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… ).

Content strategy and software development – Nov 14th

Des Traynor, InterComOn November 14th, Des Traynor will talk about how content strategy fits in with software development. Des is a user experience and user interface designer with a background in software engineering. With a wealth of experience to draw on, Des will talk to us about  “The language of software: the role of content strategy in software development”.

WHERE: M203, Cairns Pavilion, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus

WHEN: November 14, 15h00 – 16h00

If you don’t work on the Genome Campus, but you would like to attend this event, please contact me, and I can help to arrange that. (I can’t help with travel costs, though – sorry!)

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Drupal at the EBI

Content, content, content. You’re writing it, editing it, scheduling it – great. But how do you manage it? Oh yes, a content management system.

At the EBI, we have been working with Drupal for some time, and now there is a nascent community of Drupal users and developers across the EBI, which is great. In order to bring everyone up-to-speed, my colleague, Bren Vaughan, coordinator of the “External Services” web team in which I work, gave a short presentation, explaining Drupal to an EBI audience.

Also, if you want something to print out and stick on your wall (!), you can see my sketchnotes of Bren’s talk:

Part of the Drupal at the EBI sketchnotes

Science & Social Media – Making Your Work More Visible and Engaging

The EBI Interfaces talk  on September 22 was “Science & Social Media – Making Your Work More Visible and Engaging“, given by Nicola Osborne, Social Media Officer for EDINA.

Science & Social Media prezi - click to go to the presentation

Click to go to the presentation

Nicola spoke about effective ways to use Social Media to communicate your work. This included strategies, tools, guidelines and ways to plan, manage and monitor social media to engage the people you want to communicate your scientific work with. She drew upon her extensive experience of advising JISC-funded projects, academic researchers and the wider community on social media.

Some key points

  1. Social media channels give you a way to engage with an audience or community, and start a dialogue;
  2. Go to where people are already, rather than trying to create a community in a vacuum (i.e. Twitter is not always the answer!);
  3. You need a strategy to manage this effectively – goals, time, resources, measuring success;
  4. You need to consider Who?, What?, Where?, and When? as part of that strategy;
  5. Think about how to [re]use content across different channels;
  6. Develop ambassadors. Create content for them, and let them communicate to their networks.
  7. Tell stories (this is engaging!);
  8. You must budget time and resources for effective social media activity
  9. Guidelines, written well, can help content authors
To find out more about Nicola’s work, have a look at her EDINA blog. You can also download the EDINA social media guidelines, if you’d like to read them.

Content first

In which I expand (quite a lot!) on the “Content” bit of my post about the UX iceberg, and explain why I think it is important to put content first. I’m not saying anything new, and I do refer to the EBI content a lot, but I hope you can abstract this, and apply it to your situation. On the other hand, if you’re at the EBI, this is just up your street!

This is, as I say, quite a long post. You might want to get a cup of coffee!

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The user experience iceberg

I am currently working on a redesign project. A big one. I’m part of a team (a working group, in fact) made up mostly of web designers, drawn from across the EBI. Our work covers a whole range of UX design activities, and it needs to fit in with the work being done by other working groups involved in the redesign project. I’m there to coordinate that work, and to help our working group interact with others that are part of the same project.

Iceberg (by Slaunger on Flickr)

Initially, we were asked to deal with visual design, but obviously, that is just the tip of the UX design iceberg. In fact, we we need to start deep down below the surface, with the content, then we can work out how all of that content is structured. We also need to work on layout of pages and the visual design of aesthetics of what you can see at the surface. Quite a bit to be getting on with.

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