Archive | Information management

The Right Way to Wireframe, Part 1

Now getting ready for a workshop session on wireframing, from a couple of guys I follow on Twitter: @zakiwarfel and @russu.

Love this. Starting off with the point that in UX design, we never actually see the work.

What’s better, wireframing or prototyping? This is a funny session but so far hard to take notes. We’ll see how it goes.

So the premise is that 4 designers wireframed a new site for lend4health.com, microlending platform for children’s health needs.

Russ Unger chose Balsamiq for his tool. But first he’s showing us his index-card-and-post-it-note work that was the first step. Then found he couldn’t make the site map in Balsamiq.

But he did build out the wireframes there. And he shows those and the final design crafted from them by @simplybrad.

OK so this is cool. They took photos of their sketching, but they also screencasted their computer work. That is is pretty cool.

Now we’re on to Todd Zaki Warfel. He starts off with about a zillion post-it notes and sorts them on the wall into themes. He uses personas, the number based on what the data tells them is necessary. Then they start sketching, to explore concepts.

[Me: Personas are so rarely done well. Often they lead you down a dead-end path, because they aren’t informed by real-world data, but instead by someone in the C-suite’s opinions. I’m just going to assume that with all the data Zaki Warfel collects, that he’s doing them right.]

Zaki Warfel does some internal pitch/critiquing, and then goes straight to gray-scale prototyping, then brings in a designer.

He claims not to wireframe, but instead to prototype. His handdrawn sketches sure look like wireframes to me, however. Generally uses HTML/CSS but for this presentation he used Fireworks.

Really interesting session….Part 2 happens at 12:30.

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Your software is hiding your people

I’ve worked with content management systems since the late 1990s. And I can tell you there’s not been a perfect one invented. But some are much, much better than others.

I’m a technology geek [n., person who enjoys new stuff], but sometimes I get annoyed with the constant focus on newest, brightest, shiniest. For one thing, there’s so much newest, brightest, shiniest, that it’s practically impossible to keep up unless you either define your niche very narrowly, or unless you spend your whole day doing that. I don’t know about you, but I’m not paid to keep track of the latest goo-gahs, no matter how easy they make my life.

And yet.

I have worked on a number of web projects in my life where the software will just drive you to drink. I think most people want the end result — the website, the marketing campaign, whatever — to be elegant and easy to understand. And often they don’t understand why that doesn’t happen. It’s tempting to blame the designer, the writer, whoever. And sometimes, that’s where the blame lies. But far more often, I’ve seen the blame lie in one of two places:

  • Corporate politics [a subject for another post, to be sure]
  • Crappy software

I can go on a web tour right now and show you dozens of sites that aren’t achieving their objectives because the software makes it too hard. [I’ll let the guilty remain anonymous today.]

A related problem is when people don’t realize they’re using bad software, or don’t realize that it’s the problem.

If your software makes it hard to post, it’s not working for you. If your software makes it hard to link things together, it’s not working. If it makes it hard to connect people to other people, it’s not working. If all you see is the software, it’s not working, that is why you should always use quality assurance software to make sure that is working fine.

Don’t blame “the web being ineffective” or “inability to measure results in social media” if the real problem is “your software hides the people.” Therefore, you need good quality software that does not do this, for example the POS System is great software for restaurants as you can manage your employees better, you may want to check out RestaurantPOSSystems.com and check the quality for yourself!

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When to use a PDF. When not to.

I was literally just thinking about how I always print PDFs. I was going to say something on Twitter about it, even. And then I opened my new QuickBooks manual, which came in PDF format, and discovered it was 605 pages.

What a PDF does
PDFs (portable document format, originally developed by Adobe) are designed to ensure the recipient sees your document exactly the same way you do — among other things. You can view a Microsoft Word document, save it, and email it to a friend — and even if you are both using PCs and have the same fonts installed, it may appear a little different to them.

And once you move past common system fonts, or cross the PC-Mac divide, all bets are off with original documents. So PDFs make a lot of sense. In addition, you can often convey information much better in a PDF. You can use a sophisticated graphics or layout program, like InDesign or Illustrator, to create graphs and charts that Word, Excel and other common programs can’t create. Then, you make a PDF of your graphics-intensive document, and your readers don’t need to own the original program to view the document — just the free, and commonly used, Adobe Reader.

Design challenges for online reading
Well designed web pages are short, with lots of cues to help you know where to dive in and where to skim — because study after study shows that that’s how we read online. But a well designed PDF often looks and feels like a book.

So when I download a good PDF, I want to read it like a book or manual — holding it in my hands. Marking pages and making notes. That’s the kind of information you commonly get in a PDF — information that requires tactical engagement.

I’m unsure of the value of a 605-page PDF. Actually, I can tell you how much it’s going to cost me. If I print the QuickBooks manual, it will take me 1.08 of my standard HP color cartridges, and 1.25 of my standard black cartridges. $73.19. That’s an awfully expensive manual, no? Instead, apparently I have to keep this 22 MB file sitting around on my computer so I can search it when I need to know something. Because I’m certainly not going to read a 605-page PDF on the computer.

I try to avoid web cliches like this, but this strikes me as an epic fail on QuickBooks’ part.

Consider the format when you’re putting a document together. How will people want to use it? Are you making the information useful?

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