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Designing the impossible makes it possible

As an interaction designer, I hear a sentence at least once on every project I work on. “We can’t do that because [insert mediocre excuse here].”

A lot of the time this is because of technology restrictions. We can’t integrate with legacy systems. Or, we can, but the legacy system wants the information in a ridiculous format. So we have to change the design to ask for a mandatory middle name, where people have to write “none” in the box to progress. Urgh.

It’s easy to make a snap decision, bow to peer pressure and change the design. After all, we don’t want to waste our time designing something that’s not possible.

Only, that’s exactly what we should do.

Designing the impossible makes it possible: Read full article

What is it like to use a screen reader on an inaccessible website?

You enter the front-door of a building. Somewhere inside is some information you need, but you’ve no idea where it is.

It’s dark. Pitch black, in-fact. You cannot see your hand in front of your face.

The only way you can navigate this building is to use technology. You have a torch (or flashlight). The beam of light is narrow, about 1 metre in diameter.

You scan the room, inch by inch. You begin to build up a mental image of where stuff is, to try and orientate yourself in the room.

What is it like to use a screen reader on an inaccessible website?: Read full article

One-page-applications are not accessible

The biggest problem with one-page-applications, is they create a terrible experience for people using screen readers.

There is a cognitive issue. Users have to maintain a mental image map of the page in all it’s states. If they click something, and some new content appears. How does your user know what has changed? How do you make them understand what they cannot see? How do you orientate this to their mental map they have been building?

One-page-applications are not accessible: Read full article

What can Baloo teach us about design?

The idea of design-reuse has been around for many years. Walt Disney reused many scenes. They also reused entire characters. Cartoon creators called this reanimation. It’s the process of tracing over existing frames to save time and money.

You may not have noticed before, but Disney’s Baloo and Little John are almost identical. They were even voiced by the same person, Phil Harris.

An image of Baloo and Little John side by side. They are identical apart from clothes and colour

What can Baloo teach us about design?: Read full article

Mental health and flexible working hours

When I first started working for Government, I found flexi-time awkward. Until this point, my entire career had been fixed working patterns and strict start times. If I was 1 minute late, my boss would dock my wages by 15 minutes. So, it seemed alien to me to have any flexibility at all.

Because bad organisations had conditioned me for over a decade, I thought there must be a catch. I assumed it was one of those things where people say one thing but mean another. I thought if I came in 30 minutes late people would act fine to my face, but there would be a secret strike against my name. If I chalked up enough strikes I’d get disciplined. The last place I worked loved this secret strike system!

Mental health and flexible working hours: Read full article

Validation for prototypes

The plugin went down well. At least, it did, until the GOVUK frontend styles got updated. Since then, a dozen or so people have tried to use the plugin but found it doesn’t work anymore. It’s been sat in my Trello board of to-do’s for the best part of a year.

The thing is, I thought I built the plugin off the back of a user need, and I was happy when people praised my work. But in reality, I think I missed the point. As did everybody that used it.

Validation for prototypes: Read full article

I've stopped calling myself vegan

My new years resolution for 2017 was to move on from vegetarian and to become a legitimate vegan. Now, 12 months later, my new years resolution for 2018 is to no longer call myself a vegan at all.

I've stopped calling myself vegan: Read full article

Own your Alpha

In Government our digital services get assessed at each stage of their journey. From Discovery into Alpha. Alpha through Beta. And Beta into Live. Every service that ends up on GOVUK will have to go through this. Each one assessed against the service standard for Government.

A panel of trained assessors will conduct the assessment. Each panel member from a different discipline within digital. The panel will cover the team setup. Their design and research, and their chosen technology stack.

From my time as an assessor, I’ve noticed teams don’t always conduct Alphas correctly.

Own your Alpha: Read full article

Semantics and accessibility

As designers, we always like to put our stamp on things. We like to make things fancy and show off our full range of talents. Then when we come to code them up, we float things right. We use absolute positioning. We style links to look like buttons. We use fancy hover states and chuck in break tags in to create whitespace. Then we marvel at how pretty our designs look. After all, as long as it looks good, that’s all that matters. Right?

Well, not exactly.

Semantics and accessibility: Read full article

Accessibility is not an edge case

There’s a common misconception that people using assistive technologies are an edge case. That they fall into that 1% where people disable Javascript. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’m going to show you why it’s important to make your website accessible.

Accessibility is not an edge case: Read full article