Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Say Goodbye to Doc Holds Fourth, and Hello to Meld Blog

Doc Holds Fourth has been a great avenue for me to publish ideas and thoughts about user experience over the past few years. It was especially useful when, as a director of Red Square, I wanted to maintain a presence that was less about Red Square and more about me.

Clearly, with the move in late 2007 to start up Meld, the need for a distinct and separate outlet has become less and less over time. And it has made even less sense to have a company site and an unconnected blog, maintaining two separate sites. So, to coincide with the redesign of the Meld site (you should take a look and tell me what you think!) we've also launched a new blog at meld.com.au/blog where all new articles will be posted. In addition, we'll be (as time permits) migrating all of the back catalog of Doc Holds Fourth over to the Meld blog.

If you're a regular reader of Doc Holds Fourth I'd encourage you to head over to the Meld blog and sign up to the feed. I hope that the articles you find there in the future will be at least as interesting as the ones you've enjoyed over time at Doc Holds Fourth.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

UX Australia - August 2009

It was with a certain sense of trepidation, and a great deal of excitement that we announced yesterday the UX Australia conference. The trepidation is only natural - as with any big undertaking. And there are a lot of reasons to be excited. Here are some of the biggies:
  • Its being held in Canberra. Usually, UX & Web conferences get held in places like Sydney or Melbourne or Perth. And we wanted to share some of the love with our capital cousins
  • The conference is community based, which means we're calling for proposals for presenters from the community; and we'll be involving volunteers from the community to review and help select the conference program
  • It's about UX. Not IA, although that will be covered. Not interaction design, although that will be covered as well. Nor is it about information design, usability, accessibility, or user research. No, it's about all of those things equally, and about how they all play a role in delivering great experiences to people.
The conference venue - Hotel Realm - looks pretty sweet as well. Brand new; five-star; but with plenty of affordable options for inter-state and international travelers. And plenty of restaurants and bars within throwing distance.

We'll be calling for presentation proposals in a bit over a week, so think of a good topic and get ready to send it in.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Visualisation is an analytic technique

I'm working on an article at the moment, as part of a broader series of work on the topic of analysis. That article - which will be published soon, and I'll post a link to it when its available - is about the different techniques we use during our analysis work.

I won't pre-empt the main article, but as I've thought about these techniques I've come to the recognition that data visualisation is an analysis technique. It's a tool that helps us not only make sense of the data, but offers us a way of analysing it as well.

How does that work? We're not really doing anything to the data, just making a diagram or illustration, right?

Well, what we're doing is providing an alternative representation of the data. Let me give you an example: let's say our data is a list of words and the frequency with which they appear in an interview transcript. It looks like a table of word-value pairs, a little like this:

Analysis: 12
technique: 8
well: 6

Now compare that to this:
Wordle: analysis_technique

Suddenly, the data takes on a new dimension. Literally. The significance of those numbers is made more real, more tangible through the visualization. The same is true of graphs, charts, histograms, radial graphs and pie charts: the visualization of the data adds to the narrative and helps expose patterns, grouping and holes that are otherwise ambiguous or completely obscured as a list of numbers.

Visualizations have the added advantage of being a much better tool for communication than a spreadsheet or lists. You can bring them out at a meeting and elicit interest instead of the glazed expression that only a large spreadsheet seems to bring about. And they can be re-used down the track as an illustration for any reports that may be required.

Lastly, they give you something to look at. A good visual is one of those things that brings your data to life, making it stand out (as we saw above) and really start to speak to you. So during those periods when you're soaking in the research data and the progress you've made on the analysis, those visualizations can provide an anchor for your thinking and help you move on to the next stages of the analysis.

So, don't discount the power of a good visualization to do more than just communicate. Remember that it can also be a powerful tool for gaining insights from your data, which is, after all, what analysis is all about.