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Identify information properties first step, design second step?

This year we are again sponsoring the UX Bristol event and the lineup of workshops is looking interesting to say the least. We took the chance to talk to some of the speakers ahead of the day.

Lon Barfield lectures and writes on the subject of technology and people. Currently he is teaching at UWE on the cultural and social impacts of digital technology. Lon is running a workshop on “Designing with information properties”.

We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his career journey so far, gathered some career tips and asked about his upcoming session.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far leading you to where you are right now?

Lon Barfield

Lon Barfield: After school I did a part-time A-Level in Computer Science to see what it was all about (This was pre-PC, pre-Mac). Went on to do Computer Science at university. Always been interested in design for use so I got interested in the user side of computing (it didn’t have a name back then). Did research in it. Set up an early web design company in Amsterdam in 1994 when the web was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Went on to do freelance design, lecturing and books in the area as it continued evolving. Still doing all three now that I’m back in the UK.

ADLIB: What tips would you give a professional within UX to ensure that their skills, approaches and knowledge remain top notch?

Lon Barfield: In smaller organisations or teams you can end up being the only UX person, so it’s important to talk to other UX people, especially contractors who may have experience of several different work environments.
If you are a lone UXer in a team in a much larger organisation then make contact with other UX people within the organisation. Start having meet-ups and sharing information. Try and formalise this process within the organisation.
Find different contexts to meet other UX people; UX book groups, UX themed presentations, conferences (like UXBristol!).

ADLIB: You looked into taxonomies and the categorisation of information and how this can be used to make design decisions and group elements for display. What were the reasons for you to look into this?

Lon Barfield: Mature disciplines are defined by their vocabularies; wine tasters can wax lyrical about the qualities of different wines, carpenters know all about the different properties of the wood they work with. In our fledgling discipline we work with information – I kept asking myself if there was a corresponding vocabulary to talk about information, what are the different properties that information can have? And how can this inform decisions when designing information?

ADLIB: What will participants be able to take away from and learn about during your UX Bristol workshop on this topic?

Lon Barfield: A deeper appreciation of information as a material to work with and of the properties of information. How thinking about information properties is a vital part of information design processes. (And if they really want to they can take away some of the cereal packets we’ll be using.)

ADLIB: For those that might miss your session, can you share, just in a nutshell, how you see the categorisation of information changing as interfaces both shrink and disappear altogether?

Lon Barfield: Another nutshell? We will continue moving from an information-centric approach to a more customer-centric approach. Currently the approach to design tasks is to ask: What sort of information do we have, and what can we let our customers do with it? That is starting to turn around and information is being seen as a material to design and build with so the questions become: What sort of services do our customers want, and what sort of information do we need to acquire and source to be able to build those services?

Thank you for sharing.


UX Bristol 2017 is set to be a memorable day of UX workshops. Learn hands-on UX techniques from leading practitioners in a friendly and sociable setting.
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