This is one of those simple yet useful lists. I enjoy a good list, I do. By Dustin M. Wax at Smashing Magazine.
Click for 7 Essential Guidelines For Functional Design
- Consider the product’s goal.
- Consider who will be using it.
- Consider what your audience intends to do with it.
- Is it clear how to use it?
- How does your user know it’s working?
- Is it engaging to your users?
- How does it handle mistakes?
Mark Boulton draws a parallel between good airport sign design and good web design. Click for Airport sign design – dont’ screw with conventions He cites the source of his post as coming from this Paul’s Corner post
My favourite point about signage:
The number of passengers capable of reading (and correctly interpreting) a map is negligible. By and large, maps are display windows for the presentation of airport facilities and not substitutes for signposting.
- Sign colours should make the signs instantly discernible from their visually chaotic surroundings
- Use words that make sense to the user – avoid concocting clever gibberish
- Use sans-serif fonts like Frutiger, Gill sans reg, Clearview or Meta
- Test the signs to make sure they work
Mark Boulton says:
It’s not difficult to draw parallels with airport signage (in fact, most wayfinding systems) and website design. Good signage should enhance a user experience, it should help a user complete their task, and it should do it in a way that is unobtrusive.
Yeah. I find this sort of thing very compelling. Let me put on my trainspotter’s anorak …
About ten years ago I got interested in the possible relationship between good traffic sign design and good website ’sign’ design (meaning typography and layout). I tried to find out if there were any rules on typography, color, prominence for road signs that could be applied easily to web design. I couldn’t find any precise rulings on this in any UK traffic regulations, although I’m sure there must be some. I figured that any rules in a road traffic context for sign design might be useful to apply to web typography. Some kind of signage algorithm, maybe? =)
I’m still particularly fascinated by how the best traffic sign design has obviously been adapted to account for the speed at which people might be driving: everything becomes bigger, simpler and more conspicuous. Greater care is taken over where signs are placed so that drivers can clearly read them in time to act on the information they contain. This strikes me as very similar to good web design, which I’m sure takes account of the speed at which people move through pages in their browsers. Not the same kind of ’speed’ as a in car, but a similar problem of limited attention.
I was having a conversation today with a colleague and, without much thinking, I slipped these terms into our conversation about people’s attitudes toward engaging with new technologies. I thought, hmm, maybe I should think about this a bit more. And on reflection, I think that these terms help to frame some issues EduTech and KM people often face.
I first used these terms when training workshops on continuous learning in the 90s. I don’t know where they originated from, but I must have picked them up from the team of trainers I was working with at the time. So they’re not terms I’ve made up. I’m sure lots of educators use them. Here’s my take on how they’re normally used to describe people in a learning context:
- Explorers are continuous learners who actively seek new learning opportunities. They extrapolate their experience into different contexts and construct new meaning from what they find.
- Tourists will take on most new ideas, they’ll do the work they’re given, they’ll make an effort to learn. They’ll do as much as they need to get the job done if they see that it’s relevant.
- Prisoners are reluctant learners. They have habits that they can’t unlearn easily. They’ll do as their told, if forced to, but not much more – often less.
Now I also reckon that these terms are a good way to describe people’s attitudes towards technology. After all, learning to use technology is still Learning. Here’s how I’ve translated them:
- Explorers will actively seek out new technologies and constantly try to find how they’re relevant to contexts they’re familiar with. They learn how to use these tools by applying them to different situations and construct or invent relevancy. By understanding the tools and the contexts, they’ll often find solutions to problems where others can’t see that there’s a problem in the first place. They thrive on open access to technology – and they will find it, often at the expense of IT security. For them, obstacles are merely challenges to be overcome – and they don’t give up easily: they iterate.
- Tourists will appreciate how technology can improve how they do things. They’ll be open to the benefits and advantages, but they might need to be persuaded of these. For these people the tools must work first time, every time, and the benefits must be explicitly obvious and clearly relevant to their context. If all these things are in place, they’ll happily take on new technologies. Once they do, these people are powerful allies.
- Prisoners will have their own way of doing things that has always worked. They’ll see no compelling reason to change. In fact, they’ll usually find every reason not to. They’ll say, ‘technology for technology’s sake‘ when a new tech idea is tabled; and they’ll say, ‘told you so‘ when technology fails to deliver. They’ll point out the obstacles and go stand behind them.
Now you can probably guess that I like to think of myself as a bit of an explorer, but I flatter myself and I know that I’m dreaming when I compare myself to some people that I know. And in defense of prisoners, ‘prisoners’ are the barometer against which any change to the technological climate needs to be measured, and carefully if it’s to succeed. Prisoners often have a good point, they often have well-tested ways of working that get the job done. Change might indeed be a bad thing. The risks that technological ’solutions’ might bring, can often weigh against the benefits of not changing at all. So where does that leave us?
I’m a firm believer that if you give people access to technology, enough people will use it to make it worth the effort. Without open access to technology, people are handed a reason to give up, lose interest and become averse to any new technology we might wish to introduce in future. And although restricting open access because of the risk of security threats seems a common and plausibly valid corporate position, it also seems to engender a culture where prisoners can thrive – I don’t think that’s what we need.
Posted in musings
at August 21st, 2008.
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Channel 4 has made an alternative Olympic medals table that calculates medals won against population or GDP or human rights record. I’m not sure about the human rights thing, I mean how did they calculate that? But the population results put the Bahamas, Jamaica and Iceland at the top. Yay for them! click for the alternative Olympic table.
Posted in webzen
at August 20th, 2008.
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At last night’s IKMS evening talk, Bonnie Cheuk gave a great presentation on ‘Unwrapping the potential of Enterprise 2.0′. Bonnie is the Global Head of Knowledge and Information at Environmental Resources Management (ERM). She showed us how ERM has taken to using blogs, wikis and discussion forums in Sharepoint. I liked the fact that her focus was on the people, the tasks and the communication – not so much focus on the tool.
Her talk really brightened up my normally gloomy view of Sharepoint. And she shared her secret KM recipe, here it is (sshhh):
Here are some other points she made about leadership 2.0:
- Listen and value every staff’s input
- Ready to be surprised
- Tolerate mistakes
- Hear what you may not like to hear (and value it)
- Genuine dialogue with employees
- Willingness to let go the leader’s authority / power
- Leaders have to participate (not delegate!)
We had a chat while she was setting up before her talk. Bonnie and I had worked together before on an earlier Sharepoint project in Singapore, so we had some stuff to catch up on. The thing that makes me giggle gleefully is how she described Sharepoint’s blog and wiki tools – She called them ‘Fake Blogs’ and ‘Fake Wikis’, meaning that they don’t quite have the features and functions most of us have come to expect. And yes, that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling about them for a long time… In fact, ever since I tried to embed media into them. Thanks Bonnie, I’ll be calling them fake from now on too, thanks to you.
Caroline Tees from the British Council Singapore gave a great account of how she’s been using wikis for the past two years. She shared examples of her success in using wikis for:
- individual writing
- collaborative writing
- peer correction
- peer policing
- exam practice
- examples of good writing for our classes
- show off your students’ work to their parents
- correct and learn from common mistakes
The tool she’d used for this was 37 Signals’ Writeboard: which is a simple one-page wiki. It allows multiple authors and editors, version comparison and commenting, all the usual wiki stuff – but on one page: “just like a Word document”, Caroline explained.
Caroline took us step-by-step through the Writeboard set-up and then went on to show how easy it is to use. She added that this wiki tool was simpler to use than other online tools like blogs or more conventional wikis, (I reckon because each Writeboard is only a single page). Writeboard’s simplicity is its strength. Because of this, she explained, any teacher or student can get to grips with it quickly.
She gave some tips on what to watch out for when running a wiki writing activity:
- students misbehaving
- comments (Mother tongue, Singlish or target language?)
- difficulties with email invitations
She also gave tips on how to make it work:
- check the Writeboard regularly
- set very clear instructions
- photocopy screenshot with password
Here’s Caroline’s presentation:
Click to download Caroline’s presentation from ICTLT
Billy Tan and Karen Yap from Innova Junior College showed us the results of some action research they’ve done into how they used the online social bookmarking tool Delicious with teachers and for students.
Billy Tan explained how he’d been testing out Delicious with his General Paper students to help them make connections between issues and motivate them to read more. He showed how students, who had set up their own Delicious accounts, had made connections between different issues within one article by assigning multiple tags to individual articles.
Their exit survey showed that 90% of students liked using it. They found that was an easy and effective way to manage and share online information – all you need is internet access, a browser and to remember your login and password.
Among teachers, their results showed that Delicious allowed colleagues to easily archive and share online resources. Karen Yap showed how tagging makes it easy for teachers to retrieve and organise online information. Their exit survey for these teachers showed that 100% agreed that Delicious is good for sharing, 75% of which strongly agreed.
I asked if they’d had any problems with people tagging this differently or mis-tagging. They said they had. To deal with this they recommended that users agree on how to name tags before setting up a Delicious project to avoid mis-tagging. They added that standardising account names is also a good idea.
Individual or Department Delicious accounts? Both speakers agreed that personal accounts were the best option.
Click to download their presentation from ICTLT.
They also handed out a DVD made by Innova JC called ‘What is New Media?’ which showcases the great stuff they’re doing.
Innova Junior College is the Centre of Excellence for New Media and New Media Arts.
Earlier today I watched an interesting and useful presentation where Peter Kent from ACT Department of Education & training demonstrated best practice in the use of IWBs.
He emphasised that good IWB slides will stimulate intellectual quality by generating quality discussions. He showed how the best IWB slides do this by allowing students to come up with more than one possible answer. A very good point, very well put.
He showed how IWB slides can be made relevant/significant by adding content that is from the students’ context. For example, photos of them, photos of their daily environment, examples of their writing, examples of their art, etc…
He also showed a few very neat ways to do the class register/roll call at the start of a lesson: using photos of students and audio of their voices. This was a nice way to help them identify with other students in their class and see where they fit in.
He also showed how IWB slides can be used to illustrate performance criteria. His example was a series of three videos which together formed a rubric showing different levels of performance (in this case it was of kindergarden kids learning to form a line).
Click to download his presentation from ICTLT.
Earlier today I was at a presentation by Nick Potts, from the British Council Singapore, on the lessons he’s learned from two years of using blogs with lower secondary students in Singapore. He gave an account of all the problems, lessons learned and he also shared strategies he’s worked out to overcome these challenges.
His main point was that these students tend to view (and use) blogs as a means to vent their feelings. He showed us how this manifested in free-form rants, which were far from the aims of his lessons. He confirmed this by showing us the results of survey he asked some students to complete last week.
He was quick to admit that his first attempt at using blogs with these students at integrating blogs into his classes resulted in work that (at best) lacked focus, and (at worst) had these teenagers revealing things about themselves that he was concerned might expose them to risk if the blogs had been in a public space on the web. His blogs were all closed to public access – he chose to use 21 Classes to help address these concerns by keeping the blogs closed and viewable only by his class.
His strategy for dealing with the challenge included setting clearly focused writing tasks, not calling the blog a ‘blog’ in class (instead refering to it as a portal) and starting the blog with very positive and simple writing activities.
One teacher in the audience asked if Nick had used this blogging exercise to explore issues of cyber-wellness and safe practices for minors online. Nick pointed out that he only saw them for two hours a week, so he didn’t have time to explore these issues with his class, although if he had time he would have liked to. It seemed to me that he had already helped his students toward managing these risks by getting them to apply better strategies for writing online than those they’d resorted to before.
Here’s Nick’s presentation: