Tsunami Early Warning Information Graphic

 

Yep - they get it in Japan.

When the recent 6 metre tsunami hit the Samoan region, killing 189 people, there unfortunately wasn’t time to warn their people.

But there was time to warn their neighbours in the South Pacific.

We failed.

New Zealand had several hours to crank-up the tsunami warning machine. The police did their best to round up people on the shoreline, but apart from that all we got was out-of-date news reports, government websites which were light on detail and the internet rife with speculation and rumours.

In New Zealand SMS (text) messages warning people in high-risk areas arrived 3 hours too late. How many people on the East Coast of New Zealand could have been killed if this was the big one? Potentially thousands.

My previous article covered how bad the information out there was at representing where the tsunami could strike, the risk and what to do. The graphics which were available were highly technical, easy to misinterpret and in most cases was retrospective data of what had actually occurred – not predictions of what was coming.

And we have to take into account human nature. In New Zealand when we hear a tsunami is coming a fair number of us just assume it’s yet another false alarm. Hundreds even go down to the shoreline to watch it coming in.

Why? Saying “go to higher ground” isn’t specific enough. Some will think that means the big sand-dune a few metres from the shoreline.

I believe we need to give people a clear message at a glance, and just enough detailed information that they’ll take it seriously.

So, while I don’t claim to be a tsunami expert, I decided to have a go at creating a ‘general public’ information graphic which could be populated with data in real-time (or by hand and published online within minutes).

Card Sorting Doesn’t Cut the Custard

Where's the custard in your supermarket?

Where's the custard in your supermarket?

Why I don’t use Card Sorting

Card sorting is a simple technique in User Experience Design where a group of   users are guided to arrange subject-headings under pre-determined categories or into groups which make sense to them.

For example, a card labelled “apples” might logically sit under a category labelled “fruit”.

It can be a useful approach for designing menu structures or website navigation paths.

But I haven’t used card-sorting since 1999.

Why? Because since the advent of the Content Management System (CMS) I haven’t needed to. The CMS changed the way I approached information architecture forever. I’ve never again needed to resort to card sorting in order to locate content in a place which is intuitive for ‘most users’.

In my view card sorting is a bit of a hack to resolve the issue of static websites where the content is forced to live in one place.

It’s like going to the supermarket and looking for custard powder. To me it makes sense to look for it within the cooking section next to sugar, baking powder, cornflour etc. But good luck finding it there because you’ll usually find it in the desserts section next to jelly and ice-cream cones.

It’s Semantic

Throughout 2009 you’ll probably hear a lot of talk about the semantic web, aka “Web 3.0”.

The semantic wave embraces previous stages of internet growth. The first stage, Web 1.0, was about connecting information and getting on the net. Web 2.0 is about connecting people – the web of social networks and participation. This was all the rage over the past few years and is now part of mainstream internet culture.

The emerging stage, Web 3.0, is starting now. It is about connecting knowledge, and putting these to work in ways that make our experience of the internet more relevant, useful, and enjoyable. Google have recently starting making the power of this technology available.

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