Friday, 18 December 2009

Usability for web sites - where?

This is the last posting for this year and we'll be having a 2 week break then leaving Yahoo and moving exclusively onto this blog site in 2010.

Don't forget to set up your RSS feed so that you can get the postings automatically just like the Yahoo Group. We're moving because it allows us more flexibility for archiving the posts under relevant headings which makes for a better resource for searching for information when you want it.

So, usability guidelines. How have these changed ? Yes, there are more resources now and they are more extensive. As the web has grown, and the number and range of sites expanded, the intelligence on what helps people view information - and make sales - has grown too. You can drill down under about 20 sub-headings about various usability aspects at:

This is a US government site that offers advice to web designers about how to design sites. But they do have a caveat:
Although considerable effort has been made to base the guidelines on research from a variety of fields, including cognitive psychology, computer science, human factors, technical communication, and usability; other disciplines may have valuable research that is not reflected in these guidelines.
That's a nice heads-up and shows the tenor of their guidelines.

Some people love him and some hate him, but whatever your view, Jakob Nielsen is a leading light in Usability. See his site for the latest at

Finally, for a more recent and UK centric view, and one with online Christmas shopping at its centre, have a look at the article from Imprezz. A staggering 42% of people abandon their online shopping because of a perceived or actual slowing of the site.

Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2010 from us.

Elaine and Andy

Saturday, 12 December 2009

RACI/RAM charts - do you need them?

You'll be forgiven for not knowing about these charts as we don't cover them on the general training course but we do cover them in our book. They can give a part answer to some of the problems that beset project teams particularly if people always seem to be countermanding decisions. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. It is a matrix chart that defines people's responsibilities across project deliverables. RAM stands for Responsibility Assignment Matrix and some people prefer to use this term. So far, so good.

Do you recognise any of these problems?
  • 'My boss always overrules my decisions whenever she wants'
  • 'The approval process for even the simplest item takes so long today'
  • 'It seems everyone is putting together a spreadsheet on the same data'
  • 'Things are always slipping through the cracks'
  • 'I have the responsibility, but not the authority to get the job done'

Royston Morgan:

If any of these fit your workload, perhaps you might consider doing a matrix chart. You need to list the roles of your extended team across the top and then put deliverables/work tasks down the side. In the spaces agree with your team who is Responsible, Accountable, to be Consulted, and to be Informed. You write R,A,C or I in the space, or in fact leave the space blank if the person doesn't have to figure in the task. This gives you a blueprint of who should call the tune as the people Accountable should have the final decision. And there should be only one person Accountable in the chart for a task. The person Responsible for the task actually carries out the work or harnesses a team effort to achieve the task to the satisfaction of the Accountable person. When the same person is Responsible and Accountable – as might happen in our form of iMedia projects – then you can decide whether to put both initials in the box or allow A to imply both because there is no one else signified as Responsible.

This type of chart will clarify whose role is responsible for which task, and who is accountable for the final decision. This helps codify authority by implication. Authority to make decisions or allocate budgets can play a big part in potential conflict in projects – don't we just know. Our book, Managing Interactive Media page 84, gives a case study of a RACI chart for an e-commerce project, in case you have a copy.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Archiving reaches maturity

Remember when the word 'archive' for projects used to be a dirty word. Your managers wouldn't grant the time to you to archive as you got pushed into new urgent projects and your old ones hung around like the proverbial bad smell. Well, all's changing as digital online information becomes the norm. Given that, certain expectations about the stability of information and long-term access to it surface.

Digital archiving is now big business. If we look at massive infrastructure projects for archiving then our web projects look insignificant. But with success and focus come standards, so beware. We will be expected to conform to some digital archive standards sooner rather than later. Keep an eye out.

The government have recognised its responsibility for broken links in its online information in its Web Continuity Project. This recognises which version of a web page is being looked for and accesses that version rather than give the dreaded 'broken link' message.

Also, with online referencing becoming common – we use it all the time in these postings – there are concerns about changes to the referenced page, loss of contextualised meaning, misrepresentation and so on, over time. The 'ostephens' entry on the TELSTAR blog entitled, The When of the Web, gives a nice breakdown of some of these issues and some software solutions.

Finally, for a taste of some of the larger projects that are around at the moment and what's going on, take a quick look at the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) page. They have loads of money relating to higher education research and provision in the UK with some funding opportunities too.