Bike Map Press Release

December 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

One of these days I’ll get around to writing a proper post about my summer fellowship project [update: I finally posted about it on my portfolio site], but for now, I’ll just mention that IU put up a press release about it today!

The basic story is that I spent the summer researching bicycling for transportation and then created what I would call a “first generation” bike map of the City of Bloomington using the Google Maps API. I learned an incredible amount during the project — I’ll give more details in a few weeks when the semester is over and things start to calm down a little around this place.

Safe Streets for Everyone

October 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

“In Bogota, our goal was to make a city for all the children. The measure of a good city is one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can safely go anywhere. If a city is good for children, it will be good for everybody else. Over the last 80 years we have been making cities much more for cars’ mobility than for children’s happiness.”

Former Bogotá Mayor Enrique Penalosa, via Streetsblog

My capstone project has slowly been taking shape over the past month, and at the moment I’m hoping to focus on the development of tools that will help urban planners conduct health impact assessments. I want to remember the quote above because it’s a good reminder of why I’m passionate about pursuing this project.

Check it: MS Word is baroque.

October 20, 2008 § Leave a comment

From an old post I started and never published in Feb. 2008:

In my Experience Design course, we’re spending the month of February talking about experience design criticism and how it can inform our work. It’s fun to see how my training in literary criticism is helping me understand this way of thinking.

The first article we’ve read on the topic, “Criticism as an Approach to Interface Design,” by Olav Bertelsen and Soren Pold, yields this “juicy quote,” as my professor would say:

“Word can be seen as renaissances [sic?] in the sense that it builds on the tool metaphor and aims to incorporate a WYSIWYG interface. However, the abundance of new functions and domains, such as the inclusion of DTP functions, web publishing, support for reviewing and collaboration, has led to a baroque mannerism in the interface.

“Understanding the stylistic development from renaissance to baroque – a development that is not only referring back to the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries but is relevant whenever new expressions develop, mature and decay – is key to envisioning new designs for hybrid tools such as a word processor” (p. 26).

For more on interaction design criticism, you can check out the blog series my professor, Jeffrey Bardzell, wrote on the topic.

Bring the Extra-Sticky Post-Its

October 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

Last week in Interaction Design Methods, we collected all the research our team has been conducting this semester and created an affinity diagram.

Affinity diagramming takes a long time — bring rations!

Affinity diagramming takes a long time — bring rations!

It was a grueling process to transfer all our notes to post-its and arrange them into categories that made sense, but in the end, we developed some helpful insights that have pushed us further toward nailing down a design direction for our project.

As a team, we were surprised at the usefulness of the resulting diagram because our research had been seemingly unrelated up to that point — contextual inquiry with the city volunteer-matching program, ethnography at a local community garden, and a focus group of Bloomington citizens about their attitudes toward “buying local.”

Me, Augusto, and Xiaohan, transferring our research data to post-its

L to R: Me, Augusto, and Xiahan, transferring our research data to post-its

I’m eager to try this method out again with a future project — definitely with my capstone. Our instructor and associate instructor were nice enough to provide us with pictures of the workshop.

Our Related Readings

  • Beyer and Holtzblatt (1998). Contextual Design. Chapter 9.
  • Kuniavsky (2003). Observing the User Experience. Chapter 8.

Newsflash: Making it Pink is Not Enough

September 13, 2008 § Leave a comment

The Ottawa Citizen recently posted a story about a developer in Texas who used some participatory design techniques to involve local women from the community in the creation of a new shopping center. I love that the final design is a mixed-use space that integrates more than just shopping and has a major focus on greenery instead of concrete.

Mr. Montesi added that Watters Creek was not any more expensive to build than other projects; it’s just that the money was allocated differently. For example, in response to the women who were consulted, more money was spent on landscaping than is typical for such a project, and less on making the buildings look impressive.

“They said: ‘We don’t much care about the buildings, we care about the landscaping.’”

All of which was a revelation to Mr. Montesi, who concluded that attracting a female shopper “definitely wasn’t about painting the buildings in pastels. It wasn’t about making the buildings look feminine, it was about making the place more friendly to the women who use it.”

via Ian via Brand Avenue

Indi Young on A List Apart

September 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

I am loving this new article in A List Apart, “Look at It Another Way,” written by Indi Young of Adaptive Path. It’s incredibly reflective of what we talk about every day in my master’s program.

Defining groups by their relationship to your product blinds you to the relationship they might have with products you haven’t thought of yet.

It’s awesome to see a piece like this, written by a UX rock star, on A List Apart (and it’s her second article here in the past year, no less), which is read by so many people who spend a great deal of their time at work getting their hands dirty with code. It reaffirms my belief that the web design industry as a whole is waking up to the need for solid interaction design that puts people first.

Bad Tools, Accessibility, and Playing to Writers’ Strengths

September 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

We could talk all day about why terrible tools are so prevalent. (In my experience, the reason why a terrible tool isn’t replaced is because someone senior paid $500,000 for it and sure as hell isn’t going to admit a mistake and scrap it.)

– From Accessibility in a Suit and Tie by Bruce Lawson, for Vitamin

So much of this article rang true for me in my experience as a university web designer. Although I was at a nonprofit, many of the issues related to getting buy-in from the top were the same.

I particularly appreciated what Bruce says about teaching CMS contributors to write their content in HTML. I think many people overlook the fact that HTML that has been created using web standards should make sense to any good writer — at its base, HTML just gives us a way to label the parts of our work (the main heading, the subheadings, the paragraphs, the figures/images, etc.), which we all learned to do in third grade or so. In my experience, writers don’t get fired for thinking explicitly about the structure and organization of their prose.

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