sites for new markets and languages, they run into the navigational challenges of directing users to their localized Web sites. For instance, if your site offers a dozen localized Web sites, how do you ensure that users arrive at their intended sites without getting confused or lost along the way?  This article presents strategies for building a global gateway. A global gateway is much more than a 'select country' pull-down menu on the home page. It's an all-encompassing term for the devices you use to direct users to their locale- and language-specific sites. And, as you'll soon see, there are many ways to build a gateway.

Yunker, John E. WebWord (2003). Design>Web Design>International>Localization


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


Ground Floor Perspective on the Usability Job Hunt

This is a guest written article by Berna Tural, a recent college graduate from Carleton University in Ottawa. She is looking for a job in the usability field. I asked her to tell me more about her experiences so that WebWord readers would understand what it is like to be on the ground floor in usability. Similarly, I wanted people to see the other side of the hunt. 

Tural, Burna. WebWord (2001). Careers>Usability>Regional>Canada



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