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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Thoughts towards universally applicable usability guidelines

Inspired by spending a few minutes trying to work out how to open a ringbinder:

Write out and/or diagram simple instructions for your product.
  1. If the instructions take more than three steps, your product isn't usable; redesign it.
  2. If the instructions don't actually match your product, quit smoking the good stuff on company time and write/diagram them again.
  3. If users need both the written instructions AND the diagrams, then the product is more-or-less usable, but not user-friendly.
  4. If users need the written instructions OR the diagrams but not both, then the product is somewhat user-friendly, but not sufficiently so as to justify entitling the instructions with "For easy operation".
  5. If users don't need any instructions, THEN the product is user-friendly.
Other thoughts?

Friday, 11 June 2010

What lies clearly at hand

Quote-of-the-day from yesterday's calendar:
Our grand business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. --Thomas Carlyle.

Which strikes a chord with me, albeit in a fuzzy late-Friday-afternoon kind of way.

And it's not to say that we should never look into the distance. It's important to think about it a little. But unless you're the Hubble Telescope, simply looking probably isn't your main purpose in life.

Prognosticating can be fun, but it can be hollow too. Sometimes it just leaves me with a "But now what?" feeling. What's really satisfying - always and without fail - is when I can see something that needs doing, and do it, and it's done, and the world is a bit of a better place.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

30 posts in 30 days

The first round of submissions on a change proposal at MPOW closed today, so I've just emerged back onto the interwebs to catch up with everything that's happened since the end of May. Notably among them, the Australian biblioblogosphere's "30 posts in 30 days" blog challenge.

I'm a bit late to be a full participant, and not sure if my brain's up to even jumping in now, but I did spot a meme I can manage:

Do you snack while reading?
Not invariably, but frequently. I do keep an eye out for crumbs.

What is your favourite drink while reading?
Um, n/a I think - what I want to drink depends a lot more on weather and whim than on activity.

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I love marginalia, in fiction or non-fiction, as long as the writer isn't obnoxious about it. Bonus points if they're actually insightful. I'm not very insightful, and don't feel called to do it often; when I am I do it lightly in pencil. Except for one YA book with a character who advocated keeping a cat on a vegetarian diet: for that one I printed out a page from the RSPCA and stapled it in before bookcrossing the book.

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog ear? Laying the book open flat?
I love the idea of bookmarks, but most of my bookmarks are currently in books that I got halfway into 5-10 years ago. Instead I use receipts, remote controls, cushions, a slipper, other books - whatever's handy.

Fiction, non-fiction or both?
Both, but mostly fiction.

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?
Depends on how compelling the book is. And time of day: if I've got an appointment, I'll read up to the last minute and stop mid-sentence; if it's bed-time then I need to read to the end of the chapter. Or the end of the book.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
No, but there was one book that was so appallingly bad in every possible way that I burned it.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
No, most of the time I can work it out from context and most of the rest of the time it doesn't matter anyway.

What are you currently reading?
Dirt, greed, and sex: sexual ethics in the New Testament and their implications for today (brief summary up to where I've reached so far: homosexual acts were never a sin, they were just 'unclean' like pork and shrimp, and yes this goes for the New Testament too)

What is the last book you bought?
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?
In/on bed. Though I move around a lot to avoid stiffness - couch, beanbag, etc.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?
Stand-alones, or series where each book can stand alone.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief et seq.

How do you organise your books (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)?
Fiction: by language, then author's surname.
Non-fiction: by pseudo-Library of Congress classification (pseudo because I'm not quite obsessive enough to look them up, I just go my memory/guesstimation).