Friday, October 30, 2009

Making names work for users

Wayfinding projects are not just about showing people the way – they are often about making the way easier to show. Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital last year renamed many of their buildings to provide a set of names that makes more sense for patients. For example, people used to have trouble finding New Guy's House, because it was not particularly new. This means that they've had to change not only signs and maps, but appointment letters too. They've also worked with the Royal Mail to ensure that their postal address is the street people enter from (it wasn't before).

Department names are also changing:
  • 'Paediatrics' = 'Children's services'
  • 'Ophthalmology' = 'Eye department'.
  • 'Renal unit' = 'Kidney unit'
  • 'Surgical appliances' = 'Patient appliances'.
 Hurray for common sense.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

RIP Robert Barnett

I was saddened to hear of the death of Rob Barnett at the weekend. His books on forms design are exceptionally thorough and authoritative, full of the insight that comes from long experience. I didn't know him except through correspondence – when I found his books weren't available in the UK, he just sent me one as a gift.

He was seriously ill for a while but maintained his blog until quite recently. Here's a recent posting from it – note the reference to 'work simplification':
'Take a look at the following book cover. It's typical of the technology when I first started to design forms.
'I've recently been archiving a lot of old books in my business library and it's been interesting to see how far we've come in my lifetime.

'What I found surprising is that while the technological emphasis was on the use of the typewriter, some of the design philosophy was sound and are still ignored by many systems and IT people. Take this quote for example;
"It will be observed that the forms designer must apply a wide knowledge of the many requirements which go into the functional design of a form. Furthermore, form design is usually one part of the total result of skillful application of the principles of work simplification to clerical operations. Only in the simplest applications may one safely disregard the services of the experienced designer."
'Elsewhere the book says:
"The techniques of designing efficient business records are of such breadth and complexity as to require several years of specialized training before they are mastered."
'Something which still applies today if the forms analyst is to be fully equipped for the task.'

Rob Barnett, April 2009
 Rob's key books are Managing Business Forms and Forms for People. They are both available digitally.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Builders in my life


I don't mean to complain, but one of these photos is the view from my office, and one is the view from my house.

A bit off-topic and personal for this blog, I know, but my excuse is to point out the continuous set of labels that are being buried on top of 11,000 volt cables outside my office. They tell a future digger operator he is about to fry.

Saying what it is on the tin

Which of these is actually a pink grapefruit?