Cambridge University Design / UX group

“Inclusive Design” write-up

Prof Patrick Jordan gave a fascinating talk at the Engineering Dept, on April 29th. In it, he discussed inlcusive design, and specifically “The Four Pleasures – Designing for Inclusive Emotional Engagment“.

But what is inclusive design?

Prof Roger Coleman at the Royal College of Art describes it like this:

Inclusive design is not a new genre of design, nor a separate specialism, but an approach to design in general and an element of business strategy that seeks to ensure that mainstream products, services and environments are accessible to the largest number of people.

Hmmm. Accessibility… usability… sound familiar?

Pat Jordan didn’t mention websites or anything like that once in his talk; it was all about products and consumers. But when you get down to it, the parallels are obvious – we are, after all, producing products that people consume, use, interact with, and so on.

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Consistent user experience

Not long ago, I wrote something that mentioned the idea of creating and re-using components in a website or other design project, the idea being that once you have come up with something that really works, don’t just bin it when the project is finished. With a bit of re-styling, that same component (a search box, a “Go to the to of the page” button, a tabbed navigation menu, etc) might come in handy again.

This makes us more efficient… why reinvent the cup of tea every time?

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More good talks

Here we go – two more upcoming talks in Cambridge, and a video of a great talk Jeffrey Veen gave recently.
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Computational Information Design write-up

Ben Fry – Computational Information Design

Making sense of huge datasets! (Microsoft Research, Cambridge, 23.04.2009)

Well, that was a pretty impressive talk. Visualising the information contained within massive sets of data is a big challenege, and something that researchers in a range of fields face every day. Designers can help to bridge the gap between aesthetics and functionality, and help make information usable.

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In an admittedly geeky way, I really like good infographics. I actually read those leaflets on planes and trains!

A project in New York has produced a series of quite extensive infographics which seek to explain various complicated things using minimum text.

The example I looked at covers information for street vendors [PDF] in the city –  the different kinds, licensing, the law, history, etc. A significant part of the target audience is foreign, so conveying information effectively using imagery was very important for the project.

It crossed my mind that this might be good here, to explain different aspects of the University. Staff and students get LOTS of [textual] information when they arrive, and for non-native English speakers, parts of it must be a challenge. Could some of that information communicated using infographics? It makes me wonder…

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Designing the details

I found a presentation given last year for the Dallas Fort Worth chapter of the UPA that I thought people might get something from. The speaker, Stephen Anderson, presented “a discussion on how eye candy (or aesthetics) is a business requirement“. Only the slides are available (so no sound), but those are good enough to get the point across.

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Ben Fry – “Exploring the role of visualisation in research”

A bit last minute, but Ben Fry is giving a talk over at Microsoft Research (on JJ Thompson Ave, just off Madingley Rd… you can take the Uni 4 bus there) this Thursday, at 11am. The large lecture theatre there has 126 seats, so lots of space – no need to register, I am assured: just turn up.

I think this talk is part of the Joined-Up Ecology seminar, which is running this week. From the abstract, this talk looks really interesting, and although it doesn’t mention ecology, it does mention data visualisation, design, and bringing together disparate approaches…
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The Survey for People Who Make Websites (2008)

A List Apart : Survey for People Who Make Websites (2008)Yesterday, the mighty A List Apart released the results of the latest sensibly-named Survey for People Who Make Websites. The survey allows you to get a very good overview of what is happening in the web design industry, with statistics about things like what kind of web work people do, how that breaks down, ideas of pay, peoples’ aspirations… all sorts of things.

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Simple data visualisation with CSS – improve user experience

For the main project I work on, my boss, a Prof in the Dept of Earth Sciences, writes an article, or ‘Topic’, about the subject he is interested in, and this Topic is added to one or more Categories. The whole lot, plus all the relationships, is stored in a database, and those data are used to generate content for a website. This is exactly the same concept as me writing a post on this blog, and then adding it to the ‘Tips’ category.data_viz_screengrab

I’ve been playing around with simple graphical representations of the data, initially just using CSS techniques. I thought that some of you might find it handy so see how it is done.

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