Zeno's Paradox
While critical thinking may not make up for a lack of knowledge, it is essential for gaining knowledge.
Friday, September 13, 2002:  

Critical Thinking, Marketing:

'Anti-radiation' trousers fuel mobile phone debate (Reuters Health)
US jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co. denied on Thursday it was playing on consumer fears by launching a line of trousers fitted with "anti-radiation" pockets for mobile phones.

The trousers, with a lining that the makers say shields against radiation, are designed by Dockers, a brand name of Levi Strauss--famous for its classic "501" jeans.
What are the product development people at Levi Strauss thinking? How does such a product fit with the values they so proudly promote on their website (LS&Co. Values & Vision)? Do they think that people will not look critically at their motives for offering such a product, or are they counting on it for free publicity? Either way, will the public buy Levi's propaganda, let alone the trousers?

    -  Ron  4:20 PM

Tuesday, September 10, 2002:  

Human Factors, Critical Thinking:

The trouble with usability guidelines - Lyle Kantrovich comments on Spool's "Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines" article.
I'm not willing to chuck all guidelines out the window, but I'll add my opinions to what Jared has already stated. Let me state up front that I maintain and promote use of a set of guidelines in my day to day work, so I have some experience with guidelines. I've also used guidelines and "style guides" as coaches at times when looking for advice on how to tackle certain design issues.
Nice article. Kantrovich gives a list of "problems with guidelines" which I agree with (and will comment upon in the future).

    Information quality:   High
    Propaganda quality:  High
    Propaganda level:     Low

    -  Ron  6:47 AM

Monday, September 09, 2002:  

Human Factors, Critical Thinking:

Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines by Jared M. Spool
Using (expected placement) guidelines, we constructed the following hypothesis: if sites place these common elements where users expect, we should see users purchasing more from the sites. With our hypothesis in hand, we went to our data.
"Purchasing more"?! I fail to see how this is a valid measure of the guidelines in question. Yes, there are bad guidelines being disseminated, but good guidelines exist: Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines

    Information quality:   Very Low - Invalid tests prove nothing.
    Propaganda quality:  High -      Entertaining self-promotion targeting the credulous.
    Propaganda level:     Very High - Self-promotion and pseudoscience.

Examining User Expectations for the Location of Common E-Commerce Web Objects
...an important advantage for online companies would be to place key web objects, such as the online shopping cart and help button, where they would be expected to be located by a majority of the users. This study sought to investigate user expectations on the location of common e-commerce web objects on a typical website...

It is certainly probable, then, that placing these objects in expected locations would give an e-commerce site a competitive edge over those that do not place them in their expected locations. It must be cautioned, however, that well established sites may already have their own conventions for the location of web objects and thus visitors may expect to find the objects at those locations.
Interesting study, but it is only measuring where people think they look for the objects... Still, expected locations are good starting points from which to test alternatives.

    Information quality:   Very High - The study measures expectations, not performance.
    Propaganda quality:  Very High - The "advantages" are pure speculation.
    Propaganda level:     Very Low

    -  Ron  11:51 AM

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