I’m honored to be on the organizing team for the first European workshop on HCIR at the HCI 2011 conference in Newcastle on July 4. See the workshop website for more details.

We are looking for submissions from industry professionals, as well as from academics. If you work in related areas–such as IA, UX, search systems design, etc.–we’d love to hear about your practical experience in the form of a short position paper. The call for papers is now open.

What is HCIR, you ask? Human computer Information Retrieval (HCIR) is a relatively new area of investigation that brings together concerns of human-computer interaction (HCI) and information retrieval (IR). The term was coined by Professor Gary Marchionini around 2005. Wikipedia defines HCIR as:

…the study of information retrieval techniques that bring human intelligence into the search process. The fields of human–computer interaction (HCI) and information retrieval (IR) have both developed innovative techniques to address the challenge of navigating complex information spaces, but their insights have often failed to cross disciplinary borders. Human–computer information retrieval has emerged in academic research and industry practice to bring together research in the fields of IR and HCI, in order to create new kinds of search systems that depend on continuous human control of the search process.

HCIR includes a ranges of techniques and approaches that allow people to better interact with information and find what they are looking for, such as auto-complete, spell correction, and relevance feedback. A significant amount of attention is given to faceted navigation.

If you will be in Hamburg or Sydney in April, consider attending one of my workshops. I’ll be focusing on some of these aspects of HCIR around IA, web navigation, and faceted navigation:

1. In GERMAN: UX Workshops in Hamburg by NetFlow, 11-12 April

2. in ENGLISH: ANZ UX Workshops in Sydney, 28-29 April
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“Also known as fly-out menus, pull-down menus, or pop-up menus, dynamic menus provide quick access to navigation options. They are considered “dynamic” because visitors must interact with them before they display. After the visitor selects a navigation option with a mouse rollover or click, the site presents a menu window similar to choosing a menu in a software application.”

That’s how I define dynamic menus in Designing Web Navigation. They’re pretty much mainstream these days, and we’ve seen lots of variations, including mega-menus and more.

Recently, I’ve noticed another type of dynamic menu that’s scroll activated. By that I mean that the menus–sometimes just an option or two–appear when the user scrolls to a certain point on page. This is usually at the end of a text towards the bottom of the page.

Below is an example from Harvard Business Review Blogs (Figure 1). See the small box in the lower right corner with the header “More from Scott Anthony.” The menu is animated and slides in from the right side gently.

Figure 1: Scoll-activated menu on Harvard Business Review Blog

This menu option is a related content link to other stories. For news sites, it seems like a good way to lead users to other content. The animation is quite eye catching, but not intrusive or disturbing if done tactfully.

The Economist.com site uses two scroll activated menus (Figure 2). First, there is one at the top that appears fairly quickly as you scroll down–see the red bar across the page. This has some social media options and a helpful search feature.

Unfortunately, when you continue scrolling to the bottom of the page, a large advertisement slides into view from the bottom of the screen. This is intrusive, and it doesn’t bring the user any direct value and tries to steer them towards a subscription.

Figure 2: Scoll-activated menus on Economist.com

I suspect we’ll start seeing more and more of this. Hopefully it won’t get out of control and abused. When done subtly, it can be useful.

Learn about these and other trends, as well as principles of IA and web navigation design, in my upcoming workshops this year:

1. In GERMAN: UX Workshops in Hamburg by NetFlow, 11-12 April
a. Prinzipien der Informationsarchitektur
b. Elemente des Navigationsdesigns

Die online Anmeldung ist offen.
2. in ENGLISH: ANZ UX Workshops in Sydney, 28-29 April
a. IA for Strategic Web Design
b. Web Navigation Design
See our website for more information and to register.
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Are you in OZ and want to learn about faceted search, strategic alignment diagrams, IA, navigation and more this April? I’m  delighted to announce that I’ll be giving 2 workshops in Sydney on April 28-29, 2011!

See the workshop website for more information.

Here are some highlights:

WORKSHOP 1: Information Architecture for Strategic Web Design

Thursday 28 April 2011, 9:30-17:00 – This workshop focuses on the conceptual and strategic side of information architecture (IA). Topics include: alignment diagrams, mental models, concept maps, Cores and Paths, information structures and facets.

WORKSHOP 2: Web Navigation Design

Friday 29 April 2011, 9:30-17:00 – This workshop focuses on the nuts and bolts of good navigation design. Topics include principles of web navigation, navigation mechanisms, types of navigation, the scent of information, and faceted navigation.


  • Earlybird (to April 2): AUD 660
  • Regular Price: AUD 759


Beginner to intermediate web designers, interaction designers and IAs; usability experts looking to improve web design skills; and project managers, product mangers, and others seeking to better understand web navigation design.

See the registration details page for more information and to sign up.

Jared Spool points an interesting article by Bret Victor called “Magic Ink: Information Software and the Graphical Interface.” Here’s the abstract:

The ubiquity of frustrating, unhelpful software interfaces has motivated decades of research into “Human-Computer Interaction.” In this paper, I suggest that the long-standing focus on “interaction” may be misguided. For a majority subset of software, called “information software,” I argue that interactivity is actually a curse for users and a crutch for designers, and users’ goals can be better satisfied through other means.

Information software design can be seen as the design of context-sensitive information graphics. I demonstrate the crucial role of information graphic design, and present three approaches to context-sensitivity, of which interactivity is the last resort. After discussing the cultural changes necessary for these design ideas to take root, I address their implementation. I outline a tool which may allow designers to create data-dependent graphics with no engineering assistance, and also outline a platform which may allow an unprecedented level of implicit context-sharing between independent programs. I conclude by asserting that the principles of information software design will become critical as technology improves.

Although this paper presents a number of concrete design and engineering ideas, the larger intent is to introduce a “unified theory” of information software design, and provide inspiration and direction for progressive designers who suspect that the world of software isn’t as flat as they’ve been told.

I just gave a keynote at the Polish IA Summit in Warsaw on the topic of sense making. I highlighted four key challenges IAs and designers face in creating interfaces that let people make better sense of large amounts of information, all of which are reflected in Bret Victor’s article:

  1. Representation: how information is displayed affects how it’s consumed and understood, but showing large amounts of information can be difficult in many situations (e.g., on smaller displays).
  2. Interaction: giving people the ability to manipulate information is important for sense making. However, there is an effort-benefit tradeoff–people may not take the time to learn how to use all the controls you provide, or they may not have the skills.
  3. Semantics: Bret Victor talks about context sensitivity of information, which is essentially what I was talking about with semantics.
  4. Time: showing how information (and metadata) change over time can provide incredible insight in many situations. Just look at Hans Rosling’s Gapminder talks. The temporal dimension of information is important for sense making.

Sense making solutions, then, combine and balance all of the above aspects. Beyond that, there are two more considerations:

5. Understanding users, workflow, and needs, and creating systems that bring value to people.

6. Bringing value to businesses

While a lot of the academic work on sense making is interesting and inspiring, it still fails to adequately address this last two points, in my opinion. Bret Victor’s piece is definitely a step in the right direction. Check it out.

I’m giving two all-day workshops on IA and Navigation here in Hamburg in May. The workshops are being organized and sponsored by Karen Lindemann of Netflow. See the details on Netflow’s site (in German only).

Registration is now open. The workshops will be held in German. Dates: 6.-7. May, 2008.


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