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.

Google search tips

Google is probably everyone’s best friend. I don’t know how I lived without it. Lugging an encyclopedia off a shelf and thumbing through used to be a serious, important task, now I just Google. I never have to live in ignorance and I can always know. Google has a lot of built in functionality that you may not be aware of. It pays to keep up to date with their changes to help you find exactly what you need. Your results are as good as your search techniques. Distractify offers 32 great tips for Google searches. I am always using it to look up words, translate single words, dates and so I knew a lot of these. There were a number I didn’t know. Every time you add a new search function to your toolbox you will improve your ability to get what you want!

Extract dominant colour

Image: Vaunt

It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to accessorise your latest outfit, decorate your home, create a stunning PowerPoint, an impressive visual presentation, rejig your website or create an appealing app, attention to colour is an essential skill in a visually oriented world where we are looking at everything all the time. Some people have always had a natural colour sense. The rest of us can now use tools to help create a finished product which is visually cohesive and has impact. You do that by extracting the dominant colours of an image and then matching the additional elements to that colour palette. It is easily coded and so there are apps and online sites which will help you keep your sense of colour together and aid you to create web pages, projects, posts and videos which have an intrinsic sense of colour balance. You can also use it to play with colour to get more interesting visual effects.

Vaunt is a free app which will give you plenty of dominant colour extraction options. It is as simple as dropping the image into the box and then trialling the options until you get what you prefer. There are two other quick and easy online sites for doing this as well but without the extractions options: Color Thief and Vibrant.

Enjoy!

Content review

content planningIt doesn’t matter who you are providing content for. It doesn’t matter if you are an educator, a business owner, a trainer , an entrepreneur, an organisation, society or individual, you have to create a process whereby you review the content you are producing. I have created two slides which show how I quickly assess my content. It has to be current. My content has to address the fact I have a number of visitors from all different countries, some of whom do not speak English. I have to make some sort of effort to ensure the limitations of electronic translators will not mar comprehension. It is also important to be aware that you can offer your content in different ways and that visual literacy is very important in a digital world. Sometimes you find old content you created which needs to be updated and made relevant because the core messages and information are still relevant. People want to know there is value in content. They want to be able to use it, add to it, grow it and move it forward.

content review If you want them to act on your content you need to explain why and give them reasons for doing so. Content also needs to be appropriate for the audience. Nothing more unsettling to find out you don’t belong where that content is and you don’t want anything more to do with it. The opposite is also true. You find yourself engaging with content and then find yourself asking – What was that all about? Why did I bother? There was nothing in it. There are what are known as puff pieces. Your content review then has to focus on relevancy and context. You need to create a framework to ensure others can see the relevance of your content. Some of that it is in your display. Some of it is the perspective you offer and the way in which you show the value of the content. People like to have takeaways. They are surrounded with information and stuff. If you don’t look at the creation, presentation and development of your content in a constructive way then you just become part of digital chatter.

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.

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