Category Archives: Usability

Turns out their are maps for these territories. Lots of them.

With the help of simple tools introduced by Internet companies recently, millions of people are trying their hand at cartography, drawing on digital maps and annotating them with text, images, sound and videos. In the process, they are reshaping the world of mapmaking and collectively creating a new kind of atlas that is likely to be both richer and messier than any other. They are also turning the Web into a medium where maps will play a more central role in how information is organized and found.

Read this article from the New York Times

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Aggregate, Connection/Isolation, Social Media, Technology, our Mirror, Tools, Usability, User generated content, Virtual Communities, web 2.0, When New Meets Old

The iPhone: Revolutionary, or Revolutionary Marketing?

iPhone is more than just a breakthrough mobile phone device. It is a strategy that may expand Apple’s sphere of influence, from web browsing to social networking and even possibly search. If iPhone users embrace the multi-touch interface for browsing the web, then WAP will become obsolete. If Safari on iPhone and Windows manages to win peoples hearts, then Apple might gain a position in the browser market – perhaps as strong as Firefox. Incidentally, for now this plays in Google’s favor, as Google is friendly with both Firefox and Apple. And if Apple starts building a social network around the iPhone, then MySpace and Facebook will have to start paying attention.

Read Why iPhone May Really Matter from the Read/Write Web

Most obviously, the iPhone is locked, as is de rigueur in the wireless world. It will work only with one carrier, AT&T. Judged by the standards of a personal computer or electronics, that’s odd: Imagine buying a Dell that worked only with Comcast Internet access or a VCR that worked only with NBC. Despite the fact that the iPhone costs $500 or so, it cannot yet be brought over to T-Mobile or Verizon or Sprint. AT&T sees this as a feature, not a bug, as every new iPhone customer must commit to a two-year, $1,400 to $2,400 contract.

If Apple wanted to be “revolutionary,” it would sell an unlocked version of the iPhone that, like a computer, you could bring to the carrier of your choice. An even more radical device would be the “X Phone”—a phone on permanent roam that chose whatever network was providing the best service. Imagine, for example, using your iPhone to talk on Sprint because it had the best voice coverage in Alaska, while at the same time using Verizon’s 3G network for Internet access. Of course, getting that phone to market would be difficult, and Apple hasn’t tried.

Read iPhony from Slate

On topic: Why the iPhone wound up invented here, from C|Net

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Filed under Business 2.0, Media Evolution, Networks, Social Media, Tools, Usability, web 2.0

Standard URLs, could enable a more logical, usable web experience

We spend most of our time online searching for information. This is not surprising, since the Web is a vast sea of information, where finding exactly what you are looking for is not easy. But why is it that when we find something on one site it is still not easy to find it on another? Say you found a Harry Potter book on Barnes and Noble, why is it still hard to find the same item on other sites like Amazon and Powells? Why is search a one time deal?

We are used to a Web where each site has its own copy of the information. Each web site is a silo. But that does not need to be the case. If web sites agree on how to represent things like books, music, movies, travel destinations and gadgets, then we would spend a lot less time searching. Imagine that the URL for the Harry Potter Goblet of Fire book is this:

http://www.amazon.com/books/j-k-rowling/harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fire

In other words, if there was a standard way to turn things into URLs, then finding information would be a lot easier.

From Standard URLs – Proposal for a Web with Less Search at the Read/Write Web

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Filed under Search, Usability

Web 2.0 v Usability

Hype about Web 2.0 is making web firms neglect the basics of good design, web usability guru Jakob Nielsen has said. He warned that the rush to make webpages more dynamic often meant users were badly served. He said sites peppered with personalisation tools were in danger of resembling the “glossy but useless” sites at the height of the dotcom boom.

Read this item from the BBC and commentary from the Read/Write Web. Contribute your knowledge of usability-guru Jakob Nielson to the Whats New Media Wiki.

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Filed under Usability, web 2.0

Preferred reading: Text clustered in circles.

Scientific research conducted by Walker Reading Technologies, a small Minnesota startup that has been studying our ability to read for the last ten years, has concluded that the natural field of focus for our eyes is circular, so our eyes view the printed page as if we’re peering through a straw. And a very bad-behaving straw at that, because not only do our eyes feed our brain the words we’re reading, they’re also uploading characters and words from the two sentences above and below the line we’re reading. Every time we read block text, we’re forcing our brain to a wage a constant subconscious battle with itself to filter and discard the superfluous inputs. This mental tug of war slows reading speed and diminishes comprehension.


Read this item
from Venture Beat. Commentary from MetaFilter and an examination of just how much textual information we consume each day from the Read/Write Web.

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Filed under Usability, Web Design

Watching users, letting them participate is key to reaching audience 2.0

The information flows online are almost inherently chaotic, but let me try to boil down the swirl of information into three types. This classification will play off the familiar notion of peer-to-peer networks – P2P – in which (usually) widely dispersed ad hoc networks contributes bandwidth to meet computing needs.

• People-to-people – the ocean of emails, IMs, and text-messages that flow around the globe daily. Some of this is just chatter, but a lot of these emails are information-exchanges that matter a lot to people doing the chatting.

• People-to-amateurs – Harvard’s Law School’s Terry Fisher has talked about the revival of amateurism due to the internet. Shockingly enough, people without credentials and with interest in a particular topic can make their knowledge available – usually for free – over the internet. The quality of the offerings of amateurs often rivals that of experts.

• People-to-experts – people with formal training – anyone from doctors to mechanics – can and do offer their expertise to the world online. Again, this is often for free. They do this for free because it brings them reputational benefits.

Excerpt from What does user behavior tell us about the right way to reach people?, (pdf) remarks from John B. Horrigan on behalf of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

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Filed under Networks, P2P (Peer to Peer), Productivity, Usability, web 2.0

One login to rule them all

The big idea in OpenID is providing a decentralized single sign-on platform. Single sign-on is not a new notion however. Almost all the internet giants, like Yahoo, Google and MSN, use single sign-on across their properties to lower the threshold of accessing their services and to create a competitive advantage. The reason they do this is that signing up is actually a big barrier to entry for users of web apps. Users feel more comfortable when they don’t have to sign up to use an app – it’s much easier to give it a try and it’s less time-consuming to start using it.

Read more on ID systems, single sign-on, and their relevance to new media businesses at the Read/Write Web.  Previously from WNM: Defining, describing “Identity Management” and Identity tools: OpenID. Claim ID.

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Filed under Business 2.0, Tools, Usability, Virtual Communities, web 2.0