Saturday, 31 March 2007

Notes from the Information Design Conference (part 1)

On 29th and 30th March I was at the Information Design Conference 2007 in Greenwich, London.

"Information design" sums up better than any other phrase what it is that I am trying to do when I work on a user guide or an online help system or any other documentation product for a client. I want to make information accessible, relevant, understandable and timely. And I want to focus on the needs of the information consumer. I really enjoyed spending two days in the company of about one hundred other people who share this passion, from a range of disciplines including graphic design, typography, usability, interaction design, architecture, environmental design, and even technical communication like me.

One of the most striking things I learnt from the conference is that the user (or the customer, or the audience, or the visitor) gets forgotten by the designer of the product time and time again - whether the product is a loan application form, a government web site, an airport concourse, or a museum gallery. It is the most common complaint that information designers across all disciplines have. Some ID practitioners who work in the built environment poured scorn on architects who forget that people actually have find their way round buildings in exactly the same terms that I would use to criticise a software engineer who designs an interaction screen that has no relevance to the tasks a user actually has to perform. Putting the user first is what information design is all about.

In the coming days I plan to add more notes from the conference. Watch this space.

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