New Book: Mobile First

A new book has been released in the “A Book Apart” series. Luke Wroblewski, best known for his research on forms, has written a book about mobile websites and apps. If you are familiar with Luke, you know he is pretty much the authority on this subject. In a recent podcast with Jared Spool he stated that too many companies are trying to figure out their mobile strategy instead of just putting something out there. His idea is that this mobile market is far from mature with so many changes in devices and players in the market, it’s nearly impossible to predict how an app or mobile website might perform in 2 months time.

“Mobile First” promises to be a good read with some great insights into the mobile market. An excerpt from the book has been published on the A list apart website.

How to perform a card sort

One of the more elaborate techniques of researching information architecture is card sorting, a tool for examining how users group topics. It will help the information architect to figure out what the taxonomy of a website should look like and determine a dominant organization scheme. It also helps with taxonomy or labeling content. Ultimately we do want to know how people are searching for specific content and where they expect it to be.

There are two major methods for card sorting that can be used:

1. Open sort: participants can group cards without any constraints, according to their own classification.
2. Closed sort: participants can group cards according to pre-established groups.

Both methods can be done offline and online. In an offline mode, pages can be represented by index cards that display the title and a brief description of the page. In this method you are one-to-one with the participants, which allows to explain the process and the rules. It will also give you the most feedback and thus great qualitative data.

In an online mode, a software program like optimalsort can be used to do the same, but feedback and guidance options are limited. However, you could set up a GoTo Meeting with screen share to mimick a traditional card sorting exercise.

Card sorts will give both qualitative and quantitive data. You will gain insights in how participants think and perceive certain items and you’ll be able to create a clear taxonomy for a large group of users.

A typical card sorting exercise would take about 3-4 weeks. Allow 1 week for preparation, 1 week for the actual exercise, and 1-2 weeks to analyze and report results. Of course the timeline may vary by the size of the project.

However you want to perform your card sort, it will give great insight into how users approach the content matter on your site.

Cool jQuery goodies to help the SEO and UX on the new ION website

Ion Website Homepage

The ION website, see it at iongeo.com

Worked extremely hard these last two weeks to release this new website. Take a look at the SEO dropdown menu. The objective was to incorporate SEO text on the homepage of the site and at the same time increase the findability of deeper content. I decided to go for a jQuery rich dropdown menu with descriptions for many 2nd and 3rd level pages. One problem we encountered upon execution was that the dropdown menus would interfere with some sudden mouse gestures the user would make. We solved that by putting a small delay on the mouse-over state.
Check it out at iongeo.com.

Screen sizes and user agent trends

This week had me looking at log files for various websites I worked on. These websites are both B2B and B2C with the majority of users originating from North America. A few obervations:

1024 x 768 is no longer the most commonly used screen resolution. This surprised me somewhat, but here in North America 1280×800 seems to be the dominant screen resolution nowadays. Granted, it’s followed very closely by 1024 x 768, but larger resolutions combined make up for a larger share. 800 x 600 seems to be completely wiped out.

iPhone screen resolutions total about 5% of all users. That means that 1 in every 20 visitors uses an iPhone to look at these websites, more than Android clients (about 2%). iPads are not a significant percentage yet, except on one site I checked where they had a 3% market share.

IE is still the dominant browser, making up for almost 55% of the browsers. The majority of IE versions used is IE8. Firefox is second followed closely by Safari (Mac, iPhone) and Chrome.
Chrome on Mac is no more than 3 %.

IE6 is still around With 5% percent of the total users, this group is as big as all iPhone users. So 1 in every 20 visitors is using IE6. Scary.

Naming PDFs and other downloadable files

Imagine the following scenario: while looking for specific information you came across a PDF file that had all the information in it you wanted. You downloaded the file and saved it in your documents folder. Since you didn’t have time to organize files – you never seem to have enough time – the file isn’t renamed and sits among a couple of hundred other files. A couple of weeks later you are trying to retrieve the file but have a hard time finding it. Sounds familiar? This happens to many people I know (me for one).

Wouldn’t it be nice if the webmaster had named the file something else than “info.pdf”?
It’s really not so hard to give your downloadables a more descriptive name. Even a file name like “annual-report.pdf” can be made more descriptive by adding the company name and the year. It’s a simple improvement, that is easily overlooked. Just keep this in mind: if a file is for download give it a descriptive name, so your user can find it later.

Google calendar button variety?

Don’t you just love the choice Google offers for their “Add to Google Calendar” buttons? They even dare to call it “A variety”. Yeah sure.
Worst of all, there’s no choice of using your own button or, using no button at all. Of Course when you know a little HTML it’s no problem to take the button out, but for CMS editors or otherwise technically challenged users it’s a pain in the freakin’ butt.

Google's "choice" a calendar buttons

What would be your solution?

Hyperlink your images, it’s easier for handheld devices

After experiencing my iPhone for the last 2 weeks, I noticed that the worst user experiences I had with websites were the ones with one-word hyperlinks. It is very hard to actually tap a one word hyper link if you have anything but the tiniest fingers. A solution for this is to make sure you link multiple words. Not only is this better for usability – you can actually describe what happens when a user clicks the link – it also increases the probability of ‘hitting the target’ on a mobile phone.

The best experience is when there’s a lot of white space around the link and/or where images are linked, for instance in big call-outs or sub navigation. When designing Greenstar-na.com, we tried to keep this in mind.
On the new Greenstar North America site we tried to make both the images and the section titles clickable, to make it easy for anyone not on a PC or Mac to follow the links.

What are your experiences with usability of websites on mobile phones?

Hi, I’m Jeroen Bet

Jeroen Bet - Information Architect, User Experience DesignerWelcome to my new WordPress Website.

I live in Houston, TX and work as an Information Architect at BrandExtract.

A bit of history…

Born in 1964 in the Netherlands, I started working in the Internet industry in 1998 after leaving my job at the biggest Telecommunications company in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After a brief spell with the largest Internet hosting company in Holland, I worked as a web content manager for the RIPE NCC, a not for profit organisating serving Internet Service Professionals globally. As a project manager, I took the lead in re-designing their existing website and incorporating many additional features.

In the period I worked for the RIPE NCC, I dealt with setting up the website for the Numbers Resource Organization and setting up the members’ only area of the RIPE.NET website.

I also helped various other successful websites to emerge, providing my expertise and talents. Additionally, I created restricted websites for several conferences and helped setting up a training tutorial website. I was also the managing content editor for most of the websites mentioned above; making sure the information on the websites was correct and up-to-date.

After relocating to Hobe Sound, Florida, I started my own company, working on various websites. in 1997, I relocated to Seattle, Washington and started at Eben Design before moving to Houston where I now work as Master Information Architect at BrandExtract.

My Background

I have a background in journalism, public relations and education and have attended courses in project management, writing, XML, usability, JavaScript and Microsoft Certified training.

Please read my resume for more about me.

For more information, please give me a call on (206) 617 0444 or send me an e-mail.