March 31, 2008

This hits a little close to home

It's true, I am a Baby Boomer and that means I have less than a year before I am eligible for Social Security. That puts me at the cusp of being old-aged rather than middle-aged.

This reality made it inevitable that seeing the title of Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox resulted in clicking the link to read the article Middle-Aged Users' Declining Web Performance (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

First of all, Nielsen classifies middle age as between 25 and 60. Take that Gens X and Y! On the downside, I fall into his "senior citizen" group. But, so does he!

A study by Nielsen found that "Between the ages of 25 and 60, the time users need to complete website tasks increases by 0.8% per year."

Why? The biggest factor, Nielsen says, "is that older users need more time to understand pages, scan the text, and extract the information."

Okay, our eye site is declining, but is Nielsen saying we get stupid as we age? No. The age at which participants started using the Web impacted the outcome in his study; longer experience slows declining performance. And he predicts as today's young people age, their decline in Web performance will settle in around 5% per year.

Nielsen does conclude from his study that we need not worry about special usability guidelines for 40- or 50-year olds; the statistical performance difference is not significant.

Young children, teenagers, and senior citizens still require special consideration, however, and you can link to Nielsen's conclusions about how to design for these groups from within this article. Guess I better go read that senior citizen piece.

March 27, 2008

How do you uncover user's mental model?

How many times have you heard someone say something is not usable because it does not fit the user's mental model? The comment may well be right, but how do you know what a user's mental model is?
Indie Young, one of the co-founders of Adaptive Path, has just released a book Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior(Rosenfeld Media is the publisher) that explains some methods of uncovering user's mental models.
Chris Baum talked to Indie and writes up that interview in What Is Your Mental Model? - Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design.
The interview includes links to excerpts from the book and a Flickr set of images from the book. Boxes and Arrow readers also get a discount if they buy the book from Rosenfeld Media.

March 24, 2008

Say goodbye to the smile sheet

If you end usability tests with a questionnaire asking for a user's opinion of the product they have just used, chances are you get a more positive response than your observations of that user working with the product suggest.

David Travis at UserFocus suggests another approach, the guided interview. Measuring satisfaction: Beyond the usability questionnaire

March 12, 2008

Technical Communication Courses for Spring, 2008

I am teaching the following courses at Bellevue Community College in Bellevue, WA this coming spring. If you are thinking of improving your technical communication skills, check out the course descriptions.

Testing Documentation Usability begins June 10 for three Tuesdays.

Fundamentals of Document Design
begins May 7 for four Wednesdays.

February 26, 2008

Adobe Air enters the mix

Adobe AIR is yet another tool in the mix for creating "rich" media. Jesse James Garrett, a founder of Adaptive Path, talks to about what that means to usability and design at ScribeMedia.Org � Web 2.0
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