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Monday, 28 May 2007

Bytes · Getting usability buy-in - Gender stats - Defamation + students

  • Christine Perfetti on User Interface Engineering runs through five ways of getting buy-in for user testing.

    Much of the article chimes with my experience, so I'd recommend it. Her first point is 'start testing right away' simply because of the power of the actual testing — once people see it, their attitude changes.

    When I’m teaching courses on usability testing, I’ve found that no amount of lecturing about the benefits of testing gets development teams onboard and past their skepticism. Instead, people only truly comprehend the power of testing once they’ve observed a user interacting with a design.

    This is so, so true. IME you can practically see the light bulbs going off. You can always start by using discount techniques.

  • Etre tell a great story about usability in practice in their newsletter. I related it to points made by Jacob Nielsen about Command Links:

    When Microsoft first added the "Program Files" folder to Windows, they received a barrage of complaints. Most came from armchair usability experts. What irked these experts wasn't the folder itself, but the folder's name. They didn't like the term "Program Files". They said that it was unfriendly and intimidating. They felt that users wouldn't dare click on a folder called "Program Files" for fear of upsetting the inner workings of their applications. They demanded it be renamed ...

    ... "Programs" was a non-starter. It was too user-friendly - enticing the average to step in, take a look around and get himself in a whole heap of trouble.

    "Program Files", on the other hand, was quite the opposite. It hadn't gone down well at all during user testing. Users found the term scary. Just as the experts would later come to predict. This, of course, made it the perfect choice. By choosing to name the folder "Program Files", the Windows UI team made users wary of it and afraid to explore its contents - and thus unlikely to make painful errors or learn ridiculously long-winded ways of working.

  • 5.7m Brits used a mobile device to access the Web during January 2007, compared to the 30 million people age 15 or older who accessed the Web from a PC, according to new research.

    The study, from Telephia and comScore puts the UK Web market at 19 percent of the PC-based Internet audience. This makes it slightly more developed on a relative basis than the US Mobile Web market, where 30 million (or 17%) of the 176 million US PC Audience accesed the mobile Web.

    As well, 63 percent of Mobile Web users in the U.K. are male, compared to 54 percent of PC Internet users.

    Hower Nielsen/NetRatings also reports that "young women are now the most dominant group online in the UK".

    Women in the 18 - 34 age group account for 18% of all online Britons and they spend the most time online - accounting for 27% more of the total UK computer time than their male counterparts.

    Of UK males active online, the 50+ age group is the most prevalent.

    NB: the BBC report of this fails to disclose the connections between the BBC and Nielsen, as do other recent reports by them about questions surrounding web stats.

  • Speaking of the stages of the two markets, SearchLatitude has produced a White Paper suggesting that US advertisers research the UK search market as it is much more advanced!

    Author Dylan Thwaites claims that:
    "A whole new sector has failed to thrive as effectively as it should have done, because the advertising industry in the US has adapted more slowly than in the UK."

  • According to Helen Milner, managing director of UK Online Centres (which as I may have mentioned are one of the few initiatives addressing the Digital Divide in the UK and are currently under funding threat), speaking at a recent conference:
    "Just a few years ago, people thought that time and market forces would close the digital divide, with everyone using the internet to conduct their everyday business, buy goods and find out information.

    "But around fourteen million people still aren't doing so. The high levels of interest in the conference and input from leading figures across government, industry and the third sector proved that the digital divide isn't over. It's not going away, and it won't be swept under the carpet.

    "Digital inclusion isn't headline news. It's not one of the issues on which elections are fought, like health, education, employment or crime. But what has emerged from the conference is the recognition that digital inclusion does have an impact on those issues, and that giving people the confidence and skills to make digital choices and take digital opportunities has a wider political, social and economic consequence.

    "The number of internet users has stalled, and at the same time the internet is changing from a passive information-providing medium to a participative global community. If even ICT users can be left behind, non-users are further behind than ever."
    · Milner's presentation (Powerpoint)

  • In Australia a new Do Not Call Register has been overwhelmed. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has confirmed that the public overload is creating delays for those trying to access the site at

  • A desktop application allowing organisations to convert their Word and pdf documents into accessible structured html web pages has been launched by Northern Ireland software company RiverDocs.

    It looks great and my colleague Dan Champion rates the software highly, and if anyone would know, he would.

  • IBM is developing a Web Browser which includes pre-defined shortcuts that enable users to start and stop video files, adjust the volume and playback speed of audio output, and choose whether to listen to the video soundtrack, output from a screen reader, or an audio description track if it is present.
    Currently, Flash Video + WMP compatible, this gets around the need to 'see' a button.

  • Parliament has quietly started running online consultations on behalf of Select Committees.

    It now has ones for Medical Care for the Armed Forces and Local Government and the Draft Climate Change Bill.

  • Keele University has reminded its students that defamation law applies online.

    The administration was provoked by a Facebook group called "James Knowles is a Twat" (not to be confused with 'Beyoncé Knowles is a bitch'). Professor James Knowles is an English literature academic at the Staffordshire university.

    Members of the group were warned that the group was unacceptable and would be dealt with "very severely" if it continued.

    The Uni also sent a general warning to all students against criticising the university on social networking.

    The former was the right thing to do, the more general email seems to have provoked a backlash from students as it didn't define what's legitimate and what's not and was therefore interpreted as an attempt to shut down all online criticism.

    The Register quoted an unnamed student: "We can all understand people being warned personally, but a global email to all students telling us to be quiet is a bit rich."


  1. Hi,

    Just wanted to drop by and say hi.
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  2. Hi,

    Just wanted to drop by and say hi.
    When you get a chance, do visit my blog as well.