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Issue 8   |   February 2000

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Yahoo! at last... Best of the Cool Award... Multimedia, the Web & CD-ROM...
[Jan. 2000]

Our new look... Goodbye, AOL... Tell your friends... Better critiques...
[Dec. 1999]

What I know about you... Teaching computer-based media... NY Minute wins Best of Show... Nudes in Parma
[Nov. 1999]

Graffiti & hip-hop... More student involvement = better critiques... Photoshop 5.5 vs. Fireworks 2
[Oct. 1999]

Swiss Design Quiz... Barcelona... AIGA / NASAD briefing paper... Response to Upgrade Junkies, Pt. 1
[Sept. 1999]

Upgrade junkies,
Part 1.

[Aug. 1999]

Report from International Design Conference at Aspen
[July 1999]

"Interactive Design" or "New Media?"
[July 1999]

If no author name is show, article is written by Al Wasco, author of this website.

Join in the conversation! Please send your comments on any article and/or suggestions for future articles by clicking on the [Email] link on any page.



...web usability hits the fan
Like the stars aligning in the heavens, two things happened almost simultaneously to make web usability the hot topic this month:

  • Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability was published and immediately became a bestseller at Amazon.com (read our review), and
  • Word.com made a dramatic change that touched off a hailstorm of emails, editorials & bulletin board posts.

The argument in a nutshell:
Usable websites as defined by Nielsen and others are fast, easy, consistent, predictable: they give users what they want as quickly as possible. Yahoo.com is considered a prime example of usability.

On the other hand, many designers believe that splashy graphics and entertaining animation make for a better experience, one that users will wait for. They want to push the envelope, to expand the possibilities of what can be done on the Web, rather than sacrificing innovation on the altar of download speed. An example: Word.com.

Highlights of the debate:

  • The Art Director at Word.com announces a redesign that exactly mimics the Yahoo.com look. [link to article no longer available]
  • An incredulous designer asks "Is this for real?" and others reply. [link to article no longer available]
  • The Art Director at Word.com reconsiders. [link to article no longer available]
  • Another Web "expert" weighs in.

And so on. An interesting debate. What do YOU think?

Forget the Valentine card?
OK, so maybe it IS a holiday conjured up by the greeting card & chocolate industry, but if you still want to send your honeybunch love & kisses, you have plenty of online options. You can send free greetings from big websites like Amazon, Apple Computer, American Greetings as well as many small ones (type "free email greeting cards" into your favorite search engine).

E-cards.com has a good variety of valentine designs, and using their website generates income for the World Wildlife Fund. (Too ordinary? Try an arty card from MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art.)

C-A, N-A, D-A, eh?
I overheard a drunken group of tourists chanting this on a Mexican beach last week. Reminds me that I'd like to welcome the many Canadian visitors who find this website via Sympatico.com. After seeing a lot of hits coming from this URL I decided to check it out.

Think of it as a more colorful version of Yahoo! with a strong maple flavor (or flavour). In English & French.

Hear Canadians tell how they "pass" in American society. They're everywhere, you know. Peter Jennings! Pamela Anderson! and Captain Kirk, too.
(May 30, 1997 episode of This American Life. Requires RealAudio player)

Instant gratification
Beginning with this issue you'll notice "buy it now" links where books & CDs are reviewed. We've joined the Amazon.com Associates program, which returns to us a small percentage of the purchase price (with no added cost or effort for you). Why?

  • If a book is reviewed here we're enthused about it and think you might be too, and might want your own copy.
  • I've used Amazon for years, not just because of its huge selection and reasonable prices, but because of its prompt and effective customer service. If something gets screwed up, they fix it.
  • Interactive Design Forum has expenses but (at present) no income. Every little bit helps.

If you prefer to support your local book/CD store, I encourage you to do so. If you like the convenience and selection available online, you'll be supporting Interactive Design Forum when you click through from this site.

Tough job, but someone's gotta do it
A group of nine of us left chilly Cleveland, Ohio for a week on Isla Mujeres, a lovely, quiet island a 20-minute ferry ride across the bay from Cancun, Mexico. Even on sleepy Isla, though (population 8,000), I was surprised to find at least 5 internet cafes.

My favorite local sight (well, if you don't count the topless beach) was the town cemetery. Angel statues watch over graves topped by small altars filled with personal items: pictures, flowers, etc. They're poignant still-lifes: stories half-told. If you know about this Mexican custom, please write me. I'd like to learn more.

As part of my commitment to you, my friends, I invested a few pesos to check how Interactive Design Forum looked south of the border. The good news: it looks the same. The bad news: despite a 56k modem, the connection speed the day I tested it was MUCH slower. A good demonstration of Nielsen's argument that smaller is always better.

                                      - Al Wasco 2/6/00


Tell a friend or colleague
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