Designing Open Data for Simplicity

Just saw this tweet by @mat_hunter the Chief Design Officer at the @DesignCouncil.

I went to the first event of the Inspire Connect series hosted by the Design Council and organised by @amandagore and her @dcchallenges team as part of it’s “Living Well with Dementia” Challenge Competition.

1. The issue of dementia is very personal to pretty much everyone I know…yet we rarely think of it as a social issue

2. It’s a massive challenge for public services – a ticking timebomb which could have an even bigger effect than the recession on their capacity to provide for patients…yet it’s rarely on the front pages of the news

3. The capacity of people to look after neighbours with dementia they don’t have family ties with could be a litmus test of how communities can cope in the age of austerity.

It’s a crunchy issue, not just because of how difficult it is to understand how dementia affects people in different ways and at different speeds, but because it’s an issue we find difficult to talk about openly….

Co-designing through conversation: nothing about us without us

What has co-designing dementia support got to do with our competition, let alone open data?

We could learn from designing in simplicity into co-designing the sharing of information with our residents, not in terms of dumbing down how we provide information to people, but how to support authentic forms of collaboration between people who want to better understand the issues in their local area and the services available to them and people who have the skills to turn data into solutions that can help people better understand that information. It’s why like other local areas from the shires to the south west all the way to the ports, we’re developing a competition to do exactly that, connect needs from the community to skills of the entrepreneurs, culminating in an event where they can prizes. But it’s not just competitions that can stimulate this – it’s using other techniques to broker the relationships in such a way that can start disrupting the supply chain of information. From working with schools to drive kid’s enthusiasm for looking for information to teachers and parents(@pdbrewer and @pauloevans1).

Using tech to model behaviours people feel confident at displaying

All of us will reject a way of doing things that we think will make us look stupid in front of people we don’t have high levels of trust in. Whether it’s learning how to use technology or how to repair a roof.

But when you involve users of services and people they have strong ties with around activities that stimulate behaviours they instinctively know they have been good at, but haven’t been encouraged to use anymore, if the use of technology is designed to model those behaviours, at best it will feel invisible.

That’s why we worked with community groups and students to help them come up with ideas, we wanted them to sprinkle into their ideas for the competition the things that they like best about the technology they use, or rather the things that make it easier for them to want to use technology!

One of the partners on a programme we co-designed called “Transformed by You” was working in parallel on a project on using technology to bring young and older people together to archive their memories.

Even the most advanced technology like the iPad can be as powerful as the simplest tool, as@sandiebakowski describes in her moving story about getting her father to law to use the iPad after his stroke.

So if you’re thinking of designing a prototype for our competition event, what we’ve learnt here is that designing for simplicity isn’t how simple it is to design for the designer, it’s how simple it is to use for the user.

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