Triangle User Experience Professionals Association (TriUXPA)

Blog

  • 15 Feb 2006 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    The most recent Triangle UX meetup (and last before we become Triangle UPA) was held Tuesday, February 7th, at McKinney in Durham.

    Rick Cecil (interim VP, Triangle UPA chapter) gave an overview of the new UPA chapter, which is focused on further expanding the community of user experience professionals in the Triangle. Elections for the first slate of officers will be held at a planning meeting on Wednesday, 2/22. After the chapter is incorporated and a bank account established, anyone interested will be able to join online (dues are $15/year for professionals; free for students).

    Adam Blumenthal (Interactive Strategist at McKinney) introduced McKinney's approach, advertising work, and interest in building an interactive group that will build full-scale Websites for large clients, as well as banner ads, minisites, etc. As an advertising firm with a strong focus on strategy, McKinney brings an interesting perspective to Web design. The big question for me was: To what extent does McKinney plan to include user research and user-centered design in its Web work? Adam emphasized McKinney's process of "connection planning," which builds an understanding of how customers connect to a brand. This is important (and goes beyond UX work in some ways), but still left me thinking "what about the poor user?" Having suffered through many gorgeous but unusable Flash-based sites developed by big agencies for big brands, I'm not eager to see more of the same. I hope McKinney takes the righteous path: hire people with UX expertise, and incorporate user-centered processes into their design work. The fact that they opened the doors of their (spectacularly designed) offices to a UX group is certainly an encouraging start.

    Providing an excellent example of how user-centered design is important in practice, John Clark (Director of Technology, CBC New Media) discussed the ongoing redesign of WRAL.com. WRAL.com is a sprawling local news-and-beyond site developed by the local CBS affiliate station. It is highly successful compared to other TV station sites, both locally and nationally. It competes with both newspaper sites (locally, the News & Observer) and emerging community sites like Craiglist.

    John described WRAL's design challenges and emphasized that CBS seeks to "focus on users" and create a brand-new design ("we started with a whiteboard we wiped clean") based on a "complete usability exercise". The site must serve multiple audiences: users, advertisers, and internal staff. However, John noted that CBC has "never done good research on usability and information architecture." They are working with an independent research firm to remedy this, but still face the challenge of creating "consolidation" between user requirements and business requirements.

    John's talkundefinedand the example of a site many in the audience had usedundefinedprovoked a lively discussion. Suggestions for John included:

    • Incorporating multiple forms of research, including user research (interviews, surveys, observation, etc.), content research (content audits, analysis of competing sites, etc.), and log research (Website statistics, internal searches, referring searches, email and customer service logs).
    • Using multiple forms of evaluation (e.g., both 1-on-1 usability tests and focus groups).
    • Considering how to incorporate community and citizen journalism into the site. Questioners suggested Adrian Holovaty's work on newspaper websites, including Lawrence.com, as an example of innovative local news and community on the Web.

    Overall, WRAL.com represents both a challenging information architecture problem (a large, diverse, regularly-updated site) and an opportunity to build local community and find other innovative ways to connect to people through the Web.

    -- Abe Crystal

  • 06 Jan 2006 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    Date: Wednesday, Jan 18, 2006
    Time: 6:00 PM
    Address: Johnny Carino's in Southpoint - Map it

    We're back! Hope everyone had a nice break. :) Ready to get back into the swing of things?

    Note this is on a Wednesday instead of our usual 3rd Tuesday. Hope you can make it!

  • 16 Dec 2005 5:00 PM | Anonymous
    What would a public library look like if it was designed by information architects?
    The Carnegie Libraries in Pittsburgh decided to find out. They hired Maya Design, a user-centered design consultancy, to help them renovate their library buildings. The results of this unusual collaboration were discussed at a recent workshop entitled User Interfaces for Physical Spaces. I attended the workshop and came away with a new appreciation of how user-centered design practices can inform physical environmentsundefinedas well as the culture and practices of institutions.
    David Bishop of Maya introduced the project by explaining Maya's design process, which can be roughly characterized as a standard UCD process with special emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration (between engineering, human sciences, and visual design). Maya argues for "taming complexity instead of eliminating it," which I thought was a nice way of approaching a design problem like a libraryundefinedone wants to make it accessible, not dumb it down.
    David also emphasized the value of information architecture as "one of the unchanging things" in a large-scale design. IA has a longer shelf-life than a particular, say, screen design or process flow, because it represents core concepts and terminology of a domain or institution that may exist for many years. In addition, the IA can be extended to new products and services in different environments. In fact, one of the striking aspects of this project was how IA componentsundefinedincluding organization and labelsundefinedwere shared between the libraries physical and electronic spaces (e.g. physical reference desk vs. Web site).
    For me, the way Maya explored and developed the IA was what set this project apart. It's not such a breakthrough to realize that "Reference" and "Circulation" are library-centric, jargon terms that should be replaced. As explained by Aradhana Goel, Maya's IA work went much deeper than this. They developed an elegant model of how users progress through a library interaction:
    Users go through Organizers to get Materials/Activities in order to Use/Participate.
    Building on this model, they identified three classes of "organizers": Space, Categorizations, and People. And they observed that the "bridges" between these organizers were often problem areas. An example: how does one get from an item in the online catalog (Categorization) to the actual item somewhere in the building (Space)? By mapping use scenarios, and looking for "breakpoints," Maya was able to identify further systemic issues, such as disorientation, lack of state, and use of jargon, that could be addressed through better design.
    In the afternoon, we visited two of the newly renovated libraries: the Squirrel Hill branch, and the Main Library. I was deeply impressed by both libraries, though I personally preferred the Squirrel Hill space (props to Arthur Lubetz Associates), which was open, striking, and colorful, with many playful touches (such as nifty hanging books).
    As Peter Merholz notes, the Main library is housed in a beautiful historic building. And much of the renovated main floor looks grand. But it doesn't feel as "accessible" as the Squirrel Hill branch, and the elegant signage (props to Landesberg Design) was far less colorful and prominent.
    The aesthetics of the renovated libraries are not the key issue, though. This project was fundamentally about improving the library experience in a way that can make libraries a bigger and more useful part of people's lives. I think it was a great success in this regard, and the rethought IA and task analysis will provide a foundation for library design for a long time.
    Just as many Web sites and other information systems could be improved by incorporating concepts and practices from libraries (authority and subject control, research assistance, support for browsing, etc.), so too libraries could benefit by incorporating different perspectives (user researchers, interaction designers, information architects, customer service). Perhaps it's time for the "guild mentality" that unfortunately characterizes many professions (the requirement that librarians hold an ALA-accredited masters' degree being just one obvious example) to undergo some reconsideration. For all its problems, the idea of a "user experience" discipline that encompasses all of these different perspectives seems the most viable alternative. Emphasizing user experience work provides a framework within which professionals, with many types of expertise and training, can work together to improve products and services for customers. The experience of the Carnegie Libraries shows that this vision can be realized, with transformative results.
    undefinedAbe Crystal
  • 15 Nov 2005 5:00 PM | Anonymous
    We're meeting tomorrow night at the Cheesecake Factory @ Southpoint (Get Directions ») from 6:00 - 7:30. We're trying a new night this month--Wednesday instead of our typical Tuesday night. Hope to see you there!
  • 14 Nov 2005 5:00 PM | Anonymous
    It’s been a week (okay, a week and a few days) since we celebrated World Usability Day here in the Triangle.
    We’re putting the finishing touches on the photo gallery and hope to have it published by the end of this week. (Though, it might not be until next week.) Thanks, again, to everyone who participated: our sponsors, our judges, the teams, and our great audience! Keep checking back here for more information about user experience in the triangle and next year’s World Usability Day!
  • 03 Nov 2005 5:00 PM | Anonymous
    Some people have reported problems getting their usability ticket to post to the tag "uticket" in flickr. If you don't see your ticket under the tag, email your picture and a description of the violation or commendation to rick@triux.org.
  • 03 Nov 2005 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    It's finally here. Some last minute notes about tonight's events:

    * The event is tonight from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. @ MCNC Building #1; Get Directions »
    * It is free and open to the public, so come one, come all!
    * Without our sponsors help, we wouldn't be here. Thank you Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motricity, and hesketh.com!
    * Here's the agenda for the festivities.
    * Our great line-up of panelists/judges!
    * And, last but certainly not least, our interactionary teams.

  • 02 Nov 2005 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    This article from the Sydney Morning Herald about World Usability Day starts off absolutely hilarious:

    > The managers of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport faced a difficult problem a few years ago. They were having to spend a fortune cleaning the men's toilets because the aim of Dutch men was so poor.

    > "They hired some guys who sat in the urinals for several weeks, just observing," says Ash Donaldson. "They noticed that if there was a cigarette butt or a fly in the urinal men would aim at it. So they etched the shape of a fly into each urinal - and that reduced the cleaning bill by 80 per cent."

    I bet the conducting that ethnographic study was a lot of fun! ;)

    Read the full article:

    * http://tinyurl.com/acglm

  • 02 Nov 2005 5:00 PM | Anonymous

    Some interesting quotes:

    > But some tech engineers and designers assume too much: that since they understand how the gadget works, everyone should. Bias quips: "A whole lot of companies went out of business because their users were too stupid."

    ...and...

    >"The feature-list wars were not good for software," consultant Quesenbery says. "People threw a function in because it gave them a check-box on a list, not because it met the needs of the marketplace."

    > Microsoft is redesigning the user interface for the next version of Office, due next fall. Microsoft will display only the tools you'll likely use most frequently. The goal: to cut the number of clicks to complete a task. In Office 2003, it took 26 clicks to insert a text box into a document; with the new version, four.

    Read the entire article:

    * http://tinyurl.com/99af6

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