Category Archives: Design

Technorati – please take a page from Google’s design

I was just looking up something on Technorati and realized just how distracting I find the cute visual design – especially, the images to the left the search bar. Every time I go to that page, I find that my eyes go to those cartoonish figures. They are cute, but I am there to find something, not for the cute visual design.

aug13_technorati_google.gif And what’s with such a busy page? Seems like every possible option (Technorati Blog, Get Indexed, Personalize, Tour, Developer Center) has a place on the main page. Developer Center? Surely that does not need a link on the front page. It’s a search, not a browse page. I counted: there are more than 35 links on that front page.

Reminds me of something recounted by Marissa Mayer (from Google) at a BayCHI talk. They used to receive an email from a user once in a while. And everytime it would just have a number. Sometimes, the number would be high, and this user would express his displeasure. Later they realized that the number was the number of letters on the Google Home Page.

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Clustering your own del.icio.us tags

clustering delicious tagsSomeone pointed out this clustering application for del.icio.us. Its just for clustering your own data though, so its not leveraging the group mind. Still it was interesting to see the clusters formed by my tags. Some of the clusters were: clusteranalysis(!); visualization; mobile research; market research; flash; ajax; cardsorting; design.

Expectedly, they are using k-means clustering algorithm. I played around with the number of clusters and the cohesiveness of the clusters does change as the number of clusters goes up.

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Tivo troubles: Why are the recommendations so bad?

As some of you know I am very interested in recommendation systems and algorithms. So when we finally got Tivo, I was excited for Tivo to change my world with its spot on recommendations. Well, thats not quite the way its worked out. Two months later – after constantly giving the thumbs up and down to programs/movies we like, Tivo still does not seem to have a clue about our preferences. Everytime I check, it has recorded some new program I dislike or would just never watch. Yesterday, it recorded Mash!. Earlier, it started recording kids’ shows for some reason. After a lot of frantic thumbs down, it stopped doing that. Once it went on a binge of recording the 6 O’ clock news from the major channels. I like news, but prefer radio or the internet. The only program I end up watching is “Sex and the city” reruns. I love that show (though Jon hates it!). It would be nice to have something to watch that we both like.

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Tagging versus categorizing emails

Word is Yahoo will soon be coming out with its OddPost inspired version. Ethan Diamond, one of the Oddpost founders, now working on Yahoo mail thinks that users are more likely to use folders than tags to organize emails. I tend to agree. I like the controlled messiness of del.icio.us tags for my bookmarked urls. And the social discovery of others’ bookmarks is very compelling. But for something as personal and important as my email archive – I prefer either a combination of folders and robust search.

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How to build a software product on the cheap: Open Source + Usability

Joe Krause recently wrote that “Its a great time to be an entrepreneur“. Yes, it is. Joe talks about cheap hardware, free infrastructure software, cheap global labor markets, and search engine marketing. There is another reason that its a great time to be an entrepreneur – an excellent example of which is Joel Spolsky’s latest project: CoPilot.

Take a good open source software. Something really useful. Something well built, that solves a real problem. Something like VNC. You can take your pick from the many flavors of VNC – Tight VNC, Real VNC, Ultra VNC …- . There is no better way to share your screen with someone – if you are willing to deal with the usability problems that come with it.

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The rising star of corporate anthropology

corporate anthropologyTwo recent articles about anthropology in the corporate environment caught my eye.

The article in Fortune magazine focuses on anthropological work at Microsoft and contrasts modern corporate anthropology with its origins:

“Their fieldwork is far removed from the popular perception of the anthropologist as lantern-jawed adventurer in baggy shorts and pith helmet, canoeing up the Amazon in search of the proverbial lost tribe. But there is a certain correspondence between Microsoft’s research agenda and the work of those old-time anthropologists, many of whom were funded by colonial governments that needed to understand their native subjects in order to rule them more effectively. The modern version of this knowledge-power dynamic is Microsoft, a multinational technology colossus that hires anthropologists who study the natives in order to sell them more software.”

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Designing for the Google generation

I just spent a few days watching people use a search interface for a site (lets call it Site X for now). What stuck with me the most was how different the design challenge was if the user was of the “Google generation”. Everyone showed the Google carry over effect – expectancy of high relevance, fast searches. But for undergraduates who had grown up with Google, it was as if that was the only experience they could deal with. Anything else was too complex, too slow, too not Google.

Take Participant Y (Lets call her Susanne). Susanne is an undergraduate in a California University. She needs to find some information on Site X – she knows it houses some special types of information, not found anywhere else. She does not know much about this topic.

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