Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This Week Terms And Definitions

Animated GIF - type of GIF image that can be animated by combining several images into a single GIF file. Applications that support the animated GIF standard, GIF89A, cycle through each image. GIF animation doesn't give the same level of control and flexibility as other animation formats but it has become extremely popular because it is supported by nearly all Web browsers. In addition, animated GIF files tend to be quite a bit smaller that other animation files, such as Java applets.

GIF - stands for graphics interchange format, a bit-mapped graphics file format used by the World Wide Web, CompuServe and many BBSs. GIF supports color
and various resolutions. It also includes data compression, but because it is limited to 256 colors, it is more effective for scanned images such as illustrations rather than color photos.

HoneyMonkey - a computer or a virtual PC that actively mimics the actions of a user surfing the Web. A series of "monkey programs," which drive a browser in a manner similar to that of a human user, run on virtual machines in order to detect exploit sites. The browsers can be configured to run with fully updated software, or without specific updates in order to look for exploit sites that target specific vulnerabilities. In this manner, the attacks more likely to impact customers can be analyzed and detected.

Podcasting is similar in nature to RSS, which allows subscribers to subscribe to a set of feeds to view syndicated Web site content. With podcasting however, you have a set of subscriptions that are checked regularly for updates and instead of reading the feeds on your computer screen, you listen to the new content on on your iPod (or like device).

Shockwave - a technology developed by Macromedia, Inc. that enables Web pages to include multimedia objects. To create a shockwave object, you use Macromedia's multimedia authoring tool called Director, and then compress the object with a program called Afterburner. You then insert a reference to the "shocked" file in your Web page. To see a Shockwave object, you need the Shockwave plug-in, a program that integrates seamlessly with your Web browser. The plug-in is freely available from Macromedia's Web site as either a Netscape Navigator plug-in or an ActiveX control. Shockwave supports audio, animation, video and even processes user actions such as mouse clicks. It runs on all Windows platforms as well as the Macintosh.

4 Ways Companies Use Twitter for Business

Original article by Sarah Perez was posted on Read Write Web

Twitter was originally intended for communication among individuals, a number of organizations have begun to actively participate on the platform. However, not all companies are using Twitter in the same way. "As Twitter is a public forum, employees should understand the limits of what is acceptable and desirable," says Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner.

Based on Gartner’s research, they have narrowed down the four different ways that companies are using Twitter today: direct, indirect, internal, and signaling.


Some companies are using Twitter as a marketing or public relations channel, much like an extension to their corporate blogs. They will post about corporate accomplishments and distribute links that take people back to corporate web pages, press releases, and other promotional sites.


The second method some companies use on Twitter is to let their employees tweet instead. As the employees use Twitter to enhance their own personal reputations, the company's reputation is also enhanced by proxy. 


Some companies use Twitter internally to share ideas or communicate about what projects they're working on. If this information is confidential in nature, employees either need to protect their updates or even better, not use Twitter at all. Gartner doesn't recommend using Twitter or any other consumer microblogging service in this way because there's no guarantee of security.

Inbound Signaling

Some companies aren't as much Twitter participants as they are Twitter "listeners." Using search tools like or desktop applications like TweetDeck are easy ways to keep track of what's being said about the company, its product names, or even the industry as a whole. Smart companies are tuning in to these micro-conversations to get early warnings of problems and to collect feedback on product issues or ideas.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This Week Terms And Definitions

Digg This - on many blogs including Typepad, Blogger, Live Journal, Moveable Type, and Wordpress, the words "Digg This" may appear below a blog post as a hyperlink which readers can click to submit the post to the Digg Web site.

Facebook - the name of a social networking site (SNS) that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, post photos, share links and exchange other information. Facebook users can see only the profiles of confirmed friends and the people in their networks.

TrackBack - a type of peer-to-peer communication system that was designed to send notification of updates between two Web sites via a Trackback Ping. Ping in reference to TrackBack refers to a small message sent from one Web server to another. TrackBacks are useful for informing a Web site that you have referenced its Web site within your own Web site, and is popular with bloggers.

Twitter - free social messaging tool that lets people stay connected through brief text message updates up to 140 characters in length. Twitter is based on you answering the question "What are you doing?" You then post their thoughts, observations, and goings-on in their day. Your update is posted on your Twitter profile page through SMS text messaging, the Twitter Web site, instant messaging, RSS, e-mail, or through other social applications and sites, such as Facebook.

YouTube - popular free video-sharing Web site that lets registered users upload and share video clips online at the Web site. To view the videos you are not required to register. Launched in 2005 by former PayPal employees, the video-sharing site was acquired by Google Inc. in October 2006 for US $1.65 billion in Google stock. YouTube is currently based in San Bruno, CA and is a subsidiary of Google, Inc.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tag Clouds

In class we discussed the arranging and hierarcy of information on the blog. I found an article about tag clouds while reading a book Sexy Web Design by Elliot Jay Stocks (2009 SitePoint). On the right is a nice example of using a tag cloud as a subnavigation on Web Designer Wall which shows that usability and good design work together very nicely. (
Here is an excerpt from the book.
A visually interesting way to present a set of topics in the form of a tag cloud - a series of words that use size and prominence to indicate a particular term's popularity or importance, so named for the way the group of terms resemble the puffy outline of a cloud.
Tag clouds are particulary interesting form of navigaton, because they imply a sense of what topics are most discussed by allowing some tags to appear in larger or smaller font sizes. As a general rule, the larger the font size, the more popular the tag.
The knock-on effect is that the links within tag clouds are usually dynamic in two different ways:

* their size is constantly subject to fluctuation as the content on the site changes
* the terms that form the tag cloud are also updated as soon as new topics are introduced

Some sites - where many tags are supported - will only display the most popular: this results in a form of navigation that regulates itself with little effort required from the person(s) behind the web site.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This Week Terms And Definitions

Firewall - a software security system that protects Web sites and networks from unauthorized access.

Hostname - the name that identifies the computer hosting a Web site.
Orphan file - a file on a Web site that is not reffered to by any link or button and thus cannot be reached by any means other than through its absolute URL - in other words, to find it you must know its exact pathname.

Page flipping - an HTML structure for Web pages that allows users to see successive screens without needing to scroll.

Search engine - the part of a program, such as a database, that seeks out information in response to requests made by the user. On the Web, search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Yandex (the most popular russian SE) provide sophisticated criteria for searching, and provide summaries of each result as well as the Web site addresses for retrieving more information.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Google's Websites Growing Popularity

The original article "Hitwise: Visits to Gmail Surpass YouTube" byPhil Glockner:

According to a new report by web measurement firm Hitwise, in the past two weeks visits to Gmail have been consistently higher than popular Google-owned video site YouTube. Additionally, these two sites have been contending for the #10 spot overall since the week ending January 10, 2009. Historically, the same top 10 sites have been fixed in their positions, so this shift represents the first big change in quite a while.
Across the top Google properties, Gmail is now #2, trailing only Google search.
Looking at the growth trend between YouTube and Gmail shows how dramatically Gmail has grown over the past year. Gmail has been on a steep, steady growth line while YouTube's fortunes have reversed a number of times. When comparing Gmail to other popular webmail clients Yahoo! Mail and Windows Live Mail, it has a ways to go to get close to capturing the market share of those other products.
To us this appears that while adoption of Gmail is growing, it may be as a result of people choosing one web mail provider over another.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

This Week Definitions

Some of new terms could also be found in the article about usability posted previously.


CGI - Common Gateway Interface - a programming technique for transferring data between Web server and other applications, such as database.

Ethernet - a hardware connection standard used on local area networks (LAN) that offers fast data transfer.

Hypermedia - the combination of graphics, text, movies, sound, amd other elements accessible via hypertext links in an online document or Web page.

Interface - the physical relationship between human beings, systems, and machines - in other words, the point of interaction or connection. The involvement of humans is referred to as a user interface.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What, Why, How, When And Where Of Usability

The original article "Usability 101: Introduction to Usability" by Jakob Nielsen:

What (Definition of Usability)

Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

Usability is defined by five quality components:

* Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
* Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
* Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
* Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
* Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

There are many other important quality attributes. A key one is Utility, which refers to the design's functionality: Does it do what users need? Usability and utility are equally important: It matters little that something is easy if it's not what you want. It's also no good if the system can hypothetically do what you want, but you can't make it happen because the user interface is too difficult. To study a design's utility, you can use the same user research methods that improve usability.

Why Usability is Important

On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website's information is hard to read or doesn't answer users' key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? There's no such thing as a user reading a website manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface. There are plenty of other websites available; leaving is the first line of defense when users encounter a difficulty.
Current best practices call for spending about 10% of a design project's budget on usability.

How to Improve Usability

There are many methods for studying usability, but the most basic and useful is user testing, which has 3 components:

* Get hold of some representative users, such as customers for an e-commerce site or employees for an intranet (in the latter case, they should work outside your department).
* Ask the users to perform representative tasks with the design.
* Observe what the users do, where they succeed, and where they have difficulties with the user interface. Shut up and let the users do the talking.

It's important to test users individually and let them solve any problems on their own. If you help them or direct their attention to any particular part of the screen, you have contaminated the test results.
To identify a design's most important usability problems, testing 5 users is typically enough.
User testing is different from focus groups, which are a poor way of evaluating design usability. Focus groups have a place in market research, but to evaluate interaction designs you must closely observe individual users as they perform tasks with the user interface. Listening to what people say is misleading: you have to watch what they actually do.

When to Work on Usability

Usability plays a role in each stage of the design process. The resulting need for multiple studies is one reason I recommend making individual studies fast and cheap. Here are the main steps:

1. Before starting the new design, test the old design to identify the good parts that you should keep or emphasize, and the bad parts that give users trouble.
2. Unless you're working on an intranet, test your competitors' designs to get cheap data on a range of alternative interfaces that have similar features to your own. (If you work on an intranet, read the intranet design annual to learn from other designs.)
3. Conduct a field study to see how users behave in their natural habitat.
4. Make paper prototypes of one or more new design ideas and test them. The less time you invest in these design ideas the better, because you'll need to change them all based on the test results.
5. Refine the design ideas that test best through multiple iterations, gradually moving from low-fidelity prototyping to high-fidelity representations that run on the computer. Test each iteration.
6. Inspect the design relative to established usability guidelines, whether from your own earlier studies or published research.
7. Once you decide on and implement the final design, test it again. Subtle usability problems always creep in during implementation.

The only way to a high-quality user experience is to start user testing early in the design process and to keep testing every step of the way.

Where to Test

If you run at least one user study per week, it's worth building a dedicated usability laboratory. For most companies, however, it's fine to conduct tests in a conference room or an office — as long as you can close the door to keep out distractions. What matters is that you get hold of real users and sit with them while they use the design. A notepad is the only equipment you need.