Sketchnote Handbook

Cover of the Sketchnote HandbookBack in June 2012, I was contacted by UX designer and visual note-taker extraordinaire, Mike Rohde. We’d been in touch before, to talk about “sketchnotes” and spreading ideas around. Along with 14 others, Mike asked me if I would like to provide some artwork for an upcoming book: the Sketchnote Handbook.

Are bears Catholic? Does the Pope… ? Well, yeah – you get the idea. I was only too happy to produce some illustrations and that book has now been published.

Continue reading


Design, data visualisation and weissbier at Dagstuhl

Earlier this year, I was invited to take part in a week-long “seminar” on data visualization for biology, to be held in September 2012, at a computer science institute called Schloss Dagstuhl, in Germany. I was pleased and surprised to receive this invitation out-of-the-blue, having never heard of Dagstuhl, but given that it came from Seán O’Donoghue (co-organiser of the Vizbi conference), I was happy to accept.

To start with, I didn’t know who else was invited or what I was supposed to do there. As it is, it turned out to be a very rewarding and productive session. Outcomes include papers, talks, invitations, videos, sketchnotes (of course!), plans for future events and conferences, and new collaborations.

Schloss Dagstuhl

Yes, there is an actual Schloss… a mini one, at least

Continue reading

Lightbulb tactics – dealing with usability issues that don’t get fixed

A matrix of tactics for getting usability issues fixed

On July 20th, I had the pleasure of giving a workshop at UX Bristol 2012 alongside Caroline Jarrett. We promised that we would share all the great ideas and recommendations that our participants generated. These were tactics for how to make sure that the usability ussues you find actually get fixed.

A big thank you to Steve Krug for allowing us to build on all the work he did with Caroline on this topic, and for letting us reuse his slides in our presentation.

The following is a matrix of those “lightbulb tactics“, with the four main usability testing phases we considered on one axis, and some apparent themes along the other. I produced those themes by doing a quick bit of affinity mapping of all the tactics… hopefully, they make sense!

A matrix of tactics for getting usability issues fixed

A matrix of tactics for getting usability issues fixed. Click on it to see a bigger, annotated version!

Continue reading

Lean UX? Maybe.

None of the projects I work on follow an Agile process. Imagine that.

That’s not to say it’s all waterfall but the team I work in, in particular, has too many separate projects on the go to be able to make the most of Scrum or Kanban, sprints and burn-down charts. Our open-plan office would quickly be wall-papered with those charts, if we had one per project!

All this is to say that I have largely ignored discussions about “how do we combine traditional UXD practices, especially up-front user research, with the Agile process?” and more recently, the development of lean UX. There are people whom I respect (people like Adrian Howard, Jeff Gothelf and Johanna Kollman) who know a whole lot about these things… but I’ve rather let it pass me by.

Then I was at UX Lisbon in May, 2012, where Jeff Gothelf spoke about lean UX and building a shared understanding, and I really sat up in my seat. “Hang on,”, I said to myself, “given Jeff’s 5-part definition of lean UX, it looks as though I’m doing that already!”

Whodda thunk?

Lean UX in action? Developer, domain expert and UX designer

Lean UX in action? Developer, domain expert and UX designer (me, taking the photo) at the EBI

Data Insights and plant genes

Some of you (especially if you’re interested in data visualisation) might like to attend the next Data Insights Cambridge Meetup event on Thursday, August 2, 2012:

High-throughput investigations of plant genes for the production of biofuels

The Data Insights organiser, Sobia Hamid, came along to the talk and workshop that Noah Iliinsky gave us recently, and she is keen to invite people from the Sanger Institute or the EBI who might enjoy it.

In this talk Marcelo Segura will show how increased experimental throughput techniques have lead towards the adoption of more sophisticated methods for efficient analysis of the resulting information. The talk will also attempt to stimulate a discussion about the use of high-throughput approaches in molecular biology as well the challenges for data analysis in the field.

The event will take place at the Fountain Inn in Cambridge at 8pm.

Notes and resources: designing effective data visualizations

It was great to hear Noah Iliinsky talk about how to apply a design process to data visualisation. He spent three hours with us, starting off with a short talk, and then guiding the audience through applying this design process to their data in a meaningful way.

Noah Iliinsky sharing ideas during his workshop for EBI Interfaces

A fuzzy iPhone photo of Noah Iliinsky sharing ideas during his workshop for EBI Interfaces

Anyone whom I work with will know that I’m often asking “What problem are you trying to solve?“, and this of course applies as well to data visualisation as it does system or interaction design. So it’s no surprise that I find Noah’s work really engaging and inspiring. He talks about understanding your reader (the audience… the “user” – their drivers and needs); understanding your data (its characteristics and dimensions, and the message within that you wish to convey); understanding the choices that you can make as you apply a design process to visualisation, choosing how to convey knowledge and enable action.

Triangulating these gets you most of the way to good data visualisation.

Continue reading

July 16 – Designing Effective Data Visualizations: Lecture & Lab

Noah IliinskyI’m very happy to be able to invite you along to what should be a great Interfaces event in mid-July.

I’ll be hosting author, designer and data visualisation specialist, Noah Iliinsky, who has generously offered to give both a talk and a short workshop:

“Designing Effective Data Visualizations: Lecture & Lab”

Noah will introduce some of the basics of the design process and its application to data visualisation, and then you can apply what you’ve learned to your own data, with Noah as a guide.

WHEN: July 16, between 14h and 17h (in fact, probably finishing at 16h)

WHERE: Room M203, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge

[FR – 16/07/2012] – feel free to download all the notes and resources associated with Noah’s talk and workshop.

Continue reading