How to Test Localized Add-ons by Changing Firefox’s Language Setting

When I add a new language translation to my Text2Link Firefox and Thunderbird add-on, I need to check whether the translated text will display correctly for users of that language. To do this, I change Firefox's language and country code setting to the language and country I want to test. Read more...

Microsoft's InstaLoad Improves Battery Usability

Microsoft’s new InstaLoad system enables electronic devices such as mice, game console controllers and electric shavers to function regardless of which way round their users insert the batteries. InstaLoad is one of those designs that makes you think, "Why didn’t I think of that?", which is the hallmark of every brilliantly simple design. InstaLoad also highlights the design flaw in the user interface of one of the simplest household objects: the AA battery. Read more...

LaTeXiT Bridges the iWork Equation Gap

A significant omission in iWork’s Pages application is an equation editor. Apple promotes MathType in their iWork documentation as their chosen third-party solution. However, there is a free alternative to MathType called LaTeXiT, which typesets LaTeX equations. This post explains how I integrate LaTeX equations typeset with LaTeXiT into iWork Pages documents. Read more...

A Wordle Visualization of Usability and Interaction Design Terms

This post presents a word-cloud visualization of usability and interaction design words and phrases that I created with Wordle. Word clouds present the frequency of occurrence of words and phrases using size; the greater the size, the more frequently a word or phrase occurs in a piece of text. Wordle enables users to create word clouds for a piece of text, for the posts in an RSS feed, and for the tags of a delicious user. Read more...

How to Improve HTML Heading Layout with jQuery

When headings marked-up with the h1, h2, ... h6 HTML tags are too long to fit on a single line, web browsers wrap the trailing words onto the next line. When the second line of the heading contains two or more words, this layout looks fine. However, when the second line contains just a single word, this layout is ugly-to my eye at least. Read more...

Google Beats FIFA at the Usability World Cup

The most important task any interactive system can perform for a user is the task that the user wants to perform right now. For millions of users like me, getting information on World Cup match schedules and results is currently the top information-retrieval task.

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DVD Subtitle Usability Remains Poor

Back in 2001, Donald Norman highlighted the failures of DVD menu design. Much research on DVD menu design has been done since then. Unfortunately, DVD subtitle usability doesn’t seem to have received the same attention. Read more...

Google's Simple User Interface Must Be Clear

From its inception, Google's search interface has been praised for its simplicity. However, simplicity is not a replacement for clarity, which is the most important attribute of a user interface. I don't know if I've ever misunderstood a user interface control as much as I misunderstood Google's I'm Feeling Lucky button. Read more...

Mix Interface Idioms With Care

As users become more familiar with hyperlink-style web interfaces, it’s tempting for designers to include hyperlinks in desktop applications. Hyperlinks do improve usability when including them makes sense. For example, cross-references in help systems work well as hyperlinks. However, replacing GUI buttons with hyperlinks can be inappropriate, as in the case of Firefox cookies.

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Rapid Application Launching Using Spotlight

Well-designed interfaces enable users to start working on their tasks immediately. Most tasks are completed using applications so it’s particularly important that users can launch applications quickly and easily. Most users have a core set of applications they use most of the time, and the problem of finding and launching frequently-used Mac OS applications is well-catered for. For example, users can place the icon of their favorite applications in the dock. However, the dock fills quickly so there is often no room for rarely-used applications.

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