• 23 Sep 2013 10:32 AM | Andrew Wirtanen
    All Things Open is an open source conference featuring some of the most well known open source technologists and decision makers in the world.

    The conference is October 23-24, 2013 at the Raleigh Convention Center in downtown Raleigh.

    Use the code "triuxpa" to save 10% on registration.

  • 12 Aug 2013 9:13 AM | Andrew Wirtanen
    The Blend Conference is a 3-day generalist conference in Charlotte, NC Sept 5-7 covering user experience, design, & development. The lineup has over 50 speakers, including several from the Triangle. 

    The discount code TRIANGLEUXPA will save you $100 on registration.

  • 26 Jun 2013 12:47 PM | Andrew Wirtanen

    Durham-based mobile app agency Two Toasters is working on a new site that local companies can use to recruit participants for user interviews or usability testing.

    Here is the announcement from Two Toasters:

    "Hi, I'm Geoff Mackey from Two Toasters. We're building a product called Tribe that connects experience design professionals to their users. Tribe will make it easy for you to schedule user interviews and will allow users to make their contact and demographic information available to other companies in their area or "Tribe." We're still in development, but if you visit and leave your email address, we'll keep you updated as we approach launch. Of course, we'd love your feedback as well! If you have any comments or suggestions regarding branding or features, please drop us a line at


  • 21 May 2013 11:05 AM | Andrew Wirtanen
    The Triangle UXPA recorded the "Is School Preparing Me for a UX Career?" panel on April 4, 2013. If you are a student, or just getting started in UX, we recommend watching the video on our new YouTube channel:

    This is the first time the Triangle UXPA has offered a recording of an event. We hope to offer more videos or audio recordings of events in the future.
  • 03 Dec 2012 8:58 AM | Anonymous

    TTomer Sharonomer Sharon works in the Search team at Google New York. He conducted a half-day workshop for TriUXPA on October 17th. The theme of Tomer’s workshop was how UX practitioners can get support from their colleagues for doing user research and doing it right. Tomer discussed ten ideas, which he calls silver bullets.

    • 1.       Empathy. While UX practitioners find it easy to empathize with users they do not empathize with other stakeholders. Organizational stakeholders often do not understand user research. It behooves us as user researchers to take the time to understand and empathize with our stakeholders.
    • 2.       Maturity. Often, (organizational) stakeholders are not mature in terms of UX. Tomer discussed instances where we might be able to increase their maturity and instances when we may not.
    • 3.       Participation. Having stakeholders participate in user research can be extremely helpful. Invite them to watch a user research session and comment on what they observed.
    • 4.       Lean. Cross-functional teams in a lean environment are the true recipe for progress. Having everyone involved in the whole process, and doing whatever it takes, goes a long way.
    • 5.       Be patient. Organizations are slow to change and so are people.
    • 6.       Get them to listen. People have to listen before you can persuade them. A good way to getting people to listen is by taking all the “buts” out of the conversation.
    • 7.       Collaborate. A key to getting stakeholder buy-in is to collaborate with them. Involve them in user studies from the beginning to select tasks, select users, and so on. Make UX each stakeholder’s baby!
    • 8.       No reports. Identify insights from user research as it is going on; don’t wait till the end. Tomer showed an example of summarized data from user research that provides a quick overview and makes formal reports redundant and saves time. He suggested presenting findings in an expo-like fashion to attract attention from stakeholders.
    • 9.       Quantitative findings. People like data so why not present them with data, ideally visualized properly.
    • 10.   Find the balance. Balance what the stakeholders want from user research with what you want.


    Next, Tomer had the audience break out into teams to enact several scenarios that typically arise in corporate environments. Each team used some of the silver bullets to make its case for user research.





  • 05 Sep 2012 8:33 PM | Deleted user

    Content creation feels like it should be a purely creative process -- you pull ideas from the air and work inside your head before releasing the product into the world with a flourish. Voilà!

    Then you hope that your ideas and the needs of your users match.

    You can do better than hope you meet your users’ needs. You can use data to help shape your content strategy. That’s right -- cold, hard data. Data give you insight into what your users are looking for, what they are finding, and even what they may want more of.

    You can use this information to create compelling content and hone your content maintenance plan. Let’s look at three data sources you can use in content strategy: analytics, search logs, and user feedback. There are more, but these three are key.

    Use your site metrics to help with updating and pruning your content. If a page is visited regularly, you may need to update it more regularly than other pages. If incorrect information on a page is bad, then incorrect information on a popular page is worse.

    Also consider axing pages that don’t receive many views. As we add fresh content to sites, older pages may no longer be relevant to users or to the business. Removing the content from the site means that’s one less piece you have to maintain.

    Search logs
    Search provides two sources of data: what people searched for on external search engines that led them to your site, and what they searched for once at your site.

    An entire industry focuses on external searchundefinedit’s called search engine optimization and it focuses on getting people to your site. It should be a part of your content strategy in conjunction with marketing.

    What about those that are already on your site? You can make sure they have a better experience by looking at what they are searching for on your site. I like to look at the top 50 searches and actually perform those searches each month to make sure the best pages for those terms are at the top of the results.

    If they aren’t, I tweak the page content to make it more relevant. And if no page exists, then I know what content I’m creating next.

    User feedback
    Users can provide more direct feedback. Comments, surveys, and user testing all give users a voice that you can listen to and adjust your content accordingly.

    Comments come in various forms these days, from likes on Facebook to questions posted on a blog. You can delve into this feedback to better understand content your users want and the question they tend to have.

    Where comments are often a side effect of content, surveys offer a directed feedback mechanismundefinedthe intent of a content survey is to learn how users think you’re doing and what they’d like to see more of. These tools can be great for planning new content.

    And you can’t beat the brutal honesty of user testing for raw feedback. From labels to words on the page, you’ll hear it directly when things don’t make sense to a user. The key is making changes that improve the user experience.

    Make Data a Part of a Larger Strategy
    Data alone doesn’t make for a content strategy, but it should play a large role. I like data because it’s hard to argue with numbers.

    Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology at Duke, recently tweeted: "If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine." I think that sums up why data should be a part of your content strategy.

    When you need to make a case, point to the data. It may not be as exciting as creating from thin air, but it’s hard to argue against.

    Michael Gowan
    Michael Gowan is a content strategist, writer, and editor based in Carrboro, North Carolina. His skills for content prophecy are available for hire. Follow him on Twitter @zebgowan.

  • 18 Aug 2012 11:41 PM | Deleted user

    On July 26, The Triangle UXPA hosted a guest lecture by Rex Hartson and Pardha Pyla at the offices of Lulu in Raleigh. Titled “Affordances and their importance to UX Practioners” was co-sponsored with Bloomberg. Rex Hartson, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Virgina Tech, and Pardha Pyla, Senior Interaction Designer at Bloomberg L.P. provided a 90 minute overview of the key concepts and consideration of affordances in the design of human computer interactions. Over 40 Triangle UXPA members attended the event.

    The talk was based on a chapter in their recent publication, The UX Book: Process and Guidelines for Ensuring a Quality User Experience. This new book is a comprehensive, practical field guide to understanding, assimilating, and applying the complete interaction design discipline.

    In interaction design, the word “affordance” is often used to describe something that helps, aids or makes it possible for the user to do something, but Professor Hartson explained that there are serveral different types of affordances available to the designer.

    • Cognitive Affordance
      Cognitive affordance is a design feature that helps, aids, supports, facilitates, or enables thinking, learning, understanding, and knowing about something. Cognitive affordances play starring roles in interaction design, especially for less experienced users who need help with understanding and learning. As a simple example, the symbol of an icon that clearly conveys its meaning could be a cognitive affordance enabling users to understand the icon in terms of the functionality behind it and the consequences of clicking on it. Another cognitive affordance might be in the form of a clear and concise button label.

    • Physical Affordance
      Physical affordance is a design feature that helps, aids, supports, facilitates, or enables doing something physically. Adequate size and easy-to-access location could be physical affordance features of an interface button design enabling users to click easily on the button.

      Because physical affordance has to do with physical objects, we treat active interface objects on the screen, for example, as real physical objects, as they can be on the receiving end of real physical actions (such as clicking or dragging) by users. Physical affordance is associated with the “operability” characteristics of such user interface artifacts. As many in the literature have pointed out, it is clear that a button on a screen cannot really be pressed, which is why we try to use the terminology “clicking on buttons.”

    • Sensory Affordance
      Sensory affordance is a design feature that helps, aids, supports, facilitates, or enables user in sensing (e.g., seeing, hearing, feeling) something. Sensory affordance is associated with the “sense-ability” characteristics of user interface artifacts, especially when it is used to help the user sense (e.g., see) cognitive affordances and physical affordances. Design issues for sensory affordances include noticeability, discernability, legibility (in the case of text), and audibility (in the case of sound) of features or devices associated with visual, auditory, haptic/tactile, or other sensations. As an example, the legibility of button label text is supported by an adequate size font and appropriate color contrast between text and background.

    • Functional Affordance
      Functional affordances connect physical user actions to invoke system, or back end, functionality. Functional affordances link usability or UX to usefulness and add purpose for physical affordance. They are about higher level user enablement in the work domain and add meaning and goal orientation to design discussions. In an external view it is easy to see a system function as an affordance because it helps the user do something in the work domain.

    Rex Hartson is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, where he was the founding faculty member in human computer interaction (HCI). He’s a 30-year pioneer in HCI as a field and in User Experience as a discipline and practice.


    Pardha Pyla is a Senior Interaction Designer at Bloomberg L.P., New York, NY, where he is leads the design team for mobile platforms. He is one of the pioneering researchers in the area of connecting software engineering and usability engineering lifecycles.


    Overall, the presentation was outstanding with some great discussions afterwards. We greatly appreciated Rex and Pardha for taking the time to travel to Raleigh for this event and not charging the a speakers fee. We also thank Bloomberg for the the wonderful dinner catering from the local Raleigh restaurant Irregardless Cafe.

    And thanks again to Lulu for hosting the event. Here are a few photos from the event.


  • 05 Aug 2012 7:18 PM | Deleted user
    On July 18th, the Triangle UXPA hosted an all-day workshop by Carol Barnum at the offices of Railinc in Cary. Entitled UX Tune-Up, the workshop offered a deep dive on two of the most important user experience tools, heuristic evaluation and usability testing. Barnum guessed that most attendees would be self-taught UX practitioners--something she confirmed at the outset with an informal survey--who would benefit from focusing on these essential tools.

    Barnum founded and directs the Usability Center at Southern Polytechnic State University in Atlanta, Georgia, where she teaches usability and user experience practice, and consults for clients such as Delta Airlines and Cox Communications.

    I’ve embedded the slides from the workshop below, but here’s a brief overview of what was covered:

    Heuristic Evaluation (and Expert Review)

    Barnum described the classic method of heuristic evaluation, which 3-5 usability experts “walking in the user’s shoes” through a website or product, using a heuristic. A heuristic, or guide, is basically a list of points to refer to in your evaluation, the most popular usability heuristic being Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design. Barnum had attendees work in groups to do a heuristic evaluation of an example site, giving us a greater sense of the process.

    Here are a few takeaways from the morning that stood out to me:
    • Barnum emphasized the need to have a user profile (or persona) and a scenario from which perspective to perform the evaluation.
    • Heuristic evaluation, when done less formally, e.g. with less evaluators or without heuristics, is usually referred to as “expert review.”
    • Consider other heuristics, or making your own, depending on the project. Barnum also recommended Whitney Quesenbery’s 5 E’s.
    • When presenting findings from an evaluation or expert review, rank them by severity and tie each to the heuristic or principles it violates.

    Usability Testing

    For the afternoon, Barnum shifted the workshop’s focus to usability testing. She described her work in the Usability Center at SPSU, going through her methods, sharing some examples of findings, and discussing the wide variety of approaches to testing. Barnum expressed support for small studies with 4-6 users, pointing to some great resources for these:

    Barnum fielded many questions on the various stages of the usability process, from screening and recruiting, to the test protocol, to reporting findings. I’d encourage you to go through her slides for more detail on the process.

    She also shared one other tool, which I hadn’t known about before, that she uses in conjunction with usability testing: Microsoft’s Product Reaction Cards. These are 118 cards, each with one adjective, that the tester spreads out in random order on a table; the user then chooses the few cards that s/he feels best describe the product being tested. Barnum said the cards are “like magic” in that users very often gravitate toward the same words. For more on these, see:

    Overall, this was a great workshop--very focused on getting attendees a solid understanding of two essential tools. Barnum left us with a mantra for usability testing: test early, small, and often.


    For those looking to go a little deeper on these methods, Carol has a book on the topic: Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test!

    Thanks to Carol for sharing her expertise, and thanks to Railinc for hosting the event!
  • 24 Jul 2012 10:23 PM | Andrew Wirtanen

    John Dozier and Christian Manzella (

    John Dozier and Christian Manzella,

    As one of the Event Directors for the Triangle UXPA this year, I’ve learned that there is a little bit of magic that goes into each event.

    The event was born when one of our Advisory Board members recommended reaching out to our neighbors in Charlotte, specifically Lowe’s Home Improvement. Looking at my LinkedIn, I recognized that I was connected to a UX Researcher at Lowe’s (John Dozier). I reached out to John and, to my surprise, an event was born.

    On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, approximately 30 Triangle UXPA’ers filled the Training Room at Railinc. John Dozier and Christian Manzella (Sr. User Experience Architect Manager) led a fascinating talk about the UX process. The Experience Group for was revitalized about two years, which led to the creation of specialized groups, including UX research. Today, the UX process is much more mature; introduced a Chief Customer Officer on the Executive Management team in April 2012.

    The Experience Group at consists of many job titles, including:

    • Visual Designers
    • Interaction Designer
    • Content Strategists
    • Copywriters
    • Content Editors
    • Front-End Developers
    • User Experience Architects
    • User Experience Researchers

    The Experience Group primarily uses an Agile-like methodology. has three layers of Agile: Strategy, Planning, and Development. The Strategy layer is for brainstorming/discovery and should have very few time constraints. The Planning layer is where ideas are refined and documented. The Development layer is when the output of the Planning layer gets coded.

    John and Christian covered a variety of topics. Here are some of my favorite nuggets:

    • If using Agile, consider an Agile coach. Ask if they have experience with UX (if they don’t, then you may not have the right coach).
    • Make your workspace collaborative. Remove tall cubicle walls and add whiteboards, paper, post-its, and markers.
    • Stick wireframes on the wall to encourage feedback from introverts.
    • Adobe Test & Target and UserZoom are used regularly for Adobe Test & Target supports multivariate and A/B testing. UserZoom is for unmoderated remote usability testing.
    • Realize that not everything will get coded and not everything gets shipped. It’s ok!
    • Send as many of your employees to UX conferences as possible. Do not send only managers that are not doing any research or design.  But it is still important for management to be tied into the UX community so that they can provide support when it is needed.
    • “Always advocate for the user” (this is one of the Experience Group’s guiding principles).

    As of writing this, still has job opportunities listed on the Triangle UX Job Board. All job opportunities are in Mooresville, NC, approximately 20 miles north of Charlotte – check out 

    Andrew WirtanenAndrew Wirtanen is 2012 Director of Events for the Triangle UXPA. He is a User Experience Specialist at Atlantic BT in Raleigh, where he focuses on usability engineering, interaction design, and information architecture. Follow him on Google+ and at @awirtanen

  • 22 Jul 2012 8:42 PM | Deleted user


    The Fortune TellerDon’t you wish you had a fortune teller on your UX design team? Someone who predicts how your product will grow and thrive, or whether it will wither and die. You can have this – we’re called content strategists.
    When I think of user experience design, I traditionally think of interaction design, visual design, usability, and development. It’s time to make room for content strategy within the umbrella of user experience design. And not just because we’re a charming lot on the whole. We bring the gift of the prophecy.

    The Long View

    A content strategist brings the perspective of the long view to a design project – not just how the product looks, works, and reads at the launch, but how it needs to grow over the years. That’s the prophetic aspect of the role.
    I define content strategy as planning for the creation and maintenance of content. Within UX design, this translates to thinking about everything from what kind of templates will be needed to how content on the home page will be populated. You don’t want to design something that’s going to wither on the vine as soon as its launched because nobody thought about how the next headline will get created.
    In some organizations, content creators rarely get a seat at the table during the design process. I’ve always advocated for a content presence at all stages of design. We are the ones who will populate and maintain the content within the final product.
    We can help translate user and business goals into content requirements, content templates, and maintenance plans that think about the future.
    If content strategy isn’t a part of your process, you’re missing vital input about how the content on the site – the stuff that keeps users coming to a site – will work within a design.

    A Bridge

    Content strategists often serve as a bridge between UX and marketing, too. We need to understand the needs and goals of both groups. While UX is representing user needs, marketing focuses on how to communicate business goals.
    A content strategist can help translate how marketing needs get implemented in a user-friendly and sustainable way. This is the difference between a site that is built to integrate marketing campaigns and one that is full of one-off pages that take a lot of time and never get used again. 

    Your Take

    Content strategy is an evolving field. What’s your take on the role of content strategy in user experience design? Leave a comment to tell me how content strategists work with your team.
    Michael GowanMichael Gowan is a content strategist, writer, and editor based in Carrboro, North Carolina. His skills for content prophecy are available for hire. Follow him on Twitter @zebgowan. 

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