Layout for consumable content

It’s great to see this (free!) article from Bang Wong in Nature Methods. Bang, who gave an EBI Interfaces talk in June 2010, writes about the positive impact of laying out page elements according to a regular grid. If you have been reading this blog recently, you’ll know that I am pretty keen on pushing the topic of content strategy and design, and layout really tackles the latter, page-by-page. We need to be able to design out content so that it is readable and consumable, otherwise it won’t convey its message effectively.

Clip of figures from Bang Wong's article on layout for Nature Methods

As Bang states,

“Well-structured content can guide readers through complex information, but when the material we present lacks order, it can confuse or, worse yet, agitate readers trying to make sense of the material”

I am really happy to see these concepts and approaches being introduced to the scientific authors, and especially in such a high-profile publication.

If you’re interested in learning some more, designer Mark Boulton has a series of excellent articles on this subject. It has of course been around in print design for years, but Mark’s articles were really what brought it to my attention a few years ago, and if you are a web designer, you should definitely start there (there are some differences with what works in different media… ).

Do you see what I see? – BBC Horizon

This is a relevant article on the BBC about our perception of colour. There was also an episode last night on BBC 2 about it, but I missed it. You can watch it here on iPlayer though. Although it’s quite obvious that each of us will see colours differently as a result of many colluding factors including the distribution of cone photoreceptors on our retina plus signal processing in the visual cortex, it’s worth considering that combined with different monitors, printers and related colour profiles that we have yet another layer of complexity in dealing with colour and how we present it to users. There is also a slightly more technical piece about perception of colour when multiple wavelengths are present here.

The grey tiles on the left look blue, and the grey tiles on the right look yellow

UX Clinic, London, April 14 – External event

Those fine people at the UK UPA (Usability Professionals’ Association) have once more wangled a fine evening of user experience Q&A – the UX Clinic. While UX London is happening, they have managed to get five great people from the UX field to spend and evening answering our UX questions.

The event takes place in London on Thursday, April 14, 2011 from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM (GMT).

The event is free for UPA members, and £10 for anyone else (£5 for students). Hurry up – tickets are selling very quickly. I’ve been told, though, that if the UK UPA can secure some more sponsorship, then more tickets could become available. Lots more detail about the speakers is available on the event page.

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Visualisation in the age of computerisation | 25-26 March 2011, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

The Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) is organising a two-day conference on 25-26 March 2011 at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, with support from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Oxford e-Social Science project.

When:      25-26 March 2011
Where:    Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Cost:         Free register here
Details:   Conference programme

Some UI tips – tables and colours

HTML tables

It’s interesting how many HTML tables there are on bioinformatics websites. It’s equally interesting (in a way) to see how bad they can look. I can literally count in one hand the number of times I’ve actually seen a nice looking table. So…I was very happy to stop by this post on designing HTML tables.

Have a gander, I found the post to be fairly well written and puts into action a lot of design concepts.

Colour

The next post I wanted to bring attention to focuses on color wheels. The post is entitled Color wheels are wrong? How color vision actually works.

The post actually brings up some really great points Bang Wong made on his visit to the campus last year. He also has a recent publication in Nature Methods regarding the use of colour.

I hope you find this all interesting and useful!

More Kano anyone?

Well, it looks as though January is Kano Month. First, we had  Jason Mesut’s introduction to the Kano model, which I posted a bit about here just last week, and now there’s another illuminating take on this tool for exploring prioritisation and user satisfaction, this time from none other than Jared Spool.

It includes some great examples from the front line of UX design, as well as some ideas for application.

Kano model diagram

(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Kano Noriaki

Prof. Noriaki Kano

Depending on your interests, if I say “Kano”, you might think of the British rapper, or maybe the founder of the Japanese martial of judo… or you might think, “Hey, isn’t that something to do with customer satisfaction?”.

Yep, all valid. I’m impressed. But for now, I am writing about the last one.

The Kano model (or framework) was devised by Prof. Noriaki Kano in the 1980’s. Essentially, it gives us as designers and developers a way to balance the amount of innovation required for a product or service, with the needs of its users, and it offers a way to interpret “customer satisfaction”. The model considers how users view the basic features of a product, the level of performance it provides, and the extra features which produce excitement.

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Fail early

I know I rattle on about sketching quite a lot, but I love it. Not only that, but taking time to try out ideas and concepts of paper first means that it is cheap to “fail” early on. The danger of jumping straight into the build of something is that you invest a lot of time and effort, and if you find later that something doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense, then it can be quite costly.

So try things out with pen and paper. Try lots of ideas; test them with other people in your team, and maybe with some users, too. It is quick to outline lots of ideas, and the ones that don’t work can be discarded early on.

A video on the BBC News site about toy creation illustrates this well. Given that these are commercial products, the inventors and manufacturers want to minimise cost, so there is a lot of concept sketching and prototyping early on.

Screengrab from BBC news video about toy creation

UX Storytellers

UX Storytellers logo

Storytelling can be a really powerful way to inform user experience design. We can of course use it to involve the audience, and it can give narrative to the information we wish to communicate. Data can tell a story. The personas we sometimes use in the design process are characters in a story, and that story might describe the context in which our websites and software are used… Continue reading