Between Minds – A Creative Approach to Building Stories

 How often have you experienced a challenging situation or dilemma where you were thinking hard and eventually just wanted to bang your head against the wall? How did you deal with the situation?

Maybe you brainstormed, without even realizing it. Brainstorming is a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving that promotes lateral thinking. We, at Harbinger, run a program called ‘Between Minds’ based on the brainstorming approach. This is a cross-functional meeting that brings together the Instructional and Graphics Design teams with the core objective of promoting design thinking. Random cross-functional groups are formed for each session, and every time a session is conducted, we get to deal with a unique challenge and come out with a new perspective of looking at things.

In a recent Between Minds session, each group was given a phrase and the expectation was to build a story in the next thirty minutes. Colors and papers were provided, and all the teams used drawing as their tool for weaving their stories. The ultimate objective of this activity was to get the team members work on a critical timeline and come up with a solution, by using their lateral thinking and problem-solving capabilities, along with acknowledging difference of opinions.

Listed below are some stories that the groups came up with:

  • Phrase: Dr. Spark Invents Time Machine

time machine

This is the story of a scientist who invents the time machine post which he assumes any invention would be a cake walk for him. Hence, he further embarks on a journey of inventing telephone. Unfortunately, that turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life as he lands into an era where telephone was invented but not electricity. Thus, there is no power source to which he could connect his time machine and come back to the present. This strengthened the fact that we must keep things simple rather than complicating our journeys. The story also emphasizes on the importance of paying attention to details.

  •  Phrase: Age is Just a Number

age

Another interesting story that came from one team was about an old man and his little grandson. The grandfather, despite being old, is no less than the grandson when it comes to being mischievous and having fun. Both steal ice-cream, fight for the video-game, and love to play scrabble. This story highlighted the fact that if you are willing to do something, then age is just a number. It also beautified how two people separated by a huge age difference were so alike. This story had a sense of simplicity and an essence of nostalgia which took the audience back into the memory lanes of their childhood. It also taught us how simple things could make a big impact at times.

  • Phrase: A Dark and Stormy Night

stormy night (2)

Another interesting story was about a dark stormy night when a group of friends lose their way into the woods. They are wet and homeless, and upon finding a shelter, they enter it only to be confronted with spooky sounds. They hear the crying of a cat, squeaks of a baby and some smoke emerging from another room. Flashbacks of all the ghost stories read at leisure strike back indicating a definite possibility of a similar encounter. With a heavy heart and the possibility of coming across an evil spirit, they enter the other room to see a lady cooking food, in a corner of the room. Her baby is playing in the crib and a pet cat is crying in another corner. The story teaches us a lesson of not giving up on situations, and building presumptions about them, until you encounter them.

This session encouraged the teams to come up with the thoughts that, at first, seemed a bit crazy and quirky, but were then developed to build a story that went on to be appreciated by all present. The objective was not to reward or criticize ideas, as judgment stunts lateral thinking and also limits creativity. In a nutshell, it was a rejuvenating activity that pulled everyone out of their daily routine, and yet gave us some good problem-solving lessons, and a deeper insight into collaborating and working as a team to accomplish a common goal.

Do you also participate in any such sessions or activities? What are your favorite approaches to problem-solving? We would love to know your thoughts. Leave your comments below.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 – A Checklist to Get Started

Web Content Accesibility - Concept Image

Web accessibility indicates websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed in a way that people with disabilities can use them. The most recent guidelines for web accessibility are specified in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0[1]. US federal government had set a conformance deadline to WCAG as January 1, 2018. Accessible content is now no longer optional; it is a must-have.

Making content accessible usually requires taking care of some basic guidelines related to the navigation mechanism, and fixing some issues in the underlying code (which commonly don’t even count as issues on the regular visual screens). The basics of accessibility are fairly easy to implement. But if you are new to accessibility, it might take some time and effort to learn about them. Most mistakes related to implementing the accessibility guidelines have to do with a failure to understand what constitutes accessible content.

Based on our experience of developing multiple WCAG 2.0 compliant projects, here is a list of the most common issues that could make your content non-accessible, and a checklist to help you avoid them.

Common Issues Checklist to Avoid the Issues on The Left

1.  Too low contrast

2.  Color-driven instructions

3. Background colors that don’t contrast images against text

· Provide sufficient color contrast. Color contrast can be checked with help of free tools like Webaim-color contrast checker.

· The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.

· Ensure that information conveyed by color differences is also available in text.

4.  Lack of keyboard accessibility

5.  Lack of “skip to main content” or “skip navigation” Links

6. Complex or difficult interactivities

· Make each page navigable by keyboard alone.

· Add “skip to content” links to allow a user to jump directly to main content rather than navigating through all the controls.

·  Avoid complex interactivity design by chunking complex modules into simpler and smaller activities with required user instructions.

·  Provide keyboard operation for all the functionality of the page. When all functionality of content can be operated through a keyboard or keyboard interface, it can be operated by those with no vision as well as by those who use alternate keyboards or input devices.

7.  Missing or improper headings

8.  Flexibility with different text sizes

·  Use heading tags (H1, H2,…), table headings and lists (UL, LI).

·  Add a meaningful page title.

·  Ensure that content can be scaled uniformly by using a web technology (the browser’s zoom functionality for instance). At the same time ensure that, the zoom function preserves all spatial relationships on the page and that all functionality continues to be available.

9. Screens or parts of screens that change unexpectedly

10. Links that open unexpectedly in new windows

·  Avoid pop-up windows.

·  Allow pausing of animations.

·  User indication should be given when the focus is changing to the new window.

11.  Too many links or navigation items

12.   Links or buttons that do not make sense

·  Avoid “click here” link text. Describe the purpose of a link in the link text itself, instead of just saying “Click here”. For example, content that says, “Open the website www.harbingerlearning.com” instead of “click here.”

· Keep navigation consistent across all pages.

13. Inappropriate Alt attributes

14. Images with missing or improper descriptions (alt text)

·  Add alt text to images which describe the image. For example, an image showing a United States map with its population should have alt text as “Map of the United States showing population density in various states” instead of “an image” or “US Map” as alt text.

·  Add labels to form elements like buttons, links etc.

·  Use CSS for visual presentation of text. CSS benefits accessibility primarily by separating the document structure from presentation. By separating style from markup, developers can simplify and clean up the markup in their content, making it accessible at the same time.

Most organizations across the United States are now legally required to meet accessibility standards. But even if your organization doesn’t fall into that category, it’s still a good idea to make your digital content accessible, because it makes good business sense. It can help improve user experience and hence make your web content more effective.

If you are interested to know more about accessibility or if you have more points that can be added to the list above, feel free to write to us at info@harbingerlearning.com.

[1] https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/