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January 2007 Issue

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: January 20, 2007

“For backgrounds behind text, use solid, contrasting colors, and avoid the use of textures and patterns, which can make letterforms difficult to distinguish or even illegible.”

This article is Part III of my series “Color Theory for Digital Displays.” It describes how you can apply color theory to application program user interfaces and Web pages and provides many guidelines for the effective use of color.

For backgrounds behind text, use solid, contrasting colors, and avoid the use of textures and patterns, which can make letterforms difficult to distinguish or even illegible. Choose combinations of text color and background color with care. Value contrast between body text and its background color should be a minimum of about eighty percent.

Contrast with a White Background

Black text on a white background provides maximal value contrast and, therefore, optimal readability for body text. The contrast between charcoal gray (#333333) text and a white background is about eighty percent—thus giving minimally good value contrast. Read moreRead More>

By Paul J. Sherman

Published: January 20, 2007

“User-centered design (UCD) and usability activities have the most positive impact when they’re carried out early in the ideation, design, and development cycle.”

Readers of UXmatters probably know that user-centered design (UCD) and usability activities have the most positive impact when they’re carried out early in the ideation, design, and development cycle. Probably, many of you have worked in organizations that weren’t very experienced in UCD or usability engineering. You may have experienced something like the following the interchange with a development manager:

Manager: Say, we’re just about to release this [product/Web site/application]. Could you take a look at it for us?

You: Okay, when do you plan to release it?

Manager: In three weeks.

You: That’s really soon. Okay, I’ll look at it, but I have to tell you, it’s not going to do much good for me to look at it this late in the game. You should’ve come to me before you started working on it.

Manager: So, will you look at it anyway?

You: I want to ask a few more questions before I start. Do you know who your users are?

Manager: Yes, they’re computer-literate people who use the Internet between 10 and 20 hours a week and make about 10 online purchases a year.

You: No, I mean who are they as individuals? What are their goals?

Manager: You mean in life?

You: No, I mean what are they trying to accomplish? Read moreRead More>

By Todd Warfel

Published: January 8, 2007

“Our consumers are typically product managers, software engineers, and visual/graphic designers. Most of the time, they want something tangible to take with them, write notes on, and use to build their product or service.”

There are a variety of tools used for interaction design. I’ve used them all and have settled on a framework using InDesign® and Illustrator®. It will require a series of articles to fully describe the framework I’ve developed. So, in this article, I’m going to focus on what led to the development of this framework and give you a brief overview.

With all the wireframing tools out there like Visio®, OmniGraffle®, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash®, Fireworks®, and HTML/CSS, why create a framework based on InDesign and Illustrator? Design solutions are about context. So, let’s start there.

My company, Messagefirst, provides research and design services for other companies. Our consumers are typically product managers, software engineers, and visual/graphic designers. Most of the time, they want something tangible to take with them, write notes on, and use to build their product or service. In our experience, a final artifact that is a PDF works best. It’s easy to post to project sites like Basecamp. It’s easy to email. And it’s cross-platform compatible. Read moreRead More>

By Mike Hughes

Published: January 8, 2007

“Help should provide domain expertise, not just tell users how to manipulate user interface elements.”

This article explores the role of user assistance in providing domain-centric online Help—rather than Help that simply explains obvious user interactions with well-designed user interfaces—and provides a pattern for and examples of expert guidance.

It took two aha! moments for me to get the importance of providing domain expertise in Help. The first came at a conference for writers of user assistance when the technical communications manager for a company that makes home accounting software said, “My challenge isn’t teaching people how to use our software; it’s teaching carpenters how to be accountants.”

The second Aha! came during usability testing of the online Help I had written for system administrators of a predictive dialer—a device that dials phone numbers automatically, then if someone answers, connects that person with the first available call-center agent. On one of the screens we were testing, users were to set the Busy Callback Time, which I had defined as: “The time the dialer waits before redialing a line that is busy.” I had specified the minimum and maximum allowed values—0 and 999 minutes, respectively—and even mentioned that users could click an up arrow to increase the value; a down arrow to decrease the value. And, of course, I also told users to click Save to save their changes. Read moreRead More>

By Daniel Szuc and Paul J. Sherman

Published: January 8, 2007

“The leaders of the China chapter wanted to raise the profile of usability engineering and user-centered design in China and create the biggest usability conference in the region.”

Our story starts in late 2004, at the Make the World Simpler event in Shanghai, China—a modest-sized meeting of UX professionals that was organized by the China chapters of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA). At this meeting, leaders of the mainland China and Hong Kong UPA chapters met to discuss organizing a usability conference in China. We decided to call the conference User Friendly.

Our objectives were simple yet bold: The leaders of the China chapter wanted to raise the profile of usability engineering and user-centered design in China and create the biggest usability conference in the region. We also wanted an event that the China usability industry could call its own. We figured that the best way to do this was to target people who are passionate about integrating usability into their products and give them a chance to meet, network, and attend talks and tutorials by leaders in user experience. Read moreRead More>