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User Experience

Behind the Toronto Public Library’s New Faceted Search

On 19, Feb 2010 | 5 Comments | In Toronto, User Experience | By Ryan Feeley

My 2009 work-highlight was the opportunity to work with the great people at the Toronto Public Library on their new faceted search interface. We tested the interface with over a dozen users, and then made recommendations based on the findings. Almost all of my work has surfaced into the current public beta which is shaping up to be one of the better library websites in North America! Seriously, look around.

As a search-obsessed UX designer, the best part of the project was not the size of the collection, but the richness of their metadata. Most items are described with media type, language, age level, owning branch, subject, author, and more.

TPL Web Team Manager Dara Renton and I recently gave a presentation at UX Show & Tell so we thought we’d post the presentation for people to see the thinking that went behind the current design. We couldn’t get permission from our volunteers to post their Silverback sessions online, but their participation proved invaluable in helping us prioritize the interface.

Best viewed full screen!

Printing TTC Schedules, The Better Way

On 18, Aug 2009 | One Comment | In TTC, User Experience | By Ryan Feeley

Last week I printed out the timetable of a TTC bus stop near me and was disappointed with the results. It took three pages and, shudder, was overloaded with white space. Here’s what it looks like:

31 Route

Ideally the TTC can move to a vastly more efficient printed layout, but in the meantime a little CSS hack will do. Today I spent a few minutes looking at Greenwood Station – 31 Greenwood and have coded some CSS that can be appended to their print stylesheet.

My suggestions:

  • Removed the route diagram from the printed version. It consumes vertical space and is not readable as a thumbnail.
  • Removed the “Next 3 scheduled buses” block. The full timetable is below, and once printed it’s obsolete.
  • Removed inactive tabs (e.g. Saturday, Sunday, Monday) to avoid confusion.
  • Set width of time containers to automatic to prevent wrapping

Here’s what it looks like:

TTC Route 31 Printed

And here’s the CSS code (please comment improvements!):

Fun with Google’s Auto Complete

On 25, Jul 2009 | No Comments | In User Experience | By Ryan Feeley

What kinds of questions are our fellow humans asking Google? From the Google homepage, start typing a question (who, what, when, where, why, how, etc.) to see what’s being asked.

Google's Auto Complete

To see what teenagers are curious about, start with “can u”. Endless fun. My favourite: “can women get prostate cancer?”

The Education of Single Click

On 14, May 2009 | 7 Comments | In User Experience | By Ryan Feeley

Ever notice how latecomers to the web will often double-click links? In my usability work, I’ve observed this happening countless times. Such activity almost certainly doubles the users risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). It also raises the ire of environmentalists, as it doubtlessly shortens the life of an average computer mouse by half. In order to do our part to curb this dangerous behaviour, I teamed up again with Andrey Petrov to build this simple javascript that aims to strengthen single-click behaviour.


UPDATE: If you are using jQuery or Prototype.js, follow these examples which only affects links. Otherwise use this original version, which affects all double-clicks.

Feel free to propagate in your HTML to end the senseless double-clicking of web links forever!