Designing Navigation Systems

The SAP Design Guild has a good series on hierarchies: what they are, why users find them confusing, and how best to design and present them.

[…] hierarchies come in many guises and are present nearly everywhere: you find them in applications, hypertexts, Websites, portals, operating systems, or data collections. For example, files on a hard disk, documents in a Website, functions and options in an application, as well as a computerized part list can be organized as a hierarchy. Despite this ubiquity, many users are not as experienced with hierarchies as some developers might believe; in general people have problems understanding and using hierarchies, which are essentially an abstract notion and not a “real life” object.

(via Adam Kalsey)

How and Why People Use Camera Phones

Microsoft has researched How and Why People Use Camera Phones. One of their conclusions:

A second important finding was the recognition that
capturing and sending has the first glimmerings of a new and compelling genre of communication which, at this point, is fraught with problems. There are obvious implications to deal with barriers to use including the elimination of technical complexity, lowering cost, and improving image quality. Unless and until this happens, it may be some time before a critical mass of users sees picture messaging traffic increase.

(via UI Designer)

Design Checklists for Online Help

Michelle Corbin provides some Design Checklists for Online Help (via InfoDesign)

Online help systems have evolved over the past 20 years to meet the needs of our users. Designers must consider the content, format, presentation, navigation, and access methods of online help systems. A series of design checklists based on the past 20 years of research are presented in this paper, which summarizes a journal article currently being considered for publication.

Usability: Business Needs AND User Needs

Keith Robinson talks about the challenges of marrying both the business needs of a website (e.g. branding) with the more tangible user needs (e.g. getting a task done):

One thing that came up last week was the challenge of being able to meet all of the users needs. We work with companies who are trying, much of the time, to satisfy business goals that relate to marketing and branding. Sometimes it’s not clear exactly how tangible user needs relate to those goals as they are often more tied to what I’m calling emotional needs.

Read the full post: Meeting a User’s Emotional Needs

Make it Simple
The economic costs of IT complexity are hard to quantify but probably exorbitant. The Standish Group, a research outfit that tracks corporate IT purchases, has found that 66% of all IT projects either fail outright or take much longer to install than expected because of their complexity. Among very big IT projects—those costing over $10m apiece—98% fall short. (The Economist)