I am going to get buried under an avalanche of tabs.

1.  A web design classic. A List Apart. Their User Science – Information Architecture category is especially useful to me right now.

Current favorites are on:

The myth of usability testing

“Testing and evaluation is useless without context

…A good usability professional must be able to identify high-priority problems and make appropriate recommendations…

And interestingly, many of the most compelling usability test insights come not from the elements that are evaluated, but rather those not evaluated. They come from the almost unnoticeable moments when a user frowns at a button label, or obviously rates a task flow as easier than it appeared during completion, or claims to understand a concept while simultaneously misdefining it. The unintended conclusions—the peripheral insights—are often what feed a designer’s instincts most.”

On benefits and execution of a cultural probe

“…I handed out diaries to ten users and asked them to describe incidents, over the ten days that followed, when they felt that their mobile phones had let them down. I asked them to describe a solution – even a magical one – to their situation which would guarantee them a successful outcome to the problems they had.
…you can build up a pattern of how users behave: what they love and hate, what motivates them to do what they do and why. Solutions based on this knowledge can help you to give users what they need, rather than what they say they want.”

On homepage goals

“Goal 1: Answer the question, ‘What is this place?’…

Goal 2: Don’t get in the repeat visitor’s way…

Goal 3: Show what’s new…

Goal 4: Provide consistent, reliable global navigation”

And a checklist on input form usability.

2. Trent Walton’s beautifully designed blog.  Walton is one of the three smart men in Paravel, creators of Fittext.js and the Goodfoot app. Walton creates a special look for each post, highlighting the content-for-the-day’s theme, usually with fun subtle animated bits.

I love his insight in “You are what you eat“:

“…’Daft Punk got to record the Tron soundtrack because they’d already recorded the Tron soundtrack.’

If I want to get hired to do something, I should already be doing it. People can’t always see potential energy. Instead of allowing a current job description to stand in the way, turn off the Scrubs re-runs and start a side-project. Draw a picture, code a site, or write something and share it with the internet.”

"Workspace" - Trent Walton

3. MIX Online is also one of my new heroes.  Their series revolving around “the anatomy of web design” is a must-read for people who want to be part of a web design team anywhere.  It provides a comprehensive case study of each of the steps and components they had to go through redesigning their site.

MIX Online is the online platform for Microsoft’s developers and web designers to share their insights and news to the web design community.

Currently reading: A Common-Sense Content Strategy, by Tiffani Jones (now part of facebook).

I don’t even know what “favorite” or “representative” quote to put here to represent the articles, because there are too many that I found useful.

MIX Online Homepage

4.  Daniel Eizan‘s posts on Mental Models.

Helpful, since I’m struggling to find detailed discussions on how to generate insight for mental models, with actual work samples.

“A quick check of our engagement map reveals four key patterns for the “Returning Student” persona. They include: “Explore Options,” “Plan and Immerse,” “Overcome Fear,” and “Take Action.” Each pattern (engagement) is used as a “base,” which serves as the foundation to which we’ll start to build out a case for content to address user needs (“towers”).

But before I build towers, I add “support structure” to the base via “intentions.” Intentions provide context to how content should be framed for task completion. I have most often found that intentions either come up in interviews and could be considered a secondary pattern, or could be implied from verbatims that are consistent with one another. They aren’t necessary to a mental model for content work, but I find that they strengthen the strategy and are valuable to content creators.

Once we have bases and intentions we can begin to build “towers” to establish content that aids in task completion. These boxes should essentially label tasks that the user would want to complete. I leave the labels to these boxes in question form to further assist in content planning for task completion.

Below the line – living underneath the bases – I box out what I refer to as “roots.” For my work, “roots” are the content or features of existing systems that help achieve the engagements we’ve used as bases. This is where all that time you spent content auditing saves it in the long run.” – Daniel Eizan, Mental Modeling for Content Work: Creation

5.  DesignStaff.org

Straightforward advice for starting out in the UX field.

Currently reading: Hacking your brain to think like a user and How to find great participants for your user study

“Once you’re dealing with an app that has a dozen screens and hundreds of states, you can’t hold the whole product in your head like a poster. I noticed that our team was emailing around individual screens, talking about individual screens, and naming all the screens just to keep track. But we weren’t paying any attention to how the screens and features fit together.

We were thinking of the product as a set of screens. But there’s a problem with working this way: it’s not at all how people experience the product in real life. People use products in little flows that last anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.”

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