[uf-discuss] Microformats.org usability review

Ryan King ryan at technorati.com
Wed Feb 1 18:53:50 PST 2006

On Jan 29, 2006, at 9:36 PM, Mark Rickerby wrote:
> I have been working away at this over the past week, and I'm starting
> to realise that simplicity and minimalism is sometimes more tricky to
> get right than complexity and overabundance.


> ...
> === Homepage (http://microformats.org) ===
> ...
> For example, as Joe Average User, I would know based on the homepage
> text "People and Organizations: hCard", that this is a data format for
> displaying people and organizations, but then what? The link takes me
> to a complicated table of contents entitled "Draft Specification". I
> have to scroll down to see anything more concrete, and it's not
> immediately clear where to begin reading, nor how I can start using
> the format, without having to spend a few minutes hunting around the
> wiki for information, or searching for a tutorial somebody wrote and
> published elsewhere. If I'm not familiar with blogs or wikis (maybe a
> client heard about hCard, and asked me to implement it), it's going to
> take even longer.

Granted. A common criticism of http://microformats.org/ is that its  
too 'spec-y.'

Writing specs is necessary, but, of course, not sufficient.

I'm not opposed to having tutorials and more beginner-friendly  
material on http://microformats.org, but AFAICT, those sorts of  
things don't write themselves.

> ...

I'll take a look at the about section. However, if there's any  
specific suggestions, I'll entertain them.

> The other weakness of this section is that despite the landing page
> providing a general overview, the sub-pages in this section are
> actually more meta/socially oriented ("People", "Thanks"). It is
> extremely important to provide respect and credit to all the people
> involved in pushing this initiative forward, but again, this
> organizational context is not immediately obvious for new users. The
> expectation of an "about" section is to find all the simple, dumb
> facts.

http://microformats.org/about/people/ is out-of-date and most  
certainly always will be. It might be better just to kill it.

> === Discuss (http://microformats.org/discuss/) ===
> A spartan section, but very useful and well presented. Could
> potentially be more friendly and inviting? I know the notion of
> "community" is overused, but might still be a good idea to  reflect it
> here somehow.

"community" *is* overused and *ambiguous*. I'm willing to improve  
this section, but I'm not hearing any actionably suggestions.

> === Code (http://microformats.org/code/ ===
> Possibly useful to some people, but really doesn't have a lot to offer
> in comparison with the information on the wiki. and is very skewed in
> favour of XFN. I also find the labelling of this section slightly
> confusing, in that I would never expect a non-programmer to think that
> the term "Code" is aimed at them, yet the links on this page are
> generally of interest to non-programmers. "Tools" might be a more
> accurate description, which doesn't scare off those who are tech savy,
> but don't consider themselves hard-core coders.

Well, the plans for the section have included more diverse sorts of  
things. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten that part of the site moving  
very quickly.

> === Analysis & Suggestions ===
> A very common question from new people on the mailing list goes like
> "Is there a microformat for X?" A (not always obvious) variation of
> the same question is "Here's my proposal for a microformat for X". It
> seems like the answer to almost all of these questions and proposals
> is "A combination of Y microformat and a semantic XHTML compound will
> solve your problem".
>> From a meta perspective, these questions seem to be stirred from a
> mismatch in vocabulary between defining a problem ("my content type is
> X") and defining a specific microformat oriented solution ("use hAtom
> and hCard"). The irony is that content types and usage of the formats
> is already very well documented on the current website, in terms of
> the current blog sidebar, and the faq and use wiki pages. So why do
> smart people continue to miss this?

People don't read.

> ...
> The homepage should provide immediate visual cues for those who have a
> vague idea of what microformats are, but are looking for a direct and
> pragmatic value proposition. The current featured text explains what
> microformats are, but not why they are useful or how simple they are
> to implement.

But, why are they useful? How simple are they to implement? :D

> A "Get Started Now" link would be a great compliment or replacement
> for the existing "Find Out More" link, acting as a subtle call to
> action, and communicating to readers that they can potentially
> implement one or several microformats with their existing content in a
> matter of minutes.

I'd love to link to something like that from the homepage, but it  
doesn't exist. Write it, and it shall be linked.

> ...

> I have some more related material to accompany this analysis (a site
> map), which I'll send through when I get a chance this week. If we
> look at doing incremental updates, my thoughts are that the greatest
> mileage would come from hand-picking the best introductory content
> from the wiki, and condensing it for the main site pages. If Tantek,
> Ryan, or anyone else feels that this is *not* a good way to approach
> the content process, please advise me, otherwise I'll go ahead and
> start tweaking some of the writing to suit, and pass it on to Tim, who
> has created a mockup of the main site for testing how pages look.

I think your analysis above is good. The best way to procede is to  
write something, then let us iterate on it.

> It would also be great to hear from anyone who feels there is
> something immediate and obvious missing from the website, or has
> something that they would really like to see!

Thanks for all of your work, let me know what I can do to enable you.
Ryan King
ryan at technorati.com

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