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November 23, 2011

The Cloze Test for Reading Comprehension

Filed under: Content,Usability — admin @ 10:23 pm

A colleague mentioned the Cloze test today, something I had not heard of before. In a nutshell it’s a method by which you can assess the suitability of copy for particular digital environments.

Jakob Nielsen has a useful overview of the technique:

  1. Replace every Nth word in the text with blanks. A typical test uses N = 6, but you can make the test easier by using a higher N value.
  2. Ask your test participants to read the modified text and fill in the blanks with their best guesses as to the missing words. Each person should work alone.
  3. The score is the percentage of correctly guessed words. Because you’re testing comprehension rather than spelling skills, synonyms and misspellings are allowed.

If users get 60% or more right on average, you can assume the text is reasonably comprehensible for the specified user profile employed to recruit test participants.

Of particular interest to me was the difference in meaning between ‘readability’ and ‘comprehension’ regarding the copy being tested.

Here is an example of the technique. (I scored 100% but had to remind myself that it simply meant the copy being used was comprehendible, rather than indicating that I was a literary genius.)

Susan Kare’s Sketchbook

Filed under: Apple,Design,Interfaces — admin @ 9:25 pm

An intriguing insight into the sketchbook of Susan Kare as she was developing the original Mac icons. All hail checkered sketchbooks.

Fascinating and delightful. And I did not know that the ‘command’ symbol (⌘) was meant to be a castle as viewed from above.

The Train Is Leaving the Station

Filed under: Marketing — admin @ 9:09 pm

I’m not going to spoil it. Just read this.

Barack Obama Website Redesign

Filed under: Design — admin @ 8:51 pm

I missed this when it went live but the website for Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 is rather nice. It uses Jubilat from Typekit and contains 100% responsiveness.

First Williams, Now McLaren

Filed under: Formula One — admin @ 8:45 pm

Joe Saward reports that Auto Motor und Sport are running a story about McLaren trying to arrange an engine deal with Honda. The deal would see McLaren use a Honda V6 turbo from 2014 onwards.

First Williams Renault, now (apparently) McLaren Honda.

All aboard the retro bus!

November 22, 2011

An Interesting Take on Verification

Filed under: Experiential,Usability — admin @ 6:45 pm

Came across this interesting verification text as part of a sign-up form today:

Human verification

(I entered ‘electronic calculators’. Worked just fine.)

November 21, 2011

The Right Way To Tell Me I Don’t Have Flash Installed

Filed under: Experiential — admin @ 2:52 am

When I installed Lion I made the conscious decision to remove Flash from the system. I don’t tend to visit sites that require Flash and, for those sites that do require it, I fire up Chrome, which has it’s own version of Flash, one that is separate from the system-wide plugin. I’ve been running this setup for months and it works just fine.

Not having Flash installed means I come across a lot of “Flash isn’t present” messaging. It generally follows a pattern of telling me that I need Flash to view the content, which can’t be found, therefore something is wrong with my system and I need to do something to fix it.

Take any page with video or audio content from the BBC website as a good example of this kind of messaging.

An example BBC page

The message is presented in a very negative manner and leaves the user with all the work to do if they want to enjoy the content. The burden is on the user to update their system, rather than on the content provider to offer an alternative non-Flash version of the content.

Whilst this is obviously the path of least resistance for most large-scale organisations I find the shift in blame annoying. With the death of mobile Flash and the proliferation of mobile devices (to use just one line of argument) the emphasis is surely now on responsible content providers to make sure they have suitable non-Flash alternatives in place for those systems that don’t support Flash, either through design (e.g. iOS) or choice (e.g. my Mac).

Now, I’m not so naive to think that this is the work of a moment. Nor do I believe that Flash on the desktop is going to go the same way as Flash on mobile devices anytime soon. But I do believe that Flash will cease to be the de-facto method of displaying all rich media content and that content providers should be communicating more clearly with users to reflect this shift.

The Audi website is a good example of how to do it.

An example Audi page

The basic message is the same — that this particular part of the site requires Flash, which isn’t present — but rather than telling me I need to install Flash to view it, the message tells me that Audi are working to resolve the problem which, one assumes, means a non-Flash version of whatever this content is.

It’s a much more positive way of framing the message.

The burden shouldn’t be on me to have Flash installed. It should be on content providers to serve up decent, non-Flash content. Their messaging should reflect that.

November 10, 2011

Redesigning the Country Selector

Filed under: Design,Usability — admin @ 9:15 pm

A simple yet effective replacement for drop down menus as country selectors in web forms.

Read the backstory on Smashing.

Georgia Pro & Verdana Pro

Filed under: Design,Typography — admin @ 4:41 pm

Co. Design have an interview with Matthew Carter, the designer of the original Georgia & Verdana typefaces.

I’ve always loved Georgia. The new ‘pro’ version looks like a beautiful update.

Round Rects Are Everywhere!

Filed under: Design,Usability — admin @ 4:31 pm

Why rounded corners are easier on the eyes:

Some experts say that rectangles with rounded corners are easier on the eyes than a rectangle with sharp edges because they take less cognitive effort to visually process. The fovea is fastest at processing circles. Processing edges involve more “neuronal image tools” in the brain. Thus, rectangles with rounded corners are easier process because they look closer to a circle than a regular rectangle.

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