Saturday Evening Keynote

Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan speaks about online ethics.

Group Think: System Thinking, User Thinking, Design Thinking

Cross discipline collaboration benefits from group think, a consolidation of soft system methodology and user focused design that all starts with design thinking that sees clients, designers, developers and information architects working together to address user problems and needs. As with any great adventure, design thinking starts with exploration and discovery.

In this session, we will examine the high level tenants of system thinking, expand the scope of user thinking to include tools and devices that users employ to find out designs and delve into the specifics of design thinking, its methods and outcomes. A Discovery Session framework will be presented along with a case study where these methods have been applied.

Session Takeaways
  • An understanding of the developer side of user experience.
  • An introduction to design thinking as it applies to Information Architecture and User Experience design.
  • A prescriptive project discovery process with proven success in delivering a shared understanding of user needs in the context of business goals.

Mapping the Way Forward: The Importance of Visualization

Maps are more than just diagrams of the route from A to B – to draw one is to bring together the whole view of our surrounding world so that we can gain a better understanding of it. Even a single, simple example has the ability to delight, unsettle and reveal truths. In politically-charged environments an objective visual map can reinforce, influence or challenge held perceptions and beliefs, making them a vital tool in designing pliable, people-focused content systems that are fit for purpose. Their proactive and reactive qualities force ourselves and others to see things as they really are; to contemplate the relationship between them and how they vary together. Anything to do with aligning content, process, and people is bound to be tough, messy, and complex.

But remember that we and others who inhabit these environments are not completely constrained by what has happened before. It is a natural reaction of ours to try to order an environment by fitting it into the categories of our expectations. So when we cannot find a way to fit any new ideas and concepts into these simplified slots, it’s really no wonder we experience those sharp pangs of panic. But we and everyone else around us don’t have to rely on the old established categories, we can always create new ones.

Our reserves of intellectual capacity are vast. Perhaps if we’re continually looking upon new ideas and concepts as chaotic and threatening this can only be because we’ve never seriously tried to make use of our potential ability to cope with the unexpected. Believe it or not, we are all amazingly inventive and resourceful, and one of the ways to bring out our innate inventive qualities is to step away from our screens and just draw.

Session Takeaways
  • When, where and how to apply visual maps to the IA and content strategy process.
  • How to employ visual storytelling techniques to design and present impactful and memorable maps.
  • How to inform maps using data and opinions gleaned from investigations, interviews and surveys.

Designing Webs: IA as a Creative Practice

The Web isn’t just a delivery platform – it’s a medium for creative expression – and it’s time we, as IAs, became artists as well as user experience advocates.

Starting from the humble art of content modelling and URL design, this talk weaves the work of Scott McCloud, Tom Armitage, James Bridle and Alan Moore into a heady cocktail that shows why designing Webs is truly a creative practice.

We’ll also explore how work at the BBC into Web-native storytelling, when combined with the Internet of Things can lead us down an intriguing path where Sir Tim Berners-Lee becomes a latter-day alchemist.

Session Takeaways
  • The audience will leave with a greater understanding of Linked Data, the Semantic Web, the history and theory of narrative, and a sneak-peek at BBC prototypes.
  • They’ll also be inspired and entertained, revitalised to feel that their work can be creative, fun and dramatic.

Let’s Hear It For The Seams

We’re going to spend the next decade trying to figure out how to design cross-channel, multi-device experiences that don’t suck, so it’s probably a good time to come clean and admit that the goal of making those experiences “seamless” is just plain silly.

What have we delivered in decades of digital product development that you could describe as seamless? “Apple’s ‘it just works,’ ” you say? Really. How are you enjoying that Flash movie on your iPad? Or maybe you’re thinking Google’s got it knocked … but then you’re not talking about the gazillion people who stumble through their multiple Google accounts.

If we couldn’t pull off “seamless” for single-channel experiences, what makes us think that we can do it when things get really complicated? It’s finally time to let go of the fantasy of hiding seams and focus instead on crafting them skillfully.

In this interactive session we will take a look at a mix of current and imagineered seams. As a group, we’ll analyze what makes for ragged connections between devices and identify some keys to creating elegant transitions across channels. Nobody’s figured out this stuff yet, so let’s roll up our sleeves and work on it together.

Session Takeaways
  • A starter kit of techniques and standards for elegant seam design
  • A deeper understanding of complex, cross-channel, multi-device experiences and the level of effort required to design them well
  • Hands-on experience with the collaborative design of seams

Giving the Right Amount of Shits: Combating Burnout

Burnout. We’ve all been there. The timeline is insane; the clients are constantly changing their minds, inserting new features, waiting until MUCH too late to give feedback; the person in charge is overriding all your good decisions because ‘they like this way better’. There’s a point where your dedication can cost you a piece of your sanity–creating emotional barriers to the creative and analytical thinking that we need to do in order to solve problems. Whatever is wreaking havoc on your work life, you can learn how to let go enough, without losing focus.

We talk a lot about how to do things right and AVOID problems, but how do you recover when the storm is raging? This interactive session will walk participants through methods for coping with burnout. Improve your OWN work life user experience by arming yourself with techniques to deal with the current crisis and be prepared for what may come.

Session Takeaways
  • Maintain your UX integrity when feeling under attack.
  • Recognize the root of the problem—including personal hang-ups, unhealthy team dynamics, organizational culture, motivation clash, and myopic strategy decisions.
  • Assess what you can and can’t do to change the situation.
  • Press the reset button and redirect your anger and frustration into healthy project passion.
  • Form healthy barriers about what you will and won’t do for a project.

Communication with Flexible Documentation

For Information Architects concerned with reducing cognitive load for people that use and interact with our products, we’re making the process of interpreting, understanding and getting that product built, a rather bumpy road. Add in an increasingly fragmented browser and device market, and the once somewhat manageable communication problems we originally had as IA’s have now doubled.

Flexible documentation speaks not only to the physically fluid nature of future IA artifacts but also the portability and scalability that we need to inherit as a means to communicate more effectively.

Whether you work in a startup or fortune 500 company, utilize a waterfall or agile approach to product design, this presentation will give you tools you can use today to increase your efficiency in design and effectiveness of design communication.

Session Takeaways
  • There is a much better way to spend our time when creating design artifacts.
  • There is a much better way to set clear expectations and communicate throughout the design process.
  • If team members and stakeholders can see, interact and understand design within it’s real environment, ambiguity and interpretation is reduced and happiness is increased… significantly.
  • Your value to the process is dependent upon a perceived value add of the overall group. If your team is successful, you will be successful.

Designing for Gendered Audiences

Time magazine recently proclaimed that the transgender movement is “the next civil rights frontier.” If you’re unsure of what it means to be transgender, you’re not alone.

As designers, we rarely consider gender in our design process. Yet gender profoundly influences our customers’ behaviors. Gender influences the way our customers present themselves to the world. Gender determines how customers choose to interact—or not interact—with our products. We make design decisions for customers whose gender identity affects their lives, every day, both offline and online.

A new civil rights movement is teaching us that gender identity goes beyond the conventional definition of male or female. As designers, what do we need to understand about gender identity? How do we design experiences that are inclusive for everyone?

We’ll explore gender identity, what we as designers need to know about gender identity, and why an understanding of gender identity will help us make effective designs even stronger.

Session Takeaways
  1. A grounding in gender identity—what it means to be cisgender or gender non-conforming.
  2. As more gender non-conforming people “come out” and enter the world with a new gender identity, designers must be prepared to craft appropriate experiences for them. For example, when is it appropriate to design a web form collecting gender information but only allowing for male/female options?
  3. We’ll review how some organizations address gender identity in their online products.

Shaping Organizations to Deliver Great User Experiences

Design and UX have won. Companies are building in-house teams like never before. Unfortunately, they’re doing so with outdated organizational models, and so are not getting the most out of their design and UX investment (in fact, some companies are getting negative value because of how UX is placed within the organization).

In this presentation, I will use my personal story of growing a design organization from 30 to 60 as a way to explore how to shape organizations to deliver great user experiences. We’ll delve into matters of organizational models, team structures, and processes to identify how your organization can be most effective.

Session Takeaways
  • A review of organizational models for design/UX teams, and why the “centralized partnership” is the way of the future
  • The qualities of effective design teams
  • How to use the Double Diamond process model to communicate the full range of design’s impact
  • The shortcomings of relying on methodologies such as ‘Lean’, ‘Agile’ and ‘user-centered’
  • The leverage that design teams have due to their relatively small size
  • Provocative thinking on how product team should be structured in order to deliver great experiences