The Digital Place You Love Is Gone

Expanding on Marsha Haverty’s discourse on meaning, we’ll look at what happens when we encounter loss of place. So many times we design for new users, with only a passing nod at existing ones. But what happens when we redesign a familiar experience, especially one that people have “grown up with”? What happens when digital destinations disappear? A strong dissonance affects people who become used to a certain digital place, a certain set of patterns, images, and interactions. When this place changes, especially dramatically, people experience loss, frustration, anger, blame, and confusion.

We’ll use Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s “The Place You Love Is Gone: Progress Hits Home” as a starting point, with strong nods to work by Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati, Jim Kalbach, Peter Morville, and other experts in placemaking, wayfinding, and other digital geographies. We’ll look at physical analogies as well as digital examples. Ultimately, we’ll ponder key approaches to easing the sense of loss people might experience when progress destroys their digital homes.

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.

Panel: The Secrets of Master UX Consultants

Being a design, IA or UX consultant is hard. Most new consultants struggle just to stay busy. In this panel, expert practitioners will share their wisdom on what it takes to be a master consultant. Panelists with many years of consulting experience will share their insights on winning engagements, dealing with clients, and the different skills needed for internal and external consulting.

If you’ve polished your UX skills extensively, but are struggling with clients or internal stakeholders, this session will provide insights into the consulting soft skills you need. We’ll share our secrets to help you become a more effective leader and a happier consultant.
Session Takeaways

Attendees will learn tips and trick for consulting from the multiple perspectives of each panelist. They may not always agree.

Here are some examples:

  • Consulting is about delivering – be clear about your deliverables – if you’re just offering “advice” clients will have a hard time seeing your value after you leave.
  • Don’t do the hard work of writing a proposal until the client already knows your planned approach and has agreed to a ballpark budget. The work should be mostly sold before you write up what you’ve already talked about in the proposal.
  • The roles of internal consultant, external contractor, and external consultant are all very different. Each of these roles requires different behaviors. For example, as an external consultant, you need to be able to effectively “project manage” your work and hold clients accountable for their action items, while as an internal consultant or contractor, you’re often part of a larger team managed by the client. If you’re not good at managing projects…take note. On the other hand, as an internal consultant, you must be great at navigating the political waters of the organization.
  • External consultants need to HAVE A CLEAR RECOMMENDATION. Don’t be wishy-washy (saying “it depends…”) or give clients too many options. You need to be an expert. That’s what they hired you for. But that doesn’t mean you have all the answers.

Archaeology & IA: The Adventures of Information Jones

During my previous career as an archeologist, I studied people I couldn’t talk to in order to learn how they interacted with the world around them. As a User Experience Analyst, I now study people I can talk to and learn first hand how they interact with their environments.

In this presentation, I will bring my interdisciplinary perspective to life through a case study of the FCC.gov redesign, demonstrating how my experience as an archeologist made this daunting task doable.

In 2014 we began the research process for redesigning the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) website. The project included intensive research and restructuring of the site. We dug through layers of data and content making fascinating discoveries along the way.

The understanding and research that goes into information architecture is not unlike what goes into the study of an 18th century farmstead. Both disciplines use maps and collect artifacts to create a story of people and information. Using the right methods, you can get the job done with more ease than Indiana Jones.

Every step during the FCC project can be reframed through the archaeological process. The parallels can help you prepare for IA research with the mindset of a historian or archaeologist, expanding your approach and enhancing your skill.

Session Takeaways
  • Be a historian: Gather historical materials relevant to the site and talk to the locals when you can
  • Survey the area: Have a standard method to your research, this helps you determine when you need to go back and investigate an area further
  • Dig deeper: Determine where you need to analyze more

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.

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.

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.”

Lights! Camera! Interaction! Design Inspiration From Filmmaking

Storytelling is a core component in designing for meaningful, engaging experiences but its usefulness goes beyond helping communicate the goals and benefits of your product or design to stakeholders, team members and users. With a strong understanding of storytelling we can make better decisions about functionality, appearance, UI, tone and more, to evoke the experiences we want to create for our users.

Filmmaking, a storytelling medium, follows a similar process, beginning with a screenplay and then deriving from it a series of decisions like appearance, action, composition, etc. all of which are made to influence the audience’s experience. To do this, filmmakers have developed and long made use of tools and techniques that aid in communicating with audiences to better evoke ideas, emotions, and even behaviors.

Some of these tools, like storyboards and parallax animation, have already found their way into our processes and designs. But a closer examination of these tools reveals possibilities to expand upon them and strengthen their impact.

And a deeper exploration of filmmaking itself reveals numerous additional techniques that are not often discussed in interactive design, but hold potential for adaptation and can serve to challenge and inspire designers. For example:

  • Tools that help their crews collaborate and coordinate around a film’s vision.
  • Cinematic patterns used to convey information and characteristics about a objects and characters
  • Methods for directing viewer’s attention and guiding their experience

Prior to becoming a designer, I studied filmmaking and animation. While my career has taken me in a slightly different direction, I’ve found that many of the cinematic storytelling ideas and principles I learned in those years have shaped and improved my approach to designing for experiences in digital environments. As technology continues to advance and allow interfaces and data to react in near-real time, the opportunities to explore new techniques in visual communication only expand.

Attendees of this presentation will come away with new insights into visual storytelling and its applications to their work. With exposure to new tools, potential techniques such as camera and storytelling devices, and ideas as to how to leverage them, they will be able to explore their potential use in their work.

Additionally, attendees of this talk will leave inspired to look closer at the process and mechanics of filmmaking in an effort to learn and further their own craft in creating digital products and services. What can we learn from great films and filmmakers? And how can we apply these understandings to our work in creating experiences for people?

Designing for Villains

Designing for people we don’t know or understand is hard enough, but what happens when we design for people we don’t want to understand or, even worse, people who we usually vilify? This panel will discuss the challenges of designing for porn consumers, gamblers, and — worst of all — sales people.

We’ll explore the importance of setting aside your preconceptions to conduct objective research and letting go of your stereotypes in order to establish empathy with your audience. We’ll also consider some strategies for working with unfamiliar or controversial content. For example, it’s critical to know when someone is using the abbreviation “BB” that they mean “Blackberry”, “baby”, or… something else.