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Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini

Time is running out on the Event You've Been Waiting For
UserExperience World Tour Update

Tutorials are selling out completely. London: E-Commerce Usability is sold out. Munich: Advanced Usability Testing and E-Commerce Usability are sold out. Stockholm is filling up. The Austin Early-Bird Special ends on December 7th and the San Francisco Early-Bird Special ends on December 17th.

Please act now if you plan to come to any of the above cities!

Reader Mail: December, 2000
AskTog Readers Talk Back

Several readers have raised interesting and, in the main, germaine issues this month. Read them all or jump in anwhere along the line:

 Interfaces that Continue to Kill
 Re: Traffic Engineers
 Re: CDs and Tubes and Stuff
 Little Browser Bumpers
 Slow PowerPCs
 Time for Mouse Advances

Lots of people are also writing about the butterfly ballot and my more recent remarks re: Apple. I'm waiting for some of the dust to settle on both issues before responding.

The Interface that Could Cost an Election

It now appears a man who lost the popular vote both country-wide and in the state of Florida could become President of the United States because a ballot in Palm Beach, Florida, was printed in such a way that when people attempted to vote for Gore, they ended up voting for Buchanan.

palm beach ballot

Not only does it appear that perhaps 4.000 people made the error of punching the second hole on the ballet in the mistaken belief that the second hole represented the second candidate, more than 19,000 people made the error of punching more than one hole, since both were directly alongside their candidate. This is yet another disgraceful example of what happens when you don't bother to user test.

Why were the designers unable to see the problem, even without testing? Because they were not users,they were designers. As such, they were interested in all 10 candidates on the ballet (plus space for a write in), and they saw all ten candidates. They viewed the ballot as a 2X6 staggered matrix with a line of radio buttons in between the two sides. Their cute little arrows appeared to be enough to help people choose the right box from this matrix.

The voters saw things very differently. They were not interested in 10 candidates. They were interested in one candidate, the one they wanted to vote for. Their entire focus was on finding that candidate and punching the hole next to his or her name. In the case of Gore, that required scanning only two names down in the first column. There was never any reason at all for Gore voters to ever even see the right hand column, and we now have thousands of pieces of evidence that they, indeed, didn't. Rather than a staggered matrix, they saw a single column with a dedicated column of radio buttons ajoining.

So here I come doing a little Monday morning quarterbacking. Sure, it's easy enough to see now what a stupid design it was, now that they game is over.

That's what user testing is for. So you can play the game before you play the game. A really good designer might or might not have predicted this outcome, but even a beginner should have had enough sense to user test the design before release. That rather obviously was not done in this case, and a serious miscarriage of the voter's wishes may well result.

Arm-wrestling the Photoshop Police

Adobe is shipping a 6.0 upgrade to Photoshop that, for many Mac users, proves unusable. When you try to install it, you are likely to either have your entire machine freeze up or to get to a screen that demands you insert your four year old photoshop disk without any possibility of your being able to do so, since the new photoshop disk is squatting on the only CD drive available and won't let go.

If you call tech support, they'll help you out. All you'll pay for is twenty or thirty minutes of long-distance charges. Oh, and they'll start the clock on your short-term free technical support. However, if, for some reason, you elect to call plain old customer service instead, you'll be up and running in only around 15 minutes, using a free 800 number and without starting the support clock at all. Now, that's fair and even-handed, isn't it?

The solution they offer? They confirm your serial number as on file, then have you option-click on the eyeball on the installer screen. That reveals a secret dialog into which you type the code they give you. Couldn't be simpler. Unless you went to one of those pirate newsgroups and downloaded the full version for free. That would take less time and be a lot less trouble.

We learned back in the 1980s that when you rake your legitimate users over the coals in the hopes of catching the occasional thief, you end up with a lot of really raked off users. Apparently, someone at Adobe has forgotten.

I'm buying less and less software now because I'm tired of getting beaten up during installations and initial runs. The only reason I'm not returning this little opus from whence it came is that I'm trying to get my Mac fully tricked out before January, when the Mac operating system is no more. At that point, I want my machine perfect, so I can go as long as possible before switching over to Windows.

Feature Article for November
Internet and the Wireless Web

The Future of Software folks asked me to speculate on coming changes in the Internet and Wireless Web. Are we to be satisfied with broadband, or will we laugh at it in a few years the way we do floppy disks now? Will today's major websites be successfully shrunk to the point where they fit on your celphone? Will we soon be dumping our 21" monitors? Read on...

Time is running out on the Event You've Been Waiting For
UserExperience World Tour

Early registration time is over for many cities and is running out for the rest. $70 discount per day for early registration—$210 in total savings over the three days.

Main-Day Speakers:

Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini, Brenda Laurel, Don Norman.

USA: Austin, San Francisco, Seattle
Europe: London, Munich, Stockholm
Asia: Tokyo & Hong Kong
Australia: Sydney

One-day seminar in each city with all four main speakers. Opens in New York on November 14.

The World Tour also includes two optional days of in-depth tutorials:

  • Introduction to Web Usability Testing
  • Advanced Usability Testing Methodology
  • E-Commerce Usability
  • E-Marketing for Non-Marketers
  • Art & Science of Web Design
  • Content Design & Usability - Writing for the Web
  • Designing Usable Web Forms
  • Java User Interface Design

All by leading experts (for example, the Java day is by the project manager of Sun's official Java Look-and-Feel guidelines).

Commentary for October
Why is Apple in Trouble?

I'm writing this as the price of Apple stock continues to plummet. The press has been calling me, asking why it happened. What follows is an opinion based on my 13 years working for plus 10 years closely following Apple Computer. It is surely not the complete story, but it might shed some light.

Apple lives in Microsoft's shadow. The analysts have long suggested that were Microsoft to pull Office and Internet Explorer from the platform, everyone in Cupertino might well have to close up the shop and turn off the lights. They suspect the people at Microsoft have been happy to see Apple live, because Apple has been at least a weak defense against charges of monopoly. However, it is doubtful Microsoft wants Apple to live well, at least well enough to seriously threaten the Windows market share.

I've watched Microsoft in action, particularly in their business dealings with Apple over the last 23 years. I watched a couple years ago the tide of major developers leaving the platform when the market share dropped too low, developers that Steve was able to turn around only at the last minute when he came back on board. I share the analysts' opinion. (more)

Feature Article for September
Elephant in the Living Room:
The Role of Denial in Web Design

Four players in the ultimate look and feel of your website have the capacity to cause great mischief. All too often, we accept their dirtywork. Consider the costs, then strike back.

Looking ahead
1 Cent Per Megabyte Storage

Remember when hard disks sported five or ten megabytes and the really-out-there people were talking about something called a "terabyte"? Today, multi-gigabyte drives have become the norm, and terebyte servers, in the form of DVD changers, have invaded people's living rooms.

Now, the world's total storage is being measured in hundreds of petabytes. (What's a petabyte? 2 to the 50th bytes, or 1024 terabytes.) For a synopsis on just how pitiful today's mass storage will seem in a mere five years, check out:

The NEXT Next Thing by Jim Rothnie, Senior Vice President, EMC

Press response
Nielsen Norman Hires Thought Good

The press has been generally supportive of the new look to the Nielsen Norman Group. For a typical response (well, perhaps a little over the top), check out:

"Holy S---, Nielsen Norman Group hires Tog -and- Laurel

"...There are few times in the history of the computer software industry that everyone in the field should be required to bow down and give thanks...(more)

Feature Article for August
The Evolution of the Mac Interface

This feature is a little unusual. First, it is actually an article I wrote for the Sept. MacWorld Magazine. Second, the style is different: I'm not nearly as cantankerous as usual.

(In the original article, they slipped in an illustration of the current interface with a tab system at the bottom of the screen which is actually a shareware program called DragThing ( I've removed the illustration.)

August News
Tog joins Nielsen|Norman Group

From (July 16)

Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini has joined Nielsen Norman Group as a principal.
  • Tog was Apple's human interface evangelist for many years (Apple employee #66) and wrote the first version of the Apple Human
    Interface Guidelines in 1978.
  • From 1992 to 1996 he was a Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer (a guru-level job restricted to the smartest 0.3% employees), inventing next-generation user interfaces that earned him 30 United States patents.
  • From 1996 to 2000, Tog was lead designer at Healtheon/WebMD, making complex Web-based applications easier to use.
  • He is the author of Tog on Software Design and Tog on Interface.

Reader Mail: July, 2000
AskTog Readers Talk Back

 Cellphones to remain obnoxious?
 Microsoft-style MDI interface passé?
 IT manager confuses Excel with Oracle
 Two Suggested Mac enhancements
 Bill Gates invented toolbars and margarine
 Hierarchical Menus: Mac vs. Windows
 Microsoft to release OpenDoc 2.0?
 Apple's new Rockwellian icons
 One-finger Qwerty. Right or wrong?

Feature Article for June
If They Don't Test, Don't Hire Them

Somehow people have developed the idea that user-testing is a sign of weakness, that a competent interaction designer should be able to just sit down and knock out a prototype that will work perfectly from the start. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Should you run into resistance with your boss or your clients in your efforts to do the right thing, send them the URL to this article. And let me know if it helps.

A tip o' the hat to Dave Scocca, David Jonathan Grant, Robert Ameeti, Carl Myhill, Jason Glazer, Robert Ameeti, and Jonathan Heron.

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