Information Design Watch

April 29, 2008, 12:06 pm

Of Wii and Waterproof Mattresses: Hotels Prototype New Ideas with “Test Rooms”

By Kirsten Robinson

The New York Times reported today that hotels are using “test rooms” to try out new designs and technology before implementing them throughout the hotel, saving vast sums by discarding or improving upon ideas that don’t work. New technologies being tested include waterproof mattresses, digital door panels, customized Wii consoles, and even wireless electricity. But sometimes the greatest need is to make sure the existing features are usable. One guest who tried out a test room commented that he could not figure out the alarm clock or how to turn on the television. “All I wanted to do was watch CNN,” he said.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Business, Prototyping, Technology, Usability, User Experience

April 23, 2008, 9:49 am

Charts, Unjunked

By Henry Woodbury

For 100% applied Tufte you can’t do better than the Junk Charts blog. The author, Kaiser, takes charts that appear in mass media venues, analyzes how they go wrong, and redraws them for accuracy and easier interpretation (similar to what we did with Nightingale’s Rose).

Most interesting are the possibilities that arise when a chart has sufficient data to benefit from a variety of approaches. An active comments section provides sophisticated feedback to Kaiser’s posts.

In one recent post, for example, Kaiser redraws a chart of tertiary education by country that originally appeared in Atlantic. The original is shown below on the left, with the first of Kaiser’s redrawn versions on the right:

Tertiary Education Chart, Original (Atlantic Monthly) Tertiary Education Chart, Kaiser Version 1

In the comments, zuil serip links to another set of redrawings, including this one:

Tertiary Education Chart, zuil serip version

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Information Design, Visual Explanation

April 4, 2008, 12:18 pm

Forget the Parachutes and Cheese: Meet Johnny Bunko

By Lisa Agustin

Many information architects and designers are familiar with Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which explains the mechanics of the medium while shedding light on the principles of visual communications. Now comes Daniel Pink’s new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, a graphic novel that claims to be “The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.” The book follows the protagonist as he learns the six secrets to a satisfying career, courtesy of a sprite named Diana who can be conjured by splitting a pair of magic chopsticks. (I’m not kidding.) The book is written in the Japanese style of comics called Manga. Why? According to Pink:

Because most career books just plain stink. They’re too long, too boring, and too quickly outdated. Today most people get their tactical career information online — how to write a resume, what questions to ask in an interview, who to use as a reference, etc. What they want in a book, or so people tell me, are what they can’t get from Google. They want strategic lessons — and they want it presented in an accessible, to-the-point way.

It’s an interesting approach, newer in the U.S. than in Japan where, Pink claims, 22% of all printed material is in Manga, covering topics as diverse as “how to help you manage your time, learn about Japanese history, or find a mate.” Will the format work? You decide.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Books and Articles, Comics, Illustration, Information Design, Visual Explanation

April 2, 2008, 8:58 am

Where the Singles Are

By Henry Woodbury

Author and researcher Richard Florida tells us where single men and women outnumber each other with a map and accompanying essay (originally published in The Boston Globe). The blog reprint gives commenters a chance to get into the discussion.

Tom kicks off the comment thread with a decisive point:

I think this map would be more informative if it was based on percentages rather than raw numbers.

One hopes Florida will respond. As he chatters on about the extreme cases of “greater New York” and “greater Los Angeles” I look at his map and wonder about Memphis and Miami. Why does greater Memphis, with a population around one million, have a greater singles-gender imbalance than Miami-Ft. Lauderdale with a population about five times that?

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Information Design, Maps, Visual Explanation

April 1, 2008, 3:23 pm

Standards vs. Compatibility

By Henry Woodbury

Joel Spolsky offers a look ahead at Microsoft Internet Explorer 8. What he foresees is a web developer flamewar.

Headed by developer Dean Hachamovitch, the MSIE 8 team has decided to move its default mode away from MSIE 7 compatibility and closer to web standards. Spolsky offers a long quote from Hachamovitch’s announcement of this decision, but it boils down to this:

We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can.

This means that some HTML pages coded to take advantage of some of MSIE 7′s quirks will break in MSIE 8.

This is a problem? It shouldn’t be.

Barring the introduction of any new quirks (say a new way to misinterpret the box model), there’s no reason any Web site HTML and CSS should break in MSIE 8. If a web site has been tested against MSIE 6, MSIE 7, Firefox, and Safari (as are all of our public-facing projects), and if its developers have used a robust HTML structure and the subset of mutually-supported CSS styles (rather than browser-sniffing to write specialty CSS), then the odds of that site rendering incorrectly in MSIE 8 should be very small.

JavaScript-driven functionality, however, is harder to predict. Here, I rely on the folks behind Prototype and jQuery to handle MSIE 8 so I won’t have to. We’ll see how that goes.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Implementation, Technology, Web Interface Design

April 1, 2008, 10:07 am

Little People About London

By Henry Woodbury

Manhole Swimming

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Art