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Bridging the divide - communicating at work

Communication is...difficult. Especially in business.

Not physically. Physically, communication is easy. In this, the year 2020, we have thousands of ways you can get in touch with your clients and colleagues  - wherever they may be.

Communication is difficult because it takes a lot of work - everyone involved needs to want to communicate effectively or it just won’t work. You can very easily exchange a multitude of words without anything really being said.

We don’t want to work is silos where we never share information or talk like robots and ask people to confirm receipt of all knowledge but there are ways to make sure you and your team communicate better.


Never Assume 

Many communication issues arise because people make assumptions. You may assume that because you shared information it was heard, understood, and retained. This does not mean that this is necessarily the case. You may also assume that you don’t need to verbalise the issue because it’s obvious but in reality, nothing truly ‘goes without saying’. 

Never assume that other people think like you do. Just because you think something is obvious, doesn’t mean the rest of your team does. The clearer you can be (without being patronising, obviously) the better. 


Crystal Clear

Say what you mean. In the UK especially, we can be prone to trying so hard to be polite that we don’t say what we mean and we don’t communicate our wants or needs. If you need a webpage to be complete by tomorrow morning say so. Give as much advanced notice as you can but even if that’s not possible don’t say you ‘Just thought it might be nice if you could possibly maybe' have it by tomorrow. Your coworkers aren’t going to be annoyed that you asked them to do their own jobs - they’ll be grateful that they don’t have to try and decode what you’re asking of them. 


Mixed Medium

As mentioned, we have many, many ways to share information and, although it’s important not to waste time being too repetitive, if you’ve said something in more than one format you have a greater chance of getting the point across. People learn in different ways and it can be easy to forget a point that was made in a meeting if you’re a visual person who needs to see it written down or maybe illustrated in some way. Send emails to confirm conversations you had on the phone, share meeting notes and if you’re talking about a visual project, make sure people get to see what you’re trying to say.


Getting RACI

Try a RACI matrix. This Project Management tool is great for accountability - you literally list a team member as ‘Accountable’. 

RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. On one axis you put everyone involved in the project and on the other, milestones within the project. You then cross reference and, for each milestone determine who is Responsible (does the work; who is Accountable (makes sure the work is done); who is Consulted (asked for input or advice); who is informed (told about what you’re working on). 

Creating and sharing a RACI matrix lets everyone know at which points during the project they are required and what they are expected to do. There’s then safe ground for anyone to chip in and ask why they weren’t informed of a certain action when they should have been or why the responsible person hasn’t finished the work. It keeps everyone on the same page and that page can be referenced at any time. 

Shared Documents

Shared documents are commonplace - this isn’t new information but you may still find that the one document you need is on your colleague's desktop and they’re on holiday for 3 weeks. If other people need to see a document, make it shareable by design, put it in a shared area and tell everyone involved that it’s there. We’ve all felt the unique frustration of trying to guess what a colleague might have named the quote from 2017 you need to reference and how their esoteric personal filing system works. 


No Man (or Woman) is an Island

In 2020 the office is not necessarily ‘the office’. Your team may work together in one location, some people may work from home, or you may be a team of digital nomads scattered to the wind. Even in our perpetually connected world, this can make it hard to get your message across. If you feel like your team are moving like planets out of orbit, find a central point of communication. This could be ticket system that you all update, a series of calls where you check in or a stand up meeting if you’re in person. You may not be in the same time zone but make sure you have a central point you can come back to.


Lead by example

You may not be able to cover all of the ideas above but the most important thing about communication is to make sure that you are communicating. There may be some hurdles to overcome, some issues to iron out, and some people may not enjoy change but as long as you’re actively trying to share information, you’re halfway there.  


Frances Smolinski

Created on Tuesday January 28 2020 12:33 PM

Tags: website blog communication

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Screenreader Compatibility Tips

Screenreader Compatibility Tips

I watch as person after person pulls furiously on a door handle before giving it a shove, flying through the doorway much to their surprise and quickly patting down their disheveled attire.
(I'm allowed to laugh as it makes me feel better about doing it myself shortly before, only much less gracefully).
The problem here? The door handle was giving the wrong message. What looked like a handle was indeed a hinge.
My point is, the need for accessibility is everywhere and it is as important in web design as it is in architecture.

When designing for web we must consider various factors such as colour contrast and text size but many forget to consider screenreader users (Screen readers are audio interfaces that convert text into synthesised speech so that users can listen to the content). Luckily there are a few simple things that can be done in order to improve usability for screenreader users, and ultimately all web users...

Logical linearization
Unlike sighted web users who can scan a web page and pull out at random what they consider to be the important information. Screen reader users tend to listen to a page from start to finish, top to bottom, left to right. So it is best to have the important parts towards the top of the page.

Descriptive page title
The first thing a screen reader user hears is the page title. It is imperative that this gives users a clear idea of what to expect from that page. Obviously this benefits everyone as anyone can use the page title to orientate themselves and confirm they are where they want to be on the website.

Descriptive headings
One of the most important usability features for screen reader users is on-page headings. The page structure can then be more easily understood. Although text on the page may appear to be a heading for sighted users, screen readers read through the HTML code so it must be labelled as a heading within that. The screen reader will then announce it as such.

Descriptive link text
Screen reader users can call up a list of on-page links and browse a web page that way. They simply activate links of interest to them. Therefore non-descriptive link text like ‘click here’ is meaningless out of context so avoid it like the plague!

Using lists within the HTML code is super useful as screen readers announce the number of items in each list before reading them out. This way screenreader users have a better idea of what to expect when hearing a list of items, for example site navigation.
A bit like the way an answer machine tells you how many messages you have received rather than just reeling them off one after the other. You feel more prepared for what you're about to listen to. The use of lists (using the <li> tag) is a behind-the-scenes change to the code that shouldn't really affect what the website looks like.

The great thing about these screenreader friendly tips is that each and every one of them will improve overall user experience.
We as humans like to know what to expect and are comfortable with what feels familiar. It's always good to bear this in mind when designing for web and there is no reason this should jeopardise your creativity. Maybe give the web equivalent of dodgy door handles a miss though, just a thought!

Jordana Jeffrey

Created on Wednesday August 26 2015 03:06 PM

Tags: website technology web-development accessibility communication usability screenreader

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IE9 Launch - is it time for you to break up with your browser?

IE9 Launch - is it time for you to break up with your browser?

A browser can be like that comfy pair of old slippers, it’s your friend, to take your walks around the internet in. It can be hard to break the habit of those old comfy slippers though, and try a new pair of slippers, even if they may allow you to walk a bit faster and trip you up less. You might not know your way round in them so well at first, they might not be the right fit for what you need or they could be a great improvement; maybe those old slippers are holding you back? With the launch of Internet Explorer 9 last week it’s time for us all to consider if our current browser really is the best fit.

For those less technical savvy amongst you, you may be shocked to know that there is more than one way to view the internet. You may still be using Internet Explorer thinking that that is as good as the internet can get, but let me introduce you to my friends, Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari. These different browsers offer different functionality some are better for macs (Safari) some are faster (Chrome) and some are safer (Firefox). 

Internet Explorer has dominated the browser market for many years; in 2002 95% of web users were browsing through it, now that’s more like 45-50%. This is because the browser market has revolutionised in the last couple of years with the invention of browsers like Chrome and Firefox which offer faster web browsing, better functionality and a more intuitive web browsing experience. Internet Explorer 9 is Microsoft’s latest offering that is trying to win back its market share. It offers integration with Windows 7 to make browsing your favourite sites easier, and gives larger screen space to site contents by reducing the tool bars. 

It’s free to download any of these browsers, so why not find out which is the right fit for you? 

Future of Web Design Tour 2009

We're back from the Future of Web Design (FOWD) 1 day conference in Bristol

Paul & Simon had an inspiring day learning about the latest web design trends and topics as well as meeting lots of other designers and developers in the Bristol area.

The conference covered topics including: the new features of HTML5 - the next generation of web design technology, how to improve the design process with your clients, how to create the perfect portfolio and 5 ways to introduce more fun into the work place.

The hosts even provided free beer after the event as well!

Created on Thursday September 10 2009 10:13 AM

Tags: networking bristol browser communication fowd conference

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The unifying power of dance

advanced apiary communication skills
"Honeybees can communicate with others from far-off continents by learning to interpret their dance moves, scientists have found."

I'm afraid I can't think of even the most tenuous link between this article and web development or our industry, it's just the best thing I've read in the papers all week.

Cross species communication doesn't happen all that much (unless you count how many times your pet dog induces you to yawn a week) so it's pretty exciting when it does.  Especially when this involves the deployment of jazz hands (or wings oscillating wildly, which is almost the same thing).

Honeybees find food sources by sending out intrepid explorer bees to find flower food or die trying.  If they return, they have to do a little dance to let other worker bees know in which direction it lies and how far to travel.  Different honeybee species dance in a variety of manners (the French precariously carrying a baguette under one wing, for example).

Amazingly, if you put a bunch of Eurasian honeybees and Asian honeybees together in a hive, the latter species manage to learn the formers' funky dance moves in a jiffy - leading them to the same food sources!  Brilliant!!!

You can read the proper articles about honey bees here and here.  For more stories about shaking pandas and cannibalistic ladybirds, go here and here.

Science Daily

Null Hypothesis
Animal of the Week

Created on Friday June 06 2008 10:43 AM

Tags: fun science web-development communication

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