Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Weblogs are 10 years this week and I have a new look!

The word "weblog" celebrates the 10th anniversary of it being coined on 17 December 1997, according to BBC's web site.

The word was created by Jorn Barger to describe what he was doing with his pioneering Robot Wisdom web page. The word was an abbreviation for the "logging" of interesting "web" sites that he featured on his regularly updated journal. The abbreviation "blog" was only invented a couple of years later, and has come to signify raving 'n ranting in many users' mind. But I aim to stay (mainly) with Barger's concept...

Those of you who click through to my blog itself will notice it has now cast aside the standard blogspot template and aquired an ABB look in line with our other web sites.

Comments are welcome, and if you are planning an ABB blog get in touch with me to use the same template.

Jacob Nielsen: Web 2.0 can be dangerous...

Jacob Nielsen, the unchallenged web usability guru, has a strong word of warning in his Alertbox this week. Over-hyped Web 2.0 technology developments risk diverting resources from the high-ROI design issues that really matter to users.

Nielsen has previously aired his scepticism to excessive use of new technologies, but admits that Web 2.0 ideas are not inherently bad for users.

"They can be highly effective; we sometimes see examples of usability-enhancing Web 2.0 designs in our studies. But it's more common to find Web 2.0 ideas that either hurt users or simply don't matter to users' core needs. While the latter case might seem innocent, irrelevant website "enhancements" diminish profits because they indicate a failure to focus on those simpler design issues that actually increase sales and leads."

Nielsen notes that community features are particularly useful on intranets The reasons communities work better on intranets also explains why they're often less useful on the open Internet:

  • A company's employees are an actual community with a crucial shared interest: succeeding in business.
  • Employees are pre-vetted: they've been hired and thus presumably have a minimum quality level. In contrast, on the Web, most people are bozos and not worth listening to.
  • Although some intranet communities — such as those around internal classified ads — are aimed at lightening up the workplace, most intranet communities are tightly focused on company projects. Discussions stay on topic rather than wandering all over the map.
  • Intranet users are accountable for their postings and care about their reputation among colleagues and bosses. As a result, postings aim to be productive instead of destructive or flaming.
  • Small groups of people who know each other are less susceptible to social loafing, so more users contribute to intranet community features. In contrast, Internet communities suffer from participation inequality, where most users never contribute and the most active 1% of people dominate the discussions.

As an extremely rough guideline, here's Nielsen's advice as to what the percentage of Web 2.0 infusion that might benefit different types of user experience:

  • Informational/Marketing website (whether corporate, government, or non-profit): 10%
  • E-commerce site: 20%
  • Media site: 30%
  • Intranets: 40%
  • Applications: 50%

Applications score so high because users perform actions repeatedly and thus truly benefit from rich UI possibilities. In contrast, mainstream websites have very few repeated actions that justify the added complexity of a full GUI's shortcuts.
For website usability, the problem is not whether a specific operation takes 1 second or 10 seconds; people typically perform each operation only once or twice. The problem for websites is the 5-10 minutes users lose when they do something wrong because the site is too complicated. (After such an experience, they usually leave — and you lose the business.) Simplicity is more important than efficiency for done-once actions.

To read the full article, go here.

If you want to subscribe to his newsletter, go here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Stop doing social because it's cool, do it because it's effective

I came across a useful article over at Forrester's Groundswell blog on introducing social web technologies - blogs or communities. No rocket science, just common sense, but perhaps useful none the less.

"What do most companies do wrong when they enter the social world? No, it's not that they're being fake, or don't "get it." It's that they don't really know their objectives."

"Is your company doing its social strategy backwards? If you started by saying "we should do a blog" or "we should create a page on a social network" or "we should create a community" the answer is probably yes."

"It's time to stop doing social because it's cool. It's time to start doing it because it's effective."

To help clients with this fundamental idea, they've come up with a little acronym called POST: People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology. Do it in this order, don't get it backwards!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dopplr is opening up

Dopplr is a site that keeps track of people's travel plans. Here at Global Web Management in ABB we use it to keep track of who is where, as most of us are nomads by profession or inclination. Enter your destination and the relevant dates. You decide who should be able to see your information, and they may or may not let you share their.

The application alerts you to coincidences, so if someone you know happens to be in the same place you have a chance to get together for a beer in Berlin or a cuppa' in London. I personally prefer to paste their RSS feed into my Netvibes page, but you can also subscribe to e-mail alerts if you want.

Until yesterday the site was available by invitation only, but they have now opened up to everyone who wants to join. Recommended!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Dopplr also comes with a Facebook widget, so your whereabouts can be posted to your profile for your friends to see. Through the widget you can easily add trips without having to make the detour to the Dopplr site itself.