News : September 2008
New Issue: Tools for Concept Designing
Victor Lombardi returns to Digital Web this week with a particularly compelling contribution, Concept Design Tools. Fresh off his presentation at Euro Information Architecture Summit, Victor brings practical tools for setting the foundation for forward-thinking concepts and set aside technical or situational constraints. From the Euro IA description of his talk, “Great design concepts have a visceral effect. They force us to think differently. They carry an emotional impact that sways our opinions. They can help us develop better solutions by diverging from conventional solutions and by looking further into the future.”
Live: InfoCamp 2008 - Plenary: Tamara Adlin
Day two kicks off with Aaron giving thanks to sponsors. Aaron then asks the audience about the sessions that occurred yesterday and what they found interesting and if there could be sessions today to expand on that. Audience is talking about things they learned from yesterday. Topics include Dutch libraries, Creative Commons, privacy on the web, EULAs, Denim, financial banking, etc.
Rachel comes up to introduce Tamara Adlin. Tamara takes the stage. She starts off by talking about what may happen during the course of this presentation, namely her possibly dropping the f-bomb. She goes into a story about how she dropped the f-bomb in her interview at Amazon.
She went on to explain what we are as user experience professionals, which basically means we are stuck into a world of creating reports and no one is listening and if they are its all dirty laundry to them.
“If we are really user experience professionals, then we got to start thinking about the people who use us.” “When is the last time you thought about your boss as a user of yourself?”
Write things down. What are your business goals? They can’t say “well we don’t have business goals, we don’t care about the user experience” Its not helpful to say your all about the users, you gotta suck it up and act dumb. At some point you gotta write down the business goals, user goals, etc. Business goals usually have numbers associated with them, brand goals are about how your business is perceived, user goals are often stated as quotes you’d like to hear from users. get them approved by someone at least one level up than who you are working with.
Be brave enough to look really really stupid. Be the dumbest person in the room. Apologize a lot. Congratulate other people for your own ideas. Remember everyone in the room is walking on thin political ice. When your totally stuck, remember no one knows that and will think whatever you do next is the thing your plan since the dawn of time. This does take major balls and you gotta grow some.
Now she’s talking about ad-hoc personas. When you have a bunch of sticky notes all over the place it makes you look like your doing something important. Maybe its just because we’re dealing with electrons all day that people go “ohhh paper!” Shes now explaining how ad-hoc personas work. She’s using MS Word as the epitome of designing for edge cases… most people only use 30% of MS Word’s features… “because at some point, some user is going to want to have a pivot table on their birthday card, and that’s going to happen in Word!” You can’t just create personas based on data and just give them to people and expect them to understand.
Create personas and then show them something that looks like Excel. This is how executives speak, they speak Excel. Showing example on screen. Let them weight the personas.. who is more important to please and how much. Let the executives rate them, then let marketing “dude, what the fuck” becomes “ahh interesting, you seem to be on to something, tell us more.” You have to figure out a way to get from business, brand and user goals to actual user features.
She’s talking about how to get executives on the same page and everyone working together. Hippos will never go away, but if they are all singing in the same key its all golden. Executives don’t know what they want until they see it. Executives are facing not making choices that could be potentially right. Now she has opened the floor for questions and discussion. She went into the concept of solutioneering, putting the solution before they really understand the problem. More questions from the audience. Now she is wrapping up.
Live: InfoCamp 2008 - Unconference: Using openspace for collaboration
Bryce Johnson is giving a talk about unconferences, what they are, how they came to being. He starts off his talk about barcamp and how that spurred the first generation of unconferences. He went on to explain TransitCamp, etc. “Open Space is a technique and unconferences are an interesting way for collaboration.”
Organizing – InfoCamp spent 6 months organizing event. While Bryce believes this because some people like to organize events. He asked me about Refresh Seattle and how much time I put in to it a month… about 2 hours for me personally. This is mostly because its a well-oiled machine and we keep it simple, for example the Refresh Seattle website is basically a single web page.
Space – Getting spaces can be tough. Multi-floor spaces are bad because you should be able to get up and go to another session. Multi-floors work against that. Most open spaces are in a single room. Attendees are sharing their experiences of organizing and attending barcamp events and the spaces they were held. A common space is very critical to the success of the space. Barcamp Seattle, Barcamp Portland, Barcamp Toronto.
Grid – The Grid should be flexible. The grid is the schedule. Time going down the grid, rooms across the grid. You should have the ability to negotiate the grid if someone wants to see two sessions at the same time or if two talks cover similar ground. “One of the best Barcamp/Open Space experiences I ever had we only had 40 people show up but those 40 people were hardcore and really engaged. Since then I haven’t been so worried about the number of attendance.” Corpru is talking about why the dinner and lunch are important. Introductions of sessions to all of the attendees prior to the session is a good idea. Participation is critical to the success of this kind of event.
Food – Bryce says He is not a fan of the catering because it doesn’t keep it simple. It is important but there are some issues with food. Everyone hates pizza but its so easy for everyone. You remember the buffet but the logistics of getting thru the line. You have to have food available all the time, not just at breaks. You can buy a lot of food at Costco for minimal cash. Discussion about zero footprint events.
Swag – “T-Shirts are awesome but I don’t know if you need them or not. I am never unhappy when I get a t-shirt, but do I need it?” Swag should not be crap. Small thumbdrives are useless, large ones are expensive. Corpru talking about the effort for the tshirts this year at InfoCamp. The people who are obsessed with marketing and branding in their real jobs did the marketing and branding.
After – Document the ideas and notes and make them available. If people are going to take notes and attend they should put that online or on the wiki and make them available. “After the event is done how do we keep it going? What’s next?”
The open space format you can scale it down you can scale it up. You can spend months or very little time. In toronto they started doing it a lot more for civic groups like TransitCamp, etc. And now all kinds of cities and towns are doing it. “In terms of community organizing, I have personally never experienced anything more powerful than this type of format.”
Live: InfoCamp 2008 - 3D Prototyping
Rachel Elkington and Aaron Louie are doing a workshop on 3D Prototyping. The concept is based on product design. essentially we will be tasked to build a 3D Prototype and the interface is basically a version of a portable holodeck (yes, like from Star Trek). Right now the audience is contributing ideas and inspiration to the prototype and Aaron is writing them down. The audience has been broken up into teams of four and will be brainstorming. I am going to jump out of this session to go to the UX/IA & marketing session. I will post photos of the prototypes once they are uploaded.
Live: InfoCamp 2008 - Interviewing and Getting a UX Job
So I wasn’t able to live blog my own session, so I am blogging it after the fact. I did a talk about simply what it takes to get a job in UX. I decided to start out and talk about my experiences and how I got to where I am today, specifically my experiences of working in-house in a tech/web company, working in-house in a non-tech company, working as a freelancer, working as a contractor, and working at an agency. I asked for questions during the session but no one really had any until about 1/2 way thru. While I could rehash all that was said here, I am going to focus on the questions that came up. Those questions are:
- Does a freelancer need to setup a business?
- What if my previous employer won’t let me put those projects in my portfolio online?
- How do I build my portfolio if I haven’t had a UX job yet?
- If I am getting a student visa and I can’t accept payment on work while here, how do I build a portfolio?
- What do I put on my resume, does it need to be one page?
- Is it important to list all of my past employers on my resume?
- What kind of stuff should be on my resume?
- What kind of skills should I learn if I want to be doing Interaction Design? Is XHTML/CSS important to know?
and so forth. If you attended this session and didn’t get your question answered please feel free to leave a comment hear and I will get back to you. If anyone wants to explore this topic more, there will be another session at 4:00 that goes into more detail.
Live: InfoCamp 2008 - Keynote: Jacob O. Wobbrock
Rachel Elkington is giving the introduction for Jacob Wobbrock. Jacob is going to be talking on Flipping the Burden: Marking computer accessible with everyday input devices.
Jacob takes the stage, after quickly plugging in his laptop we’re rolling. He hopes to do justice to InfoCamp’s “power to the people” theme. He is involved with DUB: Design, Use, Build which is a mix of people from various departments and schools at UW.
He starts off by talking about AIM: Accessibility Interaction and Mobility group. He wants to talk about ability rather than accessibility. “I want to open you to the idea that accessibility is not just about people in wheelchairs.” He shows a photo of a wheelchair, bicycle, and stroller using a curb-cut. Now he’s showing a automatic door where both a wheelchair and someone with a shopping cart going thru it. The person with the cart is situationally impaired. Using an example of an adult child and them helping an elderly parent by making use of a uni-sex bathroom. “Accessibility is a form of usability for all.” “it’s what can you do, not what can’t you do.”
“Typical computer access programs assume a standard user interface. What about people with disabilities, we adapt them to the technology. We use specialized technologies. Assistive technologies. We want to change that, we want to flip the burden. How about a non-standard interface?” Hes going to run thru a series of projects that do this.
His dissertation was on trying to address the issue of small targets on screen, this was before the advent of iphones and such. He shows the issues with using a styilus for someone who has cerebral palsy. Now a video. Explaining the concept of 4 corners in Graffiti. This is “edgewrite.” Showing metrics for 5 subjects entering the alphabet 4 times using graffiti. Now showing how its used on trackballs, touchpads, game controllers, etc. Showing another video, now with text-completion. “The 100 most common words in English covers 40% of the language, “The” is 6% of English.” Now showing a video of a news story on his research.
“Now, what about acquiring targets? what about using edges of the screen on a mobile device.” The edge of the screen improves your accuracy because you can’t over-shoot it. “could I move along the edge of the device and make the target based on where i pick up the stylus rather than where i click?” Showing video of this. These are all videos of people with motor disabilities. Now we can start think about edge interfaces. “but the sylis is kinda dead.. so anyway… these projects take a long time… so we have to keep using them” Now he’s talking about touch screens.
Now he’s talking about the creation of “sliderule” Showing a ipod touch and how it would work. The ability to read your finger. How can i hit targets without seeing them. Talking about flick gestures. Another video. This one has a ipod touch, with a screen reader.. there is nothing displayed on the screen. The user is using flick gestures. Doing things like “Call Woody Allen” “play Five Monday” etc. Audience claps.. amazing! Seriously, this is impressive! Audience: “When is it going to be available?!” Jacob says “Maybe you can help me with that?”
Now he goes into a brief explanation of how it works and how he got testers. “We did this study with blind people who were all very skeptical this would ever work” he goes on to say “Well, we’ll pay you.. so they did do the testing” then he goes on to say how they asked “when will be this available?” when they were done with the testing and after they tried the interface. Now another video this time of TrueKeys. How do you verify with a user that the previous word was corrected. Text corrections not all that sexy for a video but we did all kinds of test.
Now we’re going to push the burden really on the machine. “Supple++” Explaining the concept. Can we have a person designing a UI for each person with different needs? Talking about the tasks issued to the user. Watching performance and uses the results to build a automatic layout. Issue low level task, you capture that, you model that, then you adapt the interface to that. This is basically intelligent computing where the UI learns based on performance. Now hes talking about how the UI can even adapt to vision… this is not just like changing the text size on a web page, the number of options and buttons actually adjust to the user’s needs. Results were, in a study with 11 motor impaired participants were consistency faster… by 65%! Showing some other stats.
Now showing a user, Phillip Chavez, a “voice artist.” Showing how he paints with his voice… with Dragon Naturally Speaking and Microsoft Paint.. ouch! Showing a piece of art inspired by Jackson Pollic. Now showing the video on how it’s done. Pauses video, we’re trying to perform continuous commands. Continues with video, this is very painfully slow and prone to errors. Now talking about a voice vowel map with Vocal Joystick. Showing a voice draw video. The audio input is continuous with different sounds. Showing Philip’s art before and after voice draw. Pretty impressive, much more “paint” like.
Now he’s going into the Angle Mouse. Now talking about intention tremor. Showing a diagram of “spread” when moving the mouse at a angle which shows deviation. Motor-space is the space of thing as they exist in the physical space not on the screen. Talking about gravity wells when you near a target. Now talking about issues with other targets near one target… or distractor targets. Showing deviation comparison. Results are 10.3% better thru-put with this angle mouse idea on motor-impaired users than with the windows default with no significant difference for able-bodied users.
Talking about light switches and how the interaction works and comparing it with a button. He proposes the concept of goal crossing instead of pointing. The people with motor-impairments were much more accurate and able-bodied people noticed no difference in performance. Showing a design app with no buttons, just goal areas. Describing the concept of occlusion. Showing some design schemes of attempts to solve this issue. He is going to show an assignment he gave his class about “reels.” where the UI is polar from inside out instead of outside in.
In review. We can use these projects to understand different ways about thinking about the UI for even able-bodied people and push the envelope on what is possible. Special thanks to his wife, co-authors, PHD students, the school, etc. Applause. Now for audience questions.
Live: InfoCamp 2008 - Opening Remarks
Today and tomorrow Digital Web Magazine will be live blogging from InfoCamp 2008. I will also be giving a session on interview and getting a UX jobs later today.
Right now Arron Louie from ZAAZ is on stage giving the opening orientation and opening remarks. A quick survey shows that the audience is mostly made up of information architects, librarians, technical writers, as well as usability and user-centered design professionals.
The list of topics was displayed on the screen, a full screen of text listing them all out. Aaron is pointing out that because it is an un-conference our topics are decided right now, were in other conferences are limited to topics they decided over six months ago which may or may not be relevant today. Very good point there especially with the recent financial crisis being reported by our media.
Aaron gives a mention of the sponsors: FILTER, ASIS&T Pacific Northwest Chapter, ASIS&T University of Washington Chapter, Blink Interactive, ZAAZ, UW iSchool, Digital Web Magazine, and Fell Swoop. Now he’s introducing the staff behind the scenes: Rachel Elkington, Corprew Reed, Kristen Shuyler, Andrew Szydlowski, Joshua Walker, Genevieve Williams, Kathryn Whitenton and, of course, Aaron Louie. And now for everyone in the room!
Lunch is on us at InfoCamp 2008!
Digital Web Magazine is happy to be a sponsor of InfoCamp 2008. For those who don’t know what InfoCamp is, here is a little blurb from their website:
InfoCamp is an interdisciplinary un-conference for information architecture, user-centered design, librarianship, and information management. It features an egalitarian, community-driven format in which presentations are designed and delivered by attendees.
InfoCamp is this Saturday and Sunday in Seattle and Digital Web Magazine will be sponsoring free lunch for everyone! Yes, that’s right, we’re having tacos! If you see me or Tiff Fehr at the event please say hello! I hope to see you there, this year looks like it will be a record turnout!
New Issue: Understanding Disabilities when Designing a Website
This week, Digital Web is…well, late, but we’re very happy to welcome accessibility and usability consultant Leona Tomlinson. Leona joins us to offer her guidance in Understanding Disabilities when Designing a Website. Digging into accessibility guidelines and standards can be as difficult and confusing as any language specifications, but Leona assures us that a few minor changes and a clear mindset can make a huge difference to users with disabilities.
p.s., I apologize for the delay for this week’s issue…please join me in blaming Comcast.
Dropbox - the answer to your filesharing needs?
Dropbox, the online file storage and sharing web application, came out of beta yesterday — and it looks set to become an indispensable tool. Installed on your own machine(s), the Dropbox client syncs your chosen local folder with your Dropbox account (using Amazon’s S3 storage), which you can also access via their web interface or your iPhone. Items can be flagged as public and shared with others via a URL, generated through the app.
While most responsible developers will probably have some kind of backup system in place already, the ability to quickly share screenshots and files with friends and colleagues — especially if you’re behind a firewall that prevents FTP access — is very welcome. And best of all it’s free!
New Issue: Stock Photography with Jason Beaird
This week, Digital Web is happy to welcome Jason Beaird to pose a question we might not want to answer: metaphorically raise your hand if you have used stock art. Raise the other one if you felt lousy about it. For those of us brave enough to raise our hands, ask yourself if you really think you should feel bad about it. Let’s be honest, it serves a purpose and can help communicate with users. In Cooking with Stock, Jason owns up to the role of stock art, and offers tips how to effectively use it for your next project.
dConstruct 2008: Cognitive Bias and Social Design
There have been a couple of great presentations either side of lunch here at dConstruct. Joshua Porter — social web expert and occasional Digital Web contributor — revealed the hidden mental tics (or “cognitive biases”) that designers should be aware of when thinking about how best to attract engage with their users; and Daniel Burka (Pownce, Digg) shared his recommendations on how to approach the key pain points when designing for social interaction.
Digital Web goes to dConstruct
The UK arm of Digital Web (editor Frances Berriman and me) are at Brighton’s annual dConstruct conference today to hear some of the web’s leading thinkers talk about Designing The Social Web. Steven Johnson is up first, drawing parallels between modern information design and cholera epidemics (London’s “social network of dead people”, as he puts it).
Also in evidence is Clearleft’s Silverback gorilla, dispensing promotional bananas (yes, really) to the assembled geeks. If you’re at the conference, please come and say hi!
Link Roundup: IE8, Google Chrome, 4-Day Weeks, and authentication
New products, plugins, and announcements have been coming thick and fast in the last couple of weeks, but here are some of the interesting posts we’ve been reading:
- Peter-Paul Koch summarises the changes in the new beta of IE8, and notes that its “backwards-compatibility mode” doesn’t actually emulate older browsers correctly;
- Jon Hicks deflates the Google Chrome hype by pointing out that all of their UI enhancements have actually been done before;
- Chris at Particletree discusses their 4-1/2 day work week arrangement at Wufoo, which includes a 2pm lie-in on a Friday — sounds good to me!
- and David “Fat Businessman” Thompson muses on OAuth authentication and password anti-patterns — are you careful enough with your passwords?