Still Life

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Posts Tagged ‘usability’

Book Review and Thoughts: “Don’t Make Me Think!” by Steve Krug

Posted by Steve on October 13, 2008

Don’t Make me Think is a book on web usability; it is mainly about how to improve the design of web sites and web applications so that they are more usable. This is one book that practices what it preeches in the respect that it is very readable and very nicely presented rendering it what I would classify a nice read. That being said, I do agree with some other reviews of the book, the content does tend to be a bit ‘fluffy’ (for lack of a better term). A lot of the information presented is more common sense than anything else. Now with that being said, there is no harm in hearing some good common sense, and it is always good to here from another source.

There were a few parts in particular that I thought were very important, the thing that I saw as being the most important was the section on testing (surprise, surprise). It happens to be one of the last chapters of the book, but I would say by far the most important.

It discusses the simplicity in how web usability testing can be done, for example, the importance of NOT figuring out your target user (at least in too much detail. Instead it is suggested to go out and offer a small stipend to someone (anyone!) to come in to do an hour or so of usability testing. I think this is excellent advice, it takes a lot of the overhead away from the testing and realistically being able to pin down and then find your target user is not the easiest of tasks.

Another point on usability testing that is extremely important is to do it EARLY. I know first hand how difficult it is to have people test things early, your projects, sometimes you think things just are not ready. But the reality is that if you have some usability testing done early, it can provide a lot value, as at the time the changes suggested will be much easier to fix than later on in the designs life. Therefore do smaller amounts of usability testing earlier, than large scale later!

Overall it was a good read and confirms some of those ‘common sense’ kind of feelings that you may have towards web design. If you have anything to do with any web page or application I would suggest giving it a read.

–Steve

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Posted in Product Review, Testing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Web Usabilities Achilles Heel – The Back Button

Posted by Steve on September 12, 2008

Since the introduction of a lot of new web technologies including, (but of course not limited to) PHP and Javascript etc… the back button has never been the same. It used to be that when one pressed the back button it was expected, neh, certain that you would see the previous page that you were on; unfortunately this is no longer true! There are hoardes of issues that revovle around the back button, to follow is one example that I find terribly annoying.

Bestbuy.ca and Futureshop.ca Search
Like all web stores, best buy has a search option (and like most stores its pretty bad!). You arrive at the sight, and say you are looking to pick up an xbox 360, go ahead an enter that to the search bar. You come up with 368 hits, and you see a tree view:

Bestbuy Tree View

Bestbuy Tree View

You can then navigate down to the tree to finally find hardware:

Narrowed down selection

Narrowed down selection

Lets say you select the Pro Console, it takes you to the items page, and you see that it is sold out! So you press the back button to look at another console. This should take you back to the narrowed down selection… right? Not so much. It takes you back to the original search view, so you have to navigate through the tree again… GAH!

Have you had any interesting adventures with your back button, anything ever happen that you didnt expect? I may be adding to this myself the next time something strange happens!

–Steve

Posted in Testing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bugs in the Wild: In Flight Edition

Posted by Steve on August 29, 2008

I was recently on an air canada flight down to San Francisco to visit my parents and I had a touch screen in flight entertainment system (here is a link to a picture if you want to see).

The first thing that I start with is simply watching a TV show, as I wanted to relax a little, but as the flight progressed I decided to see what the entertainment system had to offer. I notice there is an option to listen to music, so I navigate over to there and start setting up a playlist. This is where I noticed the problem. The whole playlist (if it is over 5 songs long) does not fit on the screen, therefore there are arrows that you can click on to go up and down on the playlist; and if you get to the top or bottom of the playlist the respective up or down arrow gets disabled. Makes sense, why would you need to go up anymore if you are at the top of the playlist, right? Because of the title of the post, obviously this is wrong! What they forgot to take into account is that when you click on song that is at the bottom of those displayed on the screen, the screen re-centres around that song, thus if you click the fourth song on the list, you can no longer see the first song, and at this point in time the go up arrow is also still disabled!

There is of course a fix to this, you can simply click the down arrow and the up arrow will fix itself, but if you were really malicious you could have so that both arrows got diabled and you would have to exit and re-enter the audio screen.

I thought this was a fun little bug in a real world situation.

–Steve

Posted in Bugs in the wild, Testing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Review of Keybreeze – Making your daily life a little easier

Posted by Steve on May 21, 2008

I have not dabbled into writing about products and programs that I use, but this one, Keybreeze, has completely blown me away.

I have always been a big fan of using global hotkeys for as many things as possible, and had started using them pretty extensively over the last couple of months. Since I had gotten used to them on my personal Laptop I decided to set them up on my work computer. I first tried the generic global hotkey program where you have to assign your hotkeys manually, this was getting tedious considering the magnitude of programs that I open at work, so I did some in depth searching, and thats when I ran into keybreeze. Keybreeze is a simple program with incredible power, it gives you access to practically anything with a couple keystrokes.

When keybreeze is installed it goes and automatically assigns a ‘keyword’ to almost everyone of your installed programs and it also comes with a set of useful generic ‘keywords’. The first step after the install is to setup a hotkey that calls up the search bar, its best to pick something that never would be used but is still simple, mine is “ctrl;”. This brings up the search bar seen in the first picture, this is where the magic happens and what makes keybreeze differently. In the search bar you can type in any program you wish to open and keybreeze will give you exact and partial matches of the keywords that match what you have entered. For example I type in the letters ‘se’ and the following options show up:

Service network Utility
Service Manger
Set Window on Top
Configure your server
Close Window

Any of which can be selected. All of the keywords that have been indexed are displayed in an easy to read alphabetically sorted command list. Furthermore it is possible to assign a keyword to practically anything, and anything that you would like auto keyworded that is not done by default can be done automatically.

Now if this wasnt cool enough, there is also a set of features called one letter features. These one letter features can easily start a web search for anything, here are a few defaults (and of course your own custom ones can be setup!)

Google Search: s notepad++
Dictionary Search: d glucose
Wikipedia Search: w Porsche

Also one of the best ones, in my opinion, is the MP3 search. All you have to do is set what media player you use, and the folders to search for MP3s in, and then type ‘p musicfilename’ and that mp3 file will be played. It can also find partial matches really well, for example I have a file called “Sugar Ray – I_Just_Wanna_Fly” all I have to do is type in ‘p fly’ and the file gets played!

There are also a few other interesting features that I haven’t toyed with too much. The first is macros, which are pretty much self explanatory. The second is Text Function which allows you to set a keyword that will paste your specified text into any text box, so for example e-mail signature, date/time etc…

So to sum things up, this may be one of the best Open-Source programs I have ever used. Of course there is room for improvement, but it is pretty amazing as is; I highly recommend that everyone use this program, especially if you are like me and perfer to use the mouse as little as possible! Check it out at http://www.keybreeze.com .

–Steve

The Keybreeze Search Bar

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