GJL: Ich bin Kanadier

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. – Einstein”

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Human Factors Primer

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of usability in traffic intersection design and how this fits nicely into producing good quality documentation. In this post in the series, I provide a quick primer in Human Factors. I use the example from my last post. If you have not read that post, I recommend doing so now before continuing.

Human Factors Primer

Here are a few on human factors issues that go into designing and developing good products:

  • Visibility of system status - the system should always keep the users informed about what is going on through appropriate feedback. With our traffic light example, the placement of the traffic lights across the intersection allow the user to be kept informed of the status of the intersection at all times.

  • Match between system and the real world - The system should speak with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, not...

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The iClay

Did you know technical writing may have had its origin in the ancient city of Babylon! Well, not really! But … you never know …

Technical Writers are Highly Skilled Professionals

In Babylon, Technical Writers were a highly skilled professional, just as they are today. To be considered a professional, these specialists required many years of training and experience in the many skills associated with producing high quality documentation. They were also a very valuable asset to any ancient organization whether run by a ruthless dictatorial king or managed by a sympathetic local governor.

Technical Writers in Babylon organized themselves into guilds. In these societies they held exclusive rights for producing documentation for the King’s court as well as for producing documentation for the general public and for commercial interests.

In those days they were not called Technical Writers...

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Usability: Intersection dead zones

I just coined a phrase, I think, for a place void of information for the user - A “Dead Zone”

How did it come about?

German Traffic Lights

In Berlin, and in Germany generally, when a user drives his or her car into an intersection to make a left turn, to turn right or to proceed straight ahead, at some point the user (driver) no longer has any status information of the state of the traffic light. How so? The traffic lights are now behind the car situated on the initial corners of the intersection. As such, if the user (driver) enters the intersection, he or she no longer is provided with any information about the state of the traffic light. Is it green still, or is it turning to yellow?

Yes, I know a little arrow is added on the far left corner to let the user know he or she can proceed to make a left turn because the oncoming traffic now has a red light, but it seems to me to be an...

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The Usability Genius of WW II Era Quonset Huts

Perhaps you have heard of the famous Quonset Hut used with great effect during World War 2 for military housing, storage, and general use? Think IKEA’s assemble-yourself products. Quonset Huts are the original assemble-yourself products named after a Military Base at Quonset Point, Rhode Island where they were designed and developed.

 What is a Quonset Hut?

A Quonset Hut is a lightweight structure made of a half-tube of corrugated iron sheeting assembled over a supporting lightweight structure of wood with plywood end walls. It can be assembled directly on the ground, on a concrete base or on piers depending on requirements.

According to Wikipedia, these structures were developed by the US Navy in 1941 as an all-purpose, lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere and assembled without skilled labor.

The following shows a Canadian Airbase camp in Skipton-on-Swale, UK with a...

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