Pushing the Boundaries

Posted by: | Posted on: November 4, 2017

While reading the book on personas (by the way, this blog isn’t about personas!) entitled “The User Is Always Right” by Steve Mulder and Ziv Year, I came across a website that tabulates 200 years of baby names and ranks them in popularity.

Now, before visiting the website, you might envisage a big table of names, or some dynamic table where you select the year from a drop-down list and it ranks by baby name, or you select a name from a drop-down list, and it shows you the ranking for each year. Instead, I found that the website presented this data in a visual way that is not only clear and concise, but dynamic and interactive, providing an enjoyable user experience. Now, while I can think of some improvements to the interactivity of the graph, holistically it is quite clever.

The baby name page also provided a link to yet another amazing website with examples of other data visualisations. On this site my favourites are the “Thinking Machine”, “Market Map” and “Many Eyes”.

In my 10 years of usability consulting experience, it remains rare to get an opportunity to really push boundaries through applying unorthodox technologies and techniques to achieve a project’s objectives. It is actually common for clients to be fairly conservative in their approach. They invest extensively in us to supply their online technology solutions, expecting a result that looks good, provides a rich user experience, but has some level of conservatism in order to satisfy internal politics, branding needs and other pre-requisites.

As user experience professionals, I believe it is our duty to push those boundaries on behalf of our clients.  We should constantly evolve our creativity and continually question ways in which users expect to interact with and experience the online world, now and into the future. Happily, we seem increasingly to be getting our way.  Client conservatism appears to be giving way to a broader acceptance of innovation, and we are now often asked by clients to help them think creatively about novel techniques for using the web and other technologies.

Visiting the two sites above has reminded me that there are clever people out there doing clever things. We should always keep a look out for new and different user interaction solutions so that we can make use of them… and hopefully take them further.





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