ia play

the good life in a digital age

ia summit write-up

There wasn’t a strong theme like tagging or RIAs in earlier years but I did take away a theme of performance (which in its serious form focused on storytelling and in less serious form was all about IAs swearing).

Journey to the Center of Design – Jared Spool
Jared gave everyone else carte blanche to exploit expletives. Controversially he based his plenary on the concept that UCD never worked and it was time to retire it. Actually, the substance of the message wasn’t quite so revolutionary. He encouraged the audience to rely on tips & tricks not dogma & methodology.

He said the 3 core UX values for great experience design are:

  • vision – can everyone on the team explain the 5 year vision for the experience?
  • feedback – is the team regularly exposed to users using the products?
  • culture – is failure rewarded?

Integrating web analytics into information architecture and user-centered design – Hallie Wilfert
I think Hallie made the only CSI joke I heard. Perks of doing the first presentation, I guess. She reminded us that analytics is user research and that it gives you what not why. I’d like to see lots more on analytics at the conference, although maybe as a pre-con full-day workshop rather than trying to fit it into 45mins.

IA management fable: The little UX that went a long way – Dan Willis
This was bloody beautiful. And cranky. Perfect combination. The slides aren’t up yet so you won’t be able to understand. LukeW has summarised the take-aways.

Peer coaching – support for UX managers – Margaret Hanley
I was the guinea pig for this. I used a management problem I am currently experiencing and Mags demonstrated the Grow method of coaching. Since the session lots of people have been in touch to a) sympathise and b) offer suggestions. Which is very nice of everyone and I guess in the spirit of what Mags was trying to encourage.

Inspiration from the edge: New patterns for interface design – Stephen Anderson
Stephen called on the audience to look beyond the obvious sources of interface design inspiration, particularly not copying competitors who may be getting it wrong anyway. Went on to take on the ubiquitious Google search results pattern. As always with this tack, I buy that Google haven’t solved the problem but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the alternative put forward. This was one of those presentations chock full of websites to go look at. The painting browse interface was lovely for pottering and Cookthink was a useful discovery for a recipe geek.

Taxonomy is user experience – Dave Cooksey
A topic close to my heart. Dave divided his tips into five sections:

  1. Leave your cubicle.
  2. Focus on user interactions.
  3. Speak the client’s language.
  4. Test using real user.
  5. Plan the future (governance)

Content page design best practices – Luke Wroblewski
Luke started from the position that much of a site’s traffic comes via search engines and yet page design often assumes you’ve come from elsewhere on the same site. I liked the calculations of what % of pixels a page dedicated to actual content. And BBC news got a thumbs up for their related links.

The information architect and the fighter pilot – Matthew Milan
Matthew was trying to connect IA with what can be learn from John Boyd, the military strategist. It was intriguing but too complicated for me who wasn’t concentrating as I was speaking next. Must read up on this.

Developing junior programmes in UX teams – Henning Fischer, Margaret Hanley & me
I’ll talk about this separately.

Creating career paths for UX professionals – Kristen Johansen
This was stuffed with useful resources for new managers.All good stuff about defining career tracks, setting objectives, giving feedback etc.

E-service: What we can learn from the customer-service gurus – Eric Reiss
The only presentation I’ve ever attended where the audience was provided with rubber ducks to throw at the screen when they saw something they disapproved of. Performance aside, I was delighted to hear Eric express outrage at the reviewers who dismissed his presentation submission as ‘old knowledge’. More on that another time.

Storytelling – a compelling design tool - Dorelle Rabinowitz
Dorelle chose quite a story to kick of Monday morning with. This was a fun session. Cartoons featured again – I beginning to feel quite incomplete for not have a nice cartoon strip scenario for any of my products. Good pointers to Smith and Taxi07.

Audiences & artifacts – Nathan Curtis
Nathan was aiming to help the audience produce better deliverables, faster, and suited to the audience. There’s a nice mapping of deliverables to audiences, and of the difference in the perceived values. Good stuff about the role of documentation for remote teams. And interesting ideas about using layers in documents for different audiences.

Data driven design research personas – Todd Zaki Warfel
I didn’t get what I wanted from this. I think it was cut down from a full-day workshop at UPA last year and it may have lost bite as a result. We probably needed to get beyond ‘why’ and onto ‘how’ and ‘what’ a whole lot quicker. I would have like to looked at different data sources in more detail and to have heard specific experiences of translating research into the persona with more specific tips and issues. In fact, a straight case study of creating a persona based on a set of data may have been more illuminating in the time period.


IA for tiny stuff: Exploring widgets and gadgets
- Martin Belam
Martin defined the target audience for his fictional website Nom Nom as teenage girls. My enthusiasm for the baby pandas scattered throughout his presentation may mean it could reach a wider audience. In a nod to the classic swing cartoon (which my mother, a computer programmer, showed me when I was a kid) Martin worked through widget design if technical, market, sales and the user each had their way. Good tips to follow and pitfalls to avoid. And baby animals.

Linkosophy – Andrew Hinton
Baby animals featured again (this time combining LOLcats with a gentle jibe at panicking Flickr-phobic IAs).There was lots of good stuff about communities of practice. And lots of worthy messages about defining the damn thing, or not bothering, or something. I liked the quote from William Gibson as it reminded me of my continual question about what the future technology is going to be that I will refuse to have anything to do with when old.

One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real

Andrew suggested the internet was a phase transition, an idea I am instinctively skeptical about (although at least he didn’t say paradigm shift) but I’ve not put enough thought into this to have a grown-up discussion. Vitruvious also featured, which placated me somewhat. He defined IA’s central concern as shaping structures of context and connections. Which sounds reasonable but is still tricky. Context is a big word with wider usage and meaning. I’m not sure that being concerned with context excludes anything.

But that’s fine with me. Most things are interesting.

Written by Karen

April 20th, 2008 at 11:49 am