erica cheng

Friday, January 27, 2006

Notes on Information Architecture

In “Blueprints for the Web: Organization for the Masses”, the author provides the method for a designer to organize the contents based on how people think about those contents, so as to make people easily get access to the information they need. Meanwhile, in “Hierarchy And Contrast: The Basis of Good Design”, the author suggests several techniques that can be used to grab viewers’ attention and make them see what the designer wants to present. Both of the two articles aim to reach the target audiences but their bases are reverse. The method provided by the former article is based on what viewers want to see; while the techniques used in the latter article are based on what do designers want viewers to see. In short, the first article can be viewed more user-orientated; while the second one seems to be more designer-orientated.

Furthermore, both of the two authors assert the importance of organization in a content design but the methods they suggest are different. In “Blueprints for the Web: Organization for the Masses”, the author aims to track viewers’ minds so as to collect their ways of organizing. The author suggests that to understand viewers’ preferences or habits on organizing, can help a designer determine how to facilitate the ways for the viewers to seek information on the designed website. Nonetheless, In “Hierarchy And Contrast: The Basis of Good Design”, the author emphasizes more on optical design of contents display. For instance, to add contrast and exaggeration of word sizes, text styles, and colors can grab viewers’ attention effectively. In my opinion, the organizing methods provided by the two articles can be complementary. The method presented in the first article helps to understand the target audiences’ way of perception; while the techniques offered in the second article is useful for attracting the audiences’ attention. The combination of theses methods can be helpful to effectively convey the designer’s message to the target users.

It is noticeable that the two articles both mention about the idea of grouping related elements. This concept of categorizing different contents can make it easy for people to find what they want; at the same time, it can emphasize and make the message the designer wants to convey coherent and comprehensive to the viewers.

To me, the method for organizing presented in “Blueprints for the Web: Organization for the Masses” is more inspiring. I think all designers must know who their target audiences are and understand what the audiences want. I always believe that this kind of interactivity between designers and viewers is essential for the success of a website or a product. Therefore, the step of “user testing” in the procedure of organizing is especially important. This is helpful for designers to understand people’s ways of organizing, what they are most interested, and how they may perceive the designed website/product. Not only can the step of user testing enhance the designed website/product in advance, but it can also prevent some errors or inconvenience that might happen to the use of the designed website/product. At last, there is one phrase in “Blueprints for the Web: Organization for the Masses”—“If you do your work right, no one will ever notice your taxonomy”, that makes me think of what Andrea mentioned last week, which is “The best design is no design”. I think a good design should be simple but impressed. If a design can make it so easy for people to use that they don’t know they are using a design, it is a success.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Notes on HCI design principles & Gestalt Theory

As far as I’m concerned, the Gestalt theory can be applied to the instructional design, which can facilitate the ways people perceived and understand the contents. Meanwhile, Human-Computer Interface (HCI) design provides users the simple and clear ways to operate the designed product.

The fundamental idea in Gestalt theory is that people perceive a design according to the context, which is the relationship between contents. It is the whole design that affect people’s perception rather the fragmentary elements in the design. The theory is composed of the basic terms—figure and ground, and the six principles—similarity, proximity, continuity, closure, symmetry, and area. There are some ideas in HCI design related closely to Gestalt theory. For instance, the rule of “Strive for consistency” in the HCI design can be viewed as the practice of principles of similarity (put things that share similar visual characteristics together to make them seen as a group) and continuity (preference for continuous figures). It is suggested that the designer should put the consistent actions or similar displays of text (e.g. color, layout, capitalization) together so as to facilitate the ways users understand and operate the designed product. In this way, users can perceive the organized contents as belonging to a group or having relationship with one another, so as to reduce their memory load and enable them to absorb the information more systematically, efficiently, and effectively.

Besides, the rule of “Design dialogs to yield closure” can be interpreted as the practice of principles of proximity and closure. The author of “HCI Design” asserts that “Sequences of actions should be organized into groups with a beginning, middle, and end.” In this way, users can have a complete recognition of the information, which has relationship among each other and is displayed orderly. The application of proximity (put things closer to make them seen as a group) and closure (people’s tendency to see complete figures so as to get complete information), will be helpful for users to catch the message of the design more quickly and coherently.

In my opinion, the application of Gestalt Theory can make a designed product more easily, pleasantly, and distinctively be accepted, understood, and adopted by the users because the process of perception is simplified and organized. Besides, people can grab the information more quickly and efficiently since they will not be distracted by messy contents, neither do they need to waste time finding information in a chaos or looking for relationship in the contents.

The HCI design also includes the ideas of conceptual model, constraint, and conventions discussed in “Affordances and Design”. The conceptual model helps both designers and users to catch the messages being conveyed as well the organization within the messages at a glance. Besides, using constraints and conventions prevent users from making errors during the operation of the product, and familiarize users with the use of the product by following the conventional usage.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Notes on “Internet Standards, Protocols, and Languages” and “Information Interaction Design”

In the article “Internet Standards, Protocols, and Languages”, the author introduces how different standards impact people’s lives by giving examples of different “standards” set on language, metric system, and electrical standards among countries. The different standards have caused communication gaps and thus need translators or converters to bridge the gap. Similar concept can be applied to the electronic systems such as the Internet. As the Internet has become a critical global communication channel, the different Internet standards, protocols and languages must be interoperable so as to make the data conversions proceed smoothly and enable people to share messages and resources. If the standards are incompatible, the distribution of messages and information will be limited and thus hinders communicators’ ability to reach their target audiences. The globally applicable standards will become one of the primary driving forces to support international electronic data exchange and commerce transaction. The same standards or interoperable standards can facilitate global communications, like English as an international language for people from different countries to communicate with one another, and translators as the interoperable tools to bridge the gap between different languages.

Unlike “Internet Standards, Protocols, and Languages”, the other article “Information Interaction Design” focuses on the process of creating an effective information design, which includes information design, interaction Design, and sensorial Design. Information design emphasizes much on the representation of data and its presentation; while interaction design aims to creating compelling experiences for target audiences and sensorial design affects audiences’ perception on the message being delivered. I think the organization of data, which is the critical process of information design according to the author, as well as the various ways to organize data that the author mentions, are pretty important and can be very helpful in our class project design. Besides, in order to achieve an successful information interaction design, the author points out that the designers have to first bear in mind the goals and messages they aim to convey, and to build a meaningful experience for target audiences. It is necessary to clarify the goals and understand the target audiences, including what their needs, abilities, interests, and expectations are and how to reach them, so as to build useful and effective experiences for both the designers and audiences.

When the author mentions about the interactivity with audiences, it reminds me of cases about standards influencing communications. The author suggests the designers to pay attention to the limitations of the technologies and media through which their messages are conveyed when designing the interactivity with audiences. As far as I am concerned, the limitations can be referred to different or incompatible standards, which hinder the process of communication. In addition, the author asserts that people can be more willing to express their creativity toward the designed product if they are accustomed to performing with the tools or techniques. The author suggests that this can be achieved either through the careful design of the experience or offered assistance from the designers. Yet, I think an universal agreed-upon and adopted standard, or interoperable standards, can also provide the accustomed tools or techniques for audiences to reflect their creation on the designed product.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Websites reflecting the Project

I think this website community focus has some reference for the Greenlake community project. It is noticeable that the website provides a channel for people to exchange their opinions and discuss issues in the community. We can learn from the website to add the interactivity functions into our class websites. By this way, the website would be more attrative to retain more readers. It can become an online community for people to gain information about the virtual community, meanwhile for people to communicate with one another.

For the immigration experience project, I found a website marriedhappy, which provides personal experience on immigration. I think this website may be closer to the project idea that people sharing their personal immigration experience.

Projects I am Intersted in...

I like the project about immigration experience website from Meg, Drew and Andrea. Also, I am interested in the Greenlake community website project from Ingrid. I think the first project can help people understand and appreciate various cultures and backgrounds the immgrants bring to Seattle. In long term the website can establish the multicutural trends and broaden people's scopes on different cultures. Compared with the immigration experience website, the Greenlake community website does not address broadly enough to the whole Seattle area. However, I think the idea is really great! First, the information provided on the website is abundant, useful and attractive to me. Second, I think it can bring more business opportunities and development in Greenlake community area. In my opinion, the project can be broadened by extending the introduced communities, instead of focusing only on Greenlake community.

My personal goals & the team roles

My personal goals in the class project team are to learn how to construct and manage a website, how to build up and maintain interactivity with the readers, as well as how to achieve team building and good cooperation among members. I don't have technical background on estabilshing a website. Thus, I feel eager to learn the related technologies. I also feel like learning how to combine the text, audio, and video content on the website effectively and attractively. In addition, I hope to gain good interactivity with my readers. I aim to use effective contents (text-based, audio, and video) to let my readers easily understand my pursuit on the website. In return the readers can provide their feedback and I can know how to improve the contents so as to make the website more attractive to my targeted readers. Finally, through the process of working together for the class project, I aim to learn how to communicate efficiently and properly with each member. I think it is necessary to firstly understand the strength and weakness of each team member, and then we can share our personal experience and comments on our respective positions. That may help group members mutually come to get familiar with the positions that are not their professional fields. Through understanding each others’ fields, the members can give more useful feedback or suggestion to enhance the team collaboration.

I prefer to play the roles as an editor and a graphical designer. I am intersted in reading people's work and sharing my thoughts with the authors. Also, I expect myself to be able to bridge the communication between authors and readers. In addition to the text-related work, I am eager to learn how to design the appearance of a website as well as the display of the contents. Thus, I feel like to trying the jobs a graphical designer take.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I am not good at the technical matters. Therefore, I prefer not to take the roles as information architect or programmers.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Notes on Design Practice and The Publishing Team

In "Notes on Design Practice: Stories and Prototypes as Catalysts for Communication", the author discusses general design process and the key elements within it; whereas in "The Publishing Team", the author emphasizes primarily on the introduction of various members/positions within a publishing team of website publication organization. The former article illustrates general design process, pointing out that design can be viewed as a process of communication among various audiences, and that many design artifacts such as stories and prototypes play a vital role in catalyzing the communication. Meanwhile, the latter article gives specific explanation on different positions and their respective responsibilities and skills in web content publisher organization. In my opinion, the former one reveals the design process laterally; while the latter one presents the design process vertically according to hierarchical order. The design process discussed in "Notes on Design Practice: Stories and Prototypes as Catalysts for Communication", seems to be able to be applied to some ideas shown in "The Publishing Team". These two articles can be put together to present a more comprehensive understanding about design practice.

According to my interpretation, the publisher, managing editor, editor, copyeditor, moderator, information architect, graphical designer, etc., can be regarded as a design team in a website publication organization. The design team together makes communication among themselves, with users and the higher level managing decision makers such as the editorial board in the organization. The designers communicate with users in order to gain their feedback, and with the organization of which they are part so as to “evangelize” the designed content. In addition, the designers from different disciplines also communicate with one another, in order to establish a shared language and understanding on the designed content, achieving the purpose of team building.

The article "Notes on Design Practice: Stories and Prototypes as Catalysts for Communication" provides quite complete and useful methods in the design process. It is noticeable that in order to make the intended end users to provide useful feedback, a concrete understanding of the to-be-designed product must be given. I think this concept is critical to the success of the designed product and can make the design process running more smoothly. To make users understand the to-be-designed product can make the designers interact with users more efficiently, thus to enable the designers to explore the exact needs and problems of the users. As a result, it helps to shorten the time and lower the cost for the designers to ascertain the designed product meets the demands of users.

In addition to the importance of communication in the design process, "Notes on Design Practice: Stories and Prototypes as Catalysts for Communication" also provides an idea that design artifacts such as stories and prototypes serve as the catalysts for the communication. Stories can be viewed as an initial communication tool for designers to communicate among themselves, with users and organization. The memorable and informal characteristics of stories elicit more personal experiences and discussions, so as to provide a more comprehensive picture of the situation and broaden the scope of the to-be-designed product. Compared with stories, the prototypes serve as the concrete representations of the to-be-designed product. The vision prototype is a good follow on to the collection and generation of stories; while the working prototype embodies the current state of the design. The author points out that the working prototype contains two properties: accessibility and roughness. I found it new and helpful to me when the author mentions that the roughness of working prototype “creates ambiguity for designers to resolve it, thus making roughness a source of ideas.” To illustrate, providing too much detail too early in the design may reduce discussions and possible feedbacks from the users and designers, so as to limit the scope for the to-be-designed product. The roughness leaves openings for discussion of the design.