Category Archives: websites

HF Potpourri

More potpourri from the web:

Web-based tool to measure task workload

I frequently use the NASA TLX workload assessment tool to measure a user’s perceived workload after they complete a task (e.g., complete an information search task). When the test is administered with paper it can be quite laborious to administer and score. A stand-alone computer-based version has been available but has some usability issues itself. For one thing, the TLX requires lots of instruction–the test taker must be well-acquainted with the workload dimensions before they can accurately gauge their own workload perceptions.

David Sharek has created a Flash-based TLX assessment tool that’s still in beta but from what I’ve seen looks great. In addition to usability improvements in the administration of the test, other features are integrated instructions, and centralized data collection (which you can download).


He’s planning on creating an iPhone and stand-alone version and he’d love feedback on the tool:

It is still in beta and the interface will probably undergo a few more iterations before version 1. I’m hoping for as much feedback in two main areas – usability and features. I’ll use user feedback to guide the iterative design process from now on. An iPhone and a standalone version will also be available in the future.

Feedback can be directed to his email: david[at]

HF Potpourri

Some interesting items that have passed through my reader:

  • Jerk can be emulated in software.  Cars with continuously variable transmissions sound and behave differently from other cars.  In this video, the speedometer and RPM smoothly increases (in most cars the RPM would bobble as gears shift and you’d feel a slight jerk).  I don’t know how I reached this page but Wikipedia suggests that some companies may emulate “jerk” (what you feel when the car shifts gears) to make the car feel more normal to the driver.
  • Need a quick wireframe for your website? Try Hot Gloo, an online wireframe tool [hot gloo]
  • With the coming wave of web-based health management, how do patients feel about putting so much personal health data online? [Journal of Medical Internet Research]
  • Type is about to look very different on the web []

HF/Usability Potpourri

  • bing-vs-goog-heatmapStudy Suggests People Prefer Bing’s Design To Google’s
    “The study was an intense focus group in which 12 subjects were monitored with eye-tracking cameras as they conducted searches. Afterward, they were interviewed and completed a survey.” (TechCrunch with usability report)
  • Nielsen recommends abandoning password masking in online forms2658612625_75be65cbfb_o
    “Usability suffers when users type in passwords and the only feedback they get is a row of bullets. Typically, masking passwords doesn’t even increase security, but it does cost you business due to login failures.”  (Useit via Slashdot)

Map Information Visualizations = HOT!

I‘ve noticed a trend in the newsworld/blogworld recently. Everyone wants to represent everything on a map. Some of these are genius, others make me wonder “why bother?” I collected some of each for this post… but I warn you, once you notice this pattern you’ll start seeing it multiple times per day.

Job loss from (Usability note: good luck mousing-over your county)


Race in an area compared to toxic waste release from the


Electricity Visualized from (This link has many map options. Wind power pictured below.)


Immigrant Populations from the New York Times (Also an “explorer” graphic with interactivity)


Religion in the United States via the Wall Street Journal


That’s just a taste. Also see:

(post image:

High-tech Grandma

This really isn’t human factors related other than the fact that my research interests include older adults and the web.  Just to give you a teaser, here is some of the grandmother’s dialog:

The other day, I was hacking around thinking I was running port forwarding my POP packets through SSH encrypted tunnels.  Turns out I got the port number wrong and I ended up encrypting all UDP traffic outboard through my router’s gateway.

Crowdsourced Usability II: Mozilla Test Pilot

Interesting distributed/crowdsourced usability effort from Mozilla, the makers of Firefox.

Enter Test Pilot. It’s a still-in-concept platform for a new user-testing program for Mozilla that aims to build a 1% representative sample of the Firefox user base for soliciting wide participation and structured feedback for interface and product experiments.

From Wired:

Raskin notes that the project was initially intended to provide feedback for Mozilla’s own products — Firefox, the Thunderbird e-mail client and add-ons like Weave and Ubiquity — with a 1% sample of active users. That’s a huge sample size for usability testing, so the distributed model makes sense.

It’s also this level of scalability that makes Test Pilot special. Not only will the collected data be made open to the public, but the testing platform will as well. Any research institution that needs usability data can draft a request to query the hive mind of worldwide Firefox users [emphasis added]. Tests can be conducted in a matter of hours with virtually no overhead — a dream compared to the hours and days spend recruiting, screening and testing participants in traditional usability studies.

This sound like a great idea but I wish this was a downloadable framework to allow me to collect this data on my own, local website with my own participants for experimental purposes (without having to get another level of approval).  Whenever I do a web study, I have to get a programmer to create a tool that collects data (e.g., location of clicks, times).

Test pilot via Wired

Crowdsourced Usability Testing?

Feedback Army is a new service where you submit your website, $7, and you receive 10 comments.  I wonder how effective such ultra discount usability evaluation would be.  I guess if some is better than none, this is a pretty good service.  However, who exactly is offering the feedback, what are their qualifications?  And is it more than, “your website sucks”.  Hopefully, this kind of service won’t further marginalize the importance of “usability”.

[Feedback Army via Google Blogoscoped]

Amazon Windowshop

Amazon has a new interface for “window shopping” on its website.  It is strangely compelling and offers something that the website lacked–that quality of just browsing what’s there without having to do too much clicking, searching, etc.  The navigation is simple and intuitive (right/left arrows) and if you stand at a window for a few seconds, a video description starts playing.  Press spacebar to “zoom out” for a more global view.

It feels like Google Maps–the “manipulatability” is satisfying.

Update:  Upon further reflection, the animation probably contributes to visual momentum.  Visual momentum is one reason why, possibly, sliding ipod menus seem nicer than regular menus in other mp3 players.