Inside AMEE: The Importance of Being Accessible

So you know all the information and facts are out there, but you still make poor decisions… why ? With the use of some brilliant design methods, we at AMEE are figuring out  how to simplify the way people get, use and interact with important but complex information.

 

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As we enter a time of increasing environmental uncertainty, information becomes our most important asset for change. Many people, companies and NGOs are trying to tackle the effects of climate change across the globe, and are shifting towards more sustainable ways of living and working. However, a holistic global trend in this direction has had little practical progress. 

Partly this is cultural – we’re stuck in a time where environmental and business data is exclusively used by those who can either afford the data or for those who can interpret the information internally. Yet we know that the climate agenda is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation, it requires the information to be presented in simple, accessible ways, helping raise people’s awareness to the points where action is needed. This would help enable people who have little or no clean tech or fin tech experience to make better decisions. Simply re-presenting the complex data in understandable, accessible ways can lower the barrier to entry for those who could not previously engage, thus developing a product that Ivan Illich would describe as a ‘tool for conviviality’.

Providing more accessibility for people to act is nothing new, if anything, it’s the basis of a disruptive technology. ‘Available Information’ is something that has always been a part of our decision-making processes, if the information isn’t there we depend on heuristics and biases, which force us to make half-baked judgments. We all know it’s hard to make a decision about something if we don’t have all the available information. Introducing human factors and limitations to clean and fin tech can radically change the way we make decisions, the accuracy of those decisions, the way business is done and therefore can fundamentally reduce risks.

 

“The re-introduction of people into technology and technological decision making is absolutely essential.” 

Ursula Franklin : The Real World Of Technology

 

For me as a designer and for AMEE, this all begs the questions, ‘how do people want to use environmental and business information?’ and ‘how can we make this simpler for them?’

 

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Aside from having a well established website already, we have embarked on a process of using a design method commonly known as User-Centred Design (UCD) to understand our users and potential users more, allowing us to build accessible tools that people want to use, in order to engage with our extensive data. The idea is to use this information to re structure the information hierarchy of AMEE, how people navigate the website and the tools we provide.

To Quote Mathew Taylor of the RSA, ”Rationality can tell us how best to get from A to Z but without deeper reasoning we cannot decide where Z should be” Once “Z” is found through using UCD we can then build an infrastructure to make the using of environmental information within business decisions more available for using. 

UCD is an iterative process of defining the user and their needs by reaching out and speaking to users right at the start of the process, then assessing, designing, prototyping, testing and iterating. It’s a collaboration – engaging users to participate in telling us how they would like to use the information and then designing accordingly. UCD has been incredibly popular in the academic human-computer interaction scene and is a tested method for creating accessible products. It takes into account the limitations and desires of the users’ ability, this can include time, internet speed, prior knowledge, flow, end use and the device on which a product is being accessed. 

Frequently these factors are overlooked by many data orientated software and tech companies, ultimately creating a barrier between the data and the user. Understanding where the barriers are forms criteria to design something with which people can actually engage. This disrupts the closed-door status quo of environmental and business data, ultimately giving people the ability to make decisions that make the Earth’s future more environmentally prosperous through reducing business risk. 

 

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Inside AMEE is a series of posts where we share what we are thinking and doing with our community in order to learn from feedback and improve

We will keep you up to date my next post to present the specific tools we are using and the  findings throughout the process. 

 

Further reading : 

Donald Norman – The Psychology of Everyday Things

https://www.thersa.org/about-us/staff/profiles/matthew-taylor/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human%E2%80%93computer_interaction

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-centered_design

 

 

 

 

 

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