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I'm currently working on a DPhil in HCT at the University of Sussex. This section of the website is for an on-going 'learning diary', for me to write my thoughts and notes on various courses and my thesis.

Friday
Nov032006

Demographic setback

We went down to the library again tonight, and tried to interview some teenage users.

It took some courage, actually. Strange how difficult it is to go up to a complete stranger and ask them for feedback! I'm sure it gets easier with practice, but it took us a while.

We'd just about got there, when a librarian spotted us and asked us if we had permission to talk to teenagers. We'd just sort of assumed. We'd emailed Sara Kirkpatrick to let her know we were going to go down there, but we hadn't waited for a response. We'd sort of figured that since they'd approached us to do a user-centred process they might actually expect us to speak to, well, users.

I'd also forgotten that there might be issues talking to kids. Really silly, given all the fuss we have to go through at cricket with under 18s, but there you go. It's the off season!

Obviously, that was an error on our part. Definitely something to remember in future - always get explicit permission! It wasted our time, and really at the moment we don't have the time to waste. The only useful bit was picking up some of the leaflets aimed at the teens.

Tuesday
Oct312006

Seminar 5 - Lego!

Lots of fun today. We were divided up into groups of 4 and given a set of the new bionicle Lego stuff. One of us had to build the set, but someone else had the instructions. They weren't allowed to see what the builder was doing, but had to describe the bits and what to do with them. The other two were gathering data about the project.

I was giving the instructions. It was really tricky to try to explain which piece you wanted them to use and which way round it should go, and then id how to join the pieces. Lizzie was building, and we actually did pretty well. We managed to develop some sort of common language for the pieces, so we understood which bits we meant. Lizzie was also pretty good at asking for confirmation of the bit she'd got, describing it back to me. We did do quite a lot of giggling, and the language we developed may have been based around balls (there are lots of ball and socket joints in this stuff!) but it worked for us.

It was interesting to see what the observers had noted down, and what I'd come up with. And how hard it was (when we swapped round) not to get involved as observers and help out.

Making the affinity diagram was also informative. We took the notes, and tried to link similar ones into categories. Sometimes the obvious catagories were not actually very helpful for discovering the underlying problem, which was interesting. For example, we'd all noticed how much the colour of the pieces came up, but colour was just being used to help identify the piece. So colour wasn't actually a useful catagory, but piece identification was. It was good to see a method of getting from the raw data to something more structured and potentially useful.

Tuesday
Oct312006

Reading Library follow-up

After seeing the Reading Borough Library site with its menu down the right, this is an interesting article on why the scrollbars are on the right.

Hands across the screen uiGarden.net, Alan Dix, 2 March 2005.

The article describes some investigation into why the scrollbars are normally on the right, even though there may be good reasons to put them on the left. There is a brief discussion of the origin of the scroll bar, and some usability studies into early browser design scrolling functionality. Eventually the article concludes that putting a scrollbar on the left results in a right-handed mouse user having to 'virtually' put their hand across the screen every tiem they want to use the scrollbar. Even though they aren't really moving their hand that far, it feels wrong.

Strange that menu bars don't normally follow the same pattern. Guess that comes back to the F-pattern viewing thing.

I think you'd have to do some pretty serious user stuff to justify moving a menu bar from the left to the right. It goes against most of the conventions on the web.

Again, this ties in with thoughts on my work. The portal framework we are aiming to adopt has the fixed left-hand frame. I've had a play, tried putting it on the right, and it has the same effect as on the Reading site. It makes it almost invisible unless you make an effort to look at it. I think other considerations (like cross-company consistency) will make moving this frame impossible, but it was an interesting experiment.

Monday
Oct302006

Other library sites

Cambridgeshire libraries is just a part of the council site. Seen here: http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/

I think the actual content of the Cambridgeshire libraries site is probably less than that in the East Sussex one. But because of the very clear structure it is very easy to find the information and they have made good use of external sites to extend what's available. (Interesting Accessibility feature with the text size - think it's part of the council site, not the library site specifically, but interesting.)

Wow - Reading Borough Libraries has quite a flashy site on first sight! http://www.readinglibraries.org.uk/

Opens on the search page I think. I'm not sure I like the use of the graphic, but it's bright. The links bar on the right is unusual. Can't quite decide on that one. It's the same side as the mouse, which feels kind of nice, and it's actually more out of the way over there. Inteferes with the text less. Interesting.

Thursday
Oct262006

Library Visit

So I actually went to the library. The Jubilee library in Brighton.

Interesting. They have loads of computers dotted around, some with use limited to certain age groups. Teenagers are pretty well catered for, with a separate area (a long way off from the childrens section) and many computers for their use. There's also a board for reviews from the reading group. The graphic novels are sitting next to a comfy seating area within the 'Young person's library' (ugh - pc... Pretty sure I called myself a teenager, definitely wasn't a 'young person'!). All in all loads to try to get teenagers engaged.

It did sort of remind me a little of the website though. Nice big open space, which made the books (the fiction ones, downstairs) look quite minimal and hapazardly arranged. I'm spotting a theme.

I think I might need to have a quick look at some other library websites, see if there's any kind of consistency to be aimed for...