Information Design Watch
October 19, 2005, 12:27 pm
Gap, Inc., has relaunched its Web sites (Gap.com, BananaRepublic.com, and OldNavy.com) with a completely new, internally-built e-commerce system. Making extensive use of dynamic HTML, the new system is intended to help customers choose shirts, pants, and other items of apparel in a direct, intuitive way:
“Toby Lenk, president of Gap Inc. Direct, the company’s corporate catalog and online division, said the mouse-overs and pop-up windows eliminated the need to bounce the shopper off her browsing path each time she needed information.
“‘A lot of this was borrowing metaphors from the store experience,’ Mr. Lenk said. ‘When a woman walks into one of our stores, she can process things really quickly. Like when she’s browsing the racks, she takes a quick look at what the sizes and colors are, picks up something and keeps going. We’re trying to let her stay with the fashion.’”
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/12/technology/12ecom.html (free registration required)
Frankly, Gap’s new system was neither smooth nor fast when we tried it out. The DHTML shortcuts occasionally failed to respond, and the interactivity lauded in the New York Times article turns the interface into a rollover minefield.
October 10, 2005, 12:18 pm
Amazon.com’s A9 search engine couples search hits with interesting meta data. Do a “Web” search and each site returned includes a “Site Info” icon that pops up information such as “traffic rank,” “sites that link here,” and “people who visit this page also visit…” The site stats come from Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of Amazon.
Other A9 searches pull up books or movies, Wikipedia articles, images, and many other types of data. There is a sense of serendipity that comes from trying these out. A search for images with “Dynamic Diagrams” as the keyword, for example, pulled up many images related to our work (some by us, some by others) from all over the Web.
October 10, 2005, 11:09 am
A new paper by Wharton marketing professor Robert J. Meyer, with Shenghui Zhao of Wharton and Jin Han of Singapore Management University, describes a “paradox of enhancement,” the way in which perceived consumer interest pushes technology products to become too complex to use:
“When people are considering buying next-generation products, they find the bells and whistles attractive and decide to make the purchase, but when they acquire the products, they find the complexity of the new features overwhelming and end up using only the products’ basic features.”
This a warning to technology companies caught up in the process of “nerds designing products for nerds.” Technologies that crossover to general consumer use may not be less sophisticated, but they must be simpler to use. That is the problem for interface and industrial designers to solve.
October 10, 2005, 11:07 am
An exhibition at the Science, Industry and Business Library of the New York Public Library allows visitors to compare ads made for print, radio, television and the Internet. How do these differ? The New York Times’ Sarah Boxer puts it this way:
“With radio and, oddly enough, even with television ads, the humor is largely verbal. With online ads, the wit is almost always visual. In this way they have the most in common with their oldest cousin, print advertising – another medium that doesn’t have a captive audience and must therefore rely on grabby graphics.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/03/arts/design/03boxe.html (free registration required
The exhibition Web site is here:
October 10, 2005, 10:56 am
Science magazine and the National Science Foundation have posted the results of its annual visualization challenge on the publication’s Web site. The inspiration for the challenge is eloquently stated by Curt Suplee and Monica Bradford in the contest’s Introduction:
“Some of science’s most powerful statements are not made in words. From the diagrams of DaVinci to Hooke’s microscopic bestiary, the beaks of Darwin’s finches, Rosalind Franklin’s x-rays, or the latest photographic marvels retrieved from the remotest galactic outback, visualization of research has a long and literally illustrious history. To illustrate is, etymologically and actually, to enlighten.”