Appearances to the contrary, most of my team’s activity has little to do directly with AWS. A case in point is a major rewrite of our primary risk management system, a custom application called Atlas. Atlas has served us well over the past several years and it has given us an excellent view into where our data is stored and processed and the levels of risk associated across our environment. A major focus for this year is reworking Atlas better account for the rise of cloud technologies and several other risk modelling changes. We’re also taking this opportunity to take the serviceable but a bit dated desktop interface and rebuild it as a web-enabled application respecting good design principles.

As my team iterates through our use cases and determines how we want the user experience to flow, I’ve discovered and fallen in love with Balsamiq Mockups. Balsamic allows rapid prototyping of interfaces and provides a good balance between providing enough functionality to demonstrate functionality and keeping the mock up process light enough to avoid premature focus on fine grained design decisions. We’ve already gone through a number of different revisions and have been able to quickly walk through some user stories and see where unexpected design limitations may exist.

Web design is not one of my stronger skills. While I’ve done web work going back to the 90s and I can sling together a Bootstrap site confidently, the fine details of graphic design trigger degrees of uncertainty that suggest I should leave the serious to professionals. I do, however, love the theory of UX design, especially where that crosses over into visualization and data presentation areas. I was therefore thrilled to see our local gem, Ada’s Technical Books, advertise a new book club on user experience. Pointing this out to my spouse, her first comment was that this looked pretty much like my current reading bookshelf! While I’m already involved in the History of Discovery book club, I couldn’t restrain myself from running out and grabbing the first book on the list, Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. It’s turning out to be a fast and super enjoyable read. Between this latest reading group and this month’s trip down for Stephen Few’s Signal workshop, there should be plenty of grist for me to generate some visualization posts in the coming months.