In all our efforts creating, designing, and developing websites or other digital products, our goal should be improvement. Yes, our craftsmanship and technique. Of course, our content and tools. But more importantly, the efficacy of all this work. This article explores one approach that may help tackle one of our biggest challenges: communicating effectively about complex, confusing topics.
I don’t write much about the Web medium here. I’ve tried to keep the content here more broadly applicable than just specific to practitioners of my industry. But I think about this stuff a lot. It’s what I spend most of my time doing. “Communicating Complexity” is a long-form look at some of the problems we face communicating complex issues on the Web and proposes a possible route to doing it better.
techPresident ran a piece I wrote about the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which I believe is a wonderful opportunity for designers, technologists, and everyone from the broad spectrum of specializations that make up the Web and tech world.
“I’m not being hyperbolic. You will do deeply meaningful work. You will work with truly inspiring people. And you will become significantly better at whatever it is you do. You’ll step up your game. My time working on HealthCare.gov was truly life changing. The opportunity that is being made available through the Presidential Innovation Fellows is remarkable. You should request an application right now.”
Not long before Lake Area Middle School was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Jess Rimington was facilitating a classroom exchange program there; one of the earliest implementations of her then-fledgling organization, One World Youth Project. Jess’s classroom was paired with a classroom in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Over the course of the academic year, the students in her New Orleans classroom and their Mongolian counterparts shared their experiences, stories, and learned the similarities of their lives. They got to know each other.
When the floodwalls were breached, the Gentilly was flooded and with it, Lake Area Middle School. Jess heard nothing from her New Orleanian students. It would be months before she would hear the harrowing stories of students waving down planes from their rooftops or hear about the boy who was forced to break through his ceiling to get free.
As I walk to work, I often have ideas as my mind wanders. (Such as this one.) This is one of those. It was sparks by thinking of the sentencing of Rod Blagojevich, marijuana possessions, and crimes committed by financial institutions during the financial crisis. When you compare sentences, the magnitude of the crime and its impact on society often seem disconnected.
This is also true with government spending and taxes. The actual “settings” often don’t match what we think the should be. We are also usually unclear as to what the settings are at all.
The purpose of this idea would be to A) clarify what we feel is most important B) see how that matches with reality and C) develop a sense of where our priorities should go.
I don’t have the time to take this any further, but here’s what I mocked up as a possible Web tool to accomplish this.
Recently the General Services Administration conducted an open, public dialogue to solicit ideas about how the government could improve Federal .gov websites. The dialogue was conducted online using the IdeaScale platform and will be archived for future review. I’ve compiled my thoughts on the dialogue for the GSA team. It’s long, but I want to give as much feedback as I can.
You can jump to the ideas I found most useful.