I love this idea of seeing numbers over a timeline. Extremely engaging and interesting work.

ICTs for Development

I’ve entered the ITU data on mobile phone penetration for all countries from 1998-2008 into a Google Docs spreadsheet, and then added the Motion Chart visualiser (the same engine made famous by Hans Rosling and TED, though they use the Gapminder Trendalyzer version).

Unfortunately, WordPress scripting rules mean I can’t post the active chart here. To access the spreadsheet data and Google Motion chart, you need to go to:

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tUzZsw5SoG_jXRDl6p8tRCg&single=true&gid=0&output=html

Screenshots below give an indicator of how you can visualise the data. The chart offers three main means to visualise (bubble, bar chart, and line graph) via tabs at the top right. You can change the axes and element colouring/size, and highlight individual countries. For bubble and bar, the main point of the chart is that you can click play (bottom left) and show how things change over time. (Note playback speed variation control, and also the ability to drag…

View original post 126 more words

Advertisements

So what is it that I did yesterday?

scr_11_644

Yeah.. I mean you would ask such as question, as the one above in the title of the post, to yourself when you probably had worked really just a day before and today you happen to be comparatively a little eased. So in retrospection I am posing this question to myself, “So what is it that I did yesterday?”.  Apparently the answer to this question is relatively simpler than I imagined. It is either one activity or the other… something with a well define goal to be completed in a shorter time. However what is interesting me more now, as I look back, are a bunch of new things which I discovered. I was involved with an UI assignment where I was struggling to produce quick prototypes. For those who are not familiar with the domain, UI is an acronym for User Interface. The assignment demands me to create sufficiently detailed prototypes which I can use to illustrate the workflows and individual screens. Fighting against the time I tried couple of things, right from Photoshop to Illustrator, Balsamiq, Pidoco and so many of these. Every link got me to a new product page where I am shown a tutorial video telling me how to use the specific tool. Come on.. I have no time to view tutorials, give me something easy to understand and operate. At least for god’s sake please don’t ask me to Sign Up to try. Soon I realized that perhaps I’m asking for too much or I’m knocking at the wrong door. I could also be blamed as a hurried user who wants things at his finger tips. Whatever, my reality stays with me at the end. I just could not use these tools.

Anyways lets come to the interesting bit. At the time when I started putting off with this show I came across, almost accidentally, a webpage. It showed me simple tools to help one creating paper prototypes. Let me insert that link here. It is simply amazing. What they provide is a set of layouts as PDF files which you can print. These include different graph layouts like equally spaced dots, grids, storyboard etc. These layouts are flexible enough and one can feel at home while creating paper prototypes. The layout which I used is a dot graph. I printed several copies of dot graph on A4 papers. Paper prototyping was so quick with these dotted graph papers. I think I discovered something simple, yet highly effective yesterday. BTW, if you notice the image that I have used at the beginning of this post is one of my paper prototypes 🙂

Here is something else for designers.

A $2 app – fun unlimited

For the past two days we were working towards creating an iPhone app for the hearing impaired users. The application will enable an iPhone to be used as a hearing aid. Figures show that people with partial or complete loss of hearing includes a large number of elderly population. We thus choose elderly as the target user group for this application.

We try to suggest  a design solution at three different levels:

1. At the level of information architecture: We decided to keep the application essentially a simple one. We had to drop some of the advanced features for the pilot release. The application currently enables this user group to hear the surrounding sounds with an amplification. However users have also been provided with an ability to record different sounds which they consider as noise and then use this application to cancel these sounds as noise filters. Advanced features like managing noise profiles according to different usage scenarios are not taken into consideration at this stage.

2. At the level of usability: A short user study revealed that elderly users often find themselves lost while trying to understand visual clues like icons or graphic based buttons. Rather they prefer a step wise approach by carefully reading the text based instructions. Now the challenge was to come with action buttons with explicit text messages while staying crisp and precise. We also considered resizing the default “active or hit” areas for these buttons to be of a little larger size.

3. At the level of visual design: An apparent strategy of creating a visual contrast is followed. Besides we use iPhone library for creating visual design for this UI.

We plan to improve this application and are looking forward for any user feedback. The application is currently priced at $2. By-n- large as a short project, it was quite a fun for everyone in the team 🙂

For app news, Click here.

Customized Media Player for rural women

This is an academic project where it was expected to come up with a customized media player for a village woman. We began with an attempt to first understand the context in which a rural woman operates. User studies were conducted in a village Kudasan near Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Although the initial idea was to know how does a village woman recreate herself but quite sooner user studies revealed a set of insights which let us grasp the social, cultural and economic peripheries around her. In the village Kudasan, we found that women contribute equally alongside with men to the village economy which constitutes agriculture, animal husbandry and craft. However unlike men, they have additional responsibilities to sustain their families (especially kids and elderly) with proper nutrition, food and care.  A typical lifestyle of a woman from the village Kudasan includes waking up early in the morning, preparing food for the family and seeing kids off to school, caring for the cattle and working in fields during the productive part of the year. Additionally it is pertinent to note that all such activities have to be performed by her well within the social and cultural bounds of the village. As the focus of the project was more on creating a customized media player for these women, we drilled down to note the following in context of the village Kudasan:

  1. Rural women were seen listening to radio programmes while working in the fields.
  2. The sitting posture and the way they advanced in the field while doing an activity like harvesting kept creating a distance between them and the media player. They would have to come back to pick up the same only to place it somewhere close to their current location in the field.
  3. A close proximity to an urban area like Gandhinagar, free-of-cost availability of radio signals, live content and with no requirement of tuning the media player every now and then, made FM based radio to score high over vinyl cassette players and portable TV sets among these women.
  4. We were proved wrong in assuming that rural women will always like rural content. Rather we found them listening (and talking about) the news and pop culture from the city. This shows that if provided with ‘culturally suitable’ means, rural women are eager to get acquainted with the latest developments around them.
  5. Looking at some of their media players, we found that the product was not just a single radio. It was a hybrid between an emergency light, a vinyl cassette player and a FM radio. This brought complexity in the user interface and also major ergonomic issues in the product handling.

Out of these modifying the form factor to suit the working posture and simplifying the user interface of the media player were kept on priority while designing the prototype for these women.

User Centered Design v/s API Centered Design

Today I came across few iPhone applications. The task was to simplify one developed by the firm I am working for. They wanted to simplify their existing application by carrying few User- Centered evaluation cycles.

The application at hand was quite in a bad shape (there you are! yeah,  for the users as everything else was flawless).  So the obvious question was “why is it so”? When everyone from the development front wants to improve the performance of their application then why suddenly the end product is still so alien? Thanks to the open market; it is when the companies couldn’t see any such application making in to buying list, a few of them try to look back and investigate for the reasons.

I realize that companies these days are lured by the open source stuff. They want to learn what all is offered in the plate. In a discussion, a close colleague of mine told me that questions like “How the APIs work and how can be these be put to the best of their economic advantage?” score highest in a company’s quest. Thus this approach is most often centered around picking up an API and developing an application around it. Something which I would now love to call “API Centered Design” 🙂