Saturday, February 27, 2010

History of Eye-Tracking as Research Tool

If you've ever wondered what eye-tracking is and where it came from, there is a historical breakdown in the article A Brief History of Eye-Tracking over at UX Booth. The article covers eye-tracking as a research tool, not as a user interface input method, something I think is worth mentioning given the devices I've seen and used that track eye movements to allow the physically disabled to use a computer.

In the article the author goes back to 1879 when a French ophthalmologist observed that readers' eyes often pause on words instead of reading at a steady pace. He covers some other developments without dates until 1931 and then jumps ahead to the 1980s when eye-tracking was used for market research for magazine ads.

The article isn't intended to be a history of eye-tracking as a usability tool, but the author does get to that point toward the end and references Jakob Nielsen's book, Eye Tracking Web Usability.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Science of Trust in Social Media

I am one of those people who always needs to see proof of some assertion, evidence to back up a claim. While I can accept anecdotal evidence in the right context, justifying decisions beyond how good the local taco hut is requires more than just musings from friends or co-workers.

In an article posted to Mashable today titled, "The Science of Building Trust With Social Media," the author attempts to explain trust in social media through the lens of psychological research. He references a Wikipedia entry on fundamental attribution error and then uses that to frame some of the dust-up between Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines (at CNN, at Huffington Post, at LA Times).

The author does make a good point at the end about how the lack of body language (facial expressions, overall body cues) can make the medium very difficult to navigate. He even cites a video featuring the Domino's Pizza president overlaid with a graphic of the audience response based on body language. See the video below.

The article itself is anecdotal, but at least it's interesting.

Monday, February 22, 2010

MOM 2.0 Summit Notes

Photo of opening at MOM 2.0 SummitKeynote and opening remarks by Gretchen Rubin and Heloise. I have no photos of me in the panel, except the one I found online where I look like a startled rabbit. Which may not be far from the truth.

If you've paid any attention to my blog (as in, read the last post) or even seen me in real life (or noticed my absence for a few days), you may know that I was in Houston, Texas for the second annual MOM 2.0 Summit. I was a speaker/panelist in the web site usability and user experience session. I was paired with Angela Schmeidel Randall from Normal Modes and Sania Khan (blog at, both of whom were very bright women with a lot to offer. We managed to pow wow a couple times via Skype and again before our session, and the two of them had put together a PowerPoint presentation in advance (to be fair, they had more warning than I).

Other than some awkward microphone handling, we had fun getting our ideas across and fielding questions from the audience. After the session I fielded a few more questions from audience members, and even continued answering questions that night and through the next day. Based on the turnout, and the amount of questions, I'd say this was a popular topic — and we were up against the social media session, which was quite the draw I hear.

The MOM 2.0 Summit blog mentioned our session (Website Usability – Do The Expected.), and other than misspelling my name (easy to do when you are mostly talking about women), summarized it pretty well. What I thought interesting were the main ideas people seemed to take away.

For example, the blog mentions this point that I made:

Find people that don't like you or don't like what you do to give you honest feedback on the usability of your site

Out of context this advice can be a little tough to understand. Angela and Sania had both outlined different (very valid) methods for testing your site — free automated testing, focus groups, asking your grandmother, etc. — but I piped up with another idea to build on their points. I suggested you find dissatisfied customers or users, people who may not like you (and are less likely to gush), people who've had a bad experience with you before. They may be more likely to tell you what is wrong, what didn't work, why they were peeved and to do it without worrying about sparing your feelings. I'll distill this to two general outcomes:

  1. They talk crazy and in the end you discard their feedback; or
  2. They raise some very good points, you learn something and you may very well win back a formerly dissatisfied customer/user.

I'm hoping these general goals weren't lost on everyone. I don't think too many people were live Tweeting (there were only a handful of Tweets from our session, all the live Tweeters were in the social media session), but we did run through a lot of information in a very short time.

If you were in attendance, you got a shiny hand-out that Angela and Sania put together that contained a general web site usability checklist. If you weren't there (for shame) then you can view the web site usability checklist that Angela keeps on her site.

If you were one of the kind folks who sought me out for questions afterward (and didn't confuse me for another bald guy in the hotel), feel free to keep them coming. Hopefully I'll see you next year and we can see how you're doing on your project.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Speaking at Mom 2.0 in Houston, TX

I'm Speaking at The Mom 2.0 SummitI will be in Houston this week to speak at the Mom 2.0 Summit (Feb. 18-20, 2010, Houston, TX). To make it a little easier to describe, here's their description of the event:

Talk shop with social media influencers, industry leaders and leading brands as they share best practices. Discuss ways to create smarter web-based marketing, and discover social media tools that engage your audience and build relationships. [...] Founded in 2007 for marketers, mompreneurs and social media enthusiasts to get to know one another. A place to connect, converse, and build relationships.

They've even been kind enough to post a bio (and photo) on the speakers page. I will be speaking about web site usability best practices along with Angela Schmeidel Randall from Normal Modes and Sania Khan (blog at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

January 2010 Browser Stats

Mashable has posted information about browser usage (Browser Usage Stats: Chrome Grows While IE and Firefox Shrink) stats from Net Applications. In short, Chrome continues its climb at the expense of Explorer and Firefox. The original data comes from January of 2010 and shows that Chrome has gained 0.57% to get to 5.20% of browser share. Firefox dropped (-0.20% to 24.41%) as did Internet Explorer (-0.51% to 62.18%). Opera and Safari hardly moved.

It's no surprise Chrome has climbed. It's a good browser for those who are technically inclined and don't need all the bloated features of the other browsers. It's speed (especially with JavaScript) and memory management have made it my default browser on my Ubuntu netbook, even though it still has issues rendering Facebook's message inbox and photo gallery management tools. Even though Firefox 3.6 was just released, the average user won't see a huge benefit from switching browsers and probably won't bother as a result (although I do like the new type support).

Internet Explorer is the troubling one in the mix. IE8 is now up to 22.31% of the market, but IE6 still beats out IE7 (20.07% and 14.58%, respectively). That equates to 1 in 5 users is still surfing on IE6, known for its security holes and buggy rendering.

Many people (web sites, developers, forums, etc.) have been calling for the demise of IE6 in some way for quite a while now. Google has just joined the list (Modern browsers for modern applications, from the Google blog), announcing that they will phase our support for IE6 in Google Docs and Google Sites as of March 1. You can see other sites (far smaller, for the most part) who are trying to push IE6 out to pasture, just visit Whether or not this will speed the end of IE6's reign is to be seen. Catch up on some anti-IE6 articles at Mashable using their IE6 Must Die tag.

I am curious, though — am I the only one who still uses Lynx?