John Emerson, graphic designer, writer and programmer from New York City, did an excellent job of talking about Data Visualization for Advocacy in clear, concise and graphically engaging terms.
Data visualization is a fancy way to say pictures with words and numbers. It is a graphic approach that makes relationships easier to see at a glance and makes the stories behind the data more memorable. The Colorado BTOP poster at right is an example of this “picture superiority effect” (more fancy terminology). It conveys attention-grabbing statistics with a graphical layout that is readily digestible in its simplicity and color. You easily “get the picture.”
But really, “the purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures.” (quotation from Ben Shneiderman) Which brings in the advocacy piece. Emerson takes the idea a step further, saying that the purpose is insight that leads to change, with change in the world being the ultimate goal of advocacy. Based on the premise that “you get 5 minutes with a legislator” to convey your message, he emphasized the critical importance of planning your visualization carefully, being clear about your goals, and knowing what your audience cares about—“what keeps them up at night.” With some thoughtful mapping, you’re better equipped to make decisions about how to design to your audience and what to emphasize.
Emerson offered plenty of practical design tips. We all have an internalized visual literacy with which we respond intuitively to graphic metaphors: big things are more important, happy is up, lines are paths. These abstractions, which we grasp without thinking, are the essential building blocks of effective data visualization. Trim to the essence and avoid excess detail.
Don’t just take it from me. Watch the archived recording and get the full picture from Emerson. The archive page also has many links to tools (like 10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics), sources of inspiration, books, data sources, and some resources added by webinar attendees.
I had the pleasure of delivering my first official WebJunction conference presentation with Chrystie Hill on Saturday at LITA 08 in lovely Cincinnati. The topic was “Design for Participation.” We took attendees on a journey that included a short history of WebJunction, we talked about our design/development processes and choices, and looked forward into the next year or so at WebJunction.
With a lot of ground to cover in an hour, we kept things on a fairly high level. Overall though, I think we provided a nice overview and were able to dig into few areas during audience questions— we even had a live blogger who did a heck of job annotating our slides!
Some drive-by key points from the session:
More detail is available in the slides at WebJunction. Please check them out and let us know if you have any questions.
The My WebJunction Page may just be my favorite feature on the freshly relaunched WJ site. It is powerful, it is unique to Libraryland and it was designed and created specifically for us as library professionals. Plus, as you can see in video below, it’s just pretty cool! Who knew library staff would ever be able to do this in our own unique profession specific network, built just for US? Follow the link to the page hosting the video on WebJunction or just click the play button below to see why the My WebJunction Page has me all jazzed. Then log-in, make some connections and friends and watch what happens. If you haven’t discovered YOUR My WebJunction Page, we’re hoping you’ll be eager to start using it after you see this:
I also wanted to take a second to personally thank every single one of you that have tried the site out during its first week. We have seen huge amounts of activity this week and are so happy to see folks diving in. We are also very pleased to get your feedback as well. Most things are working well on the site, but please know that we are working very hard to respond to and address any question, concerns and bugs that have come up. And we thank you very much for your patience in those instances. This is truly a library community resource and you telling us what you think, how to make it better and what you would like to see in the future will be what helps make that future happen. So please keep contacting us, keep kicking the tires and continue to dive in. See you on Your, Mine and OUR “My WebJunction”!
The Minneapolis Public Library‘s new central branch is not only beautiful and light-filled, it is also clearly thriving. The constant flux of people flowing in and out of the library at midday on a Friday was way beyond any additional traffic attributed to PLA attendees. I’ll let the photos tell the story.
A prime example of a thriving library.
Hello, I’ve got three editorial announcements to make.
First, did you see that we have a customized WebJunction toolbar now? WebJunction-Illinois and WebJunction-Connecticut got all cutting edge on us with their toolbars, and I followed their lead. This handy tool, which is very easy to download and install from Conduit, will help you find content on WebJunction, thanks to the technical brilliance of Google search. I also added quick links to those areas of WebJunction that I know are popular with y’all (and yet not always easy to find): the Events Calendar, TechAtlas, the Discussion Boards–plus all of our Community Partner sites. You can directly access your RSS feed from this toolbar as well. So once you’ve installed it and given it a try, let me know what you think. I have been using it for the past month or so and, I have to say, I love it. (Unfortunately, it is not compatible with Safari browsers, so hopefully Mac users have Firefox installed.)
Second, we often hear from our members, “I know there is so much information on WebJunction, the amount keeps growing, and I just can’t keep up with it!” Hopefully, “What’s New on WebJunction” will help you stay up to date. This monthly email digest is simply a list of links to new articles and courses that have been added to the site in the previous month. Subscribe today, and I will send out the first issue on January 16. Definitely send me your comments about that publication–I will plan to tweak it based on your thoughtful feedback.
Finally, I did a little revamp of the Discussion Boards page. I hope you will find it easier to scan the forum lists and find the subject area most relevant to your needs. Again, if you have any feedback about that work–or additional suggestions–either comment here or in the Discussion Board Support forum (formerly called “Help & Feedback”).
Oh, did I mention that I like getting your feedback, comments, and suggestions?
With little budget and no staff time, how can we build a good website?
Thanks to WebJunction member gefitz for this week’s question of the week. There’s a lot more to the question, so check it out and add your answer in the discussion topic or here, in the blog, as a comment.
Now that I am fully recovered from spending the afternoon trapped in the Monterey Peninsula Airport, forced to watch the same sensationalized news stories repeated every 15 minutes at maximum volume, I found some time to reflect on my experience at Internet Librarian. I think what I like best about this conference is that it seems to be a meeting ground for a cross-section of progressive librarians who share a similar sense of whimsy, a knack for creativity and a willingness to play – particularly when it comes to information discovery.
I attended two sessions this week that captured this spirit of discovery through play – Erica Reynolds‘s presentation on library website redesign, Lessons from 4000 years of art and Jenny Levine‘s talk on Games, Learning & Libraries.
Inspired by a visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, Erica saw how the way we experience art in a museum can inform the way we present information on the web. Having recently led the complete revamping of the Johnson County Public Library site (which is definitely worth a peek), Erica drew parallels from her experience at the museum and came up with twelve lessons for guiding designs that are both “prestigious and playful” (Lesson #12). The library’s new website features a collection of striking photos taken by teens in the community, a need a story? search box and a tab labeled “surprise!” Some of the other lessons that stand out are:
Lesson 2: Be bold. Be dynamic. Be human
Lesson 3: When you paint to sell, you paint people
Lesson 4: Enliven your collection through reorganization and presentation
Lesson 8: We like surprises. And anticipating the surprise is even more delicious.
Lesson 9: A good guide enhances the experience exponentially
In a similar vein, Jenny’s presentation on gaming in libraries challenged the audience to think about where we draw the line between learning and play – and if this distinction really matters. Games like Dance Dance Revolution and World of Warcraft teach pattern recognition, build literacy and strategy skills, and are a great teaser for bringing more young patrons through the doors to interact with each other. When thinking about offering gaming services in the library Jenny suggests considering the value that games can bring. By presenting information in a fun and appealing way and fostering social connections among patrons and staff, games can improve how people see the library – as a place that entices you to come in and discover something new. And you might even have fun doing it.
TechAtlas for Libraries version 3.2 was released today. We have a great group of planners, programmers and testers in Seattle and Ohio who have been working fast and furious at their computers to make these changes and make sure things work smoothly – thanks, everyone!
By the way – TechAtlas is free software that helps libraries (like yours) create technology plans and manage technology. Exciting stuff, right?
But wait, you ask…”Didn’t you just release TechAtlas version 3.1 last month?” Yes we did – and there is much more to come! There is a very ambitious list of TechAtlas improvements for the next year and we are hoping to release these updates monthly. Sometimes these improvements will be small, like fixing links or buttons and other changes will be more noticeable – and hopefully for the better. Many of these improvements are driven by requests from our users. We have received great feedback about the functionality of TechAtlas and we have been listening. It’s never too late to share your thoughts and even a wish-list for TechAtlas improvements, just send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We got a nice comment about the WebJunction site refresh from Chris Peters of the Washington State Library (one of our community partners), which he has kindly permitted us to repost here. We worry a bit about being just another pretty face, but Chris is setting our mind at ease: there really is a purpose to looking good:
Aesthetics is more important than architecture. Or you could say that to a certain extent, aesthetics is architecture, since the layout of the page is the entrance to the overall structure of the site. If the relation between elements makes sense at the page level, then users are much more likely to understand the overall site architecture.
On the old site I had trouble finding my place in the overall structure of the site because the key navigational pieces (menus, breadcrumbs, etc.) didn’t stand out. Partly this was due to the busyness of the page, and partly this was due to the color and design of the navigation modules. On the new site, there are fewer visual elements, and the navigational pieces are prominently placed and consistently placed on every page. I understand the purpose of each module, and I know where each one will take me. Moreover, I needed to do very little exploring or guessing to figure out the goal of each module – the labels are clear and reflective of the actual content. The five persistent links across the top are especially useful in keeping me oriented.
Thanks, Chris, for the nice comments and the insight.
Have you noticed that we have been adding spiffy new images to the WJ site since the refresh? While we have worked hard to get effective images that add real value, we couldn’t help but think about our members and their pictures. Surely lots and lots of us have some really great library pictures that could be used on the WebJunction site or in the newsletter?
Along these lines, there is now a discussion thread (that you can find here) specifically designed to be a repository into which you can add pictures for us to consider using on the WebJunction web site *or* in the WebJunction newsletter. It’s a nice opportunity to not only contribute valuable content to the WJ community, but to potentially get some attention for your work.
So, if you’ve got good pictures of libraries, library staff, librariana, computers, technology, or pretty much anything you think might be useful as an image on the WebJunction site or in the WebJunction newsletter, we want ‘em! Pretty please?
What gives? Why haven’t you seen more BlogJunction posts this week? Two words:
Well, that might be a slight over simplification, but we really have been kicking up some dust ’round WebJunction way lately, both in relation to current projects and in relation to the planning of future projects. Sweet, sweet planning, how we love you (I really mean that btw).
Have you heard any of us say lately that this is the most exciting time ever to work in/with and/or for libraries? The buzz is palpable around the office, the main WebJunction site, the Community Partner sites, and most importantly in lots of libraries all over the place, the very libraries that are the reason we exist in the first place. Sure, I sound like a cheerleader, but I promise you it is genuine and well deserved excitement.
Now, just so you know we are working hard in our many meetings to get the things you need us and want us to get accomplished actually accomplished, I offer you a bit of a visual riddle. Perhaps the riddle might soften the blow of fewer blog posts this week? Sadly, I can’t really jump out there and say the answer to the visual riddle provided below. Still, it might be fun to hear your speculations about this image. What the heck were we doing in this meeting anyway? Rest assured we do know! *snicker* Even though *we* know, it might fun to hear what you might guess. You’ll play nice with this one, right? Here’s the picture (click it for a link to a larger size if you need it):
Anyone care to speculate?
The new site is up and running, and we want to know what you think!� Comment on this post, or send us email.
The new look is the result of much hard work from many people, in particular our excellent development team, our wonderful design company ForumOne, the incredible WJ staff which has provided extremely valuable input and much hard work to pull this all together, and of course YOU, the WJ community.
Design is a process, not an output, so this is just one more step along the path; so our immediate follow-up plans include:
Meanwhile, though, we hope you enjoy the new site as much as we do!
Get ready: early this Sunday morning WebJunction’s refreshed look goes live!� Not only will you be able to eyeball our new colors, our clean, sleek lines, our sophisticated ambience–you’ll actually be able to click around and through content!� Sign up for online courses!� Join discussions!� And all in fine 2007 style.And we’re ready for your feedback, too: we expect to hear from you about what’s working (and not working) and make adjustments in response.� More formal usability testing is in the pipeline, a follow-up satisfaction survey will follow that.� As in any good relationship, we’ll keep talking, and working together to� make things better and better!
I’m dating myself with this reference to an old Orson Welles commercial for Paul Masson winery (“we will sell no wine before its time), but it makes a point: don’t drink it until it’s done.
We’re making huge strides on getting our refreshed site ready to launch (see the latest cool pix here). However…in order to make sure the site is clean and nice and functioning well, we’re moving our launch date to February 11.
At that point we will uncork a bottle, celebrate a little–and then get busy collecting your thoughts about how to make WJ still better.
If our latest screen shots stimulate your thoughts about what we’re doing, please let us know!