Product Development

ASI logo animated cursor

Here, just in time for Innovations, is an animated cursor based on the ASI logo. To install it, copy the asi_pinwheel.ani.txt file to your windows\cursors folder. Take off the .txt extension. In Control Panel / Mouse / Pointers, Browse to this cursor for the "Busy" and "Working in Background" selections. Click Apply and you're done.

May 30, Dallas: Big Design conference (UX)

$50 ($20 w/ student ID), 9:00 to 6:00, May 30, 2009, SMU campus

The Big (D)esign conference is a 1-day blast in Dallas, TX, focusing on convergence among social media, user experience, and code development. It's jointly sponsored by Dallas chapters of the Usability Professional Association, Refresh, and the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). Keynoting will be Norm Cox, one of the UX stars of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.

iXtend Partner Program

iXtend logoASI serves a base of 3000+ non-profits through its core iMIS software products. However, there are numerous specialized functionality areas that our core offerings do not and cannot provide quickly enough to meet all needs. Fortunately, ASI has a large community of partners (80+ AiSPs and Authorized Consultants) that are knowledgeable about these diverse needs, and over 30 have already developed proven iMIS add-on applications that are sold separately, either as standalone applications or true extensions. ASI now invites this community of partners to co-develop the next generation of iMIS add-on applications, and it extends this invitation to new developers, be they third-party companies, individuals, or customers.

Linking from one IQA query to another

Looking for input regarding an online member directory for version 15.0.3 (client licensed for Public Views, but not CM). We are trying to utilize IQA & existing public views functionality for a product-based solution. In the default Committee Rosters area of Public Views, there is a page that utilizes an IQA query to display a list of committees in the database. Each of the committees has an orange arrow "link" beside it.

UA2009: Moving documentation into wikis

Another strong theme running through the Software User Assistance 2009 conference was that any Help and documentation not embedded into the interface itself is moving into wikis, as much for their new media support (particularly RSS) as for the compelling efficiencies and benefits of collaborative authoring.

Matthew Smith (CorVel) presented on "Using SharePoint as a User Assistance Platform". SharePoint (aka MOSS) is becoming a platform for portal-based community and collaboration, with its built-in support for fast site development, including custom lists, blogs, wikis, surveys, search, and document version control. He was able to easily publish content from RoboHelp and Captivate directly into SharePoint, and SharePoint's security model was granular enough for him to control who sees what, down to the document and item level. SharePoint became their wiki-plus one-stop-shopping for content, unifying all documentation and support access. His recommendations:

UA2009: Glimpsing Microsoft Help 3

Very exciting for me was the chance to hear April Reagan, a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation, make the first public announcement about the release of Help 3, the ground-up redevelopment of Microsoft's Help format that she championed and won Bill Gate's backing for in 2007.

Microsoft Help, of course, has been foundering for years, and the 2.x versions devolved into problematic (slow, spotty, irrelevant, click-intensive, complicated, inefficient, confusing) Visual Studio-only formats. Once April won resources for the project to fix it, she did intensive data mining to research how Help needed to change, arriving at this UX vision: "Help is so quick and easy I can find the right answer on the first try." Her internal goals broke out into four areas:

UA2009: Leveraging DITA-based tools

Another central message of the Software User Assistance 2009 conference was that DITA (created and donated by IBM) offers a useful open-source standard for structuring and managing documentation, perhaps more for its tool support than for its inherent merits. Several presenters who had issues with its information typing nevertheless used it because of tool support.

UA2009: Embedded user assistance (help in context)

One of the central messages of the Software User Assistance 2009 conference was that Help must move into the UI itself (embedded user assistance).

Scott DeLoach (ClickStart), in his presentation "Best Practices for Embedded User Assistance", said the goal to fix Help is to [1] HIDE in plain sight, [2] PREDICT questions, [3] PREVENT problems, and [4] SEDUCE users into opening the Help they need. Research shows that [1] users simply won't ask for help, [2] they don't perceive embedded help as Help, and [3] they do use embedded help, so it has strong ROI.

UA2009: Documentation's changing world

The Software User Assistance 2009 conference in Seattle explored deeply how the entire field is changing and how our deliverables and methods can and must change.

Tony Self, in his presentation "What if the reader can't read?", sounded the alarm about changes in our users. Beyond the worsening literacy of the emerging workforce, the general increase in reader impatience is dooming traditional documentation. The Akami study (2006) showed that 75% of people would not go back to a site that took more than 4 seconds to load, where only a few years earlier it was 8 seconds. Given that 4 seconds is about 15 words read, it doesn't bode well for textual deliverables. Other studies show that web reading not only degrades our ability to read thoroughly, but it changes how we think and consume information. Increasingly, we're power browsers, not readers. What to do? Given our readers' move towards skimming information horizontally, reading snippets of text from different sources rather than in-depth, vertical reading, we need to change what we deliver.

Link: Writing for Reuse

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox post, Write for Reuse, argues for changing how we write to accommodate the well-researched fact that users will discover and approach a given page in a myriad of ways. The critical importance of how we word titles and headings is part of it, but I was caught by his argument to craft the opening text carefully, as users read only this in many cases, to judge whether this is the right page to answer their question/problem. I realized that I do this myself (read the intro quickly to evaluate the merit of staying on the page).