Triangle User Experience Professionals Association (TriUXPA)


  • 15 Apr 2011 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    The Information Architecture Summit organized by ASIS&T each spring wrapped in Denver a week ago. On that closing Sunday, and later during the week, there have been many positive comments placing this as one of the best IA Summits we’ve had; with a great lineup and a great community feeling.This year, the Summit had an interesting variety of recurring topics: Data/Statistical Analysis, Content Management, Agile methods, Design. In fact one of the highlights of this event was the variety of interesting topics under discussion, unlike some other years where just a few topics (ie. Tagging) had appropriated the conversation.

    There have also been good comments on the quality of the presentations; The IA Summit has always attracted good speakers, and even the most popular speakers see this venue as a special place, where the ante is high. This year, the organization put up a team to help prepare first-time speakers: they gave speakers a series of suggestions via email and set up a mentoring program where they could rehearse by videoconference before making the trip. At the venue, they also had a speaker studio where speakers could give a final dry-run to their talk, with an experienced moderator (thanks Adam Polansky!) giving final moment suggestions. This provided for an interesting mix between accomplished and new coming speakers, and while I was not part of the committee this year, I’d guess that there were an important number of submissions which they had to filter out, and they did a great job at it.

    Another difference that worked for many people is that the size of the event cut back; after several years of growing, to where we had reached 650 people, this time we had around 250-300 people, and although this is not the best thing for the organizers, it helps create a sense of warmth between the crowd, and helps newcomers feel better integrated.

    By now you all would like to know something more specific about the sessions. Most of the slides can be found on slideshare ( and they were also collected on a blog ( Podcasts will become available soon thanks to UIE, although I’m not sure where they will be posted at the moment. The Summit website will surely send an announcement and it’s probably going to make noise on the #ias11 twitter tag.

    I was very pleased to see they gave plenary sessions to both Jared Spool and Lou Rosenfeld, these were both excellent talks, as expected: Lou covered the balance between quantitative and qualitative research. Jared made us reflect on what the core skills for UX are and how they can be measured.

    Nate Silver’s opening keynote was a great walk through of the power and challenges of statistics. The panel by Arango, Hinton and Resmini did a great job at keeping a continuity of discourse and reminding us of why the architecture metaphor is so powerful and useful for what we do. Russ Unger and Dan Willis took the role of bringing a dose of entropy into the conference with their “UX of Disruption” presentation, where they brought the audience and made a whole dramatization in order to allow participants to feel disrupted, and later discuss the experience. I later peeked briefly into an interesting conversation about building UX communities; I was saddened to arrive late, as I have lots of interest and experience in this subject. Later came my own presentation (, where I covered the research project I’ve set up for my dissertation; including problem definition, a large-scale survey I ran last year, a model I’m building with this, and future plans for research. In brief, I’m trying to understand how and why tech-savvy adults – much like the kind of people at the Summit – are becoming used to sharing private information in public online spaces. I received very positive comments and good questions; there was lots of interest in the topic and encouragement to continue with my line of research. We closed the day with Jared Spool’s plenary, full of food for thought.

    On the second day I paced down on the presentations although I still caught some very interesting ones. Johanna Kollman did a great job at explaining why the changes we make to websites can be very painful for our users, and how we can make cleaner transitions. Eric Reiss, one of the not-to-miss characters of the IA Summit, delivered a great talk on how to make e-commerce work, with four essential rules of thumb; some very basic principles that seem so hard to follow by many retailers. The day was closed by Lou Rosenfeld’s neat talk about interpreting research data.On Sunday, I saw a very clear talk by Kim Bieler reminding us of the power of the top layer of interface/visual design and how it can improve the user experience. I was unfortunately unable to attend the closing plenary by Cennydd Bowles, who graciously posted the transcript of his talk on his blog (

    There were many presentations I was not able to attend – sometimes for schedule conflicts – that I’m looking forward to catching the podcasts for, these include: Rethinking User Research for the Social Web with Dana Chisnell, The Stories we Construct by Stephen Anderson, Upping Your Game by Leanna Gingras, Peter Morville’s Ubiquitous IA, Nailing it Down by Joe Sokohl, and I also heard great things about the presentation by Belén Barros Pena and Bernard Tyers on Mobile Usability Testing. I’m sure there were other great talks I’ve not even made a note to look at, the Summit was packed with great work.

    There is still some good stuff coming out of the Summit site and I’m guessing the podcasts will be announced and linked to from there as well.

    About our guest blogger – Javier has been an information architect since 2000, he’s also been involved in the IA/UX community since. He co-founded his first online community in 1998 – – in an experience that would later become a case study in Rosenfeld & Morvile’s IA Book, in a chapter for which he was liaison. Javier has been attending the IA Summit since 2004, for which he has been a reviewer four times. He has been a leading force in the field in Chile and Latin America, starting a strong IA Community in Chile that has its own IA Conference for already six successful years. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Information Science at UNC Chapel Hill, focusing on communication in social media, under the direction of Gary Marchionini, who is also one of the founders of the IA Summit. You can find out more about Javier at

  • 06 Apr 2011 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    2011 is off to a great start.

    We have a very energetic and enthusiastic group of volunteers in the Executive Council. Please join me in welcoming them:
    Secretary and Treasurer: Don Sugar
    Co-Directors of Community Programs: Jake Geib-Rosch and Richard Phelps
    Co-Directors of Professional Development: Teri Brooks and Leslie Tudor
    Director of Marketing & Communications: Dorian Van Gorder
    Director of Membership: Laura Blanchard
    Director of Social Programs: Evan Carroll
    Director of Technology: Katrina Lee

    We held several events in the first quarter. The Professional Events team hosted a talk by Andrew Hinton on Information Architecture as well as several UIE Webinars, which have been extremely well-attended and insightful. We will continue to host Webinars throughout the year.

    The main focus of this year’s training is on two topics that stood out in the survey we did last yearundefined Mobile User Interface Design and User Experience in an Agile World. We hope to organize a couple of training events for each of these areas to provide different viewpoints and approaches to these topics.

    On the Community Events side of things, we are planning several exciting events starting in April. The first event is a presentation by Professor James Lester of NC State on highly interactive user interfaces.

    In May, we will bring a panel of practitioners together for a discussion on Visualization. In October, we plan on holding a BarCamp event where participants will work on several specific design problems with advice from several experts. So, please start getting your problems ready!

    As we work through the schedule of events, we will keep you informed with our digest-style emails. If you have any comments or concerns please feel free to contact us at

    Mona Singh, Ph.D

  • 15 Mar 2011 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    Usability, Accessibility, and SEO (search engine optimization) all contribute to successful website projects. Though not always adequately addressed for a variety of reasons, when they are it is typically by different teams, at different points in the design/development process (see A. in figure 1). This makes sense if they are three distinct disciplines, but what if they are approached as three aspects of the same process (see B. in figure 1)?

    Usability, Accessibility, and Search Engine Optimization

    Figure 1: Two ways to look at Usability, Accessibility, and Search Engine Optimization. A. Illustrates a common approach, with the issues addressed separately. B. Illustrates a coordinated approach to the three disciplines, displaying the intersection between the three.

    How can this be? One concerns making websites easy to use for the majority of visitors, one for serving the special needs of a subset of visitors (thought of together as “the disabled”), and the last focused on how the website does in search engine results. If you really think about it, they are all forms of usability; only the latter two serve special audiencesundefinedthe disabled, and search engines. This is of course somewhat simplistic; though there are many differences they are not completely unrelated.

    In the realm of website design and development, a good example of this interaction is the crafting of hyperlinks, the heart of html (hypertext markup language). It is generally accepted that the link text (i.e. the hyperlink) should contain descriptive text to help a user easily determine what a link refers to. Jacob Nielsen named “non-standard links” one of his Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005.

    “Explain what users will find at the other end of the link, and include some of the key information-carrying terms in the anchor text itself to enhance scannability and search engine optimization (SEO). Don't use "click here" or other non-descriptive link text.”

    As Nielsen suggested, using non-descriptive text such as “click here” is not just poor usability, it is also weak SEO, since search engines such as Google favor text in hyperlinks in ranking pages for given phrases. How many websites ignore these suggestions? If you perform an exact phrase search on Google for “click here” you will receive over 1.3 billion results.

    'click here' Google Search Results

    Descriptive hypertext is also a factor in how disabled users interact with websites. A common form of assistive technology (AT) used by the vision impaired is screen reader software. One of the ways screen readers allow users to interact with web pages more efficiently is to skip from link to link. If all of the links read “click here,” this shortcut is rendered useless.

    Something else all three have in common is that extensive thought and planning should be done at the very beginning of a website development project for it to be successful in these three areas, at least if time and money is a factor (and when is this not the case?).

    While most website publishers (the website developer’s client) will put some thought into usability, whether they consciously realize or not, they won’t put much thought into search engine optimization, and even less into accessibility (unless they are in an industry in which there are accessibility requirements). Just as with designing for usability, deciding a website needs to be accessible, or perform well in search engines will be time consuming (which equals expensive) if only considered during development, or after the deployment of the website.

    While its possible content can be rewritten to optimize a site for search engines without programmatic complications (in the case of a well implemented content management system), recoding a website for accessibility, as with usability, can involve drastic reengineering later.

    With SEO on the other hand, the issue is knowing the correct parameters to optimize for. In contradiction to popular misconceptions, SEO is as much about researching, and selecting the correct keyword phases to optimize the website for, as much as anything else. If you haven’t taken the time to figure out what terms your potential site visitors are searching by, you can’t properly optimize a website for search results. Only once the best terms are figured out, can the website be optimized by including the phrases in specific parts of each webpage. Successful SEO (at least the on-page portion of organic SEO) requires either writing copy to appeal to search engines (by including the search terms), or rewriting the copy on an existing website.

    In the end, the best strategy is to figure out the goals of the project at the start, and determine the importance of Usability, Accessibility, and SEO, since they will all come with a price, which may come in the form of time, money, simplified design, or a reduced feature set. No matter the combination, the effort will be more efficient if usability, accessibility and search engine optimization are performed in a concerted effort.

    David Minton is a founding partner of DesignHammer, a full-service website design and development agency in Durham. He regularly writes about Usability, Accessibility, and Search Engine Optimization on the DesignHammer blog.

  • 03 Mar 2011 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    by Mona Singh, Ph.D.

    The last few years have seen a much welcome move towards the adoption of user experience design (UX) and Agile development. Although both these fields have been around for a long time, their recent concurrent introduction into software development organizations has led to some interesting and unexpected process enhancements. I describe one such recent enhancement of the Agile process and assess how effective it is in practice.

    The latticed approach
    Often, the process that Agile organizations have followed for incorporating UX is running the design and development sprints concurrently. In essence, the design sprint feeds the development sprint and the development sprint feeds the next design sprint by providing something testable. That is, design Sprint 0 feeds into development Sprint 1 and development Sprint 1 feeds into design Sprint 2. The diagram below, adapted from Krtizberg and Little, summarizes the current processundefinedhence, the name latticed.


    This process presumably creates a win-win situation for UX professionals and developers: the developers get a clear specification for what they need to build and the UX professionals get software that is user-centric.

    So what’s wrong with it?
    Well, if you look closely, you see this approach is what one might call a short waterfallundefinedthe way the design and development sprints are structured misses out on benefiting from the communication and collaboration between the design and development teams. As a result, the design produced in a particular design sprint may suffer from technical problems that make it expensive to implement or otherwise suboptimal. The waterfall flow quickly breaks down and the finger-pointing begins. Even when there is no overt disagreement about a design, the development team can feel left out of the design process. I have seen various manifestations of the tensions that arise between the design and developments teams, including majorly bloated effort estimates and unnecessary criticisms of the design.

    The collaborative approach
    Instead, shouldn’t the team be a multidisciplinary? An alternative process is where the UX and development teams work within the same sprint. All user stories are organized within the same backlog. This approach fits the Agile philosophy much better than the lattice approach in that it brings teams together and fosters communication between designers and developers.


    User stories look like the following:


    Both the developer and the UX designer can work together on a story discussing potential designs, prototyping, developing, and even testing. When the developers are made a part of the design decisions, there is a tremendous benefit due to the resulting buy in. Isn’t that what agile was all about anyway: communication!

  • 23 Feb 2011 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    Hi everyone, Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Dorian, your helpful Director of Marketing and Communications for 2011.

    If you haven't noticed, the year has started with a great bunch of events, and many more on the way. We're excited to be helping provide you with informative and fun workshops and seminars, both hands-on and in webinar form.

    Hey, I'm looking for people who like to write about UX-IA-usability-design-etc. to be guest posters here on the blog. Raise your hand if you have something to say. (And I know you do-- we have the most talented pool of UPA-ers out there!) Please email me at with your ideas. You know you have something you've written in the past for work (or school, or your own blog) that you can share here, don't you? Or maybe it's something you've been dying to write about but didn't have the motivation. Well, here it is!

    We're also looking to spread recognition of our group. We've started tweeting and Facebooking some. Have you seen us? Follow us on Twitter! Like us on Facebook! Help spread the good word!

    And now, to the "better-late-than-never" part of this post... I've attached the newsletter from the last quarter of 2010 (with a few minor adjustments) for your reading pleasure. Enjoy, and hope to hear from you soon.

  • 09 Dec 2010 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    It's time to vote for the 2011 TriUPA Executive Council.

    Below please find the link to the official 2010 ballot for the
    selection of the TriUPA Executive Council for the 2011 term. The
    individuals elected by this ballot will assume their offices in January

    We encourage you to carefully read the attached candidate statements
    and vote for the individuals whom you believe will provide TriUPA with
    strong and steady leadership.

    Please access the survey by clicking on or copying the following link into your browser's address bar:

    Please complete the online election ballot by 11:59pm ET December 17, 2010.

    you have any questions concerning the above instructions, please
    contact Don Sugar, 2010 TriUPA President at

    File Attachments
    Download file:
    2011 TriUPA Cadidates Statements.docx

  • 11 Nov 2010 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    Ever wanted to speak at a national UX conference? The upcoming 2011 IA Summit is interested in finding new speakers that want to contribute their voices to the UX community. Dan Willis Has a great post up on the IA Summit blog, "Fresh Voices," that encourages anyone interested in speaking to submit their ideas:

    If you have never presented at the IA Summit, we are particularly interested in what you have to say and how you can help us make the 2011 more interesting and diverse. And if you haven't had much occasion to present before, this is a great opportunity: We have a group of experienced volunteers eager to work with you one-on-one as you frame your content, coach you on its delivery and support you while you develop your presentation. So don't delay, propose a session now.

    If you haven't been to the IA Summit before, I highly recommend it. It's one of the best UX conferences I've ever attended, a great way to meet new people who share your passions, or even connect with your UX heroes.

    I would love to see the Triangle's active UX community represented at national conferences like the IA Summit. There's a ton of talent, experience, and great ideas in this area, and it's time we shared it.

    To learn more, follow @iasummit on Twitter or visit!

  • 14 Oct 2010 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    Catch up with the latest news from TriUPA!

    What's inside:

    • Letter from the President
    • Upcoming Events
    • Member profile with Heather Hesketh

    File Attachments
    Download file:
    TriUPA Newsletter October 2010.pdf

  • 31 Aug 2010 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    World Usability Day 2010, on November 11, 2010, will focus on how products and services impact and facilitate communication around the world. Here in North Carolina, the Triangle Usability Professionals Association (TriUPA) and the Carolina Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) are teaming up to sponsor a communication game to encourage more communication among chapter members in addition to the annual World Usability Day celebration.

    How do you communicate in everyday life? Put your communication skills to the test with the “Amazing Place” game. We’ve posted photos of a variety of locations around the Triangle to the TriUPA Facebook page . Your task is to identify these areas by communicating with other people, and the goal is to connect with TriUPA and HFES members and meet new people. To make it interesting, we’ve made it a competition.

    The Game:

    Our game is inspired by the DARPA Network Challenge, envy of The Amazing Race participants, and the WUD 2010 theme of Communication. We’ve posted photographs of locations around the Triangle. Your mission is to identify the locations we’ve posted and take a picture of you and your team at each location. Then post your pictures by following the instructions at the TriUPA Facebook page by the deadline of November 1, 2010.

    The Rules:
    A person or team wins the game by accumulating the most points. Accumulate points by identifying the most locations and gathering the most members to participate with you. Ties will be decided by the date of posting. Earlier dates beat later dates.

    Post a photo of yourself at one of our mystery locations = 1 point
    Each additional TriUPA or HFES member in the photo = 2 points
    Each additional non-member in the photo = 1 point
    Electronically inserting your image into our photos = 0 points! (Don’t cheat, we’ll know!)

    You are encouraged to work with other people –that’s the whole point. You could find all the locations yourself but what fun would that be?


    Prizes will be awarded in several categories:

    • First photo posted.
    • Person or team with the most points
    • Person or team in the most locations
    • Most connected person
    • Picture with the most people

    The Logistics:

    We’ll get you started by providing a Facebook group. How you use technology and communication to meet the challenge is up to you and your imagination!

    1. Go to the TriUPA Facebook page to find the photographs of locations. We’ve already started posting photographs on the Facebook page and all of the locations will be posted by September 1. Be sure to check the Facebook page for updates.
    2. Connect with other TriUPA and HFES members on Facebook to identify the locations and meet up for photos. You could find all the locations yourself but what fun would that be?
    3. Post your photos on the Facebook page.
    4. The deadline for uploading photos is November 1. The winner will be announced at our WUD celebration.

    What is World Usability Day?

    It's about making our world work better.

    It's about "Making Life Easy" and user friendly. Technology today is too hard to use. A cell phone should be as easy to access as a doorknob. In order to humanize a world that uses technology as an infrastructure for education, healthcare, transportation, government, communication, entertainment, work and other areas, we must develop these technologies in a way that serves people first…

    World Usability Day was founded in 2005 as an initiative of the Usability Professionals' Association to ensure that services and products important to human life are easier to access and simpler to use. Each year, on the second Thursday of November, over 200 events are organized in over 43 countries around the world to raise awareness for the general public, and train professionals in the tools and issues central to good usability research, development and practice.

  • 19 Aug 2010 5:00 PM | Richard Phelps

    Keep up with the latest news from TriUPA in the July 2010 Newsletter!
    Inside you'll find a letter from the President, recaps of our latest community events, and more.

    File Attachments
    Download file:
    TriUPA Newsletter July 2010_0.pdf

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