Notes from UX People Autumn 2010 workshops

From drawing alphabetic characters, to drawing real-life charactersThere was time to do two workshops in the afternoon at UX People Autumn 2010, out of a choice of five. Tricky.

One was focused on using Axure, which I don’t think is something many of us are likely to be using at the EBI anytime soon, so that left four. All of them sounded good, of course, and I plumped for “Sketching for understanding, creating and explaining” with Eva-Lotta Lamm, and “Challenging the Interface” with Alison Rushworth and Andy Hood from AKQA.

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TALK: The Scent of Search: Maximising Findability

Tyler Tate

Oct 14th (this Thursday), 14h00, Cairns Pavilion (M203 – next to Murrays cafeteria), Wellcome Trust Genome Campus.

Speaker: Tyler Tate.

Search is an evolutionary, iterative process. Like a grizzly bear foraging for food in the forest, so people tend to rapidly migrate from one patch of information to the next. Known as Information Foraging Theory, this iterative approach to search has major implications on how search user interfaces should be designed to maximise findability.

This talk will introduce “information scent” as a key heuristic for findability, discuss four different dimensions affecting user behaviour, and consider a number of practical techniques for increasing usability in search applications.

  • Know your user
  • Experts vs. Amateurs
  • Specific vs. Broad Goals
  • Recall vs. Exploration
  • Uniform vs. Diverse information

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Google searches faster than you can type

A couple of weeks ago, some of you might have noticed that Google quietly introduced some new icons for there range of services. Hmmm. OK.

Updated, smoothe Google icons

But today, they’ve done something a whole lot more interesting – the Google search engine now features “Google Instant“. This means that not only does Google try to complete your search term and make suggestions as you type, but now it can also populate the search results list in real time. Crazy!

Google Instant in action

You can toggle it on and off, if you find it too disconcerting. I think I will be leaving it on for now, though.

Webinar on Findability

Tyler Tate photo

Those of you who deal with search interfaces might be interested to check out a free webinar, entitled “Findability – Designing the Search Experience“, to be given by Tyler Tate on Wednesday, August 18th, 18:00 GMT.

Sign up to attend this webinar (requires registration).

Search interfaces are a really fascinating area of user experience design, given how widely-used that kind of interface is.

Tyler Tate has lots of UX design experience, and published a really good article last year on minimising complexity in user interfaces, and another good one not long ago on “the scent of search“.

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Upcoming: HCI2010, Dundee

HCI 2010 logoThose with a broad interest in HCI may want to put September 6 – 10 in the calendar. Workshops and talks at the 24th British Computer Society (now rather awkwardly called the “Chartered Institute for IT”… ) HCI conference will take place during that week. The overall theme is play.

Workshop organisers include the excellent Caroline Jarret (writing surveys and designing forms), Tony Russell-Rose (“designing effective search user experiences”), David Sloan and Brock Craft, amongst others.

Review: Search User Interfaces

The book, Search User Interfaces (CUP) was published in autumn 2009, and is written by Marti A. Hearst, professor at University of California, Berkeley, who has done research on search user interfaces for 15 years. It would make an excellent addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in search and navigation design.

It was thanks to Nils that I found out about it, and I think both of us have a copy now. I haven’t read mine cover-to-cover, preferring instead to dip in and out, reading various sections or whole chapters as required.

I got my copy at the Cambridge University Press (CUP) shop in Cambridge, but it also available on Amazon.

Even better… in an effort to maximise the impact of her writing, Hearst was able to convince CUP to allow her to also make the book available for free, in HTML format, on her website, so you can check it out there, too. This means you can also electronically search the book, which is really handy. I have found myself using both the hardcopy and the online copy.

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Bang! The UX Canon

A chap called Will Evans has put together a very well-received list of recommended reading for interaction and user experience design – the UX Canon. It’s not a short list, but there are certainly some excellent title there.

http://blog.semanticfoundry.com/2010/02/11/the-ux-canon-essential-reading-for-the-user-experience-designer/

If you’re interested in IxD or UX, but not sure where to start, you could do much worse that beginning with this very well selected list.

Talk: From ArrayExpress Warehouse to Atlas of Gene Expression

UPDATE: the slides from Ibrahim’s talk are now available in a slideshow (below)

Our talk this week will be given by Ibrahim Emam, who works in the EMBL EBI Microarray group on the Atlas project (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/gxa). Ibrahim’s talk is entitled:

From ArrayExpress Warehouse to Atlas of Gene Expression: A walkthrough some UI enhancements

Weds, Oct 28th, 14h, Courtyard Room, EMBL EBI Continue reading