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die größte website österreichs, orf.at, hat heute seine frontpage (bzw. den news-bereich) neu gelauncht. ergebnis: durchwachsen. der ewige problembereich, die verwendung von frames, wurde wieder nicht aufgeräumt, wodurch auch echte permalinks fehlen.orfat.gif

postiv fällt auf, dass das layout endlich auf 800px verbreitert wurde (war vorher auf – jenseits von mobile devices – längst verschwundene VGA-auflösungen optimiert – siehe diesen screenshot), und dass das grellgelb des ebenfalls neu gelaunchten sport-bereichs nicht mehr den gesamten hintergrund einnimmt.

die jetzt verwendete verdana wirkt moderner, leider wurde gleichzeitig die schriftgröße reduziert. wohl weil die verdana eben etwas mehr platz braucht. der textkontrast im sportbereich ist unter jeder sau, zumindest auf meinem notebook; auch im news-bereich wurde der farbkontrast etwas reduziert. und dass links nicht mehr unterstrichen sind, ist ebenfalls ein usability-rückschritt.

außerdem eignet sich verdana merkbar schlechter für die prägnanten bild-headlines als die voher verwendete arial black. (ich hoffe, mein eher schwach ausgeprägtes font-auge täuscht mich hier nicht.)

UPDATE: bettyford korrigiert mich in den kommentaren hinsichtlich der headline-fonts.

trotzdem bleibt orf.at für mich ein weltweit einzigartiges positivbeispiel für mediumgerechte aufbereitung von nachrichten mittels bild-headlines. noch immer gilt, was ich schon ende 1999 in einem konzept für den – mittlerweile in tiscali aufgegangenen – kunden surfEU geschrieben habe:

ich konnte weltweit keine nachrichten-site finden, der es ähnlich gut gelingt, den überfliegend-scannenden nutzungsgewohnheiten im web durch die mischung von aussagekräftigem bildmaterial und kurzen, prägnanten schlagzeilen gerecht zu werden.

in diesem sinne: hut ab, herr manola.

ps. ein königreich für die orf-logfiles der woche vor und nach dem relaunch..

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dear google, i appreciate that you support stemming (at least in english), so i’ll find e.g. plural when searching for singular – but please, please don’t show me results for “wordpress window upload” when i search for “wordpress windows upload“. even searching for “windows” (with quotation marks) doesn’t help, i have to explicitely exclude the singular form (although this might hide some potentially useful results from me..).

you talk to me a lot normally (“did you really mean..”), why don’t you ask me something like “we have included ‘window’ in your search – ignore it“?

update: just found out there is a way to override stemming – put a plus before the word: “+windows“. google doesn’t expect everybody to guess that right, do they?


i love it: the worst web application ever (via google blogoscoped.) compare with one of the best i know.


yahoo seems to have improved their search field on their frontpage. you can switch search categories by hitting the tab key, just the way windows-applications work, of course without reloading anything. nifty little javascripts. the same type of all-on-one-page could also improve the google user experience greatly and drive usage to google news, groups, etc. related post of mine: “next generation web applications“.

speaking of yahoo, they announced Y!Q today, a clever context-driven search-method. just needs little tweaks in order to produce better results, yet great idea.


some weeks ago i wrote about “next generation web applications” making use of XMLHttpRequest. now i just stumbeld across “LiveWiki“, a wiki fully developed with XMLHttpRequest, i.e. the entire site consists of just one single page.

interesting technologically but absolutely useless. as the developer notes himself on the frontpage, the site will be entirely invisible to search engines. also the missing URLs eliminates their function as orientation support, inhibits browser navigation (back/forward button, reload) and content organization (bookmarking, sending page by email, etc.). a true step backward.

macromedia flash and netscape frames are innovative and useful technologies, yet 99% of their uses were creating additional usability and findability-problems due to complete misinterpretation of their advantages and disadvantages.

will the same fate overtake XMLHttpRequest? i shudder to think.

(LiveWiki found via del.icio.us/tag/XMLHttpRequest)


one thing that always bugged me when designing web-based products was the (seemingly) irrevocable law of html-based user-interfaces: if you want to change the data in a page you need to reload it with its entire interface. a clear disadvantage towards PC-based applications. (or could you imagine MS word re-loading entirely every time you open a menu?)

but those times are finally over. thanks to a technology called XMLHttpRequest web-pages can now “phone home” to the server for new data, with the help of javascript, without having to reload. thanks to oddpost, who afaik used it first in big scale, and a couple of other innovative companies we now can look at some interesting usage examples:

the downside of web pages phoning home is that content dynamically requested normally won’t be indexed by search engines and cannot be directly linked to (permalinks), unless the developes take specifically care of that (as the makers of map.search.ch do). macromedia flash features these disadvantages too, as most designers are rather abusing flash than using it in a sensemaking way. let’s hope that doesn’t happen to XMLHttpRequest.

what will happen is that web-applications will finally be able to compete with PC-based applications, and they will resemble them optically. for example yahoo has announced to build a webmail-application based on oddpost-technology (screenshot of oddpost) that is meant to compete with outlook rather than with hotmail.

many web-based applications will soon resemble PC-based ones so much that users might be astonished they can’t use them the first time they try on a plane. and they will expect them to act just like they desktop programs which will pose new challenges to webdesign-usability, as usage conventions between desktop and web will merge together. just think double-click vs. single-click.

the benefits, on the other hand, are clear:

i can’t expect to use XMLHttpRequest in a project for the first time!

mark fletcher gets it right

December 7, 2004  

thesis #1 of the famous cluetrain manifesto reads:

markets are conversations.”

read how the company bloglines.com, a service providing web-based RSS aggregation, seems to live that principle at its best:

dec. 1st: bloglines is launched in six more languages, among them german. in the announcement they ask to “let us know what you think”.
dec. 2nd, 11am: bloglines is free (so far) and has become the site i use most throughout the day. the german version appears to have been translated by a native-speaker lacking extensive internet experience. too literal translations. i feel this is a chance to say ‘thank you’ and send them one page of feedback, including well grounded wording suggestions, using their standard feedback form.
dec. 2nd, 5pm: kate from bloglines support answers with a short mail thanking for “the feedback in regards of our new german version”. (note the correct relevance on the subject of my feedback.)
dec. 3rd, 10pm: mark fletcher, CEO and founder of bloglines (and of yahoo groups before that), writes me an email asking some clarifying questions and thanking for the “terrific” feedback.
dec. 7th: a new german version of bloglines is pushed out, featuring almost all my suggestions, about 15 changes, among them: “ausschnitte” is now called “ablage” (main navigation), “dies clip-bloggen” has become “ablegen/bloggen”, “dies emailen” now is “per email versenden”, “abonnement” is now called “abo”, “blogrollen” (sic!) is now called “blogrolls”, etc. two important suggestions of mine haven’t yet been implemented (eg. “share” still translates as “teilen”, which is wrong) but i’m confident they will.

note to myself: whenever founding your own company, try to listen to your customers the way mark fletcher does!

update dec. 14th: the tab “share” has been renamed to “blogroll” in german. i had sent mark some options (“veröffentlichen” and “blogroll”) and recommended “blogroll”. all the other suggestions have been implemented, too. cool.

useless web usability testing

September 14, 2004  

the austrian chamber of labour has proven their complete incompetence when it comes to web usability testing. a study of search engine usefulness conducted by their department of consumerism gave the following results:

#1 msn.at
#2 google.at
#3 austronaut.at (! – aka ‘the mother of spam’)

the methology they used is simply crap: a very small sample of just 12 keywords from just one topic area (consumer laws). i can’t believe that people really get paid for such work – and that there are journalists willing to then publish it. (found via a link to help.orf.at on futurezone.orf.at – the ORF is the biggest and most reputable news source in austria..)

RSS usability guidelines

July 21, 2004  

i started to consume news and weblogs via RSS only some months ago but i’ve been addicted ever since. i use bloglines.com as feed aggregator, as i use multiple computers and therefor a website as RSS client seems more suitable than a program. (by the way, bloglines clearly has become the website i use most, basically it’s open in the background all the time.) see the public view of the feeds i’m subscribed to on bloglines.

RSS certainly is the next big thing (or already the current one), i really believe it will play a major role in publishing in the future. the days of email newsletters certainly are about to be over.

however, as RSS is young and not all publishers seem to consume the feeds they produce themselves, there are still a lot of teething problems. i have taken notes of common feed publishing errors that caught my attention, so if you consider adding a RSS feed to your website or weblog you might want to use my list as a RSS usability guideline. in case you are the author of one of the feeds quoted (which are all great and recommendable – they wouldn’t be on my blogroll otherwise!) kindly understand that as constructive feedback, and feel free to drop a comment below.

update: see end of article.
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lotus notes sucks

July 16, 2004  

i’ve heard a lot about lotus notes already (nothing positive) and this week i moved into a customer’s office – and they use notes, so i do now too. oh dear. hard to describe.

i didn’t think it would be possible that software almost in it’s fourth decade of development, issued by a top 10 IT company (notes is IBM software) and used by many fortune 500 companies could produce such amateurish interface usability.

not just isn’t it able to compete with standard email programs in terms of (ease of) functionality, also about every second UI convention is being brutally bent and broken: the button to close a window is positioned at a highly strange place, some other buttons need to be double clicked, new emails don’t come in without me clicking “refresh” – with the refresh button being hidden behind a random gray area without indication about its function or the simple fact that it’s a button, there is no “options” function where i could customize how i want the program to work, simple menu windows come without “OK” and “cancel” buttons (so changes will be applied anyway – without a way to undo), standard windows keyboard shortcuts don’t work, etc. and it’s just as ugly as the web of 1994.

the list of severe usability issues is endless, to cut a long story short: lotus notes sucks.

Common misspellings: Farnberger, Fahrenberger, Farenberger, Fahnberger, Fahrnleitner, Fahrngruber, Fahrnberg.
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