Paper Prototyping with Morae

Userfocus provides some inspiration for capturing paper prototype tests with Morae and a webcam. Their method invovlves positioning the camera over the prototype, connect the cam directly to the PC, viewing the camera live in a video editor, and recording the output of the editor in Morae.

This method is ingenious. It gives you all of the agility of doing a paper prototype, with the flexbility and control of using Morae for the observation, note taking, and highlight reel creation.

Killing Bad Layout Conventions

Andy Rutledge exposes the flaws of an established design conventions—the 3 column layout. The layout is typically identified by a wide center column with 2 flanking narrow sidebar, and it can be found on some of the largest and most popular sites, including and Rutledge points out the limitations and inefficiencies of this layout:

  • Symmetry is usually detrimental to content hierarchy
  • Symmetry diminishes viewer interest
  • Having 2 sidebars, one on either side, defeats the purpose of sidebar content
  • It requires that site visitors first learn (and perhaps relearn from page to page) where to look for a particular sort of ancillary information or links
  • Often results in far too much ancillary information on the page
  • The particular sort of visual noise generated by the 2 bracketing sidebars diminishes, rather than enhances, user/reader focus on the main content

Rutledge challenges designers to really think about their given problems and design for them; to challenge what has become conventional. The point is clear for any project. Context helps to give shape to solutions. Solutions should emerge by directly addressing the context of the problem, the nature of information use relative to the problem, and the information seeking behaviors of users relative to that problem. If contexts such as these are the focus of design discussions, rather than finding conventions or technologies to implement as a solution, we will be less likely to churn out cookie cutter projects, but will serve user needs more effectively.

Crowdsourcing The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has maded 2 of its collections of historical photographs available on Flickr. The goal is to get users to tag and comment on the photos, as well as help provide identifying information.

It's very interesting to see such a large and old institution embracing open social collaboration like this. When I was in school, the idea of user supplied freetagging was pretty seen as an edge-case activity even for things like private databases. This openness and the use of a site as simple flickr for the task of implies that crowdsourcing on the web is really beginning to become an accepted mainstream activity. Exciting stuff. I applaud the willingness of the LOC to experiment with social software.

More info is available at the Library of Congress website.