June 2008 Archives

Remembering Dr. Phillips

I received my alma mater's English Department newsletter today. On the cover was a photograph of Dr. Raymond Phillips, and an article delivering the news that he had passed away this past October. I've spent the last half-hour trying to track down an obituary to learn more. I just found one.

I first met Dr. Phillips in my American Literature class. I'm not exactly sure why he was cursed with teaching this freshman class. Perhaps it was the English department's version of a weeder class. All I knew was that Dr. Phillips was hard. And strange. Most students avoided his classes if they had the chance.

I didn't have a class with him again until my senior year. Most folks took their senior seminar with the favorite teach Dr. Ray Stevens. I couldn't fit the fall class into my schedule so I was stuck with Dr. Phillips in the spring. It's a situation I am thankful for to this day.

That class was a joy. So many folks took the class in the fall that there were less than a dozen of us. It turned out that Dr. Phillips wasn't that strange -- he just hated freshman and enjoyed playing with their minds. Did I work hard in that class? You better believe it. But I did it as much FOR Dr. Phillips as because of him. He challenged us. And I learned more in that class than just about any other in my four years at Western Maryland.

It's strange to think Dr. Phillips is now gone. The obit said he was 75 and had a stroke. He's not the only professor that I know has passed on. Dr. Keith Richwhine died while I was a senior. I'm pretty sure Dr. Ray Stevens is gone. And I'd be surprised if Dr. Del Palmer was still around. An era has past. They were smart, insightful, talented and caring men. I'm honored that I was able to spend the time with them that I did.

European Tour 2008

Watch out, here I come! I just booked my plane ticket, so it is now official. I am flying to Amsterdam on Sept 24 (arriving the 25). I'll be speaking at the EuroIA Conference Sept 26-27 in Amsterdam.

The next thing on the agenda is UX Intensive Copenhagen Oct 13-16. (Register before the price goes up June 30 and be sure to use the code FOCF to save an extra 15%!)

Sandwiched between those two events is two weeks of lovely, lovely vacation. E and I haven't been on a proper vacation (e.g., one that doesn't involve family and is longer than 3 days) since we went to Maui in 2005.

Right now we are thinking of getting a houseboat for a week+ in Amsterdam and just relax and get to know the city really well. We really enjoyed our short trip there last year. We know we want to take the train to Copenhagen and have a few days there together before E goes home and I go to UX Intensive. But what else shall we do? More time in Denmark? Should we get off the train and explore Germany? We're thinking possibly a few days in Berlin.

The major goal of this time is to relax. We definitely want to see the sights, but it's not going to be a rush-rush-must-see-EVERYTHING kind of trip. It's so exciting!

Phoenix has a lovely airport. I can't speak to the rest of the city, since I have only ever been in the airport. But I know the Phoenix airport really well. How is that you may wonder? Let me tell you about my trip to Minneapolis for UX Intensive.

I knew better than to book a flight straight on NorthWest to Minneapolis. I opted for the US Airways one with a stop in Phoenix simply so I would still get miles on United. I WILL get Premier status this year!

I left San Francisco at 8:25 this morning, on a United flight. Got to Phoenix early. Which was good because United and USAirways are in different terminals. I had a leisurely lunch and then headed back through security to my gate. Where I discovered they had overbooked the flight. Lovely.

BUT! They had another flight they could put you on that got in 10 minutes earlier than the oversold one. Great! So I volunteered. Two other folks also volunteered and the three of us got our paperwork (I now have 1 free ticket on US Airways, go me!) and headed over to terminal 3 where NorthWest is. It will be okay, I thought. NorthWest isn't as bad as I remember. Heh. Famous. Last. Words.

We get over the terminal 3 and head up to the counter. The woman at the desk gives us dirty looks and tells us that she has no seats, all her planes are full. Don't we see that our paperwork has code UCI on it? That means it wasn't confirmed. After a huffy call to US Airways, she tells us that she can't do anything for us and we have to go back to US Airways. Lovely.

So, we shelp back out into the 100 degrees, again, to terminal 4. The two folks with me are beside themselves with worry and angst. I walk up to the first class ticket counter and explain our story to the woman. She was lovely. She made multiple calls and even got a supervisor when I asked what other compensation they could give us.

They kindly explained that they never move volunteers over unless the other airline has seats to give. One of the folks I was with watched the guy call NorthWorst and check there were seats. What happened in the 15 minutes it took us to get over to the other terminal is anyone's guess. Someone read the computer wrong or was looking at old data, is my guess.

The two other folks are now headed to American Airlines where they will fly to Chicago and then transfer to Minneapolis, getting in at 11:10 tonight. If they checked in early enough they'll get first class seats on the CHI-MIN leg.

I am now sitting in the food court of the mall that is Terminal 4. I'm on the 6:20 flight out of Phoenix, but at least I'm direct to Minneapolis. I'm scheduled to get in at 11:50. The only saving grace is that I'm first class. Oh, and I have a $5 meal voucher to spend in the food court here.

At least they have free wifi. I guess I'll go over my slides for tomorrow.

Realization of the Day

The older I get, the more I realize I have the body of my Great Aunt Helen.

She's the one on the left in the front.

God help me if I start wearing the polyester-princess clothes to go with it.

What To Do With Unused Letters?

--- Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ---

I'm a big fan of indexes. There are many a content-focused website whose content could be made more findable with an A-Z index of the site content. There are lots of places on the web that talk about the merits of such indexes. Most will tell you to put a row of the alphabet at the top of the index, and have the letters be quick jumps (i.e., anchor links) to that section of the index.

But what about those letters that don't have any entries? Do you show the letter and have it link to a message saying there's no entries? Do you show the letter but have it not hyperlinked? Do you just remove the letter all together? Which option gives the better user experience?

This very question came up recently on a project I'm working on. My gut told me to show the letters but not make them links. But why? I looked high and low on the web for someplace that told me which was the better way, but I couldn't find anything. Looking at examples of indexes wasn't overly helpful for I saw sites doing it in all kinds of different ways.

So I turned to the wisdom of the crowds. I asked the question on Twitter and Plurk, as well as the Argus Associates Alumni. (Thanks to everyone who responded!) The overwhelming response was to show the links not hyperlinked, AND grayed out.

I also got multiple reasons for why this is the better approach:

  • It preserves the pattern of the alphabet and makes glancing easier.
  • Users don't wonder why some letters are missing, which can make it look broken.
  • It saves users from getting to a destination just to find out there's nothing there for them.
  • Some back-end work is saved if content is added in those areas in the future.

So there you have it. Be sure to include your unused letters at the top of your index, but gray them out and don't make them links.

You Can Still Save Money on UXI

It's not to late to sign up for Adaptive Path's UX Intensive workshop series June 16-19 in Minneapolis, MN. We're taking a break over the summer and then will be in Copenhagen, Denmark in October and back in the States in Austin in December (dates for both of those are still being finalized).

UX Intensive is an awesome 4-day workshop series. You can come to any combination of days that suit your interests. Each day is jam packed with lessons, stories from the field, tips, tricks, and methods that you can take back to work and put into practice. The topics include:

  • Design Strategy with Brandon Schauer

  • Design Research with Todd Wilkens

  • Information Architecture with yours truly and Leah Buley

  • Interaction Design with Dan Saffer and Kim Lenox

It's going to be a great week. You can still save on your registration by using the code FOCF. Get's you 15% off the registration price. Hope to see you there!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2008 is the next archive.

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