Best practices for social change and environmental action

Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Think like a designer

In Best practice, Communication, Design, Methods, Resources, Social enterprise, Tools on December 22, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Can the same kind of thinking that conjured up the first laptop computer, Oral-B toothbrushes, and Steelcase chairs work in the social sectors? Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review,  two experts suggest that it most certainly can.

Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt of the consulting firm Ideo posit that the way is through the emerging practice of design thinking.  They should know; Ideo is renowned for the application of such thinking to things as diverse as utility bicycles and pharmaceutical innovation processes.  Moreover, the consultancy now puts design thinking to work on some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian problems.

The three step process they describe is deceptively simple: inspiration, ideation, implementation.  The catch is that it all demands new approaches, real-world insight, and a much wider frame of reference. None of it is easy to come by.

Design Thinking for Social Innovation is available online for free at the publication web site.

It validates the common wisdom that real impact now demands systemic solutions rooted in the real world of daily lives.

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The usual suspects of bad web design

In Best practice, Communication, Design, Online on December 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Bad design seems to spring eternal on the net. Despite years of simple, clear advice from the pros, hilariously horrible websites still pop up like weeds.  Sadly, many of them belong to nonprofits.

I was reminded of this the other day when PC World ran yet another installment of its perennially popular coverage of the subject – The Worst Web Design Mistakes, and How to Prevent Them.

You can read it for yourself of course, but here’s the lineup of usual suspects.

  •  All-flash websites –  We’ve all encountered them, and we all know why we hate them.
  • All- flash websites, amateurishly done  – The quickest way to turn a website that’s merely ugly and annoying …into something utterly intolerable.
  • Low-contrast text, visually chaotic background – Good luck getting beyond the first paragraph.
  • Ugly, mismatched colors – Creative expression for the tasteless and the color blind.
  • Dysfunctional fonts – The worst offending sites might use several at once.  Some fonts even have their own websites … dedicated to their obliteration.
  • Layouts that don’t travel – What might work in one browser might not look so hot in another. This is why we have standards.
  • Horizontal scrolling pages – Annoying enough to make many visitors just click up and leave. Fit everything on the screen or else.
  • Animated GIF assault  – I happen to think even one is too many for most websites. Several or more make a page seem like an arcade game.
  • Social widget overload – There might be such a thing as looking too connected. Just pick a few of the most important social network connections and go with that.
  • Too busy to be serious – When the widgets, ads, and general clutter overwhelm the main subject, the page has lost its reason to be.  Stick to the point.
  • Updates that apologize for the lack of updates – Gee, maybe the time would have been better spent coming up with new content… rather than producing a long online excuse for its absence.
  • Seizure inducers – You know these websites when you experience them.  Flashing lights, flying animals, strange symbols, cryptic scrolling text … all of it often set against a flowing neon rainbow background … or some such hideous framework. Then there’s the insipid electronic “tune” looping endlessly away in accompaniment.  Some sites do it all.  Have the aspirin ready.

On the internet, everyone can be a “publisher.”  That doesn’t mean that everyone should. There’s a good reason why professional web designers are still in demand.

From the look of things, that’s not going to change anytime soon.