Sign language.

Signweb is my favourite site right now. For some reason, stuff that I’ve read a million times about visual design, usability or wayfinding just seems so much fresher when recontextualised by a site that’s also trying to sell me giant plastic-engraving machines.

This article has a great little colour-combos-for-legibility panel on page two:
Can’t Your Read the Signs?: Graphic layout effectiveness is measured in seconds

On a related tip:

“From small electronic objects to large airports, color plays a powerful role in helping you use the device or navigate the space. Unfortunately, color is only beginning to gain recognition as a critical component in “usability.” The following information presents a few of the many ways color can succeed or fail.”

Systems designer’s response to 11th September

A diagram that asks if “Terror” is an open system by a retired system designer.

It’s a little Yoda-esque* and high-level for my liking and as such not a successful for me as the previous diagram they published.

A nice little comment from the author, though, at the end of the piece; more widely applicable to our field, perhaps:

“As system designers, we are always designing systems for others to use. There is nothing worse than being on the end of the plank, with everyone telling you it’s great and it’s OK to jump. In other words, dissent produces a better system. Any comments or questions, please?”

* by Yoda-esque, I’m refering to the diminutive jedi-master’s riff on cycles of violence: “anger leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to suf-fer-ring…

Peterme on ‘information ecology’

Dunno if peter reads my blog, but in a spasm of synchronicity, he’s posted a big riff on ‘Information Ecology’; referencing a book called “Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart”.

It sounds fascinating, not directly mapping to my stab at defining an infomation ecology in the‘rulespace’ piece, and far more developed (let’s face it, nearly anything would be). But my “information powers of ten” still stands I think as a way to plug these perspectives together.

Go and read the piece on PeterMe: Biological metaphors for information processes? On “The hell,” you say!

Nielsen says nice things

Jakob Nielsen has a couple of nice things to say about BBC News Online in this week’s Sunday Times.

“BBC Online is a breathtaking website, much more integrated with its television and radio channels than, say, CNN. It is another good example of clean design, particularly the home page, which is well categorised, so it is easy to know where to look for breaking news. Where it fails is that it is hard to find things that have been archived. It fronts a huge quantity of rich content, and a vast archive, but lacks an efficient way of digging into it, or even listing what was there yesterday. The web puts out the latest information, which then builds to become a resource. Finding a means of dealing with accumulated content is a weakness of many websites.”

One of things we did concept work on back at BBC News in early 99 in the run up to producing the redesign (the present design) was an idea for ‘storytools’, that could have made use of the Autonomy technology that powers the BBC News search to create ad-hoc trails back into archived content.

Autonomy works by creating and matching the relevence of ‘concepts’ about the meaning of content from the content itself. The Storytools could lead you on a trail back to the origintion of a story by calculating and tracing relevance of the concept the story you were browsing from over time back through the BBC News corpus.

At any point, you would probably be presented with multiple path choices around personalities, stories, issues, places etc to trace your interest back through the archive. I guess the nearest experience to how we imagined it would be Amazon’s recommendations links: ‘other people who have bought this…’.

Again I find myself refering to Ellen Kampinsky’s awesome Amazoning The News

However, it wouldn’t be shaped by the community of users, but purely by the interelationships of content. It never got further than some mocked-up screens, but the tech guys from Autonomy expressed enthusiasm for the concept.

Does anyone know of any content sites that have done something similar in the last two years? E-commerce sites have pioneered innovative ways of encouraging ‘cross-sell’ and ‘up-sell’ but what about the equivalent for content?

If not maybe now I’m back at the BBC I can have another crack at it….

More on IA and brand

Vic Zauderer and Marc Escobosa on chaging mindsets about branding and identity for the Web/INteractive media.

Marc mailed me yesterday about RuleSpace and being the curious type I followed a link on his .sig back to his design company, Zaudhaus. There really is some lovely work there. I was particularly taken by the “current workload” meter in the top-right hand corner of the screen – a great little touch of honesty to connect to possible clients…

The Evolution of Brand Strategy (Web Techniques, Aug 2000)

RuleSpace presentation

As given at the Bloc seminar on convergent content last Friday.

Danny has kindly converted it to HTML (thanks Danny) and you can get that version or the big fat powerpoint version from this page[pop!]

Also, Nico helped me kludge my kludge of a site to get comments working. Thanks Nico. So PLEASE let me know your thoughts and criticism of the piece. It’s just a relieff to get the stuff out of my head after about a year and a half, but it would be good to know if you get it, or find it useful…!