We read. We take notes. We share. We learn. And in the past couple of decades, we’ve been doing more of all of this on our computers and, more recently, handheld devices. The problem is that we don’t really have a great piece of software to facilitate the entire experience. That’s where Annotator comes in. Working in partnership with the Hypermedia team under the Comparative Media Studies group at MIT, the open-source developers at Annotator have been building the code-base to turn any piece of digital text into a place for collaborative learning. As the project’s code-base moves closer to a full public launch, Skeptic was called in to research, design, and build the tool’s handheld interface. The result is Annotorious, a beautiful browser-based application that allows users to read, annotate, and share content on their mobile devices. If you’re curious about installing Annotator (http://okfnlabs.org/annotator/) onto your website or mobile app, check out its GitHub repo here (https://github.com/okfn/annotator/). If, on the other hand, you’re more the read-and-jot type, rather than tinker-and-build, stay tuned for the full Annotorious experience.
Long before COVID, Hypermedia Studio at IBM was investigating new forms of classroom collaboration. In this case, they were interested in how to turn a literary group discussion into a dynamic asynchronous experience for students.
The code was underway but the human journey hadn’t been fleshed out. The Skeptics were called in to research, design, and build this experience.
We were entranced by the idea. Having all just finished graduate degrees, we knew the process of annotation. Our text books were littered with ideas and thoughts but the only way to share was photocopies or texted images. If I remember, a few of us had Tumblrs full of quotes from books.
Though we were familiar with the use case, we didn’t rest on our own experience. We weren’t the users but the designers. So we set up some working sessions with MIT to learn more.
A robust series of research and information architecture was completed and approved and I started developing a visual language. This is literary and respectful but for today’s students. The tiny screen required UI accommodations for thumbs of all sizes. Using user scenarios and scripts, I built the visually elegant system and worked with the coding team to bring it to life.
A website for People Protecting Places.
The re-design of Joanna’s website and e-commerce plan was a huge success with annual sales growth from $300K to $5M in 3 years. I worked closely with the client and other partners to develop a modular design that would allow for growth of content and product offerings. The creation of an innovative content schedule, led by Joanna’s unparalleled offerings and messaging, needed a structure that would be ready for whatever it needed. Setting rules for simplicity—matching Joanna’s affinity for minimalism—helped guarantee a clutter-free experience. The customer came, the saw, and they bought.