Posts Tagged ‘usability’

UK Cookie Consent Banners Draw Complaints

December 20th, 2012 12:30 admin View Comments


nk497 writes “Earlier this year, the UK’s data watchdog the ICO started enforcing an EU rule that means websites must ask visitors before dropping cookies onto their computers. However, it was willing to accept “implied consent” — telling visitors that cookies are used on the site, and assuming they were fine with that if they keep using the site. That led to banners popping up on every major website, including the ICO’s site, warning users about cookies. Now, the ICO has revealed that many of the cookie-related complaints it’s received in the past six months are actually about those banners — and the law itself. The ICO said people “are unhappy with implied consent mechanisms, especially where cookies are placed immediately on entry to the site”, adding “a significant number of people also raised concerns about the new rules themselves and the effect of usability of websites.”"

Source: UK Cookie Consent Banners Draw Complaints

Ask Slashdot: the Best Linux Setup To Transition Windows Users?

July 27th, 2012 07:09 admin View Comments


First time accepted submitter Quantus347 writes “I am trying to convince a number of people to give Linux a chance, arguing that it has come a long way on the road of consumer usability. Can you, oh Wise Ones of Slashdot, recommend a Lunix setup that will be as similar as possible to a Windows environment (Windows 7 or XP). These people hate and fear change, and so will latch onto nearly any noticeable differences, so I’m thinking in terms of both front end functionality and the look of the interface. It would also be very important for them to have to go to the command line as little as possible during daily use (meaning as close to never as can be managed).”

Source: Ask Slashdot: the Best Linux Setup To Transition Windows Users?

Are Passwords Becoming Obsolete?

February 16th, 2012 02:30 admin View Comments

shutterstock ring of keys 150.jpgAbout 1 billion people use the internet on a regular basis. Consider the sheer scale of this information. Now, imagine the number of passwords that are used daily by all these people. Most regular users are familiar with the limited capacities we seem to have to remember passwords. Each of us can probably remember a maximum of 5 passwords, all of which are masked when we type them out and appear as bulleted dots.

While most experts say this is for our benefit, some security researchers argue otherwise. In fact, there are gurus like Bruce Schneier who vote for usability and ask for passwords to be done away with. The alternative solution? Facial recognition software, iris readers, and augmented reality and spatial technology.

User Unfriendly

Preetam Kaushik is a freelance journalist covering business, IT and e-commerce. He is a beat and opinion writer for DailyDeal Media and a regular contributor to The Business Insider and YFS Magazine.

While it is important to prevent unauthorized use of online accounts, the increased user unfriendliness of password usage has led to a debate that questions the existing system. In fact, usability problems linked to the extensive system of relying on passwords for security has also increased security costs manifold for the online economy as a whole. While users have no choice but to write down or store passwords on their systems or in an online account they consider safe, hackers can easily get through these barriers. When accounts are hacked or passwords are forgotten, companies spend precious dollars resetting passwords. About two-thirds of all users worldwide request password reset and each password reset costs a whopping $30. Do the math, and the drain of the password system on online companies is loud and clear.

One of the suggestions for future password security is the use of passphrases, as compared to complicated alphanumeric passwords that are much harder to remember. One Time Passwords (OTP) are a great solution to the problem of remembering several passwords and also to keep hackers at bay. Some organizations already use OTP technology. At IBM, for instance, all employees hold an encrypted token generating PIN’s whenever required. In fact, OTP technology is being commonly deployed by banks. Upon special requests by customers, passwords valid for limited-periods are sent out by the bank. Online security procedure can be further simplified, by eliminating usernames. The username could simply be an email address, so account holders don’t have to remember both the password and the ID. This is being applied in a large scale across online accounts, including social networking sites.

About two-thirds of all users worldwide request password reset and each password reset costs a whopping $30. Do the math, and the drain of the password system on online companies is loud and clear.

Another option is single-sign on applications. This has proven to be most cost-effective for organizations. Research shows that an organization with roughly 10,000 employees and a single sign-on system their intranet, when compared to organizations with multiple sign-on, save as much as $2.5 million a year on usability costs. Single sign-on maybe easier to apply on the intranet, however, it is hard to replicate on the internet with multiple IT companies running multiple online accounts.

The main grouse of usability experts is the growing difficulty and complications brought on by the existing password system. They advocate easier entry into any given online system. While security advocates champion the cause of making entry into a system harder – given the ever-looming threat of hackers. A good in-between system maybe a viable alternative. A system that takes into consideration easier usability and one that also takes the security debate into consideration. The use of facial recognition software, iris readers, and spatial and augmented reality technologies seem to come close to fulfilling both usability and security needs. An essential point to note here is that these technologies have long since transitioned the beta phase and are finding applications elsewhere, if not in the area of online security. This essentially means that including them in the online security debate, as viable alternatives to passwords, is not entirely unrealistic. In fact, it could prove to be productive. Therefore considering these alternatives may be well-worth the effort.

Low Threshold Face Recognition

At this point in the discussion, an interesting factor to take into consideration is that Apple filed a patent early this year, called Low Threshold Face Recognition. In this technology, using a set of images, Apple hopes to do away with factors which are restricting the wide-spread application of facial recognition technology for security. Apple’s path-breaking idea consists of a set of several images of faces. Now, the user must choose a face that he feels is a closest match. Thus, Apple has made a number of factors redundant when it comes to security with facial recognition. These include lighting, sound, resolution and biometric distortions. By picking a reference model, users to lock-in the security of their account and keep hackers at bay.

In this technology, using a set of images, Apple hopes to do away with factors which are restricting the wide-spread application of facial recognition technology for security… Apple has made a number of factors redundant when it comes to security with facial recognition. These include lighting, sound, resolution and biometric distortions.

Another important tool that Apple has done away with is the camera, although cameras are fairly ubiquitous these days. A simple idea, Apple has shown, can revolutionize the way our online and technological security is structured.

Android phones are testing similar technology ideas, where facial technology can be used to unlock phones. Other technology companies are using more complicated, yet deployable technology, like iris readers and feature scanning, using biometric data. Further enhanced technology is being experimented with, like augmented reality and spatial technologies that use location and situational awareness, and also take into consideration localized conditions to prompt, as well as prevent user access. Thus, users are moving into the next phase of security technology. A world surely most of us look forward to, a world where security is high, but password free; particularly, traditional character-based passwords.

Another aspect that the evolutionary shift of password technology could address, is identity theft. Online identity protection software is a huge industry, because of the pervasive nature of the theft. Given Moore’s Law, which predicts the doubling of computing every 2 years, it’d be interesting to note how security and access will evolve. However, no matter the slickness or effectiveness of technology, it is human convenience that will dictate the direction in which online security evolves.

Source: Are Passwords Becoming Obsolete?

Study: For Now, Web-Based Healthcare Tools Are Mostly Ineffective

January 13th, 2012 01:30 admin View Comments

health20_circle.jpgA study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association accents the limits of web-based health management tools that are currently available.

Researchers focused specifically on tools for managing diabetes, but the drawbacks could extend to other tools designed to help patients do everything from lose weight to quit smoking. The study concluded that “despite their abundance, few practical web-accessible tools exist.” In many case, the tools suffered from poor design that made them difficult to use.

“Existing diabetes websites have wide variations in the quality of evidence provided and offer didactic information at high reading levels with little interactive technology, social support or problem-solving assistance,” wrote lead author Catherine Yu, MD ofthe University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “Similarly, although healthcare providers increasingly use online resources for patient care, the volume, breadth, editorial quality and evidence-based methodology upon which they were developed are highly variable.”

Of the 92 web tools analyzed in the study, 60% had three or more usability errors, included limited use of visual interaction and navigation that was not intuitive. Just 6% had no usability errors

One of the biggest problems facing web-based health tools is patients often use them inconsistently. A weight-loss patient tracking calories with a mobile phone app, for example, may not record everything eaten in a given day.

The study recommended companies offering such tools work on improving attrition, standardizing quality indicators and making indicators transparent for patients and doctors choosing the best web-based tool.

“Web-based tools have the potential to improve health outcomes and complement healthcare delivery, but their full potential is hindered by limited knowledge about their effectiveness, high prevalence of usability errors and high attrition rates,” Yu wrote.

Source: Study: For Now, Web-Based Healthcare Tools Are Mostly Ineffective

Cambridge Course on “Usability of Programming Languages”

December 19th, 2011 12:42 admin View Comments

From the syllabus of the Cambridge course on Usability of Programming Languages

Compiler construction is one of the basic skills of all computer scientists, and thousands of new programming, scripting and customisation languages are created every year. Yet very few of these succeed in the market, or are well regarded by their users. This course addresses the research questions underlying the success of new programmable tools. A programming language is essentially a means of communicating between humans and computers. Traditional computer science research has studied the machine end of the communications link at great length, but there is a shortage of knowledge and research methods for understanding the human end of the link. This course provides practical research skills necessary to make advances in this essential field. The skills acquired will also be valuable for students intending to pursue research in advanced HCI, or designing evaluation studies as a part of their MPhil research project.

Is this kind of HCI based research going to lead to better languages? Or more regurgitations of languages people are already comfortable with?

Source: Cambridge Course on “Usability of Programming Languages”

Examining the Usability of Gnome, Unity and KDE

December 18th, 2011 12:44 admin View Comments


gbjbaanb writes “TechRadar has gathered a few users and subjected the 3 main Linux desktops to some usability testing for both experienced users and some new to the whole concept.” I’m glad to see such ongoing comparisons; they encourage cross-pollination of the best ideas. On the other hand, it’s a little bit like trying to determine the “best” dessert; even the most elaborate attempts to find statistical consensus won’t answer the question of what’s best for any particular user.

Source: Examining the Usability of Gnome, Unity and KDE

Kindle Fire’s Usability Report is Out – Do You Still Want a 7-Inch iPad?

December 6th, 2011 12:17 admin View Comments

Ask Slashdot: Good, Relevant Usability Book?

October 6th, 2011 10:15 admin View Comments


First time accepted submitter osman84 writes “I’ve been developing web/mobile apps for some time, and have managed to build up some decent experience about usability. However, as I’m growing a team of developers now, I’ve noticed that most of the young ones have a very poor sense of usability. Unfortunately, since I was never really taught usability as science, I’m having trouble teaching them to develop usable apps. Are there any good books that make a good read for general usability guidelines for web/mobile apps? I have a couple from my college days, but I’d like something more recent, written in the era of mobile apps, etc.”

Source: Ask Slashdot: Good, Relevant Usability Book?

Mozilla To Remove User-Facing Firefox Version Numbers

August 15th, 2011 08:57 admin View Comments


MrSeb writes “A great collective gasp issued from tuned-in Firefox fans when Mozilla announced that it was switching to a Chrome-like release schedule for its browser. Now Mozilla wants to take things one step further and remove Firefox version numbers entirely — from the user-facing parts of the browser, anyway.” You can see the Bugzilla entry for this change, and keep up on Mozilla’s reasoning and discussion through a thread on the newsgroup. Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler explained, “We’re moving to a more Web-like convention where it’s simply not important what version you’re using as long as it’s the latest version. … The most important thing is confidence that they’re on the latest release. That’s what the About dialog will give them.”

Source: Mozilla To Remove User-Facing Firefox Version Numbers

Experts Say Gestural Interfaces Are a Step Backwards In Usability

May 25th, 2011 05:25 admin View Comments


smitty777 writes “Veteran usability experts Donald A. Norman and Jakob Nielsen wrote an interesting article lamenting the current state of the art in gesture interfaces. According to them, the lack of standards for interacting with these devices puts us on par with the ’94 vintage in web design, when designers discovered they could make the buttons and UI look like anything they wanted.”

Source: Experts Say Gestural Interfaces Are a Step Backwards In Usability