Archives by Category: Usability

Usability Man sighting in London

Reported sightings of a previously little know superhero, Usability Man, in the streets of London....

Posted on November 14, 2006 | Permanent Link | Comments (0)

Usability Posters

A few usability posters to brighten up your cubicle and celebrate World Usability Day next week:

Posted on November 9, 2006 | Permanent Link

Two great events in Auckland for World Usability Day

There will two events in Auckland for World Usability Day on Tuesday 14th November.

At lunchtime, we will be making some (visual) noise with some red balloons in the streets of Auckland, highlighting good and bad examples of user experience.

In the evening, Shona Bishop, GM of Marketing & Business Development at the Bank of New Zealand, and Natasha Hall from Trade Me will be talking about how they've introduced usability into their organisations.

Find out how you can get take part in the events calendar.

I'm hoping for lots of people at lunchtime (and in the evening too, of course). We've ordered 100 balloons so there should be enough to go around....! Don't be shy - come along!

Posted on November 7, 2006 | Permanent Link

World Usability Day 2006 and Making Life Easy

World Usability Day 2006 is only 20-odd days away on Tuesday 14th November.

UPA Auckland is putting the finishing touches to what promises to be an evening of great speakers and activities - more details anon.

In the meantime, here's another great opportunity for you to get involved in World Usability Day.

Leisa over at Disambiguity and the guys at Flow Interactive have put together a great a little project called

The aim is to get people to make some noise about the things that make their life needlessly difficult.

Confusing cash machines, unclear signs, frustrating websites - poor usability is everywhere and it gets in the way of life. Sometimes it is just annoying. At other times it stops us doing what we need to do.

World Usability Day and MakingLifeEasy is about promoting the value of user-centered design, and every user's right to ask for things that work better.

I'm thrilled about both initiatves and have contributed a few of my Auckland pet-peeves to the project. Here's how you can get involved too:

1. Help get more people involved! If you have a blog, give us a shout out and send people to to participate. If you have a Flickr account, join the Making Life Easy group and invite all your friends!

2. Share your examples of the best and the worst of usability where you live (or visit or holiday!). Add photos to the group and your submission will be added to the website and potentially to the Hall of Fame or Shame.

3. Cast your vote! Take a look at the website and have your say in what *really* drives you crazy and what you really love.

Posted on October 27, 2006 | Permanent Link

'Usability Techniques' Workshop Slides and Notes

Here are the presentations slides and notes for the workshop I gave to TCANZ members this month.

TCANZ Workshop - Usability Techniques: Slides (zipped PDF, 4MB)

TCANZ Workshop - Usability Techniques: Workbook (PDF, 240 KB)

Posted on August 3, 2006 | Permanent Link

Usability Techniques Workshops

The Technical Communicators Association of New Zealand (TCANZ) has asked me to run some Usability Techniques workshops at the end of the month.

Full details and registration at the TCANZ website:

I'm really looking forward to running these workshops. I'm aiming to make them as practical and hands-on as possible. There'll be some "theory" of course, but mostly I want to give participants the opportunity to practice some core usability/user centred design methods.

We'll create some user profiles (personas), carry out a card-sorting exercise, develop some paper prototypes and practice running some usability evaluations.

If you are thinking of attending the workshop, feel free to leave a comment as to what would make the workshop really useful and relevant for you.

Posted on July 11, 2006 | Permanent Link

The Future of UK marketplace for usability services

Usability News - E-Consultancy's Friedlein predicts the Future of UK Usability Consultancy

Ashley Friedlein, CEO of, about the future of the UK marketplace for usability services and how he expects usability agencies to evolve.

Posted on March 27, 2006 | Permanent Link

Intranet Review Toolkit

Step Two Designs, in conjunction with the IA Institute, have just released a free Intranet Review Toolkit

This toolkit provides intranet managers and designers with an easy-to-use method to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their intranets.

While I don't necessarily agree with all of the guidelines (or applying them blindly without considering your specific circumstances), it's a good starting point to get you thinking about the various aspects of your intranet.

Posted on December 2, 2005 | Permanent Link

Auckland World Usability Day Celebration

World Usability Day logo

As part of World Usability Day, the Auckland UPA invites you to Open Your Eyes to Usability:

Ever felt frustated, confused or lost when surfing the web? Ever wondered how your visitors really 'see' and experience your website?

If so, join us for an evening of activities designed to increase awareness of usability and user-centred design.

Presentations will include "Internet Usability", and a live usability evaluation of a popular website. You will also be able to view examples of eye-tracking research, and experience how blind people 'see' your website using screen readers.

A number of usability experts will be on hand to give advice on any aspect of usability.

Plus: Remote Control Shootout! How many buttons are there on your remote control? Do you know what they all do? How many do you actually *use*? Bring your remote control along and help us find the worst offending example of poor design and usability. We have spot prizes for the best (the worst?) examples.

This event is being organised as part of the first World usability Day, with more than 70 events planned in 35 countries around the globe, starting (naturally) in New Zealand. Visit and be amazed by how many people, places and groups are taking part. Come along and be part of the celebration.

Date: Thursday 3rd November

Time: 6.00pm to 8.0pm

Venue: Bank of New Zealand, 3rd floor, 125 Queen Street (Map showing location of building - but we are on the 3rd floor)

Cost: Free - Drinks & nibbles will be provided so please register so that we can order enough wine! And don't forget your remote!

Please RVSP to

Posted on November 1, 2005 | Permanent Link

Software-Bases Usability Labs

Harry Brignull has put together a comparison of software-based usability video labs

Morae and VisualMark are part of a new breed of software-based Usability Video labs, that run on your plain vanilla PC or Mac. What makes them special is that you don't have to buy any new hardware, you just install the software, grab your webcams and other bits of kit off the shelf and off you go. Also, if running on a laptop, you are highly mobile and can carry the lab around in a bag that wont break your back. Plus you never have to look at another tape, scan converter, or sit around digitising content ever again.

(via City of Bits)

Posted on July 7, 2005 | Permanent Link

Usability of University Websites

The Guardian reports on a usability study of UK university websites:

As universities begin to gear up for this summer's Clearing season, when they hope to field inquiries from thousands of candidates still without a place, a piece of market research shows just how out of touch many of them are. They are, in a word, too academic, full of swaths of information that leave web-surfing students bored and irritated. That is the verdict, at least, of a company that sat down two groups of first-year sixth formers and asked them to find information on university and college websites."

Read the article (via Louise Ferguson).

Posted on June 23, 2005 | Permanent Link

The danger of too many features

Another great article and illustration from the folks at Creating Passionate Users about the dangers of featuritis:

What if instead of adding new features, a company concentrated on making the service or product much easier to use? Or making it much easier to access the advanced features it already has, but that few can master? Maybe what they lose in market share in one area will be more than compensated for in another area. In a lot of markets, it's gotten so bad out there that simply being usable is enough to make a product truly remarkable.

Posted on June 13, 2005 | Permanent Link

ROI of user-centred design

The following article is a nice little case study demonstrating the value of using a user-centred approach to software development. The Return on Investment (ROI): 90% less calls to the support centre, and as the articles describes:

No matter how trivial, every support call has some costs associated with it. Installation should be easy, and initial use should be intuitive."

The bottom line [...] is straightforward: focusing on the design of the product had a significant impact on the cost of supporting the product.

Of course, there's a very positive sales benefit to this, too: ProtectionPilot's UI design has already generated favorable reviews in the U.S. and Europe, with ease of use a common theme.

Read the article: Clean, Cutting-edge UI Design Cuts McAfee's Support Calls by 90%

Posted on June 2, 2005 | Permanent Link

Potential User Interface Issues with Ajax

More on Ajax Interface Design: AJAX Interface Design

...and a list of potential user interface issues with Ajax: Ajax Mistakes

Posted on May 29, 2005 | Permanent Link

Usability Implications of Ajax

Like Angie said, this article makes the implications of Ajax a lot clearer to me now: Ajax, Ajax Everywhere

Ajax, and the pile of techniques and technologies that get lumped in with it, are all about breaking that page-by-page web experience into smaller chunks. If the traditional web was letter writing, Ajax is instant messaging.

Posted on May 28, 2005 | Permanent Link

Innovation through people-centred design

The UK government Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Global Watch Service provides funds to assist small groups of technical experts from UK companies and academia to visit other countries for short, fact finding missions. And this is their latest report: Innovation through people-centred design - lessons from the USA (PDF - free registration required).

I guess you could argue that the local Department of Trade and Enterprise is doing something similar, but in reverse: bringing the likes of IDEO President Tim Brown for the upcoming Better by Design Conference in March 2005 (people-centred design, design-led business - we're all fundamentally talking about the same thing...)

Posted on May 13, 2005 | Permanent Link

The difference between the alt and title attributes

456 Berea Street provides a good summary of the difference between the alt and title attributes

Alt text is not meant to be used as a tool tip, or more specifically, to provide additional information about an image. The title attribute, on the other hand, is meant to provide additional information about an element. That information is displayed as a tooltip by most graphical browsers, though manufacturers are free to render title text in other ways.

Posted on December 9, 2004 | Permanent Link

Bridging the gap between User and Business Goals

Keith Robinson expands on his ideas about bridging the gap between User and Business Goals in a new article over at Digital Web.

Once you’ve altered your process to help align business and user goals, look for ways to show the value of your efforts in business terms. You can start slowly by holding a postmortem with your client and/or stakeholders to discuss how the project went. Gather success stories that show how user-centered design actually helps meet business goals and go out there and evangelize those to the people who count.

Posted on December 3, 2004 | Permanent Link

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)

Posted on November 26, 2004 | Permanent Link

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.

Posted on November 26, 2004 | Permanent Link

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

Posted on November 2, 2004 | Permanent Link

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)

Posted on November 2, 2004 | Permanent Link

Achieving a strategic advantage through user centred design

So what is UCD and why should NZ business start to take serious notice? UCD is both a philosophy and a process that places the end user at the heart of the design process.

Read the rest of the article.

(from the latest designindustry newsletter).

Posted on October 22, 2004 | Permanent Link

Usability & Web Forms

Creating Bulletproof and Easy to Complete Web Forms

A sample chapter from Defensive Design for the Web: How to improve error messages, help, forms, and other crisis points by Jason Fried and Matthew Linderman.

Posted on October 16, 2004 | Permanent Link