Online user experiences: does consistency matter?

Via Tomalak’s Realm: Mark Hurst writes on about how users interact with websites by discussing something he calls “The Page Paradigm.” He distills the patterns of user interaction with websites to the following rules (paraphrased):

  1. On any given web page, users will either click something that appears to take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal, or click the Back button.
  2. Users don’t care “where” they are in the website—the site structure and secondary navigation is largely irrelevant.
  3. Users only come to a website when they have a goal. If your site helps them fulfill that goal quickly and easily, the user will have a good experience. Nothing else matters.
  4. User interface consistency is not important on the web. Efficiency in helping the user fulfill their goal is.

In practice, he says this means that on each page, you should identify the user’s goals, de-emphasize or remove areas of the page that don’t help the user fulfill that goal, and emphasize links or other elements that help the user find the goal.

It’s hard to argue with his practical recommendations. His rules, though, are open to investigation. Surely site navigation and structure, if consistently defined and executed, plays some purpose in helping users figure out how to accomplish their goal.

What about the right to publish?

Still catching up with my blogging from last week. As reported on BoingBoing, FCC Chairman Michael Powell last week articulated four Internet Freedoms that he believes Americans are entitled to:

  1. Freedom to Access Content. First, consumers should have access to their choice of legal content.
  2. Freedom to Use Applications. Second, consumers should be able to run applications of their choice.
  3. Freedom to Attach Personal Devices. Third, consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes.
  4. Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information. Fourth, consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans.

Nowhere in this list is anything that indicates that “consumers” (as Powell meaningfully calls Internet users) could be anything but consumers. The reality is that the Internet has always been, to abuse a phrase, a “World of Ends.” Remember, no one owns it, everyone can use it, anyone can improve it. Including “consumers.”

I want to see a fifth right added here: the freedom to publish. Unfortunately, restrictive ISP service agreements that prohibit running servers, plans to “improve” the Internet to prioritize broadcast traffic over that generated by mere “consumers,” and other restrictions on the “two-way Web” promise to keep this “right” off the list for good.

“Compassionate” “conservativism”

So this is our compassionate conservative president. Don’t know how good his grasp of the English language is, but Bush’s proposal to amend the constitution to ban gay marriages strikes me as fairly uncompassionate and surprisingly radical.

Lots of people up in arms about this one, e.g.:

And all for what? To keep people like Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who had been together for 51 years, from celebrating their commitment to each other.

phyllisLyonDelMartin: Lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, together for 51 years, after their marriage in San Francisco. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez (AP). From the article <a href="">Wedded Bliss</a> on MSNBC/Newsweek.

Maybe we ought to be amending the Constitution to do something about Bennifer and Britney. But Phyllis and Del? And my gay friends whose relationships illustrate new dimensions of love, respect, and fidelity? I say, leave my Constitution alone.

Salt, the new olive oil?

The New York Times puffs specialty salts as the major new secret ingredient of chefs in the know. What a bunch of hooey. Everyone knows salt is where it’s at. Even a simple home cook like me has four different kinds of salt in the kitchen—regular Morton’s table salt and kosher salt for dishes I don’t care about or cases where I need fine salt (I don’t have a salt grinder), a can of La Baleine Sea Salt for intermediate uses, and a bag of Flower of the Ocean sea salt from the Baker’s Catalog for truly advanced recipes.

Okay. Maybe I just made their point.

Improvisation: Spring farfalle with ham, peas, and asparagus

Tonight (the second night after our dogs’ spaying and neutering) neither of us wanted to cook much. On the other hand, there were the remains of an eight-pound ham shank in the fridge, calling out to have something done with it. Something had to be done.

Lisa went to the store and came back with farfalle and asparagus. A bag of frozen peas came out of the freezer, and a sprig of sage from the garden. I steamed about 2/3 lb. of asparagus while I cooked onion in olive oil and a little butter until it was translucent and slightly browned around the edges, then browned diced ham and added minced sage. When the pan showed signs of browning in the bottom, I added a splash of an excellent Oregon pinot gris, then added the peas (still frozen) and the asparagus (steamed, chopped into 1-inch pieces), and added a little more olive oil.

We ate the ham, asparagus, and peas over farfalle with a little extra olive oil (or butter), sea salt, and grated parmigiano reggiano. I doubt this was an original recipe—I’ve probably eaten something like it before in a restaurant—but it was put together with no guides but our senses and experience, and turned out really well.

Myst-style UVA walkaround

Forgot to point to this one. The first Google result for "west lawn" leads into a fascinating set of photos by Joel Winstead around University of Virginia and William and Mary landmarks. The cool bit is the Myst-style navigation (e.g. click on the left side of the photo to turn left, click on the bottom to go back, etc.).

My only gripe is that the author stopped with just two buildings at Virginia. I’d love to see the following:

  • Going all the way down the lawn, with the ability to look at (or into) each Lawn room
  • Inside Cabell Hall, all the way down into B-012 (the historical rehearsal space of the Virginia Glee Club) and up onto the stage
  • Inside Clark Hall, and up onto the roof and inside the old skylight(if they haven’t closed all the paths one could take to get there
  • Through the Monroe Hill tunnels
  • Into the basement labs in the Physics building
  • Plus the ability to “walk” (virtually) from one building to another

Of course, all this work suggests that the project should really be distributed. Hope to see it continue.

Quick music notes

Going to get tutored

Yes, the time has come for our puppies to go get the Big Snip (or in Joy’s case, the Big Incision). And none too soon, in Jefferson’s case. Last week in obedience class he, erm, “marked” two cones that were being used in the training session. The trainer scolded him a little and then asked me across the room, “When’s he going to get fixed?” I was able to answer that his time was coming on Monday the 23rd.

And now the time has come. We’ll have two sleepy, somewhat sore dogs tonight. They were a little confused and excited this morning when we drove them in, and hungry no doubt too, but otherwise seemed OK. We’ll see what they’re like tonight after the “tutoring.”

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of vasectomy humor, my all time favorite cartoon on the subject, from The Far Side (“I’m going to get tutored!”). The runner up, in Berke Breathed’s Outland (“I don’t remember being asked about the vasectomy…”) doesn’t appear to be available online.

Generation gapped

Got my hair cut yesterday, and my ego flattened. My stylist and the clerk behind the counter got into a discussion about ideal working music. “I like the place next door,” said the clerk; “they have one of those satellite systems, you can tune in 80s music or whatever.”

My stylist said, “Nah, I hate 80s music. Too slow. I like something I can dance to.”

“But there was dance music in the 80s,” I argued. “New Order? Depeche Mode?”

“Never heard of them,“ she said. “I was born in 1982. I was what, six?”

“Thanks,” I said. “Just trim away that new gray hair you just gave me, would you?”

Garlic and rosemary

Dinner tonight, improvised: lamb chops with rosemary, garlic, and sea salt, in our grill pan, with oven roasted potatoes in olive oil with more garlic, rosemary, and sea salt.

Is garlic a sublimity for everyone or just for me? Is it a cultural thing, a biological thing, or what? I know that for me it’s not a childhood taste or anything; I love my mother’s cooking dearly, but garlic in the cuisine of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is nonexistent—or powdered. Never roasted. Never diced on lamb chops, or sliced thin and roasted on top of a bed of sliced potatoes.

And rosemary? That’s for remembrance. (Warning: stupid college dating story ahead.)

Two months away from graduation, I had a talk with my then-girlfriend that ended in us agreeing that we needed to be apart. I was okay with it. The next day we had scheduled a cookout with our friends outside my Lawn room, on my little hibachi. We decided to go ahead with the cookout.

The next morning in her apartment I marinated chunks of meat and vegetables in rosemary, Worcestershire, black pepper, onion. That afternoon shish-kabobs on the hibachi. After everyone left I sat by the hibachi on the ground, threw whole rosemary sprigs on the coals and breathed in the fragrance. It was then I knew that I wasn’t okay with it. It took a long time to erase the hurt. But rosemary’s remembrance can be cleansing too.

QTN™: Hitachino Nest Beer

Lurking in the back of my fridge tonight, and waiting for me to taste it, was this little Japanese gem. Hitachino Nest is the first beer from Kiuchi Brewery in Japan, which has been making sake since 1823. For a first beer ever, it’s fabulous. In the Belgian white ale style (flavor-wise, if not color—it’s a little darker and redder than the standard white ale), the beer is spiced and hopped appropriately, with fabulous big yeasty nose and after finish. No wonder it’s won so many awards.

SmartManila first impressions

To my surprise, SmartManila eventually did download all the content from my site, back to 2000. I was also impressed that while it was downloading the GUI was responsive and I could do other work.

I wasn’t able to post however; the message just posted in my discussion area rather than a news item. Here’s what I wrote:

User interface gripe: Manila only allows one category at a time for news items, but not only does SmartManila not prevent you from selecting multiple categories, you have to if you want your news item to have a category and appear on the home page, since they have inserted “Home Page” as a category.

There is a toggle in the editing pane from WYSIWYG to raw HTML, which is good. However, they uppercased all my lowercase HTML tags. That would be a problem if I were doing XHTML.