Comprehension

We want to design places where people feel comfortable and have free and open choices of activity and association. Therefore, attention to human needs and the ability of people to comprehend the world around them is important to design. Comprehension starts with considerations of scale and complexity of elements, technology and organizations. People relate comfortably to "human scale" items and organizations where they have a sense of understanding and can exert control over their lives and decisions. As size and complexity increase, people may become less able to comprehend their personal relationship to things and events.

Appropriate technology to meet needs may not necessarily be the most advanced. Some guidelines for selection of appropriate technology include:

  • Use the best, lowest level, technology to meet the need. This will help avoid using technology for technology’s sake.
  • Use technology that minimizes human energy expenditure while maximizing the creative and rewarding nature of personal work.
  • Use technology that can be built and repaired locally.

Ok, when I read the above for the first time, I nearly fell over in my chair, especially with regards to the words "avoid using technology for technology’s sake". As anyone who knows my web development history, I’ve been preaching those words for YEARS! Back in 1999, I saw the proliferation of Flash and didn’t like how people were using it. Often times people were just using it for the sake of using it. "Look I’ve got a Flash site!" But then when you look at the Flash site you realize that pretty much the entire site could have been done in HTML easier except for the ANNOYING repeating sound in the background and the ANIMATED flaming logo. Oh, sorry, not true. You could have made an animated GIF for the flaming logo. Don’t get me wrong, I have actually seen excellent uses of Flash. The only problem is that they were far and few between back then. Today, while there still are bad uses of it, there are actually a lot more good uses of it as well.

With regards to "maximizing the creative and rewarding nature of personal work", this just means utilizing Web technologies that can actually empower you. Weblog software is a perfect example of this because it has allowed us to move past the point of hand coding our sites when what we really want to do is just put down our thoughts. It is like someone who wants to communicate a message but before they can do so they have to build a communication system from scratch first. It just impedes the user’s thoughts and prevents their creativity from just flowing.

Now another point that is mentioned is utilizing technology that can be easily "built" and "repaired" yourself. All that is really being said here is make sure you are using Web technology that you can understand and easily modify yourself. The less complex the technology, the easier it will be to use. What good is powerful technology, if the tradeoff is that it is too difficult to configure and use? Therefore, ensure you are using Web technology that gives you the power that you need but it is still easy to configure and modify yourself. And I actually believe this is very important because one of the important concepts of my "connected communities" approach is to ensure the use of easy and open technologies for creating this connection. If you are using proprietary technologies then often times you won’t be able to build and modify the system to your liking.