Saturday, February 2, 2013

Design as a Factor in Providing Information

It has been almost four years now since I wrote a post about the usefulness of information that we provide our students in school. However, I keep finding myself in conversations with people where the idea of useful information comes up.

Schools are a place that have been designed to provide information for our children. Have you ever felt that there was a little something missing?

Some things are designed to provide information.
Ever feel like there is something a little out of place?

Sometimes we are provided with a great deal of information - some of which - could be critical to know and understand in order to successfully complete a complex task. However, if the information is not presented properly, it is useless.

Only because I am proficient with computers might I think this information
has something to do with pasting content using a keyboard shortcut.
Of course, with the right resources, I could determine what the text in the picture above says but that would require some additional time and effort which would be weighed against the level of importance that knowing this information would have. For me, right now, it is useless information and I am gonna check out and just leave it.



you format

  • makes
  • difference
 in how well readers

are able to

         interpret what you want to say.

Take these five fruits for example... Each of

  • them
  • has
  • a
  • different
  • color.
Despite the color - they are all very tasty. The five fruits are apple, banana, kiwi, orange, and blueberry.

Imagine reading an entire book that was written like that. Ewww, but depending on how interested you were in the content, you might try to duke it out for a while before chucking it and looking for some new reading material.

In my other post - I am trying to indicate that if we provide information that is useful and/or interesting - we might be able to generate a higher level of success in school. I am well aware that the level of usefulness is relative to the one processing it. What is useful for one person may be completely worthless to another. My question was why do we force certain subjects on students when they are neither useful nor interesting to them? Please do not misinterpret this as advocacy against a well rounded education.

In this post, I simply wanted to ask you to join me in thinking about this again and to factor in some ideas surrounding the design of information. An important part of the process of designing information is to analyze your audience. You have to know your audience in order to best design a learning experience for them that will meet their needs by being relevant and useful.

Consider the examples above. The information presented on the sign seems to be addressing the wrong audience. Chances are that if you live in the United States, you might not be part of the right audience for the book either. The formatting of text shows an example (albeit extreme) of bad presentation design. Certainly, a better understanding of the audience might have led the designer to format this in a way that facilitated reading and comprehension of the information.

How do you know if the information will be useful?

As you design instructional experiences for your audience of learners how much time do you spend being intentional about matching the experience to the learner? Do you thoughtfully consider the characteristics, motivation, environment, and prior knowledge of the learner? How much effort do you put into ensuring the presentation of the material is audience appropriate?

How do you make your content useful and interesting? Does design play a role? Please share your experiences - I would love to hear them.

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