Archive for May, 2010

How To Critique An Interface

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Non-designers are often called upon to make judgments about interfaces. Perhaps you are a business owner evaluating your new website, or a project manager looking at mockups from your designer. What do you look for in the design? And how do you give feedback in a more meaningful way than “It looks nice” or “It seems hard to use”.

While the full-depth of understanding design cannot be covered in a short article, here are some guidelines to help you out.

To get you started, here is an example of a critique I recently did of the interface for the yet-to-be-released Add-On Builder* for Firefox. The Add-On Builder is part of the Jetpack project and is a web-app of medium complexity that allows you to easily build Firefox and Thunderbird extensions online and then publish them to the world. I took screenshots of each screen of the interface, put them into one large document, and commented ex vivo.

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Tabnabbing: A New Type of Phishing Attack

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The web is a generative and wild place. Sometimes I think I missed my calling; being devious is so much fun. Too bad my parents brought me up with scruples.

Most phishing attacks depend on an original deception. If you detect that you are at the wrong URL, or that something is amiss on a page, the chase is up. You’ve escaped the attackers. In fact, the time that wary people are most wary is exactly when they first navigate to a site.

What we don’t expect is that a page we’ve been looking at will change behind our backs, when we aren’t looking. That’ll catch us by surprise.

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Solving the Alt-Tab Problem

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Switching between applications, windows, and tabs is a fundamental action of modern computers. As people browse the web, we know that an average user will switch tabs more times in a day than they click on a link. Think about that. Much of your time using a modern browser (computer) is spent in the digital equivalent of shuffling papers.

Every major OS provides an “alt-tab” interface: a keyboard shortcut for quickly switching between windows and applications. To use it, you tap alt-tab and you are jumped back to the last focused window. Tap multiple times to cycle through all open applications. It seems simple enough, but there’s a interface gorilla in the room: What order should the applications be shown and cycled through?

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