The Pre-Conference Seminars
Unfortunately, the pre-conference seminars at IA Summit 2006 were exorbitantly expensive. Compare $575 for an all-day seminar at the Summit with $250 for an all-day tutorial at DUX2005 or $150 for a one-day workshop at CHI2006. That said, there were a wealth of good choices, and I decided to attend full-day seminars on both pre-conference days:
Too bad I don’t have a Time-Turner and could be in only one place at a time. The IA Summit required some tough choices. On Thursday, I would have loved to have attended Jared Spool’s talk on “The Secret Design Strategies for Highly Successful Web Sites” and the Management Innovation Group’s “Enhancing the Strategic Influence of IAs: Understanding and Responding to Complex Business Problems.” See Laurie Lamar’s review of the latter seminar.
On Friday, I missed Kevin Cheng and Jane Jao’s workshop, “Creating Conceptual Comics: Storytelling and Techniques”—by all accounts, a great seminar. Read Andrew Hinton’s review of this popular workshop.
Presenters: Kim Goodwin, David Heller, Frank Ramirez, and Luke Wroblewski
The Interaction Design Association (IxDA) presented the IxD Symposium. The slide shown in Figure 2 provides a description of the goals of this young organization.
Since IxDA presented the Symposium and I’m on its board of directors, I’ll leave it to others to evaluate the presentations. See Russ Wilson’s review of the Symposium, particularly for details about Dave and Luke’s presentations. However, I will give you a brief overview of the day and a sampling of what people learned at the Symposium.
Getting from Personas to Design
Next, Kim Goodwin, shown in Figure 4, gave a presentation on “Getting from Personas to Design.” Since her presentation isn’t available online, I’ll go into more detail here.
First, Kim provided an overview of Cooper’s goal-directed design process:
- “Goals drive a person’s actions. Tasks are things a person does in order to accomplish his goals. Tasks are important, but goals get you to big breakthroughs.”
- “Information architecture is a specialized subset of interaction design, designing interaction with information.”
- Cooper’s goal-directed process includes the following phases:
- research—defining the domain
- modeling—developing an understanding of the users
- requirements definition—analyzing the problem to be solved
- framework definition—defining the solution
- design—designing and documenting form and behavior
- development support—seeing that the design gets built
- The development of personas is a key part of their modeling phase:
- “Real personas are based on real data.”
- If user research is not available, use “provisional personas,” which capture a team’s best guess about user needs and characteristics and “are better than nothing.”
- Personas are narratives that capture information about users’ goals, attitudes, workflows, environments, skills, and frustrations.
Then, Kim delved more deeply into the two phases of Cooper’s process that focus on defining solutions: requirements definition and framework definition.
She had this to say about requirements definition:
- “High-level requirements that allow executives to make trade-off decisions … are based on our data to avoid opinion-based disputes and uncertainty.”
- Requirements definition comprises four steps:
- describing the personas’ mental model
- creating context scenarios—which describe how personas might use a product
- listing requirements—which identify “necessary product characteristics and capabilities”
- Types of requirements include data needs and functional needs.
Kim cautioned us not to jump to solutions too quickly. “If you conflate the need and the solution, the product may not address the user’s real problem.” Finally, Kim described how Cooper conceptually frames solutions:
- Framework definition starts “with the ability to visualize and think structurally.”
- You can break down structure into views, or screens, panes, sub-panes, control groups, controls, and data objects and attributes.
- “Patterns are known structures that you can apply to help you solve certain classes of problems.”
- To evaluate the structure of a user interface, “use markers to draw eye patterns for tasks on a screen shot.”
- “We cannot rely on intuitive leaps because they may be wrong, don’t always happen, are difficult for others to follow, and may be difficult to defend.”
- During framework definition
- “list functional and data elements based on needs”
- “group and sketch elements using key path scenarios”—which “describe the persona’s most important or frequent workflows”
- use validation scenarios to check your design
The Visual Design of Behavior
Luke Wroblewski’s presentation on “The Visual Design of Behavior” included much of the same excellent content he presented in his talk on “Visual Communication Principles for Web Application Interface Design” at our IxDA San Francisco Bay Area Face to Face / BayCHI IxD BOF last June. As shown in Figure 5, Luke showed numerous examples that illustrated principles of visual communication and organization, then set a visual design exercise for all participants.
The Web Now
During the three part-presentation “The Web Now,” the focus was on Web 2.0, which has the following characteristics:
- Richer—David Heller spoke about RIAs (Rich Internet Applications). See Dave’s UXmatters article “RIAs: The Technology Is Exciting, but They Really Do Help Users.”
- Social PDF—After describing how the concept of online community has changed over time, Luke Wroblewski talked about best practices for designing the social aspects of Web 2.0. We learned that online communities comprise creators, synthesizers, and consumers.
- Open—Frank Ramirez, shown in Figure 6, talked about how the openness of Web 2.0 permits the integration of functionality into various contexts. He looks at Web 2.0 as a virtual operating system “built of lots of interoperable modules.” We learned about Web syndication, mashups, SOAs (service-oriented architectures), and open APIs (application programming interfaces) and their impacts on Web development. Figure 7 shows a slide from Frank’s presentation.