Herding Cats

I had been trying to write this post for 3 hours while being inundated with requests to get me dressed, I want a biscuit,I want a nectarine,  and for kisses and cuddles, the last which is very hard to ignore and turn down :). At one stage I had Miss BG is sitting on my knee singing while I typed. I saved it for another day, which is today!

I’ll bet there is a library database for it!– a great clip advertising library databases in a public library. I was involved with databases in a previous position when I worked at the State Library of Victoria,and still have a soft spot for their great, targeted content.

Movie Poster re-designs– a look at 70 years of movie posters and how their design has evolved. Great to look at from a design/readability perspective.

Does the ‘fold’ matter? According to the article, after heaps of user testing, the fold on a web page is not a barrier to information further down the page. People do scroll- apparently…(Yes just a tad sceptical!)

Factors that affect usability– love this article and the resources it leads to. It looks at navigation, content above the fold, accessibility, typography, analytics and errors.

100 essential websites– the Guardian has put a list together of what every geek should be aware. Tres cool!

And it’s official- I am a geek A fellow geek has compiled a series of categories, obsessions, activities, terms, and idols onto a Master Diagram of Geek Culture, of which I can identify all too closely…

I(don’t) like Mondays

Actually I don’t mind Mondays. I look forward to getting dressed up in something other than jeans and tshirt, putting makeup on and reading the paper uninterrupted while the train hurtles me toward Melbourne. I get to hop off at Melbourne Central and walk a little bit further to work to enjoy the early morning. I look forward to morning tea with my colleagues where we discuss all and sundry (a wedding theme this morning). I also enjoy my work- a tad unusual, but there you go :).

What I don’t like is stupidity. Users who have no clue as to what they want, except they want reams of paper faxed to them, or sent via express post from Canberra. I detest interfaces such as the Commonwealth Parliament’s Hansard which is slow, hard to search and displays in PDF. I am thankful for the lovely people at Open Australia whose aim is to make it easy for people to keep tabs on their representatives in Federal Parliament- and what’s more they’re volunteers!

I’m also not a big fan of moustaches- there- it’s out. I know it’s Movember, and I have donated to my lovely little bro A, and P.S. for their moustaches, but it’s as much to get them to shave them off as it is for men’s health and depression.  Whenever Mr BG has worn the mo ( usually when he has been sick for an extended period and there has been no need to shave),it has not been an enjoyable experience. It is difficult to feel amorous when you are kissing bristles. Yet perversely, that is when he is more than happy to kiss me! There is only one place where moustaches are acceptable and that is the 1970s, preferably a cricket field…


I’m stranded

Wednesday is the day the boss appears in my workspace, which is quite distant from the actual library. She works from a ‘hot desk’ on that day in order to get away from construction work currently going on outside her office window. Another manager has also appeared, presumably to get away from the noise. Given this is a busy week for us, his presence as  a senior reference librarian is needed more in the library than here. Needless to say, the atmosphere is quieter than normal. So far the only comic relief has been observing the  two senior managers’ attempts to pick up phone calls.

An interesting look at the distinction between user experience and information architecture-I just wish I had been at this workshop.

Usability testing demystifiedhaving done and seen it done, it’s always good to get people’s perspective on the process.

How keywords determine site architecture – another way to look at constructing an information architecture.

And I am sure there are stories out in libraryland to match these . The stories I could tell about Laurence the demon spawn and his mother, or the guy known as the poo-man would make your stomach curdle.

I have two more subjects to complete for my Masters and am leaning towards more web related subjects namely web usability and web design. It would more or less consolidate what I know. Another option is Social Networking for Information Professionals, which feels like going on Facebook and Twitter for my course- Mr Bookgrrl would NEVER buy that …:)

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

A hectic day, visiting parents in Geelong, study, catching up with the lovely Ms S and feeling the need to blog. People will ask me how it all gets done. My answer is I don’t dust, Mr Bookgrrl vacuums and does his own ironing and the kitchen table has  crap all over it…

Encountering a wide range of catalogs and library management systems over the years, I can really relate to this article about academic libraries using better search software. The current catalogue used at CSU is Aleph and not the most intuitive interface. I will quite happily use journal databases, e-journal search and Google Scholar before I use the catalogue- it’s that bad. And if I’m experiencing this type of difficulty after having used catalogues over a period of 20 years both as a student and a professional, I shudder to think how undergraduates are faring.

The main issue has been that designers of library management systems want people to see all the bangs and whistles up front to show them how the search is created. Only problem is, users don’t care, all they want are the results, preferably arranged in relevance, not reverse chronological order. Libraries shouldn’t be putting up more barriers for users to have an excuse not to use them. It’s not dumbing down, it’s understand what users want and adapting.

Our library is experimenting with the VuFind interface as used by the National Library of Australia. I like it, the tech services librarian was not too fussed with some of the facets, but it’s an improvement on entering a misspelled term and getting a null result.

And something nice from the UK this week- every library is a local library now, with public libraries open to anyone regardless of where they live.

Post script: My parents have the pleasure of Master and Miss BG’s company tonight (and possible tomorrow). I have the place to myself for about the next half hour and am blasting U2 (guilty pleasure no3- another story to tell) before Mr Bookgrrl gets home.

Food for thought

A relaxing day- morning tea with the mum’s group, domestic chores of kitchen, bathroom and laundry, followed by a peruse online of the news and RSS feeds.

Here are the 50 best dishes in Melbourne according to The Age’s food critics.

The seven stages of user frustration, as modelled by 6mth old Grace.

Two worthy items of note:
1. Love the laptop!
2. Just goes to show that no matter how old or young you are, usability is paramount

I don’t think my kids were ever on the computer at that age, but sometimes I’m away for a couple of minutes and come back to this…

Miss BG at the PC

Miss BG at the PC

Sorry, just wanted an excuse to show her off :).

10 Useful usability findings and guidelines

To some it may be telling someone how to suck eggs but they’re worth repeating, if only to your boss

1.Form labels work best above the fields
2.Users focus on faces
3.Quality of design is an indicator of credibility
4.Most users do not scroll
5.Blue is the best colour for links (totally agree with this one- our last iteration of our intranet had the links as red to fit in with the branding of the site- cheesed me off to no end)
6.The ideal search box is 27 characters wide (actually pretty good- my rule of thumb is if I can type my name, approx 20 characters, comfortably it’s long enough)
7. White space improves comprehension
8. Effective user testing doesn’t have to be extensive (5 users can find 85% of issues, which Jakob Nielsen has been saying for 20 years)
9. Informative product pages help you stand out
10. Most users are blind to advertising (yet that never seemed to stop people clicking on advertising when I used to teach internet classes for seniors eons ago…)

Afternoon cuppa beckons…


When I get home tonight, I will

1. Bake yet another cake for Miss BG- playgroup are coming to our house for fun, frivolity and lots of processed sugar.

2. Look through this list of User Experience Publications and resources from Nick Finck. His website is worth a look, if only to ooh and ahh over its nice white space, easy navigation and incredibly easy mode of subscribing to his RSS feed. (Not only am I a library nerd, I’m a usability freak as well…)

3. Spend some time with my family.

4. Figure out what to cook for tea (kids are done- it’s just the grownups I have to worry about)

5. Study and figure out config files for an Apache server

6. Sleep for more than five hours (a tad dicey owing to the kids)

Since I have it in writing, I’m hoping it will be accomplished 🙂

Might as well face it, you’re addicted to…

My mobile.

I may not use it all that often, but I like to know it’s there. I left my mobile phone at home this morning and realised while I was halfway to the station. Faced with either returning home to retrieve phone, and miss my train (and having to wait35 minutes for the next train- ahh the joys of living in regional Victoria) or get my train, I chose the latter. Owing to the long queue for tickets I was lucky to get on the train at all!

It’s mainly used for people to keep in contact with me- daycare for my children, texts from friends, mum and dad and the gym. I will use it to check my twitter and facebook, but browsing on a mobile is hideously expensive, and not that usable either; Jakob Nioelsen’s recent report on mobile web usability was spot on.

Did I miss it? I missed the convenience, but give me a couple of days and I think I would be weaned off it. The PC, however would be a different matter altogether. I have been online at home since 1999, at work since 1997 and was using the Internet at uni in 1994. I have never gone more than a couple of days without logging in to my hotmail, and that was when I was on holidays overseas, and access was occasionally hit and miss.

My mum is not a big fan of computers- she dislikes the antisocial aspect, and the fact it ‘draws you in’ (her words). I can argue to her about the social aspect of the Internet, but the Web is indeed a mesmerising place and it is easy to get lost in it, and ignore your nearest and dearest. And when your nearest and dearest are busy jumping on couches and climbing on tables, it is best not to ignore them :).

So here’s my challenge to myself- go offline, no Twitter, Facebook, Hotmail, news websites- until I am back in at work on Wednesday. Will let you know how I go and what I do to fill my time up…