Usability

 

Is usability a science now? Certainly there is detailed analysis around usability in the design of apps, websites and technology in general. Does detailed analysis and data collection make it a science?  The fact the hue saturation can fatigue users is a fact we know now. If the colour on your sites or in your apps is too saturated then people will tire easily and maybe blame the app or website . Don Norman is the doyen of design and who people interact with it and he is worth listening to because he has spent his life in this area, researching about it and then sharing his ideas. He is widely acknowledged for expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science. He looks at how people interact emotionally with design and how that plays an important role in what they can or can’t do with technology or will or won’t do. “It’s the real needs of people, what people think they need often isn’t right.”  We do need , at least, cognitive science to determine the best outcomes for people who use technology. We do need to understand how it can impact on others when we choose and select our designs for apps and websites. UserFocus UK  has an interesting discussion about whether usability is now a science or not. It comes to the conclusion :

“But I do think we can agree that as usability practitioners we should at least adopt a scientific way of thinking. By this, I mean we should approach our work with a self-critical and naturally sceptical mind set, and that our methods, whenever circumstances and budgets allow, should employ the scientific method of investigation.”

Usability at the least needs to be informed by science and if you are using technology to teach others then you need to understand the basic , underlying principles of UX and UI design and their emotional impact. That way you make informed choices about what to use and how you present your content.

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Progressive disclosure

All teachers know about chunking the work. All teachers know about planning lessons and assignments around the steady and controlled revelation of information and knowledge. Step by step teaching and learning is second nature to them. Now they are using technology , it’s time for them to meet the UX and UI experts and learn the term progressive disclosure. It’s not that they don’t know it. There has been IWB software which includes spotlight or hidden screen functionality. There have been Powerpoint presentations where you reveal the learning material a bit at a time. Progressive disclosure is a familiar term and concept in UX and UI and software designers these days think in this way. Apps and software are designed with this in mind so that the user is not swamped with information and can navigate their way through the app , site or software in an intuitive way. Teachers, then, need to be able to talk about progressive disclosure. They need to be mindful of it as they design digital materials and they need to be able to have those conversations with people who are designing educational software and apps so they can explain to them what sorts of stepping processes influence classroom learning and learners. My students were always complaining very loudly if they had software which would not let them progress in any way unless they could write exactly what the software wanted as an answer. It was a big turn off for independent learning. They didn’t like being swamped with a whole array of things to do either. I would ask them to let me know if there were things which deterred them as they learned. I asked them to be able to explain that clearly and with their reasons for being put off. I would then have conversations with the companies supplying that software either on the phone or via email/support to try to explain that from an educational point of view. It often did boil down to the way the software was operating in terms of progressive disclosure. We are still developing tools and techniques for the classroom. We need to keep the conversations going and students need to be encouraged to be a part of that ongoing development so they understand how to improve their virtual world.

Photo Collage

photo collageThis is a great free site for making a group of images look more interesting. It helps you with the design process so that you can create images which are more individual and more aesthetic. it’s not just for collages though. There is a suite of tools which will help make your images look better and things like the built in screenshot taker. It allows you to have access to some good tools to create interesting images. I found it very easy to use when I was making my  new Facebook cover. Just a reminder:

Facebook cover :  851 x 315 pixels

Facebook  profile picture : 180 x 180 pixels

PhotoCollage runs in several European languages.  You select yours with the flag drop down menu.

 

Colour your world

 

PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery is the colour of the year for 2017. Pantone is  one of the significant industry standards for colours and colour integrity. They are there to make money, yes, but they are also there to set standards, create ideas, inspire design in a visual world and all of that is important with technology. It’s not just about fashion. It’s about film, user interfaces, video software, gaming.  Just think about it. How much of our technological world is determined by our visual experience and much of that is related to authentic colour and the use of colour? The Pantone matching system is here on cal-print.com.  Printed colours and digital colours are not identical. Colour charts can be used to get the best match . Mixedmedia has some troubleshooting guides. Even engineers and scientists should worry about colour and there is a good research paper about that here by Rogowitz and Treinish at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Center. Colour matters in a visual world.

Using technology in the real world

Technology use in the real world is quite different from school based use. For a start, the real world uses phones and phone apps far more frequently. Phones are used for messaging reminders, information, keeping in business contact, company and govt apps, calendars, reminders, QR codes and video calling. The real world uses QR codes a lot to get information out. The real world also engages more regularly with social media. Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter are used to provide a point of contact, sometimes to create discussions and information sharing and to create real ties with people of similar interest or regional location. The real world documents their activities more with photos which are shared and ideas which are shared. You get to see work places, discussion groups, activities, ideas generation. Through social media you engage more dynamically with a business , organisation or key individual. Individuals will use their phones for information checking, sharing photos and ideas with you: show and tell. They will use their phone to put in reminders or check their calendar. They will show you how they manage their phone and the sorts of things they use it for. Some use it to make videos which they share on YouTube or Instagram. They might be tourist videos but more often than not they are instructional videos or videos of their pets. Phones can also be used to navigate exhibitions and to get local information. Phones play a significant role in documenting daily life and routines.  Laptops are used to get work done. I have seen people on the train studying power points, writing scripts for essays or tutorials, doing spreadsheets or studying notes. Laptops are noticeably the work horses of the real world. Tablets tend to be for games, videos and video calling. Some people do that on their phones but tablets by and large seem to be the device of choice for video calling especially for older people. There are fewer people who bang on on the mobile phone incessantly and loudly in public. It tends to be more discreet these days and often phones are not visible in meetings or restaurants at all. They come out when someone wants to share information or put in a diary date or check an appointment. White boards have a limited use in the real world and different from in a classroom. In classrooms their use is multipurpose, multifunction and multifaceted. In the real world they show someone else’s laptop and you go through their files as a group. From that point of view they are used collaboratively. You are all looking at something and it is being changed in real time as the discussions ensue. It’s actually a satisfying use of IWB in a meeting. In the other group I attend the IWB is used for Power Point displays, videos and group work questions. It’s good and it works but a white board can do so much more. In the real world I use my phone so much more. Everywhere I go there are things I can do with my phone either to get information or to share it.  For one of my groups I take pictures for Instagram and my blogs. They have brought me in contact with so many people in the region and local businesses. Organisations also use email a lot to get out information, enhance information, supply useful links, create discussions and offer support. That use of emails is very helpful and positive. It is quite effective for deepening discussions and the emails which come with follow up ideas and information help create a very positive atmosphere. The last thing which is all the go in the real world are very classy, cool desktops with gadgets. The minimal  design emphasis is obvious and the clean, clear layouts and arrangements are striking. Pleased to add that my retro desktop has proven to be popular!

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