Using Google Calendar to replace MS Project

Tickler Calendar

The more I use Google Calendar, the more I love it.

Yesteday I realised that I could pretty much use it to replace Microsoft Project (if only I could create dependencies between items and spit out a gant chart…. perhaps I’ll just have to train clients to not like gant charts quite so much. What’s with that, hey?)

Google Calendar is SOOOO much better at managing multiple projects + life that MS Project will ever be. (Ever experienced a Project Central implementation? You’ll know what I’m talking about).

When I take on a new project, I create a new Google Calendar and name it after the project. I can then assign tasks to that calendar that appear, beautifully colour coded, in amongst all my other projects and personal activities on one calendar. At a glance I can see when I’m going to be super busy and when I’ll be able to go have lunch out of the office.

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Storytelling requirements (and why most focus groups are a waste of time)

So, Malcolm Gladwell got me thinking about focus groups the other day. Actually, he got me thinking about the characteristics of groups and the way that people perform when in front of their peers, as well as perfect strangers.Malcolm was kind of talking about his recent article in the New Yorker, and gave this overview of a ‘taxonomy of reason-giving’:

[Tilly says] … We employ four kinds of explanations, he says: conventions (social formulae), stories (common sense narratives), codes (legal formulae) and technical accounts (specialized stories). And we get into trouble when we use one kind of reason in a context where another is necessary….

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enjoying analogue wireframing (pencil rules, ok?)

Pencils

So, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of wireframing lately.

I have to admit that, in the last little while, I’d gotten into the habit of wireframing straight into Visio, maybe after a quick thumbnail sketch on a notepad somewhere.

The site I’m working on at the moment has quite a bit of application type functionality in it, as well as a whole bunch of content, and offers the opportunity to be a little bit creative with the interaction design.

Out of habit, I pretty much launched straight into Visio (after a couple of quick sketches), but the further I got into it, the less satisfied I was with the output.

So, just for a while, I dumped Visio, got a whole pile of paper, some pencils and a sharpener, and just played around with ideas.

Ahhh. That’s just *soooo* much better.

It’s a little bit 37 Signals/Getting Real (although, these *will* end up as Visio wireframes in a functional specification – the size and dispersal of the team on this project demands that kind of documentation), but it does seem to be a popular approach to documenting RIAs. (Jeffry Veen was saying the other day that he’s going from pencil sketch to build these days).

So, what’s so good about pencil sketching your wireframes?

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cardsorting for validation: truth, dare or torture?

Recently I had cause to use a closed card sorting with the objective of ‘validating’ a proposed Information Architecture model (and some labeling). Argh. I think I will do what I can to avoid that approach in the future.

Card sorting in the initial stages of the project is a noble pursuit, in my opinion, and one that is bound to help you learn more about your users, how their heads work, and the problems that they’ll have with your site. Not to mention their ideas around what your content should be, and how it should be organised and what it should be called.

An IA Validation card sort happens a little way down the track when you think you know what your sitemap is going to look like, and what things are going to be called. You probably even have some draft wireframes that you’re not ready to commit to, but that you developed as you were thinking through the conceptual model for your IA and getting into the nitty gritty of the sitemap.

Once upon a time, I used to think that a card sort at the beginning and a card sort at the end of the IA scoping process was good practice. For my mind, I think that the second user testing exercise needs to be something related to the wireframes… maybe paperbased prototypes (or maybe even interactive prototypes?!), but definitely something that puts your IA into a context… a context beyond a few titles on some cards, that is.

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