Top 10 usability crimes and text visualization

I found a really good article called the 10 usability crimes you really shouldn’t commit and I have updated the website according to adhere to some of the principles – mainly making the website logo now a link to the home page and indicating the active form field for comments below. I didn’t actually realise you could change the currently focused field in a form by adding in :focus. I disagree with the last point the article makes, about not justifying text because some people find it harder to read. I’m not dyslexic, but I personally find justified text much neater and easier to read than left-justified.

I have to write a Court Report about a computer we’ve been forensically analysing the last 8 weeks and I realised that I need to do quite a bit of work before I can start writing. Mainly because the labs we do get us to produce lots of data e.g. user’s internet browsing history, lists of all the images on the computer and lists of items in the Windows Registry. However to actually write about these things I need to analyse them – no use saying I managed to extract the browser history into a spreadsheet file and then not actually look at what that spreadsheet contains. As I mentioned in a previous post, forensic tools are very good for extracting data, but are all a bit useless when it comes to visualizing the results. Browser history and other forms of logs need some sort of textual visualization so the content can easily be described and analysed – especially for Court Reports which are read by lawyers, judges and juries with little technological knowledge. Usually you’re trying to describe two things – the activities done and the time of these activities. In the case of browser history, you want to see what sites were visited and their frequency, and also when the user was online to form a timeline of events.

Timelines are not so hard to do with data in a spreadsheet. As with my own browser analysis, you just plot time against date and an accurate picture of when you were online can be made. However, I found making some sort of chart showing the different websites visited and their frequency quite difficult – and also how to combine this with a timeline. I did some research into text visualization (as it was cruelly cut out of the Computer Animation and Visualization course I did at Edinburgh Uni) and I found some really good websites showing the different ways of visualizing text – Visual ComplexityInformation Visualization for Text Analysis and 50 Great examples of Data Visualization. I’m still uncertain as to the best way to visualize browser history / logs. A masters thesis topic perhaps?

As a cool side note, Wordle is a awesome word cloud visualizer on the web. The image below shows the most frequent words on the Lowmanio RSS feed:

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