Slowing Down the Machine: Interrupting Process for the Greater Good

Where we work, we have a process. Process is great. At its best, it helps us do excellent work really quickly. But, finding the balance between meeting a deadline and ensuring the quality of the end product can be tricky. It seems too often projects are squeezed into predefined processes that can cause teams to attempt to solve for problems not everyone fully understands in timeframes that may not be feasible. As a result, a teammate’s deliverable can be reduced to simply a necessity for moving the project forward, rather than understood by all team members as a tool for identifying and solving problems or fully grasping the effort required for quality work. This lack of understanding can make it difficult to change pieces of the process when additional or different work is needed to uncover new problems.

This talk will center on a recent project in which we were able to gain team support for altering our predefined process from the ground up. Attendees will learn how we were able to identify process breakdowns within the context of this project, the techniques we used for aligning team members and creating shared understandings, and how at times to simply say no.

Design for the Network

For thousands of years, networks have played a growing role in the progress of human society. They are the hardware infrastructure that the software of culture runs on. Design has always been about creating culture; what’s different now is that the target of design isn’t just a user, a group or a market. We’re designing for the network.

Proposing a new target for design means that we need a new language of design. We need to consider a new aesthetic, new materials, and new methods, methodologies and mindsets. Perhaps most importantly, we need to reflect on whether the future of design should continue to be human-centered.

Part conversation and part manifesto, this session will delve into the role of design in our connected world of networks, software and systems. We’ll explore tools, approaches and perspectives that can help us become more networked-centered in our work as designers, and challenge some core elements of current design practice by asking what it means to “design for the network”.

Cyborg Design: Multimodal Interactions, Information, and Environments for Wearable Computing

Wearable devices represent the first major shift in computing in over 30 years. We are moving away from devices that require us to bend to their form and function, and moving toward devices that become an extension of our self, utilizing our eyes, ears, hands, and even bodies. This shift represents a major change in the way we interact with, find, and view information on devices, and consequently impacts the way we design experiences for these devices.

This talk will start by defining the current state of wearable computing. Initial products like monocles and watches are just the tip of the iceberg and represent a narrow view of the wearable computing horizon. Gone are the monitors and touch screens of our old devices, replaced by earpieces, head-mounted displays, wrist bands, rings and even clothing that provide real-time, real-world sight, sound, and touch feedback.

Interaction methods are also changing. Natural interaction is now possible using eye gaze and dwell, voice, free-form gestures, discreet or micro gestures, and body language. Using just one form of input for your devices, however, is not enough. This talk will also outline the benefit of multimodal interaction and explain why external societal or environmental factors mean we need to design for multiple interaction methods at any given time.

But, even though there is a certain nerd-coolness behind wearable technology, there is still a long way to go before they are successful. If wearable devices do not provide the right combination of functionality and acceptability, then they are sure to join the long list of failed products. This is where we, as experience professionals, can help.

After building wearable prototypes and strapping them to users for the last two years, four key design principles have surfaced that can be applied to future experience design for wearable computing: Immersion, Immediacy, Intent, and Intimacy. Each principle will be defined and discussed.

Wrapping up the talk will be an introduction of the next major challenge we will face on our path to cyborg living: Internals. Wearable Brain-Machine Interfaces are already here and implantables could be here within the decade. This could change the way we design completely: imagine diagramming information architecture for a neural network! We might as well get the conversation going.

Help or Hindrance: How instructions, assistance, and errors shape experiences

With the rise of gestural interfaces and ubiquitous computing experiences, users encounter systems with few physical affordances for interaction. Lately, designers have tried overcoming these barriers to use by offering multi-page instruction screens upon application startup, introductory courses for first time device users, and significant feedback for allowed and non-allowed interactions.

How do you introduce users to new gestures and ways of interacting without extensive help modules or person-to-person assistance? How do people discover that a four-finger swipe is an interaction with purpose, not an accident? Where is the sweet spot between an overly assistive interface and one that leaves the user grasping for a lifeline?

This talk reviews some of the latest assistance methods in touch, gesture-based and mediated interaction, with examples from the introduction and refinement of gestures and voice in Google Now, the trials of photo-taking and editing on phones, Apple’s hidden gestural language, early Xbox discoveries, challenges faced by the Google Glass team, and the almost-ready-for-public devices like the Leap Motion controller.

Twist your tools: Creative IA applications of online research

In this interactive session, you will get an overview of the range of online IA and UX research tools available for Agile and not-so-Agile projects. The twist is that we will also explore unconventional ways to use online tools to solve your research questions.

We’ll try out these twisted tools from your mobile devices and from the screen. Examples of what you will see include: how to add an invitation for live testing to a tree test, how to capture responses to top-level facet selections via a survey tool and how you can use survey tools to prototype wizard-like application forms.

After this session, you will have some new ideas about using online usability tools to help your team make great design decisions.

Fidelity and the Art of Persuasion: How to Successfully Sell Your UX Vision

So you have a killer idea and you are ready to sell through your UX vision. You’ve got various internal and external stakeholders that you need to get on board. They have varying levels of technical savvy and involvement. But in a world of cross-channel experiences with an ever-growing number of touchpoints, communicating a vision can be a challenge.

In this session we’ll cover the key ingredients you’ll need to sell a UX vision. We’ll examine ways to craft your UX deliverables so that they tell a story in a way that clearly communicates your vision. We’ll discuss the importance of selling the vision to your internal team as well as your external audience. We’ll touch on how to adjust the fidelity of deliverables based on an audience’s needs and expectations in order to make sure that the presentation elevates the content of the work. And we’ll explore tools and techniques to make deliverables fun, engaging and memorable.

You’ll leave the session feeling more empowered to tell your story by understanding how to present a suite of deliverables that are more than the sum of their parts.

Web-scale IA using Linked Open Data

The path ahead for information architecture is less about mapping closed site structures and more about creating findable, social objects of information distributed across the network and consumed on an array of devices.

We’ve heard about modeling adaptive and structured content, and how to markup with metadata to make our own material better exposed to the robots of the web. So what’s next? What do we do when our content model or user research uncovers an appetite for material we can’t hope to fulfill? Can we start to connect our content to that of other providers? Better still, can we use free third-party content and business data to bootstrap our own information architectures?

Let’s journey through the world of Linked Open Data, exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information, and knowledge. Here we connect real-world things and relationships using common vocabularies to create a single, extensible network of information stretching across an increasingly semantic web. When content providers like the New York Times, Wikipedia, and MusicBrainz each know different facts about a person, place, or thing, these sources can be fused to provide a richer knowledge graph which we can use to build content products more cheaply through crowdsourcing, make our products more findable, or make our content more reusable.

This isn’t the future; it’s current best practice–used by the BBC to build their Music pages, the New York Times to build topic pages, and by Google and Facebook to build their knowledge graphs. Through these examples we’ll offer practical guidance on how to get started using Linked Open Data in your own projects.

The Web has always allowed us to link related documents. Now the path ahead is to link up the underlying information. It might sound a little technical, but if designers are now asked to ‘code’–to work with the native fabric of their medium–shouldn’t IAs similarly have the power to wrangle data at its source? Working with Linked Data is mining and refining the information that flows across the web. Who better to do this than an information architect?

You’ll learn:

  • The advantages of making your content robot-readable and future-friendly
  • How to structure information using a standard framework, making it readable to people and robots
  • How to query data sources, treating the web as one big database
  • Best-practice methods for enhancing your existing content offering with third-party content and data

Design as Product Strategy: Bringing design thinking to product management in order to create products people love

Most companies consider strong product management to be the “glue” that holds together products as they are being conceived of and built, and most companies treat product management as either a marketing or an engineering activity. But modern startups like Airbnb and large corporations like JetBlue or Starbucks have proven that industry disruption is possible not by focusing on adding features or just improving sales, but instead by focusing on providing deep, meaningful engagement to the people that use the products or services. This engagement is achieved by designing products that seem as though they have a personality, or even a soul. These products feel less like manufactured artifacts and more like good friends.

Design doesn’t refer only to aesthetics or usability, although these are things consumers are most likely to notice or appreciate. Design is both a noun and a verb. It can mean the visual or tactical quality of a product, as well as the process by which products are conceived. Design is a more comprehensive way of thinking about people and human behavior than engineering or marketing. It is a product development process that uses empathy with a community of potential consumers in order to identify problems to solve. Design leverages a certain way of thinking in order to infer solutions to those problems that will have meaningful emotional appeal, and a strong market fit.

In this talk, you’ll learn how to apply that process yourself using these four steps:

  • Identify product/market fit, by seeking signals from communities of users
  • Identify behavioral insights, by conducting ethnographic research
  • Sketch a product strategy, by synthesizing complex research data into simple insights
  • Define the product details, using visual representations to simplify complex ideas

From Paths to Sandboxes

Designers are trained to guide users toward predetermined outcomes, but is there a better use of this persuasive psychology? What happens if we focus less on influencing desired behaviors and focus more on designing ‘sandboxes’: open-ended, generative systems? And how might we go about designing these spaces? It’s still “psychology applied to design”, but in a much more challenging and rewarding way!

In this talk, I’ll share the journey I’ve been on, from trying to shape and influence a user’s path, to creating these sandbox environments. You’ll learn why systems such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Minecraft are so maddeningly addictive, and what principles we can use to create similar experiences. We’ll look at education and the work of Maria Montessori, who wrote extensively about how to create learning environments that encourage exploration and discovery. And we’ll look at game design, considering all the varieties of games, especially those carefully designed to encourage play — a marked contrast with progression games designed to move you through a series of ever-increasing challenges, each converging upon the same solution. Finally, we’ll look at web applications, and I’ll share how this thinking might influence your work, from how you respond to new feature requests to how you design for behavior change in a more mature way.

Why the Mad Men are Mad at Us

Our world is changing. Advertising agencies blew the web opportunity the first time around, but they’re not going to let this happen again. They’re smart. They understand communication. They can run persuasive rings around BJ Fogg. And they’ve been doing user research since before Jakob Nielsen was born.

If you’re considering a job as an IA or UX professional at a traditional ad agency, you don’t want to miss this session.

Ad agencies generally stayed out of the blast range when the dot.bomb went off. And they’ve since waited patiently. Happily, most ad folks still haven’t got a clue as to what IAs do. But when they finally do “get it,” we are either going to learn to get along with them or find ourselves relegated to an unenviable group of semi-human subcontractors — a status otherwise reserved for printers, layouters, and the gopher who delivers lunch each day.

The last couple of years, IAs have learned to appreciate business thinkers like Philip Kottler and Peter Drucker. Now it’s time to get acquainted with the ad industry’s pioneers: Claude Hopkins, John Caples, Rosser Reeves, Bill Bernbach, and David Ogilvy.

This presentation will take a closer look at what ad agencies consider “good” advertising, how they interpret “concept,” and why our notion of “proof of concept” is completely nonsensical in the world of advertising. I’ll show you some successful campaigns and some award-winning campaigns — these are not necessarily the same thing — and explain out why these are admired or condemned by so-called “creatives” at ad agencies.

Together, we’ll explore why advertising creatives despise web types in general and usability folks in particular. You’ll find out why stuff that “works” on screen doesn’t work in print ads — and vice versa. And I’ll dispel some of the popular myths about advertising, such as “all advertising is good advertising.”