I attended the e-learning SIG program for ASTD Austin last night, hosted by National Instruments and led by 360training. Working through all of the new social networking technologies that affect training, we only tackled half the list, so we're continuing next month! The biggest surprise to me was the power these technologies could bring for product marketing, beyond their great usefulness for training. Here are my ideas, based on what I heard:
This site has some great design patterns used by lots of the most popular websites.
Here, by popular demand (well, one request, anyway), is an animated cursor based on the iMIS 15 icon. To install it, copy the iMIS15.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.
These are the TFS rules that Microsoft turns on for their development.
It's intended to provide short, general answers to broad topics about user-centered design. (They're considering adding a separate section to handle the non-usability questions, which do, of course, get submitted. Should be fun!)
This week several of us in InfoDev attended a 2-day seminar on Web Content Usability, taught by Expero, a local usability firm. Lots to say about that, but I'll start with the end, where we asked for and received a quick evaluation of usability issues with our new Helpsite. Here's what we got, in the order they were brainstormed:
- Do not display internal codes (especially system-generated Guids) to the customer.
Examples: If 0 represents no selection, display something like "(None)," not "0." If 1-99999 represents a range of values starting at 1 with no maximum, display "1-", not "1-99999." Even if there is a physical limit to the maximum value, the customer only sees a value if he/she specified the value.
- Currency values are displayed in a fixed-width font with the proper number of decimal places for the currency (e.g. 2 places for US dollars), right aligned, and with no currency symbol. However, the abbreviation for the currency in use (e.g. USD) is displayed somewhere on every page that has currency values. If a page displays values in multiple currencies, then the currency for each value must be unambiguous.
- Dates and times are displayed according to the conventions of the locale.
- If the customer cannot enter a time, no time should be displayed. (Do not display midnight in this case.)
- Recommended: Display the day of the week only when it is helpful and there is space.
- Recommended: Display the month as a word (e.g. January) only when some formality is called for (i.e. in a printed letter) and there is space.
- Numeric values (including currency values) are displayed in a fixed-width font and right aligned. Note that alignment should be with other values, not with the right edge of the panel.
Recommended: Try to avoid different numbers of decimal places in the same column, or align to the decimal point.
Exception: ID numbers (such as zip codes, phone numbers, part numbers, SSN, and the like) are left aligned, even when they are entirely numeric.
- For numeric values where the number of places varies (e.g. quantities, which could be pounds, ounces, gallons, each, etc.) trailing zeros after the decimal place will be removed. For example, 3.00 shirts will be changed to 3 shirts.
Rationale: This may cause misalignment, but it is not that important because it will rarely happen and is not all that confusing. Nobody is going to be scanning the column or trying to add 3 shirts to 2.5 pounds of nails, so alignment is not all that important in this case.
- Display fields in the order they are usually displayed and in the order they normally occur.
Example: On order forms, invoices, and throughout the system, the number of items precedes the unit of measure, so the user sees 1 Box, not Box 1.
- Omit labels and put several fields on a line when it is natural to do so and the meaning is clear.
Example: 1 Box, not
Quantity 1 Unit Box
- Recommended: Controls that are not available (because of other parameter choices, security, roles, etc.) are shown disabled (gray).
Alternate: They may be hidden instead if a case can be made that the page would be too confusing or cluttered, taking into account the sophistication and training level of the user, and the likelihood that someone for whom controls are disabled or hidden would need those controls.
Exception: Surf-to-Edit controls are hidden from those not authorized to use them.
- When a page is first displayed, the cursor is placed in the field where the customer is most likely to want to enter data, usually the first field on the page.
Items of Note: None
Presenters: Ted Sienknecht, Marcia Kerchner
Concept: We're overlooking a wealth of usability-related data we have on hand!
Where to gather information?
. Lessons learned: Study system usage statistics and user feedback from current/prior releases for possible improvements and functionality
. Software evaluations: Study other software users currently use for implementations they expect or understand
. Field observations: Watch users while they perform relevant tasks and note process, actions, systems, problems, needs, etc.
. Interviews & Focus groups: Use structured inquiry with users about their opinions and experiences
. Task analysis: Investigate typical tasks users perform on the system
. User profiles: Create representative identities for user subgroups (personas)
. Help desk logs: Read help requests for areas for improvement or new functionality
From: Jim Sneeringer [Jim@Sneeringer.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2007 8:47 PM
Subject: UPA Conference Report to Date
Tutorial on Pattern Libraries
a. The main think I learned here is that Sara did a great job of setting up or template.
Attached is the workbook from "Creating a Custom UI Pattern Library"
From: Dean Barker [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2007 12:49 PM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com