I picked this up on twitter and immeadiately felt the need to repost,
very very good, for more information go to :Read More
(With respects to Aarawak for messing with their tag line)
I’ve been thinking recently about the role of documents in an organisations process, and the slowly dawning realisation that they are increasingly irrelevant, barriers to information sharing, and possibly damaging to all that come near them. Ok that may be a little strong, but let me ellaborate.
When the ”document’ becomes the focus of your efforts, and not the information in them then they become a problem, not a solution. You’ll need document management, audit and access control. when all you really want is the latest info, in an easy to find and use format, also know as ‘a Wiki’.
Worse, documents, when created to satisfy the needs of a process or procedure are often resented by the creator, written after the fact and as quickly as possible, and as a result can include inaccuracies, disinformation and missing details that are needed, in short document suck and act as a barrier to information sharing.
Develop a wiki as part of your project, allow all the actors in your team to contribute as needed, and not only do you have a record of the activity, discussions and decisions made on the project, you have living documentation to support the product once its released.
Now in order to make sure that the information being added to the site is findable, you still need to have some control over the the structure, language and fair use of the wiki. The idea is to make sure that on any product wiki, any one type of information (IA diagram for a web site for instance) will always be in the same relative location. (mysite/ia/diagrams). How you manage this is up to you, either build the structure and contributors follow it, or you do a little post editing, the end results are the same.
In any event ditch the documents, focus on the information instead.Read More
The following article first appeared in Public Sector Executive in August of 2008, http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/dataview/News/News_Article.aspx?KeyValue=438
I revisited the article to see how relevant it is today and whether progress had been made in the subsequent years. The first thing i notice it the lack of references to social web and participatory culture of the web, I touch, lightly on pervasive media. Have things change however when considering accessibility and usability?
I’m not convinced…
Ensuring a website can be accessed by those with disabilities has been widely discussed, and many public sector organisations are following the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) guidelines on accessibility when developing their web-based services. However, how does accessibility impact usability? Is there any need to distinguish between the two? What about the wider experience of interacting online?
Web accessibility is synonymous with the provision of web services for individuals with disabilities and usability is considered a more general concept, relating to the ease with which everyone can use web-based services. However, the two are intrinsically linked. Although improved web accessibility is important, web developers need to take into consideration the needs of all visitors, rather than just those who need to use a screen reader to navigate web pages for example. Consequently, the key to the provision of both usable and accessible web services is that web designers think of the users’ needs first and foremost, and adapt the design accordingly. By doing this, they are able to create web services that all users can benefit from.
Focus on users
When developing a usable web service, public sector decision makers should first identify all target groups – not only those the organisation is currently interacting with. Who are they? How do they want to interact with you?
For example, a local government body may wish to raise its profile among the teenagers living in the community. One way of engaging with this particular segment of the population is via the web.
Due to the rapid pace of web technology development, the public are now using a variety of platforms to find information, access services and interact with public sector bodies. These include games consoles, PDAs and mobile phones, as well as assistive technologies such as screen readers and voice browsers. In addition, individuals may wish to have access to public services at their convenience, so it is important that a website is easy to use not only with a PC or Mac, but also with a mobile phone, public kiosk or other appropriate platforms.
To ensure that public sector organisations are able to interact effectively with their communities, and their individual preferences, it is vital that they keep abreast of technological developments that deliver websites quickly and easily. By improving usability and accessibility, organisations can also demonstrate that it is socially responsible, enhancing its public profile among its different target audiences.
There are a myriad considerations when building public web services. It is easy to focus too much on the technical issues, at the expense of design, and vice versa. It is content however that is most overlooked.
All content should be structured clearly with headers and paragraphs, and any particularly important information should be positioned at the top of the page so that users do not have to read through, or listen to, the entire page before getting to the section containing the information they are looking for. To illustrate, it is commonplace on private sector websites that the “contact us” section is located at the very bottom of the page. Some private organisations may not wish to be contacted by the public, and therefore attempt to hide their telephone number or email address at the bottom of the webpage. However, all public sector bodies should encourage a dialogue with their audience and, as part of this, make contact information as easy to find as possible on the website.
Additionally, language should be simple and consistent, and free of unnecessary jargon. By following the guidelines of the Plain English initiative, an organisation can become known as a reliable and useful source of information. Ensuring that language used on the site is easy to understand is important not only because information should be accessible to those whose first language is not English, but also because if the public is able to find information easily online, it is less likely that they will have to resort to customer support services. In essence, improving usability leads to cost savings and makes more funds available for improving the overall effectiveness of the organisation.
To ensure that an organisation’s website meets general usability and accessibility requirements, it is worth investing in user testing during the planning stages and upon completion of the site. Despite the wide range of automated testing tools available, they are not nearly as accurate and reliable as actual user testing. Moreover, a site can be technically compliant while being difficult to use or functionally inaccessible, which is why user testing is crucial in measuring the degree of ease with which users are able to find information and interact with the organisation in question. In addition, once a usable and accessible site has been developed, organisations should remember to monitor the way in which content is added and updated on the site to ensure that the site will not become unusable or inaccessible.
There are some public sector websites that have been designed in a way that enables the public to access information easily using a variety of platforms and with the vast majority of widely-adopted of web browsers. The DVLA (www.dvla.org.uk) and the Training and Development Agency (www.tda.gov.uk) are good examples. These organisations have realised that making their websites more usable and accessible for all is not only beneficial for the organisation from a financial and administrative point of view, but it also enhances their public image. Above all, it enables individuals of different ages, lifestyles and levels of ability to easily access public services online.
Following W3C guidelines is the first step towards improving a website, but it is not enough. Public sector organisations need to think beyond that and take into consideration the needs and preferences of everyone they wish to reach, to guarantee that their web-based services are both usable and accessible for all.
Many websites will go to significant lengths to mage sure that their navigation is put grouped in a meaningful and logical way, (not always logical to the user but logical none the less)
Others however just don’t get it.
Amazon, a huge success story and still my favourite online retailer, is on my opinion guilty of two major no no’s.
Firstly the criminal use of massively over complicated Captcha images and secondly information grouping.
Where you place links and how you arrange them is extremely important if you are to avoid the ‘oops’ factor, the accidental clicking on a web link that does the exact opposite to the action the user intended
Take for example the illustration below
the links view your wish list and delete your wish list couldn’t be closer, true a simple are you sure message can help avoid the accidentally deletion of a users data, but why add the risk at all?
The way these links are grouped asks for trouble a user in a rush will see wish list, users don’t read but scan pages so there is a high possibility that they will click the wrong list
click the link (yes I tried, nervously) and you are asked to login, odd as I already logged in to view my wish list, no mention of the action you are about to undergo..(I stopped there, yes chicken)
The logical structure of the links is also odd with delete your wedding list in a complete separate screen area to the view your wedding list,
This make more sense separating ‘delete’ actions from ‘view’ actions but it lacks consistency.
The grouping of these links adds to the potential for user error,
Be aware how you group links, group them order or importance and use, user are more likely to want to view their data than delete they whole lot, so why put them together?
actions should implient each other
Clicks on the won link here and you off the site rather than viewing the security notice, only a minor issue but not what the user expects.
Be consistent; make sure that if you follow a logical group for one area of the site, you continue to use the same logic,
If an action for a link may cause user distress, make sure that it’s clear that this link will delete your profile /data
Finally check, then check again “are you sure?” and “An email will be sent to your profile email address to confirm this action”