We have been considering principles of template design and how these influenced our product designs. This is part five of a six part series. Today, we discuss effective framing of input and output fields, and the reduction of complexity without removing meaning. In each article, we case studied a product and in this instance we will feature our Construction Safety Plan template.
We intend for these articles to not only help you decide between templates, but also help you in developing other systems for yourself.
Reviewing the ‘Designing a Quality Safety Management Plan’ Series
Previously we examined factors of:
We’ve also weighed in on design principles of:
However, an effective OHS/WHS template solution must also:
- Frame input and output fields effectively, and
- Reduce complexity without removing meaning.
These two aims do not tend to offer each other favours. Effectiveness requires detail, meaning requires information, and yet reducing complexity means detail and information must be carefully sorted and logically presented.
This also, is not as easy as it might appear.
Framing Safety Plan input and output fields
When clients use our templates, we want them to easily identify and enter needed data, and also have a sense of how this data will present itself in the end. We also want to minimise the amount of data processing and decision-making necessary.
But how do we decide what data is needed and how it is gathered?
In our Construction Safety Plan template, for example, we identified Risk Management as being critically important. Other issues, such as Site Safety Rules, have been given a less prominent position and are less defined, giving you more room for flexibility in choosing your words. Other information has been left out altogether. Were we to accommodate every construction element within the template, it would turn into a “War and Peace” manual, rather than an effective workplace safety tool.
Reducing Construction Safety complexity without removing meaning
Construction Safety is a complex and multifaceted issue. We cannot escape the complexity of the legislation and the ever changing nature of clients costs and regulations. However, there are some things we can do.
Two design principles are at play here. ‘Similarity’ and ‘proximity’.
The principle of ‘similarity’ says that similar topics and data should be grouped or separated based on what is helpful to the document’s goals. The idea is that a template user should not have to look too far to find information, especially where ‘Information Item A’ relates closely to ‘Information Item B’. This means that:
- Where data looks like other data, but it is actually different, it should be intentionally separated by some sort of graphical tool, such as a chart or page separation.
- Where data does not look equivalent, but in reality is, it should be presented in a way that this alikeness is made known. In our Construction Safety Plan template, for example, we group Hazard Reporting and Risk Assessment together for this reason.
Sometimes information is not intuitively connected, yet it is still useful for a particular purpose when grouped or presented together. This is where the principle of ‘proximity’ comes into play: if displaying two items close to each other helps the overall purpose of the document, even if they seem unrelated, then they should be.
The classic example of this is the creation of summary or quick reference sheets, such as you see in our flow charts. When it comes to something as important as fast and efficient dealing with Construction WHS factors, assisting speed and ease of use through proximity is a good practice.
If the decision is made to group data, reduce complexity and not lose meaning, the use of pairs (also called tuples), short strings, lists or tables can be a good approach.
At Occupational Safety Solutions we certainly use tables (especially) with deliberate intention. You can see this principle in action in the way we present safety plan information within our Construction Safety template solution.
While complexity in WHS and especially Construction Safety is unavoidable, minimisation of complexity where possible is a worthwhile goal.
There is one more article in this series, in which we will examine how design must accommodate the tools you (our clients) use, and how we must empower speed and ease.
If our Construction Safety Plan template interests you, please investigate its features online, purchase online, or call us on 1800 304 336 if you have a question. We have great confidence in our product as a result of deliberate care, design and continued positive feedback. We believe your experience will be satisfying and positive!