'… The hardest part in developing a system is in deciding what to build' (Brooks 1987, p. 11).
People will not remember a website because of how well it was designed, how fast it loaded or how catchy a headline was. No. People remember websites because at some point in their lives, the website satisfied their needs perfectly. Reflecting on Brooks (1987) quote above; discovering a perfect fit for a website, within the context of peoples lives, is only achievable when time is spent discovering what is meaningful to the end-user.
Disclaimer: The software examples below are experimental in nature, and therefore you should not expect them to look or act in a finished manner. The technology itself may or may not be in a finished state. As such, seeing and interacting with this software is no guarantee that the product or functionality will ever be released, or if it is, may look different to its current form.
160 Characters Project (in progress)
This project utilises mobile technology, primarily SMS text messaging, to improve maternal health outcomes for Indigenous Australian woman. This development has become possible due to a number of studies reporting on the rapid adoption of mobile phone technology by Indigenous Australian communities, within a very short timeframe (one to two years). Furthermore, in countries such as the USA, Russia, Africa and Ethiopia, similar systems are already at various stages of development and research. Pregnant women using these systems have reported; improved interaction with healthcare providers, improved adherence to appointments and immunisations, and increased access to health resources. The strength of these systems is in their simplicity. Women receive 2-3 SMS text messages per week, timed to correspond with the woman's due date, with a focus on critical issues in maternal health, that experts want them to know. While research suggests Australia has historically struggled to meaningfully progress with a national E-Health agenda, this proposal aims to investigate and develop a pilot system, to provide preliminary evidence that such a system would be effective in an Indigenous Australian context. Project is to be implemented through the NSW Department of Health with cultural feedback from The Wollotuka Institute.
Exploratory interface designs inspired by 140 Characters
An initial paper sketch, wireframe and responsive web prototype are available. These concepts will be used to develop an operational SMS subscribe/unsubscribe system, to be implemented within the NSW Department of Health.
The Wollotuka Project
Using the example of an Indigenous Australian end-user, the theory shows that designers are faced with complex issues in the deployment of such interfaces because context (or culture) can manifest itself in many ways, including the methods and techniques used, as well as the customs, ideologies and values of the group. Many design issues were identified in the Wollotuka Project in relation to Indigenous Australian context. New ways of representing diverse users still need to be explored, not from a Western context but within non-Western paradigms. Not only is there a need to suspend beliefs and learn anew the end-users' knowledge systems but there is also a need for caution, in assuming the requirements gathering process is acceptable to all target audiences. The dominant role of Western thought in computer applications may be why alternative strategies are rarely explored.
Publications resulting from The Wollotuka Project
The publications include numerous screenshots of the final design which can be used as a starting point for any Australian Indigenous interface project.
George, R 2012, 'Capturing cultural requirements in the design of a website for an Aboriginal community', Ph.D thesis, The University of Newcastle.
George, R, Nesbitt, K, Donovan, M & Maynard, J. (2012), 'Evaluating Indigenous Design Features Using Cultural Dimensions', in H Shen & RT Smith (eds.), Proceedings of the Thirteenth Australasian User Interface Conference (AUIC 2012), Melbourne, Australia. Australian Computer Society, CRPIT, vol. 126, pp. 49-58.
George, R, Nesbitt, K, Donovan, M & Maynard, J 2011, 'Focusing on Cultural Design Features for an Indigenous Website', Proceedings of the Australasian Conference on Information Systems ACIS 2011, paper 17, <http://aisel.aisnet.org/acis2011/17>.
George, R, Nesbitt, K, Donovan, M & Gillard, P 2010, 'Identifying cultural design requirements for an Australian Indigenous website', in C Lutteroth & P Calder (eds.), Proceedings of the Eleventh Australasian Conference on User Interface, Australian Computer Society, Darlinghurst, Australia, vol. 106, pp. 89-97.
This book discusses the website design process of 'what to make' rather than into 'how to improve'. The exploratory process tests possibilities expressed through ideas, with no clear directions of final outcome. It generates new understandings of how people interact with websites.
Research suggests that website designers are prone to imitating other website designers. So, next time your planning a design project, take a step back for a moment and ask yourself if you really know the people who are going to be using the website and whether the new website will really fit into the context of their lives? If your not sure, it may be time to read this book.
Interface design inspired by The Wollotuka Project
Indigenous Australian web concepts: The first example is a one-page web prototype targeting Indigenous Australians. This interface and the mobile site was inspired while working with the Wollotuka community. All dotwork has been done by hand using Adobe Illustrator. Another prototype inspired by Indigenous Australian culture is the virtual tour interface of Uluru. The radiatewarmth.com site (currently offline) is a 'parked domain' concept. Graphics for this site were hand-painted on an iPad.
Games: When researching the Wollotuka project, it emerged that participants wanted to portray a fun image on the web. In general, the sense of informality and fun associated with the Wollotuka community were considered more important than the reinforcement of serious reputation. For this reason, two games were developed; the rooshoot game and the memory match game.
This books purpose is to be readable and easy to navigate. The color platelet was chosen to keep a clean, professional appearance. The total size of the app is 10.6 MB.
Responsive Web Design: This website (reecegeorge.com) is an example of responsive design. askreece.com is a responsive blog built using Wordpress and Twitter Bootstrap. My resume' page is a experimental one-page responsive design using Google maps.
Interface Design Process
The interface design process used here contains three main phases. The initial phase is intended to gain an understanding of both broad and specific design issues, to collect the initial expectations of the end-user community. This stage includes a literature review and a focus group discussion. The second, iterative phase is where the main design work takes place. At least two iterations are completed during this phase, isolating the 'key design features' for prototyping. In each case, a high fidelity prototype incorporating the key design features is developed for use as a prop in one-on-one interviews with the participants. The feedback from these interviews informs further design work. The final phase is to evaluate the resultant key design features and the overall process.
Such an approach that includes focus groups and interviews, as well as prototypes to gather feedback using structured interviews, has been recommended for identifying the 'meanings' of a representation within 'contexts' . It is also important to note that the effective transition of the prototype to the website design & development team typically involves the communication of rationale, requirements, intent and details of the prototype.
Reece George, Ph.D