Author Archives: Ashley Towers

Free Online HCI Course from Stanford University

Stanford University are offering a free online course in Human Computer Interaction starting in January 2012. I’m half way through their Machine Learning course and have been very impressed with what I’ve seen so far, so I’ve got high hopes for the HCI course. I’ve already signed up and am excited to see what I’ll [...]

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Cognitive Load

In a nutshell, Cognitive Load is the amount of “Brain Power” required to understand something. This could be perception, problem solving or juggling things in memory.
There’s a well known rule that we are only able to process 7 plus or minus 2 pieces of information at a time – it’s the magic number 7. [...]

Posted in Tutorials | 13 Comments

Case Study: Empty State

Earlier this week I wrote about Empty State. I wanted to follow this up with a case study on how this might work on an example.
I’m going to base this example around an imaginary website. I’ve called it Fotolio, it’s a portfolio site for photographers to upload their photos. Imaginative names aside, I want to [...]

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How to Write a Good Empty State

What is the empty state?
The Empty State is your software in its initial state before the user has entered any data or set anything up. It’s what your new users are exposed to the first time they use your application. It’s a crucial phase; this is before your users have experienced what your application can [...]

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5 Bare Minimum Usability Checks Before Releasing an App

After reading 14 bare minimum security checks before releasing a rails app over at RailsInside, I got thinking and wondered what are the bare minimum usability checks for an app before releasing it? Here’s my list:
Check your copy writing
Nothing is more confusing than unclear/ambiguous labels or messages. I’ve seen this happen in live applications – [...]

Posted in Usability Bites | 1 Comment

A little quiet around here

It’s been a little quiet around here for quite a while… Here’s why:

In May my wife gave birth to our first baby – Tabitha.
Anyone with children will know – they come as quite a shock to the system! Between the day job, decorating and working on some personal projects, my Blog has taken a bit [...]

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Fitts’ Law

Fitts’ Law is a mathematical model that predicts how long it will take to “point” at a target. It was first proposed by Paul Fitts in 1954. It takes into account where you are currently pointing relative to the target; How far away the target is and how big the target is. It has been [...]

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Link: Train Toilet Usability

Dan Sumption in his comment on my post Why We Test included a link to a post he wrote back in 2002 about train toilet usability. I’ve been wanting to write a post about the insanity of these “automated toilet experiences” for a while, but haven’t been on a train in order to relive the [...]

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The Invincible QWERTY

My old friend and Usability Friction reader Omar Ikram sent me a link to 3 Ways the iPad Could Kill Qwerty. It’s an interesting read. But I can’t help thinking the author has got the wrong end of the stick. I think whist we are using our fingers to type, QWERTY is here to stay.
The [...]

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The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s Principle, states that 80% of an observable effect is caused by 20% of the variables at play. The first recognition of this rule was by Vilfredo Pareto, who in 1906, recognised that 80% of Italy’s wealth was owned by 20% of Italy’s population.
The same 80/20 split can be [...]

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