Universal Design: Usability for your home

I've heard of ergonomics, but I hadn't heard of Universal Design, created at the Center for Universal Design. Its original goal was homes that are accessible to disabled people, but its benefits extend to the rest of us. Putting power plugs higher may benefit wheelchair users the most, but higher power plugs would mean I wouldn't have to crawl or bend way over to unplug things.

Universal design's affinity with usability is clear from a sampling of its seven principles: Principle Two is Flexibility in Use, Principle Four is Perceptible Information, and Principle Five is Tolerance for Error.

This idea resonated with me, because my former apartment had locks installed upside down, a bathroom door that was stuck enough to require force to open, and my current apartment has vertical blinds that constantly jam up, and a dryer dial I found irritating. All these little annoyances add up to make daily life more irritating than it has to be.

This approach was named by the late Ron Mace. I ran across it on (via Realty Times) which mentioned it as a new trend in home design I find most encouraging.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, July 25, 2003 (Link)

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Are PDFs all that bad?

Jakob Nielsen is Mr. Unequivocal again on his latest alertbox: PDF: Unfit for Human Consumption. Despite that, I'm cautiously optimistic about the promised next column about making PDFs work better.

One technique I like is opening PDFs in their own window, using one usability sin to cover another, since users often end up closing the browser window and thus their whole browser when a PDF file is opened.

And I don't buy the Adode myth that everyone has the PDF plugin. Having done field usability tests, I've noticed more users than you might expect simply don't have the plug-in. I have no hard numbers, but keep in mind that Internet Explorer has come built into Windows for some time now, while on many computers, PDFs are still a separate download. Try telling a user to go download 8.7 Megabytes over a dialup connection.

Another PDF annoyance: on Windows 2000 using roaming profiles, you have to accept the license agreement the first time you open a PDF file each session if that setting isn't saved between sessions. Occasionally, the window asking you to accept the agreement gets lost and appears to crash your browser.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, July 17, 2003 (Link)

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Socorro Road Tripping

My girlfriend Karen and I recently went on a road trip in and around Socorro, New Mexico. The first shot was taken by Karen, the rest by me.

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Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, July 17, 2003 (Link)

Tree overhead shot, taken by Karen near the Rio Grande

Melted adobe floor

Bricks and rafters on an old mill, near sunset

Sunset on mud, backroads of New Mexico

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Sunset in New Mexico background picture

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Sunset near Edgewood, New Mexico

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Sunday, July 6, 2003 (Link)

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