• 06 Jul 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    I attended DIS 2006 at Penn State University from June 25 - 28. DIS (Designing Interactive Systems) is a small (around 150 attendees) conference that complements CHI by focusing more closely on processes, techniques, and tools for design. DIS is held very other year; I also attended the 2004 conference, which was held in Cambridge, MA. On both occasions, DIS has proved to be a very interesting conference that challenges received ideas about how and why we design. Some themes I noted in this year's conference... There is still a need for better methods for inspiring design and creating conceptual designs. Papers examined "inspiration card workshops" for involving users in design, effective storyboarding practices, and creating personas for children. Although methods like participatory design, storyboarding, and persona creation, are well-established, they also are still being refined and extended. This line of research reminded me that it's important not to become complacent in the use of standard methods--we should continually question our methods, even as they serve as the basis for much of our work. For example, Alissa Antle's work on personas identified two distinct approaches not ordinarily seen in persona definition: using a theoretical framework to guide persona creation (in her work, developmental psychology), and getting users to do user research (in her work, she had teenagers interview younger children). I believe both of these approaches could be fruitfully applied in a variety of domains. Extending work on ubiquitous computing, several research groups looked at augmented home and personal devices, such as flashlights, lamps, and tablecloths. Continuing interest in such devices has created the need for frameworks to guide design, leading to research on "pre-patterns" for digital home applications, and "themes" for interaction design (actually, Scott Klemmer's work in this area is generally applicable, and his paper "How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design" is highly recommended). At an even higher level of abstraction, one might ask, What is the outcome of design? How do we know when design is successful? A panel on "design quality" and Sol Greenspan's keynote on "lasting principles for design" both addressed this issue, and of course delivered no clear answers, but did provoke some interesting questions:

    • Could "schools" of design (such as Modernism in art and architecture) play a role in interaction design? Schools are marked by both prototypes (e..g, Le Corbusier's houses) and social dialogue. Could more explicit recognition and discussion of interaction design "schools" improve our understanding of design?
    • Can we move beyond the ideal of making design "invisible" (as in Don Norman's "invisible computer" or Yoshio Taniguchi's "invisible architecture") to making it visibly supportive and empowering? We might envision a design artifact that helps one feel enabled and excited--design that serves as an aid to identity.
    • Do we need to rethink the role of aesthetics in interaction design? As one questioner put it, "art is not about aesthetics," but about ideas and discussion (and sometimes, provocation). Interaction design could move from "literal interpretation" to "conceptual interpretation" by refocusing on how people interpret and discuss different types of interactive systems. Alternatively, we might try to understand more carefully the specifics of aesthetic experience in the context of interaction design. Could we identify "aesthetic bugs?"

    And finally, as a nice counterpoint to the idea that we can or should always "design" an appropriate "experience" for users, consider Tuck Leong's argument that randomness should be a resource for design. -Abe Technorati :

  • 02 Jul 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    If you have a happening design project that you want to show off in a big way, grab this opportunity:
    The Design Expo Raleigh (DXR) '06 has extended the entry deadline until July 7th. Entries will be judged; the best entries will get exhibit space at the DXR in October.

    Each design discipline has a unique entry form and they can all be found >>here.

    Never heard of DXR? Grab your calendar and pencil it in: October 20th til November 4th. Local designers will have work on display, there will be studio and architecture tours, speakers and lecturers, in short, a design bonanza. Check it out.

  • 28 Jun 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    You are warmly invited to a complimentary reception hosted by
    Human Factors International (HFI). Our Executive Director
    Jerome Nadel will speak on:

    "Strategic usability: Strengthening business decisions

    Companies invest millions in sophisticated software and Web sites,
    yet often fall short of reaching their goals. This happens when business\n
    objectives and end-user needs are not in sync.

    Jerome will explain how usability goes far beyond interface design
    and lets you make informed business decisions that can be validated.
    The user-centered design process yields data which leads to recommendations\n
    addressing executive concerns: revenue model, value proposition, process
    improvement, and positioning. Using examples from Fortune 500 companies,
    Jerome will share a practical approach to optimize user experience while\n
    improving your overall business model. The "self-serve" Internet mindset
    has made usability a necessity, not a luxury.

    This is an ideal opportunity to network with other business leaders who
    similar challenges.

    Hope to see you there!

    Sheryll Ryan
    Director of Business Development
    Southeast Region
    Human Factors International, Inc.\n
    Over 25 years of global services in user-centered design

    ",0] ); //-->
    through user-centered design"

    Complimentary Reception -- drinks and hors d'oeuvres will be served
    Date: Wednesday, July 12th from 4:00-7:00 pm
    Location: Prestonwood Country Club, 300 Prestonwood Parkway, Cary, NC

    Attendance is by advance reservation only and space is limited.
    Please register online:

    Companies invest millions in sophisticated software and Web sites,
    yet often fall short of reaching their goals. This happens when business
    objectives and end-user needs are not in sync.

    Jerome will explain how usability goes far beyond interface design
    and lets you make informed business decisions that can be validated.
    The user-centered design process yields data which leads to recommendations
    addressing executive concerns: revenue model, value proposition, process
    improvement, and positioning. Using examples from Fortune 500 companies,
    Jerome will share a practical approach to optimize user experience while
    improving your overall business model. The "self-serve" Internet mindset
    has made usability a necessity, not a luxury.

    This is an ideal opportunity to network with other business leaders who
    similar challenges.

    Hope to see you there!

    Sheryll Ryan
    Director of Business Development
    Southeast Region
    Human Factors International, Inc.
    Over 25 years of global services in user-centered design

  • 14 Jun 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    The last Triangle UPA meeting (Wednesday 6/7, hosted by Lulu) focused on using personas in design. Robert Barlow-Busch (of Quarry Integrated Communications) presented an overview of personas: "rich descriptions of key customer groups, packaged in an engaging format and backed ideally by first-hand, ethnographic-style field research." Personas have many uses--not only can they inspire and guide design, but they can bring together different groups with an organization. In particular, they encourage communication and collaboration between marketing and user experience groups. Personas help UX and marketing talk about key assumptions, develop shared understandings, explore new products and feature spaces, and make better decisions about product scope and design. (For this collaboration to be effective, though, multiple roles and departments (sales, marketing, product management, engineering/development, etc.) must be involved throughout the creation and use of personas). Robert distinguished between primary personas (who "will be unsatisfied with a product designed for anyone else"), secondary personas (less demanding, and lower priority for design), and anti-personas (used to challenge assumptions about who the customer is). UX practitioners should strive to develop clear primary personas, because these personas illuminate the key tradeoffs and compromises in a design problem. In particular, when multiple primary personas are identified, it suggests that multiple products may be needed, so that each can be tightly focused on a particular problem and type of user. Robert pointed to Geoffrey's Moore claim that technology companies should "put all their eggs in one basket" to develop narrowly focused, but highly usable and effective products which avoid feature creep. Once developed, personas must be "marketed" to the organization. Robert told one client "the personas have to attend every meeting" and "we should never again talk about 'the user'". In other words, personas should guide every element of the design cycle, including recruiting participants for usability tests. To gain this impact, personas must be credible. Therefore, they should be clearly documented--UX professionals should explain the research and analysis methods they use to develop personas. For more on personas, see the recent book on personas, in which Robert has a chapter. - Abe Technorati :
  • 12 Jun 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    RDU's first BAR Camp is looking for volunteers to provide logistical and day-of help. Sponsors are also being sought; anyone who can provide (money for) meals, whiteboards, poster material, pens, etc. please contact the BAR Camp organizers. How? Check the wiki for that information and more.
  • 24 May 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    Here is the latest information about Robert Barlow-Busch's full-day persona design workshop:
    Getting Started With Personas
    Thursday, June 8, 2006
    9:00am to 5:00pm
    Durham, North Carolina
    Hilton Raleigh-Durham Airport Hotel
    Chances are good you've heard something about "personas" recently, as
    they've become a hot topic in design, usability, documentation, and
    marketing. But finding concrete, comprehensive information on how to
    create and use personas can be difficult. In this workshop, you'll
    get a hands-on introduction to personas that demystifies the process
    and explains how to use them in the design and documentation of
    websites, web applications, and software.
    Taught by Robert Barlow-Busch, Practice Director of Interaction
    Design at Quarry Integrated Communications. Look for an invited
    chapter by Robert in "The Persona Lifecycle", the first authoritative
    book about personas, published earlier this month. Workshop
    participants will receive a free copy of the book.
    To learn more, visit:
  • 16 May 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    Forwarded from Lourdes Cueva Chacón: Come join a discussion that explores the benefits and unpacks the mystery behind personas. Personas are a type of user profile that has emerged as a best practice in web and software design, but about which little concrete information is available. What exactly is a persona? When are they useful, and when are they not? How do you create them? Specifically, how do you make sure they're representative of actual users, and not just an exercise in creative writing? And once you have personas, what can you actually do with them? Robert Barlow-Busch from Quarry Integrated Communications will answer these questions by sharing experiences from a variety of client projects conducted over the past 5 years. This talk will be a special presentation for TriUPA and IxDA members and friends since Robert is giving a full-day persona design workshop on June 8th. (Read more details in our next post). In advance of this event, you can read about one of the case studies Robert will discuss and download some example personas from Quarry's website (examples). About Quarry and the presenter: Robert is the Practice Director of Interaction Design at Quarry Integrated Communications, a marketing and design agency. Although its Interaction Design and Usability group is based in Waterloo, Ontario, Quarry has just relocated its US headquarters to Durham and looks forward to building some ties with the professional community in RTP. Robert and Quarry are long-time members of the UPA and frequent presenters at the annual conference and at chapter meetings, speaking on topics such as the basics of usability testing, personas, and how marketing and usability could work more closely together (yes, it's true: they can!). Robert has about 15 years experience across a variety of industries in Canada, the US, and Europe. After a particularly frustrating client meeting in 2001, in which nobody could agree who the customer was, Robert introduced personas to Quarry's design process. The team's work since then caught the attention of Forrester Research, who has identified Quarry as source of expertise in their report Where to Get Help With Persona Projects. Also, look for an invited chapter by Robert in The Persona Lifecycle, the first book to give an in-depth look at the practice of personas. When: Wednesday, June 7th at 6:00pm Where: Lulu Press Inc 800 Aviation Pkwy Suite 300 Morrisville, NC 27560 Map to Event Starting with this event, the coordinators are recommending places for participants to meet before and after the event. Before, in case you need to have some food in order to survive such a long day, and after, in case you want to keep chatting on the topic or just have a drink with your TriUPA fellows. So here our recommendations: Before event: (Map to) Village Deli Morrisville, just 2 blocks from Lulu. Feel free to bring your food to Lulu. After hours venue: (Map to) El Meson Mexican Restaurant
  • 08 May 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    Daniel A. Reed, a world-renowned authority on high-performance computing, will offer a glimpse of 2016 and the wonders (and annoyances) that new technologies are likely to bring over the next decade in a presentation Tuesday, May 30, on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Computing the Future: Release 2016
  • 06 May 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user

    I attended CHI 2006 in Montreal from April 24 - 27. CHI is the major conference for HCI research (in the broadest sense, ranging from input and interaction techniques to field studies of complex work situations). It also attracts a large community of practitioners, particularly from the major software and hardware companies. Attendance was estimated at 2,400+, which is up significantly from the past few years, implying a relatively robust tech industry, along with growing interest in HCI and UX. Recruiting was notably robust. Microsoft had so many job postings they needed a 3-ring binder to hold them all. Google, Yahoo, eBay and SAP also had large recruiting presences. Some thoughts from the sessions I attended: The Route to the Sea for User Value This panel, with managers from Oracle, Intuit, World Savings Bank, and Sony/Ericsson, addressed the perennial challenge of integrating effective UX work into product development processes. Jeremy Ashley (Oracle) argued strongly that "we [UX professionals] have to have influence"--we must work with and persuade complementary groups (such as documentation and performance engineering) of UX's importance. More broadly, we must assume accountability for UX, "no matter what." Blaming other groups for not accepting the UX perspective is self-defeating. Perhaps the best approach, said Janice Rohn (World Savings Bank), is to "start in the boardroom" by understanding executives' goals. The challenge is that while "nobody in the corporate world says usability isn't important, they don't understand what it entails." The range and depth of work required to create great user experiences is still widely unappreciated. UX practitioners need to build relationships with engineering and product development executives to help bridge this gap. Ultimately, the goal is to make UX practices ubiquitous, so that "it's not just UX saying it's important to improve the navigation, it's the business saying it's important to improve the navigation." Until we reach that product-development utopia, said Lisa Anderson (Intuit) it's critical to "follow through on your passions." Don't give up on what you believe is right for users, despite the obstacles. Human-Information Interaction This panel addressed the provocative question of whether studying human information interaction (AKA behavior) should be separate from (but complementary to) HCI. Peter Pirolli and Stu Card made strong arguments for focusing on deeper theoretical issues such as what information structures best support people's cognitive functions, and how to represent information in large "information landscapes." Research needs to address these fundamental issues instead of just developing and testing new types of interfaces or interaction styles. (So, if anything, HCI should be a subset of HII). Tagging An example of HII research might be tagging and social bookmarking practices. A large panel featuring Josh Schacter of and George Furnas of Michigan debated the purposes and uses of tags. Definitions of "tag" included: "annotations," "loose associations," "rich ways of linking disparate objects" and "nicknames for groups of things." While many interesting ideas were proposed (including the idea that tags are the harbinger of widespread growth of communities around metadata), I had the sense that our understanding of how tags are used is still limited. Discussion focused on recall (AKA refindability) and "distribution" (social sharing of tagged information). But answers are missing to the broad questions, What are tags used for? and Are tagging systems effective? So, developing a deep understanding of tagging practices and what underlying information problems these practices are addressing could be a significant contribution to "HII." This contribution, in turn, would support the develop of new interfaces for the creation and use of tags. Some recommended readings:


  • 03 Apr 2006 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    I attended the ASIS&T IA Summit in Vancouver from March 24th - 27th. The Summit is a playground for IA's of all stripes, from metadata specialists to management consultants. It was a lot of fun, and many interesting ideas were discussed in the three parallel sessions and in the hallways. Here are some of the thoughts that stuck with me...
    THE CHANGING NATURE OF AUTHORITY.David Weinberger's keynote asked "What's up with knowledge?" He took a (humorous) sledgehammer to the foundations of information and library science, including the infamous DIKW (data - information - knowledge - wisdom) model. In his view, DIKW gets causality backwards--one needs knowledge and wisdom to get useful information, not the other way around. At the same time, he argued, traditional sources (the New York Times serving as poster boy) favor authority over transparency, whereas the new open, collaboratively-created sources (Wikipedia, standing in for a host of "social media" sites like Digg,, and the blogosphere as a whole) favor transparency. In particular, Wikipedia represents "publicly negotiated knowledge" as opposed to the private (elite) construction of knowledge by mass media instiutions and traditional publishers.
    There is a dramatic change building: the ability of institutions to impose authority through carefully-constructed representations is dissipating, soon to disappear entirely. Peter Morville noted in the Q&A that large corporate and government sites often seek to express authority through IA. But next-generation IA is radically decentralized, incorporating many points of view expressed through blogs, tags, and so forth, thereby pushing authority to the edge of the network. As a result, IA's need to expand their scope to consider the broad, socio-cultural impact of their design work.
    As Weinberger noted, Dewey thought he was doing God's work through classification, representing one true view of the world. The current landscape of IA, on the other hand, is distinctly postmodern, recognizing many socially-structured views. Despite many efforts to make IA into a postivist, quantified science, it appears the future may be resoutely interpretivist--understanding how the organization and representation of information intertwines with culture.
    At the end of the conference, a "5-minute madness" session allowed anyone to speak their mind. One speaker noted the need to explore how and why information forms have evolved over time. Perhaps such work will helps us understand how information forms (from books to Web 2.0) transmit and influence culture and authority.
    IA AND RESEARCH.The idea of turning IA into science isn't dead, of course. The Summit featured a whole double-length panel on the topic of IA and research. Don Turnbull identified four areas that could be considered central to IA research: classification, information-seeking behavior, metadata and semantics, and design methods. He proposed creating an open-access Journal of Information Architecture. Keith Instone argued for generating research questions from practice and creating partnerships between IA's and researchers. Peter Morville and Nancy Kaplan argue for "going beyond findability" to address all aspects of information interaction.
    It is this last point that resonated for me. Research that informs IA practice is being conducted all the time, it just goes by many different names: information behavior, search strategies, hypertext, credibility and persuasion, personal information management, information literacy, and of course the all-encompassing "HCI." In my view, IA practice should seek to integrate (and mediate among) different methods (information science, usability, design research, human factors, HCI, management, marketing, etc.). IA research should integrate (and mediate) different disciplines (information science, HCI, communications, business, behavioral and social science).
    A great example of this challenge was suggested by Donna Maurer's presentation on Lakoff for IA's. Lakoff distinguishes between the classical view of categories ("abstract containers with strict borders") and the modern psychological view based on prototypes and family resemblance (a robin is a better example of a bird than a penguin), as developed by Rosch and revised by Medin and others. Cognitive science research is rigorous. Some of the results are fascinating. But how can it be applied to the design problem--making complex, large-scale information spaces accessible and useful--that IA's grapple with? For example, what are the implications of naive categorization theory for information-seeking behavior and personal information management? How would this connection inform IA practice? I believe integrating and applying social and behavioral science results to IA problems could reinvigorate both IA practice and social science research.

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