Tag Archives: information visualisation

smörgåsbord choice cuts (iv)

The usual selection of things I have seen and absorbed in the last few days around the internets.

The laundrette that emails you when your clothes are done. Rather obvious idea that makes you wonder 1. why hasn’t someone done it before? 2. who still uses laundrettes?

Social Commentary
Daniel Pink questions what it means for (American) society now that the data shows for the first time that more people aged 25-34 have never been married than are married. He looks at Economics, Culture, Politics and new business opportunities.

According to Apple Insider (and probably two minutes earlier/later by Mac Rumors), the new Sharp phone has a display that matches the Retina display on the iPhone 4.

One from the ‘No shit, Sherlock‘ school of UX insight. UX Movement alerts us to the news that right-aligned buttons on web forms work best. It suggests that you might use left-aligned buttons on single-page forms because: “it creates a clear and direct path to the button that users can’t miss” but doesn’t sufficiently explain why having it on the right in this instance wouldn’t be just as good. Because right-aligned buttons work best on multiple page/section forms, users have got used to them being on the right – such is the way conventions work. Why swap it around for the single page forms? This sort of article is potentially useful for a real newbie in UX design but it isn’t really telling me anything a lot of comparitive research and common sense wouldn’t. Not to mention the complete ignorance of languages that aren’t read left-to-right.

However, redeeming themselves, there is also a cute post from UX Movement about New York City reverting to Title Case on their signage to improve readability from the previous capitalised approach.

I am generally quite critical of hipster trends but I concede to loving my Moleskine and my Apple portables. This has made a bit of noise this week on the web, but in case (ahem) you missed it: Moleskine case covers for iPad and iPhone incorporating notepads.

Health & Fitness
As someone who has dabbled in dietary supplements (Chrondoitin, Gingko Biloba, Glucosamine, Omega 3) and who lives on a meat-light diet, I am struck by a conflict between believing marketing hype about supplements and knowing the evidence is light. David McCandless & Andy Perkins’ active infographic on Information Is BeautifulSnake Oil?” helps sort the supplements by evidence. Multiple bubbles exist for supplements depending on the number of health benefits associated. Very compelling visual and (amongst an awful lot of info-graphic noise recently) one with a genuine enlightening purpose. I don’t think the concept is new, it was a static graphic before no? but i believe the interactive element is.

37 Signals admit on their blog that their site is much-imitated and that this may be a part of why they attempt a redesign every 6 months. The new look is a bit of a “back to basics” for them. There is a real emphasis on copywriting and on using colour sparingly for highlighting. It was interesting that their summary didn’t mention IA or structure as such – perhaps that is because it is a given in their processes.

A bit of a lightweight piece on Six Revisions about single-page websites. The accompanying text is a little frothy but it is notable for the showcase of attractive examples.

As if to underline the point above about frothy analysis, 90 Percent of Everything had a great post earlier this week about why we should return to a little more academic rigour in our sharing of knowledge and testing of hypotheses. It suggests a few approaches including:

:: Returning to primary sources, not relying on second-hand re-telling of material
:: Ensure enough detail is included to allow the test or experience to be reproduced and re-evaluated. This includes sharing all the data.
:: Be honest about shortcomings. There aren’t enough examples of failure shared in the Information Architecture and User Experience community.

The author acknowledges the difficulty in achieving this in commercial and sensitive situations (client confidentiality for example) but it is a welcome piece of advice for us to avoid issuing sanitised soundbites for instant sharing. Very much worth a read and I wholeheartedly concur (even if I am guilty of just this fast food ux snacking on this very blog).

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More choice cuts on the smörgåsbord

I don’t propose that one or even now two swallows can make a summer or that this frisson of activity on the blog will not fade incredibly quickly and my writings will dry up as quickly as they appeared. Like a chalk stream, perhaps.

So, to continue from yesterday, a few more things I have seen, and ting:

1. Flowing Data drew my attention today to a few pertinent images posted on the excellent Historypin site. Historypin simply takes archive photographs and overlays them (sadly without the option to place with the opacity) on Google Street View images from today to place history in context. The selection identified in today’s post draws attention to The Blitz.

2. Something I shared with a client of our who recently rejected the idea of using accordion interaction on forms, Luke Wroblewski’s work with Etre to test the pattern and make some observations. Conclusion, not significant +ve effect on conversion, but equally no significant –ve effect for an identifiable +ve change in the perception of simplicity. Well, that’s how I interpreted it.

3. I read about this visual technique a while ago in the national press but it has been picked up by the curators of the Nudge blog. Norfolk City Council are using funnel planting patterns for trees to create the illusion that drivers are approaching junctions at speed. This technique has been used for years with line-painting on roads but to use the built/grown environment is new. This is a great example of what Dan Lockton calls Design With Intent.

4. In related news, Konigi had a short piece on ‘Dark Patterns’ which is perhaps on the Machiavellian side of behavioural design. These are interaction patterns which intentionally coerce/seduce users into performing actions they would not ‘normally’ have performed. This is work by the enigmatic Harry Brignull which was presented at UX Brighton (2010) and you can follow the entire 30 minute slideshare by visiting his excellent blog.

5. This is worth of a full post at some point, based on some thoughts shared with me by a member of my team, Richard Blair. In the meantime, take a look at PSFKs piece about the effect of the Times paywall on their RSS content. This tears me up. As a Times reader in the offline world I quite like the new online exclusivity a paywall has created and the ad-free experience but I desperately lament the loss of the ability to pour my favourite columnists into my Tabbloid by subscribing to their RSS. I now am forced to the site.

That’s it for today, similar but newer things tomorrow. And possibly a proper ‘comment’ piece later today.

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A few things I need to tell you about

A couple of years ago, maybe 18 months ago, I started using Tabbloid. Tabbloid is an HP-originated project that takes-in RSS feeds of blogs and other news-like content that interests you and, each day, outputs a PDF of that day’s posts. This PDF becomes your daily personal newspaper (an example of a Tabbloid PDF).

It isn’t that novel an idea now, a host of other sites do a similar thing. I make no assertion that this is the best, only that it suits me down to the ground. I am a frenetic gobbler of content. I save tens of articles a day into my Instapaper iPhone app and rarely read them (partly because I forget to synch before I find myself offline). I read and equally large number of posts daily when I stumble across them, follow a tweeted link or email. But what suits me best is the slow absorbption of content when I am offline. On the Tube. No connection, just a PDF in my hand with lots of stories about tech, cycling, gardening, architecture, behavioural psychology, satire…

So, what I tend to do is take a sharpie and mark-up articles I am going to explore further when I get back online. What actually happens is that I end up with bundles of 15-page duplex-prionted PDFs in my laptop bag and only a  handful get further exploration and even less get broadcast to my friends and colleagues.

Today I thought I might have a quick blitz and share some things I read last week in my Tabbloids:

1. A bit about how Wal-Mart’s CEO clears his inbox every day. This post from Good Experience resonnated with me as I recall the days of long commutes from Chelmsford to Norwich with a work laptop, clearing correspondence religiously at the start and end of each day.

2. The (harsh) reality of Nokia’s acquisition of Dopplr was explored by The Guardian and Signal vs. Noise took up the story and opined about the consequences of similar acquisitions. As a long-term Dopplr fan (a consequence of their tone of voice and functionality), it made for honest and sober reflection on the commercial realities of such deals.

3. PSFK‘s machine gun of inspiration regularly lands a direct hit and last week myself and a colleague both picked up on the behavioural psychology at work in the role of using kindness to punish Danish bike owners violating cycle parking arrangements in Copenhagen. The authorities treat each violator to a full bike service before leaving a message about their violation. Max from Dare suggested that the violators’ subsequent good behaviour might be due to a sense of reciprocity in his post to our clients. I wonder whether the lack of repeat offense (given that such a positive punishment would seem to reward bad behaviour) may be due to an implied belief that the first action was a warning and future violations would actually incur a genuine negative action from the authorities.

4. Late to the party as I don’t track his blog that intently, but as a fan of “Everything Bad Is Good For You“, I was struck by Steven B. Johnson’s forthcoming book when I heard about it this week. His blog post describes the content of the book, called “Where Good Ideas Come From” which is due out (hardcover) in early October.

> Super interested readers can explore my thoughts on “Everything Bad Is Good For You” in a post from June 2005

5. Cycling afficionados may like this post from Cycle EXIF showcasing Pedro Jeronimo’s Slütter. Featuring a belt-drive and some of the most refined titanium metalwork I have ever seen, it is wonderfully different to the derivative hipster fixie in the urban bike category.

6. Hopping about a bit now, this one is an information graphics one. For fans of old-school information design, take a look at Harold Fisk’s hand-drawn map of the Mississippi River in 1944 which illustrated the history of the channel the river took. Beautiful and intricate, if not altogether immediately accessible as an illustrative device.  My thanks to Flowing Data for the spot.

7. Having read Matt Rendell’s wonderful “The Death of Marco Pantani” last year, I was familiar with a few of the pictures posted over at Simon Lamb’s passionately-written La Gazzetta Della Bici. The other pictures he posted were a captivating exploration of the numerous highs and the ultimate low of the tragic death of Il Pirata.

8. Another quick flip over to Flowing Data where their short piece on Harry Kao’s commuter map left me thinking that Mapumental had done a much better job of this data by combining it with house prices in the UK.

I think I will save up a few more of these and share from time to time. If only to identify a few of the great writers and destinations I visit daily on the web that inspire me in work and play.

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