Flexible user-centred designs

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Flexible User-centred designs

Much software development and the creation of web services focuses on the appearance of the product, and the neat 'features' or services offered. CITIES tries to focus on providing computer software (eg to help language teachers develop worksheet) and web services that are designed and develop along with the user. Also we use a ‘block’ design that enables new features or resources to be slotted in.

For example on our web sites we are linking all occurrences of the word on that site to its audio file and translation. These services are added gradually, alongside the web and software users adding their resources, such as recordings of language, stories of history of an area, etc.

This process can be done as a 'mash-up' where different open source software is linked together, often with re-programming, to provide a consistent interface in terms of visual aspects as well as the general layout of how to access different features. In particular we provide simple 'clean' web sites and software that can grow expand in their function as people become more used to them and what more from the software.

The main features we enforce in our work are:

  • Use of databases wherever possible so that resources such as web sites can be reused by other groups and still retain the added features designed for users
  • Use of 'story bricks' when creating features such as in games so that is is easy for other users to add further similar features within existing frameworks
  • Use of visual cues (and in future audio) wherever possible to reduce reading load
  • Use of scripted websites that enable new features o be added as required
  • Use of high level languages to provide innovative features to link information and resources, such as the sound of words to their text wihtin a site.
  • Reuse of resources based on this block design between different users

Finally our resources rely heavily on the users providing their material. That is, the software is not complete without users annotation old tapes, provide sound grabs, such as their stories, etc. The aim is to use the power of people to make the knowledge provided on the web and through computer software up to date and relevant.

The software we use and develop include:

  • image selection and editing
  • sorting and sending information on email and linking resources to mailing lists
  • annotation tools for audio and video, and linking information with similar tags
  • language parsers
  • text to speech
  • upload and presentation of audio and video material in easy to use formats
  • video and audio clipping to improve annotation
  • security of material uploaded including retaining authorship and respect of cultural protocols