Interface Design: An Argument for the IBM i2 Approach

April 15, 2016

i read “Why I Love Ugly, Messy Interfaces — and You Probably Do Too.” I have been checking out information about interfaces for augmented intelligence or what I call “cyber OSINT.” The idea I am exploring is how different vendors present information functions to people who are working under pressure. Now the pressure in which I am interested involves law enforcement, intelligence, and staying alive. I am not too worried about how to check the weather on a mobile phone.

The write up points out that

…there is no single right way to do things. There’s no reason to assume that having a lot of links or text on a page, or a dense UI, or a sparse aesthetic is fundamentally bad — those might be fine choices for the problem at hand. Especially if it’s a big, hairy problem. Products that solve big, hairy problems are life savers. I love using these products because they work so damn well. Sure they’re kind of a sprawling mess. That’s exactly why they work!

Consider the IBM i2 Analyst’s Notebook interface. Here’s an example courtesy of Google Images:analyst notebook

The interface has a menu bar across the top, display panels, and sidebar options. In order to use this application which is called Analyst’s Notebook, one attends classes. Years ago I did a little work for i2 before it became part of IBM. Without regular use of the application, I would forget how to perform certain tasks.

There is a competitor to i2’s Analysts Notebook: Palantir Gotham. Again, courtesy of Google Images, here’s an example of the Palantir Gotham interface:

palantirThe interface includes options in the form of a a title bar with icons, a sidebar, and some right click features which display a circular context menu.

The principal difference between the two interfaces boils down to color.

There are some significant differences, and these include:

  • Palantir provides more helper and wizard functions. These allow a user to perform many tasks without sitting through five or more days of classroom and hands on instruction.
  • The colors and presentation are more stylish, not exactly a mobile phone app approach but slicker than the Analyst’s Notebook design
  • The interface automates more functions. Both applications require the user to perform some darned tedious work. But once that work is completed, Gotham allows software to perform some tasks with a mouse click.

My point is that interface choices and functionality have to work together. If the work flows are not assisted by the interface and smart software, simple or complex interfaces will be a barrier  to quick, high value work.

When someone is shooting at the person operating the laptop with either of these applications in use, the ability to complete a task without confusion is paramount. Confusing pretty with staying alive is not particularly helpful.

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2016

The Gameification of Enterprise Software

March 18, 2016

Stop the presses! Enterprise software is becoming more like interfaces for consumer software. Some enterprise software systems include game like interfaces.

What makes these startling factoids interesting is that individuals working in enterprises seem to have formed the survey sample.

Navigate to “Survey: How UX Is Transforming Enterprise Software” for an amazing glimpse into the remarkable research conducted, it appears, by an outfit called Tech Pro. The authors of this write up do not include sample demographics, sample size, survey methodology. I found it fairly easy to identify some possible flaws in the survey data because the information presented is not really about user interface or, sorry, UX. I pulled three findings from the article. Ponder these brilliant insights.l

Anyone who has checked out interfaces to enterprise software tuned for mobile devices knows that the much loved green screen is not too popular.

Professionals working in enterprises report that 69 percent of the respondent use enterprise software. No word on what type of software the other 31 percent of the respondents use. Perhaps the fact one uses software provided by an enterprise to those working for the enterprise do not use software at all?

Want another stunner? Check this finding:

Databases, storage and human resources were the most popular business functions towards which companies are using or considering enterprise software, however mobility was also cited as a strong category for future deployments.

In 2016 enterprises use databases, storage devices, and “human resources”. I did not know this. I thought that those working in enterprises rode unicorns and communicated by tossing fairy dust in the air to form glittering smoke signal-like utterances.

I loved this finding too:

Difficult [sic] of implementation, problems with/inability to integrate with enterprise applications and poor vendor support/tutorials/training were three most commonly chosen reasons for dissatisfaction with enterprise software.

Difficult I assume is preferable to the word difficulty. I thought that people who did not know how to use software were thrilled with sitting in training classes learning how to perform a link analysis using data pulled from an IBM AS/400 running Ironworks. The slashes are really helpful too.

If the summary entices you, you may, gentle reader, request the entire report. Just follow the link in the source article to the December 2015 study. I elected to admire the excellence of the write up. Too much good stuff in one sitting is bad for my mental digestion.

Stephen E Arnold, March 18, 2016

NIH Study: Why Some People Are Lousy Searchers

September 29, 2015

Every once in a while a landmark US government funded study answers a perplexing question. Navigate to “Intelligent People’s Brains Wired Differently to Those with Fewer Intellectual Abilities, Says Study.”

The study “proved” that people with well connected brains may do better in life that folks with poorly connected gray matter.

Unbelievable. I thought that user friendly interfaces would allow anyone to get smart via Bing, Google, and Yandex queries.

According to the write up:

The researchers found that “positive” abilities, such as good vocabulary, memory, life satisfaction, income and years of education, were linked significantly with a greater connectivity between regions of the brain associated with higher cognition.

How much did this study cost? I learned:

The scientists were part of the $30m (£20m) Human Connectome Project funded by the US National Institutes of Health to study the neural pathways of the brain.

The net net is that if a person has a lousy vocabulary, poor memory, low income, and other low output characteristics, the unfortunate person may not be a great online searcher.

What happens when the online search systems cater to the folks with lower brain connectivity?

We may need another government study to answer this question. In the meantime, oh, I can’t remember.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2015

The Cost of a Click Through Bing Ads

April 9, 2015

Wow. As an outsider to the world of marketing, I find these figures rather astounding. MarketingProfs shares an infographic titled, “The 20 Most Expensive Bing Ads Keywords.” The data comes from a recent analysis by WordStream of 10 million English keywords, grouped into categories. Writer Vahe Habeshian tells us:

“WordStream analyzed some 10 million English keywords and grouped the them into categories to determine the most expensive types of keywords (see infographic, below).

“(Also see a similar analysis of the most expensive keywords in Google AdWords advertising from 2011.)

“The most expensive keyword on Bing Ads is ‘lawyer,’ which would cost advertisers seeking the top ad spot a whopping $109.21 per click. Not surprisingly, the top 5 keywords are related to the legal world, indicating how lucrative clients can be.”

Yes, almost $110 per click whether legitimate, a human error, or a robot script. That’s a lot of fruitless clicks. It seems irrational, but it must be working if companies keep spending the dough. Right?

The word in second place, “attorney,” comes to $101.77 per click, and “DUI” is a comparative bargain at $68.56. After the top five, law-related words, there are such valuable terms as “annuity,” “rehab,”  and “exterminator.” See the infographic for more examples.

Cynthia Murrell, April 09, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at

User Interface Design Search Engine Harder Than Google Engineering

October 15, 2014

Web site design used to be reserved for graphic designers with a fancy degree and background in computer science. Times have changed from the daunting trials of coding to simple click and drag selections. The advent of WordPress, Tumblr, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace Web site design services simplify the process so anyone can create a decent site in seconds. If, however, you are interested in building a site that is more interactive than standard templates, then start taking advantage of UICloud.

UICloud is a user interface design search engine that plows through results and retrieves information geared specifically to your design needs.

“UICloud is a project created by Double-J Design. It collects the best UI element designs from the Internet all over the world and provides a search engine for you to find the best UI element that you need. We are aiming to create the biggest platform for designers to showcase their top user interface designs and for developer to get the best UI elements for their project easily and quickly.”

UICloud combines elements of Web site browsing and searching in one place. If you search for a specific topic, the results appear in thumbnails so you can preview the art. It takes advantage of the “magazine” format that’s grown popular. Categories are reminiscent of old webrings and link lists that used to collect related Web sites in one place. Categories are a neat feature, because it saves the trouble of searching and takes you straight to browsing. Remember how half the links used to be defunct? It is easy to see that happening.

Users can submit their user interface design to UICloud and then it will be added to the search results. All the listings might not be under the creative commons agreement. The UICloud team notes that you need to check with the artist before you use them.

Whitney Grace, October 15, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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