October 2008 Archives

"We're all beginners under the skin."
Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

No matter how experienced of an expert one might seem, he or she is still a beginner in some way. I thought that this was valuable information for usability testing. We might be tempted to get experts to review our site, and that's great. But when experts aren't readily available, it's ok to use ordinary people. In fact, it's just as good. They are still people with opinions that can offer you insight about your web page.

Usability testing should be done, and can be done, on any budget! You don't have to spend thousands of dollars to get feedback. You don't need fancy set up to get results. You need people to test the site and other people to observe. Simple. There is really no excuse for not doing a few usability tests.

I never thought about this point before, but your website should hold a user's goodwill, as Krug called it. If it seems that the site is trying to hide something, the user will not feel that the site does not take into consideration the users' interests. There are different things to raise the goodwill of your users. A designer must not forget this.

[I loved the sign that Krug used as an example for good design and usability. It was a sign in a taxi. It was written out to read and plexiglass with Braille lettering was placed over top. I found this to be an excellent idea of accomplishing two things at once.]

EL236 has a lot to say.

Title quote by: Shunryu Suzuki

How far can YOU get in an hour and 40 minutes?

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When everyone around me in class was talking about how great the Slouching Toward Bedlam game was, I was honestly excited to play this game. I've had some luck with Interactive Fiction games, but not much. I was hoping that Slouching Toward Bedlam would be the game that I could master, especially because it was mentioned in class that there were many different endings to the game. After an hour and 40 minutes, I finally retreated from the game.

For the first ten minutes of playing, I could not figure out what to do. I tried the same things over and over. Obviously, this did not take me far. I was convinced that I was supposed to do something with Reginald, but he had more important things to do than drive me somewhere. I spent a lot of time attempting to talk to James, but he had nothing to tell me.

After a half an hour of wandering around the few rooms and back outside to Reginald, I typed the "help" command. I was given a list of topics where I could receive help for that area. I would like to say that I just used a few hints to help me along, but I accessed an entire category at one time. I took all the hints I could and went back to try what I could. Surprisingly, I still didn't get very far. Another hour of playing, following the hints, did not get me far at all. I was still confused about what was going on.

Overall, I think the game is set up very interestingly, but my strong suit does not seem to be IF games. I'd like to get better at them, considering I will have to write one.

How far did others get?

Opinions vs Hard Cold Fact

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Usability testing is not opinion gathering.
Dr. Jerz's Tips for Desiging Usability Tests

While the tips were all helpful and interesting, this first simple sentence was what helped me the most. You are not gathering the opinions of the users but rather how they actually performed when a task was put before them. Users can say they like the site all they want, but this is futile and meaningless if they cannot use the site in the way intended by the site designers. Don't shape questions to get the reaction you want from the user. Let them tell you how they really view the site by posing nonprejudiced questions and giving them jobs to accomplish. This will show you how a user really interacts with the site, not how they say they do.

EL236

Home is Where the Heart Is

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And according to Krug, a lot of heart should go into the home page.

I found Chapter 7 interesting because the home page is so crucial to a site. So many elements get overlooked when designing a home page. The users do not necessarily know what the designer knows about the site. The users need more concrete and definite information about what they can find on the site. Certain information has to be provided on the home page, no matter how obvious the designer might think it is. If it is helpful to the user, use it in the design.

"Use as much space as necessary."
This is a great tip from Krug. I have seen a lot of websites that could have benefited from extra information, even if it made the page longer.

The point I like best in Chapter 8 concerned the average user. The user in one's head is not the average user. Many users and designers assume that because they don't like a particular site feature, the rest of the web user world must not like it either. Instead of looking at what one might think the average user likes best, look at what a user would find most useful.

EL236 Class Comments.

Hansel and Gretel Go to College

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"In general, I think it's safe to say that users don't mind a lot of clicks as long as each click is painless and they have continued confidence that they're on the right track..."
-Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

After reading chapter 4 about having links, clicks, that make sense to the reader, I thought about Hansel and Gretel. They had no problem following the breadcrumbs as long as the breadcrumbs were actually there. The same is true for website users. They have no problems following the links through the pages to get where they need to be as long as they know that they're following the correct links.

And you may find yourself, in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, Well... How did I get here?
-Talking Heads, "Once In a Lifetime"

Krug uses this quote from a Talking Heads song at the beginning of chapter 6. It is a perfect illustrator of how website users should not feel when using a website: how did I get here?

The reason I used the reference to Hansel and Gretel in conjuction with college is because I find evidence of these points on college websites. I have been browsing through quite a few college websites recently, and most I've used are confusing. I don't know where to look for the information that I want to find. Following the breadcrumbs may never lead me to the information I was looking for. Even the search feature can be misleading.

I clearly can see Krug's point in making the navigation clear and easy to follow just by using college websites. Don't make me think about what to do next. Show it to me plainly.

Krug, Ch4-6 ... classmates' comments.

Writing for the Web 3.0 with Crawford Kilian

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As I read through Crawford Kilian's book, Writing for the Web 3.0, I found that my opinions and thoughts about the book changed from chapter to chapter. Depending on what I found within each chapter of the book, I either loved or strongly disliked the book at that point. The remaining links in this blog link to my individual blogs on specific section of the book.

Introduction & Chapters One and Two

The intro, chapter one, and chapter two were all interesting to me. The topics covered in these chapters helped me to understand Kilian's purpose for writing the book. They explained the way websites affect us and how users often browse through websites. I enjoyed these explanations because I felt that I was being taught necessary background information.

Chapters Three, Four, and Five

I found chapter three, the chapter on how to organize a website, to be mostly common sense. I didn't have any issues with the chapter, but all the information was commone sense for me. Chapter four found me a bit tired of the book. I was struggling to stay interested. With that said, I did find chapter four to be helpful. It gave good tips on grammar and how to write efficiently, especially for the web. Chapter five provided information on editing webtext. I found this chapter to be informative but information I've been learning all my life. This chapter would be good for people with less experience with computers.

Chapter Six

I was lost through chapter six. I'm not a writer for a corporate website, so I did not find personal value in this chapter. After I reread the chapter, I better understood what Kilian was saying. For a corporate website writer, this chapter is great. For me, it didn't hold much value.

Chapters Seven and Eight

Because of all the blogging required for the EL236 class with Dr. Jerz at Seton Hill University, I like the recognition given to blogs in chapter seven. The seperation of blogs into different genres was interesting. In chapter eight, I thought the different persuasion techniques were interesting. When writing for websites meant to persuade people, this chapter would be essential.

Exercises 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

I liked the exercises because I was given a direct test to apply what I was learning in the book. Exercises 1, 2, and 3 were helpful because they allowed me to review main points about writing by applying them to webwriting. Exercises 4 and 5 allowed me to test my skills at editing text for the web and reviewing websites.

Book as a Whole

Overall, I found the book to be helpful. I think the reason I did not like certain parts of the book was because they were not really written for me. I was not the target audience for this book. Many of the things that I already know because I learned about them in school were given too much coverage in this book for me. The book itself was easy to read though. As much I like to say that the book covered things I already knew, there was a lot in the book that also helped me. While not all the sections of the book applied to me, I think this made the book more universal. What applied to me would not apply to others and vice versa. I think Kilian did an excellent job at including many different people into his audience.

Am I going mad, or did the word "think" escape your lips?

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"Usability isn't your life's work, and you don't have time for a long book."

- Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Yes! Mr. Krug really seems to understand his audience: people that have to design websites, not website designers. The second is a profession, and the first group of people is the group that takes on this endeavor for personal and financial reasons, among other reasons. He writes his book for the people that don't have time, that are tired, and just want their website to be appealing and usable.

The points that Mr. Krug makes are simple but definitely strike home for most website users. He explains that web pages should be obvious. Users shouldn't have to really think about how to use the site. The second chapter explains how the "average person" uses a website. Not every word is read. Hardly any words are read. The page is scanned until something of relevancy is found. The third chapter addresses design issues. Make clear headings and sections. It should be obvious that clickable links are, indeed, clickable.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this first section of Krug's book. I enjoy his wit. I find the footnotes to be welcome tossed-in jokes. I didn't notice until the second chapter, but each chapter starts with a relatable quote in the upper right hand corner of the second page. They are interesting and worth reading. I feel like Krug really took his audience into mind when writing this book.

So ... back to what others thought: Krug, Intro-Ch3

 

And in case anyone was wondering, the title is a line from The Princess Bride.

Website Presentation Reactions

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After Aja and I created our response website for the Interactive Fiction games we played, I felt confident about it. It contained the main points of our reactions to our time spent with the games. I found the class presentations to be both humbling and helpful.

Watching the other groups present helped me realize the simple things we had missed. Other groups had the idea to include explanations of the assignments and the games. The style sheets used by some of the groups were impressive. The wide variety of styles and ideas showed me that most people are at different levels with both writing and HTML coding. In the end, most of these discrepancies balanced out. The sites that were weak in certain areas made up for it by their strength in other aspects of their site.

The reactions from my classmates helped me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the website Aja and I created. To end on a good note, I'll start with the weaknesses.

Suggested Changes
  • The hyperlink color was not liked. Change it to something more complementary and more easily seen.
  • The pictures on the side of each page were too small. Increase size.
  • It was suggested to create changes with each page to create some interesting differences.
Aspects That Were Liked
  • The clean and simple style of the page. Made the page easy to navigate.
  • Large headings. Draw reader's eye.
  • Link to home page on each internal page.
  • Links to personal blogs.
This exercise, presenting our sites and reviewing the sites of others, was very helpful. I was able to gain ideas by looking at the other group sites. The personal feedback really helped to clarify how others see our site. We were able to attain concrete evidence as to how our website was seen by our peers. I really enjoyed receiving others' reactions and being able to review their websites as well.


3rd Party Candidates

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One question I asked at the lecture with Senator Allen Kukovich involved 3rd party candidates. We are fed so much information about the main party candidates. Where can we go to find more information on candidates from parties other than Democrat and Republican? Not surprisingly, Senator Kukovich was not exactly sure what to tell me because 3rd party candidates are not given much coverage at all.

Running a country is a pretty large job. To chose the person for that job, we are given two major candidates. Out of all the people in a country, do you really think the best person for the job is always found in the major party candidates? I surely don't.

Personally, I think that the best qualified person for the job of president is not even in the running. In fact, they are not running at all. The reason they aren't running: money. The people that do run for president are the ones that have the money to be able to do it.

No matter what the reason, the best qualified person isn't running for president. So we are left with the other options. We actually have more than just two options, but that is all that is mainly presented to us. Where can we find more information on the other candidates?

I was interested in this issue, so I did some research. I did find some sites that would be very helpful in learning about all the candidates.

One site I found is called Politics1. The 2008 Presidential Election Page links to each candidate's page. From there, you can read on each of the candidates you are interested in.

Another site, entitled The Candidates and Their Campaigns, is useful because each party links to a page with more information about the political party and links to the candidates' sites.

Information can be found on other party candidates. Maybe the best candidate for president can be found running on a main party ticket. Either way, I find that it's best to explore all your options.

Main Kukovich Visit Blog

Republic? Democracy?

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One point that Allen Kukovich brought up that got me thinking is when he referred to our country as a democracy. Is it? I have heard our country most often called a democracy, sometimes a republic, and least often a democratic republic. What is the difference? And which is our country?

  • A democracy is a government in which decisions are made by elected officials.
  • A republic is a government not controlled by a monarchy, but by the people it governs.
  • A democratic republic is "a system of government in which the people hold the majority of the power; this is done through elected officials chosen by people who are eligible."
So which are are?

According to a website titled History of Democracy, American democracy is in the form of a democratic republic. This made most sense to me. A republic gives more rights directly to the people. The United States is a democracy, with most of the decision making done by elected officials, in the form a democratic republic, in which ultimately the people, the citizens, are to hold the power.

Another site really helped to explain it fully. This site is meant for children, so it gave me a clear picture of what exactly our country is:

The Constitution establishes a federal democratic republic form of government. That is, we have an indivisible union of 50 sovereign States. It is a democracy because people govern themselves. It is representative because people choose elected officials by free and secret ballot. It is a republic because the Government derives its power from the people.
Ben's Guide to US Government: The Constitution of the United States of America

Overall, our country is really a combination of two (democracy and republic) that makes up the third (democratic republic). I think citizens need to realize that. Our constitution establishes a federal democratic republic for its citizens. The citizens must truly realize what that is to truly understand the way the government should work.

Main Kukovich Visit Blog

Educated Voting is a Must

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The point that Senator Allen Kukovich was coming to make was that voting is a crucial part of being a United States citizen. He did not come, though, to advocate ignorant voting. What he said was that the country does not need more voters, but it does need more educated voters. I found this to be the most poignant point of his speech. Our country does not need more voters who show up at the polls with no idea of what each candidate stands for. This country needs more voters who actually know what they are voting for.

Many voters think that they are doing their part because they show up on Election Day and cast their vote for the main party candidates who looked good in his or her commercials. Much more should go into making a decision for a candidate than just watching their campaign advertisements and small snippets of information on the news. Each candidates site can be visited to find more on where the individual stands on different political issues. The debates can give a voter crucial information on how the candidates present themselves and what they say they believe. Newspaper articles can be beneficial for keeping a voter updated.

The amount of voting does not need to be increased. Informed voting does.

Main Kukovich Visit Blog

Senator Allen Kukovich's Visit

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Attending the visit from former Senator Allen Kukovich at Seton Hill was very interesting. So many political ideas were brought up that I found myself not knowing where to start blogging. It took me awhile to think through my ideas and do some research. In fact, I had more than one idea that I wanted to address, so I took my different ideas and broke them down into individual blogs.

Educated Voting is a Must
Republic? Democracy?
3rd Party Candidates


Assignment Post. Annnnddd go!

Working out again with Kilian's exercises 4 and 5.

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Exercise 4: Editing Text for Websites
I found this exercise to be really helpful. It basically took all of what I have learned so far in the book and made me apply it to a text. I did put in a lot of effort to this exercise, so I have posted the edited texts.

exercise 04 - 3.doc
Original Word Count: 300
Original Fog Index: 9.0
Edited Word Count: 140
Edited Fog Index: 8.2

exercise 04 - 4.doc
Original Word Count: 900
Original Fog Index: 10.3
Edited Word Count: 353
Edited Fog Index: 9.7


While I found it very easy to bring the word count down, it was a bit more difficult for me to lower the Fog Index. From this exercise, I learned that I can shorten easily but not simplify to the level that was asked for.

Exercise 5: Analyzing Corporate Websites
This exercise required me to review three comparable sites. I chose Wal-Mart, Target, and K-Mart.

Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart's site was easy to use. The side navigation bar with interesting and helpful. By rolling over each section, the sub-sections appeared to click on. What I found confusing and distracting about Wal-Mart's site was the large amount of advertisements. These could be found right in the middle of the page. This left me to think that the information I was looking for was complete, even though there was more on the page after the advertisement.

Target
The main navigation was at the top of the page. This navigation also brought up a smaller "window" in which to click on a sub-section. Once in the sub-section, more navigation could be found on the left side of the page.

K-Mart
This page was set up more similarly to Target's page. The main navigation was at the top. Within a main section, sub-sections could be found on the left side of the page.

Each page was very similar in its set-up. The main navigation sections led to navigation sub-sections. I found Target's site easiest to use. K-Mart's was most confusing because there were advertisements and links to other parts of the site that had nothing to do with what I was searching for.

This exercise was interesting because I was able to see Kilian's point in that similar websites are arranged in a similar way. All three sites were very comparable, but slight organization tactics made some easier to use than others.

Assignment Page.

What did we learn today? Kilian Exercises 1, 2, and 3.

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Exercise 1: Converting Prose to Bullets
This was a generally simple exercise. I already knew how to do this, but it was a quick and helpful review.

Exercise 2: Activating the Passive
I did not understand the point Kilian was trying to make about the passive until the exercise. I didn't know if he wanted to display the passive as a good or bad thing. Once I got to the exercise, I realized that he finds the active more helpful, and I agree.
The exercise itself was easy. Latin closely acquainted me with active and passive forms of verbs so I had no trouble with the exercise. It did help to clear up my confusion with Kilian's point though.

Exercise 3: Using Anglo-Saxon Vocabulary
Anglo-Saxon compared to Greco-Latin words? I truly don't know the difference. The point I took away from this blog was to use shorter, less confusing words. I don't think a word's origin is as important as the level of understandability of the word.


These exercises were helpful in a review sort of way. I already understood all the main concepts, but now I know to apply them to web writing.

Assignment? Certainly.