• 11 May 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    I attended CHI 2007 in San Jose. CHI is a large (2,500+ attendees) conference that focuses on academic HCI research, but also includes many panels and sessions on trends in user experience research and design. Here are some of my observations from CHI. undefinedAbe
    Trends in design
    Bill Moggridge’s keynote talk emphasized the need for “intuitive design” to help navigate complexity and create designs that people enjoy. He quoted Eames: “the design is an expression of the purpose… it may if it is good enough be judged as art.”

    He then laid out a framework of “design skills”:

    1. Frame (or reframe) a problem or objective.
    2. Create and envision alternatives.
    3. Select from a range of alternatives (solution space).
    4. Visualize and prototype.
    5. Synthesize a solution within constraints, and understand the impact of design changes on results.

    He gave a usefully simplified example of how cultural context can influence design. In Japan, most professionals commute on trains, and the social norm requires maintaining a respectful quiet. As a result, Japanese commuters work quietly with mobile devices, using many small buttons and a complex UI. Americans, on the other hand, commute primarily by car. Fiddling with small buttons and screens and difficult and dangerous while driving, but we can “shout to our hearts’ content,” so voice input is a promising alternative.

    BM also showed an entertaining video of a Japanese woman trying to purchase a soft drink with her i-Mode cell phone. This was a usability disaster, and illustrates how the design of many mainstream products is still basically broken. Many videos are included with the DVD accompanying his recent book, Designing Interactions.

    A later panel, “Who Killed Design?” followed up on BM’s ideas of intuitive design. Bill Buxton described the crit [that’s a critique, as in MFA and similar design programs] as “a fundamental part of the design process,” but one that’s rarely written about or discussed. He argued the design community needs to reflect more carefully on the role of structured critique and feedback in the design process. The trend in design education, presented by educators Terry Winograd and Meg Armstrong, is for heterogeneous teams (e.g., business, engineering, and design) and incorporating reflection on design activities. A challenge for both students and practitioners is to distinguish “problem setting” from “problem solving” and learn when to apply each approach.

    Buxton argued passionately that “there is a calculus [of design], it’s just not the same calculus we use in the sciences, and it must be respected.” The CFO’s opinion on design should not be considered equivalent to an experienced designer’s opinion, just as it wouldn’t be considered equivalent to an engineer’s opinion.
    A panel on prototyping took up the challenge of “what’s wrong with prototyping in HCI research?” In a nutshell, current prototyping practices are weakundefinedprototypes aren’t real (representative of the ultimate system or design idea being investigated), and evaluation using them isn’t real (participants, tasks, questions, and time periods are limited or unrealistic). Unfortunately, “getting more real isn’t realistic,” because creating more detailed prototypes and extensive evaluations is prohibitively expensive in many cases.

    The panel focused on addressing this dilemma in HCI research, but design and UX practitioners likely confront similar problems. Two approaches seemed particularly promising. Jonathan Grudin emphasized the bias inherent in having the prototype creator (e.g. an interaction designer or information architect) evaluate the prototype. Even when another person (e.g., usability engineer) evaluates the prototype, she is likely to be a friend and collaborator. Grudin suggested an exchange approach: “you evaluate my prototype, I’ll evaluate yours.” Of course, this may be difficult in cases where confidentiality is an issue. But an IA working on an intranet might be able to evaluate a prototype for someone in another industry working on an ecommerce site, and vice versa. Ron Baecker suggested evaluating multiple prototypes at one time, to get a broader range of opinion and more useful suggestions from users. But Jared Spool countered that, in practice, “the same design team can’t create meaningfully different prototypes” and it would be too expensive to engage multiple teams in prototyping for the same project.

    Spool also emphasized the importance of failure, saying “it’s very important that we talk about failure.” He suggested morbidity and mortality conferences in medicine as a potential model for UX/HCI. The idea is to focus “not on success or failure, but what you’ve learned.” Grudin suggested the “overoptimistic” history of videoconferencing as a cautionary tale. Initial research on videoconferencing was very encouraging, with successful small-scale evaluations, but there was a lack of attention to serious problems that emerged with widespread use. He concluded that “HCI as a field needs more reflection and consolidation of what’s been learned.
    Web 2.0 and enterprise software
    “Web 2.0” ideas have taken public, “consumer-facing” sites by stormundefinedcan they do the same for internal, enterprise software? Jonathan Grubb of RubyRed Labs asked us to “please never say the word ‘enterprise’ again.” Instead, he encouraged designers to “pretend you’re making consumer software for people who work in big companies.” He contrasted the power and rapid adoption of social tools, such as Facebook, versus administrative tools such as a university’s directory. The idea is to replace the traditional “top-down push” and centralized software with individual-led adoption. The very structure of traditional enterprise software inhibits rapid iteration, which is critical to effective design.

    Grubb suggested designers try to “Give people something that will inspire envy in their coworkers.” He gave the example of “showing off” Basecamp in an organization that was using MS Projectundefinedcoworkers literally envied Basecamp’s simplicity and visual appeal. He further argued that “niche consumer sites have been successful, so why not niche business applications?” A continually improving ecosystem of public tools, such as Yahoo Pipes, enable designers and web developers to quickly prototype new concepts.
    New approaches in ethnography and design research

    Ron Wakkary presented “informances” as a way to bridge ethnography and design. His team worked with families as “everyday designers.” In the informances, students who conducted the ethnography went on to act out the role of a participant. He showed a video of an informance that highlighted how one participant in the study struggled to use cell phone voice recognition. The benefits of this approach include understanding embodied action (such as the physical movements involved in using a cell phone), and developing a shared understanding of the insights from fieldwork. Wakkary cautioned that, like participant observation, informance is a practiced skill, and not everyone is comfortable performing.
    Dialogues in design research
    Johanna Brewer presented her experiences with workshops that combined fieldwork, group discussion, and design. The workshops were intended to explore the theme of “in-betweenness,” as expressed in activities such as public waiting (lines, etc.), and in transitional times/spaces (such as commuting). The workshops included “research speed-datingundefined2 minute introductions” to match participants, scavenger hunts and observation tasks in the city, and the presentation of interesting examples from the field. Participants then engaged in a design activity based on ideas from the field data, and finally reflected on the results and their conceptual significance.

    The workshops led to interesting concepts to explore futher with research (e.g., the theme of ‘legitimacy’undefinedthe right to be waiting/lingering in a certain place at a certain time). In addition, provocative design concepts also emerged, such as “myst-air,” which would create clouds of water vapor, to mark one’s ‘territory’ in a public space. Brewer characterized the workshops as a cyclic process between practical engagement and conceptual discussion, creating a dialogue between theory and practice with a complex topic. This is an intriguing alternative to standard UCD and participatory design processes.

  • 07 May 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    Less than a month now until DCampSouth! Have you signed up? If you have, why not invite your friends and co-workers? DCampSouth is open to anyone who wants to talk (and learn) about design undefined not just designers.
  • 25 Apr 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    It's official, DCampSouth will happen on Saturday, June 2nd at the School of Communication Arts in Raleigh, NC.

    Date: June 2, 2007
    Place: School of Communication Arts

    What happens next? Well, it's time to spread the word about DCampSouth. You can help us out by posting information to weblogs, groups, and mailing lists. Let you co-workers know! Let your friends know!

    Also, we're still looking for volunteers to help organize the event. If you're interested, email Jackson Fox (

  • 12 Apr 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    Hey there DCampers! I wanted to post a quick update on the status of DCampSouth. We’ve had several suggestions for locations and are very close to selecting both a day and a place. Speaking of dates, I’m interested in hearing which of these days work best for people: May 19th, May 26th, June 2nd.

    The next big step is to put together a planning committee to start hammering out the details of the event. If you are interested in helping to plan DCampSouth, please email me at I’m looking for 5-6 people to help out. If you’ve already emailed me about planning, I’ll be in touch soon!

    Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions on locations, and a big thanks to everyone who has signed-up on the wiki. If you haven’t signed-up yet, don’t forget to add your name to the Campers page on the wiki.

  • 31 Mar 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    Triangle UPA is excited to announce that planning has begun for DCampSouth 2007, an unconference for anyone interested in design and user experience.

    When: June 2, 2007
    Where: School of Communication Art, Raleigh NC

    Learn more at the DCampSouth 2007 Wiki

    In May 2006 I had the good fortune to attend DCamp at the SocialText headquarters in Palo Alto, CA.

    Masterminded by Rashmi Sinha and Stacie Hibino, DCamp brought together over 150 people to talk about design, information architecture, usability, and user experience. It was a huge success. I learned a lot, met some really interesting people, and left feeling inspired.

    At the end of the day it occurred to me that folks in Silicon Valley shouldn't be having all the fun, so I stood up and announced that I hoped to bring the DCamp idea back home to Durham, NC. Well, it took a little while, but the time has come to make DCampSouth happen.

    The goals of DCampSouth are simple.

    1. Have fun
    2. Meet interesting people
    3. Learn a lot
    4. Build the community

    To achieve these goals we're going to need CAMPERS, ORGANIZERS, SPONSORS, and most importantly... A LOCATION. Unconferences are democratic things, so we're putting the call out to anyone interested to get involved.

    We can't set a date until we have a location, but we're hoping to find a Saturday in May to hold the event.

    To stay informed, you should watch the DCampSouth wiki, subscribe to the DCampSouth Google Group, and follow the TriUX weblog. In the mean time start thinking about how you want DCampSouth to work, and share your
    ideas on the wiki.

    We hope to see you at DCampSouth!

    Updated: We have a date and location now!

  • 31 Mar 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    The first event in TriUPA's 2007 program series was held Tuesday, 3/20/07 at GSK. Art Swanson from Insight provided an introduction to Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), and Microsoft's Blend application.WPF is the user interface and graphics framework for applications developed with Microsoft's .NET 3.0. As Art demonstrated, Microsoft's rethinking of this fundamental technology has led to some major advances for designers, and (potentially) for users.WPF is based on XAML, a markup language for specifying user interfaces. By moving user interface layout description into a markup language, Microsoft has achieved a high level of abstraction--something more often associated with HTML/CSS than desktop applications. In essence, the "style" of desktop applications can now be specified by the designer separately from the underlying application code and logic. (Just as Web designers have been able to achieve dramatically different presentation styles by applying CSS to well-structured HTML--see CSS Zen Garden for examples).This ability alone would be interesting, but hand-coding complex XAML for complex desktop applications might cause designers to quickly lose interest. Microsoft's Blend tool provides extensive visual design tools for building WPF interfaces. Using Blend, designers can specify complex interactions, such as using a slider to control the size of another element of the interface, without any hand coding. Even a brief demo of these tools was extremely compelling, so I'd suggest that anyone interested download the Blend trial from Microsoft's site. In particular, Blend could be extremely useful for rapid prototyping of interfaces to support usability testing or other UCD activities.Thanks to Art for sharing his expertise on these important new technologies! --Abe Crystal
  • 29 Mar 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    Capstrat has generously offered to host the April social event for TriUPA.
    Come out this Tuesday evening for drinks, snacks, and the good company of your fellow usability professionals.
    Usability students graduating soon should take special note the benefits of being in a room full of potential future employers ;-)

    WHAT: TriUPA Social
    WHEN: Tuesday, April 3 6-8 pm
    WHERE: Capstrat

    1201 Edwards Mill Road
    Suite 102
    Raleigh , NC 27607
    919.828-0806 (main number)

    There are no special parking instructions.
    The building locks at 7:00 , but may be open later for the event.
    If it is locked when you arrive, please call the main number.

    Capstrat will be providing beer, soda and snacks.

    Interested? Please RSVP online by Monday, April 2nd.

    (To RSVP, click "Register Now," then log in if you are a TriUPA member, or enter your contact information if you aren't a member).
    Contact Abe Crystal, TriUPA President, or Virginia Ingram at Capstrat [], with any questions.

  • 23 Mar 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    Peter Warren, TriUPA VP of Membership, recommends this new book by Prof. Jon Kolko at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

    Thoughts on Interaction Design
    It is the primary goal of this text to better define Interaction Design: to provide a definition that encompasses the intellectual facets of the field, the conceptual underpinnings of Interaction Design as a legitimate human-centered profession, and the particular methods used by practitioners in their day to day experiences. This definition and investigation centers around the issue of argument and rhetoric, and illustrates that Interaction Design is a form of communication that can be thought of as identical in nature to language. As Interaction Design is a vast subject, this text attempts to touch on many topics in a slight manner rather than one topic in a deep manner.

  • 15 Mar 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    Gel 2007, in New York City, April 19 - 20. It's one of the most acclaimed conferences around, with an array of innovative speakers that inform, but go way beyond, mainstream user experience work. Register by March 20 for the best rate.
  • 15 Mar 2007 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    The first TriUPA event of 2007 is here!
    Windows Presentation Foundation & Windows Vista
    The release of Windows Vista and Microsoft Presentation Foundation
    (WPF) provides designers with a powerful set of new tools for
    developing Windows user experiences. Art Swanson will introduce us to
    the possibilities afforded by Vista and WPF.As an extra special bonus, we're giving away free 1-year TriUPAmemberships to
    new folks who attend the event!
    Location: Ruvane Auditorium at GlaxoSmithKline (see directions below)
    Date: March 20, 2007
    Time: 6:30pm - 7:30pm

    Directions from Raleigh
    * Take I-40 West to the Durham Freeway (147) North.
    * Follow the Durham Freeway and take the Alexander Drive exit.
    * Turn left off the exit and move to the right lane.
    * Take a right into the GlaxoSmithKline campus at the 2nd stoplight (Moore Dr).
    * Go to the fourth driveway and turn right, the sign will say Administration #1.
    * Park in the parking deck, there is a walkway from the parking deck to Ruvane Auditorium.
    * Sign in at the security desk, the event is held in the auditorium to the right of the lobby.
    Directions from Durham
    * Take the Durham Freeway (147) South to the Alexander Drive exit, and turn right off the exit (stoplight).
    * Stay in the right turn lane and turn right at the next stoplight into GSK (Moore Dr).
    * Go to the fourth driveway and turn right, the sign will say Administration #1.
    * Park in the parking deck, there is a walkway from the parking deck to Ruvane Auditorium.
    * Sign in at the security desk, the event is held in the auditorium to the right of the lobby.

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