partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

IA Summit 2008 Recap – A Week Later

IA Summit 2008

This was the second IA Summit that I’ve attended. Last year I took my wife. It was great because, as parents of twin toddlers, it was a welcome vacation and respite from the responsibilities that parenting entails. Although I willingly chose to spend free time with my wife, I wasn’t able to connect with people in my professional network as much as I would have hoped. This year I attended on my own, and I found the “conference” part of weekend much richer as I was able to participate in extended conversations with colleagues. I also found that Twitter became an easy substitute to the obligatory business card for creating connections. “Hello” to all of my new friends.


There are already a number of photos, slides, and podcasts available from the event. Podcasts are supposed to be uploaded to Boxes and Arrows, but I haven’t seen anything yet (I will update this post once I see them available).

Program: Main Conference Presentations
Social Network: Crowdvine
Photos: [Flickr Group: IA Summit 2008 | By Flickr Tag: IASummit2008, IASummit08, IASummit]
Slides: [SlideShare Event: IA Summit 2008 | By SlideShare Tag: IASummit2008, IASummit08, IASummit]

Quick Takeaways

There are already a number of recaps popping up everywhere, so I will try to post a little bit about what I learned at the sessions I attended. I’ll try to provide as many links as I can. Note that the sessions below are not the complete list – only those sessions I was able to attend. Please refer to the resources above to view the entire listing of sessions.

Keynote: Journey to the Center of Design (Jared Spool, Bio) [Slides] – Replace user-centered design with informed design that leverages refined tricks and techniques.

The Three Questions:

  1. Vision – “Can everyone on the team describe the experience of using your design 5 years from now?”
  2. Feedback – “In the last 6 weeks, have you spent more than 2 hours watching someone use yours or a competitor’s design?”
  3. Culture – “In the last 6 weeks, have you rewarded a team member for creating a major design failure?”

Exploratory search and folksonomy: Exploration paths in social tagging systems (Tingting Jiang, bio) [Slides] – Information seeking in social tagging systems is largely exploratory.

Integrating web analytics into information architecture and user-centered design (Hallie Wilfert, bio) [Slides] – You don’t need to be a statistician, but you need to effectively communicate the “what” people do by successfully predicting “why” people exhibit certain behavior patterns on your site.

Inspiration from the edge: New patterns for interface design (Stephen Anderson, bio) [Slides] – Just say NO to default thinking – look beyond immediate industry rivals for innovative design ideas.

Blind ambition: How the accessibility movement overlooks sensory experience (Claude Steinberg, bio) – Creating accessible sites becomes about making the thing work rather than how the site makes the user feel. Ask users what they get out of the site – you can create an auditory equivalent to describe the experience. Referenced sites from Claude’s presentation include: Hyundai, JK Rowling.

How to be a user experience team of one (Leah Buley, bio) [Slides] – Generate a lot of ideas, assemble an ad hoc multi-disciplinary team, pick the best ideas. Mix and match word associations. Keep an inspiration library. Business needs + user needs = design principles.

Designing your reputation system in 15 10 easy steps (Bryce Glass, bio) [Slides] – Bryce answers the following 10 questions: 1. What are your business goals? 2. What community spirit do you want to encourage? 3. What motivates your community members? 4. Which entities will accrue reputation? Rate the thing, not the person. 5. Which inputs should you pay attention to? Action > Affects What? > Indicates What? 6. How transparent should the rules be? 7. Should reputations decay from non-use? Yes! 8. Are there cultural aspects you should consider? 9. For what contexts will users accrue reputation? 10. What presentation pattern is appropriate?

Search Patterns (Peter Morville, bio) [Slides (with audio) ] – Behavior Patterns: narrow, search & browse & ask, pearl grow | Design Patterns: faceted navigation, federated search, best bets, category match, auto-suggest, contextual search | Well executed search patterns can: increase conversion rates, increase site traffic, decrease customer service needs.

Content page design best practices (Luke Wroblewski, bio) [Slides (4 MB PDF)] – We optimize for static structures but need to consider dynamic movement within a site. How much traffic comes from within the site and how much from the web ecosystem: communication, display surfaces, content creators, content aggregators, search. Takeaways: 1. Content – A page should be about the content, not site overhead. Keep page links and titles in sync. Use visual hierarchy principles. Engage people in related content. Be brief – show content highlights (i.e., CNN includes “story highlights” for those with short attention spans). 2. Related – Access to what matters now vs. access to everything. 3. Context – well-executed visual design adds credibility and elicits trust.

Extending the gaming experience to conventional UIs (John Ferrara, bio) [Slides (6 MB PDF)] – Game characteristics include: static objectives, environmental constraints, formal constraints, interface-based arbitration. Games are compelling because: operant conditioning (rewards and punishments), currencies, joy of interactivity, audio/visual sophistication. Games can solve real problems (e.g., Google Image Labeler, Yahoo! Answers). Game patterns: 1. Physical presence of the user. 2. Temporal motion. 3. Adaptive experiences. 4. Uncertainty. 5. Micro/macro readings (show details and context). 6. Health bars. 7. Tutorial levels. 8. Collaboration.

Panel: Practical prototyping (Todd Zaki Warfel, bio; Chris Conley, bio; Anders Ramsay, bio; Jed Wood, bio) – Less important the specific tool and more important to get something out quickly for the conversation. Start with paper prototyping. Then you might want something higher fidelity to show behavior, interactions. Use prototypes to explore alternatives, not to get it right. Build 3-5 things that are as different as you can. You make decisions based on how you feel or experience it, which is what you are trying to design. Prototype to brainstorm vs. prototype for final. Requirements writing is broken. corrupt and fundamentally flawed. Have prototypes delivered with requirements hand-in-hand.

Web site maturity cycles (Vera Rhoads, bio) [Slides] – Web sites can be evaluated using a defined measurable life cycle (similar to capability maturity methodology): Level 1: web presence and established information delivery, Level 2: information processing, Level 3: knowledge creation, Level 4: business value clearly identified and derived, Level 5: true excellence through an integrated, personalized, and collaborative environment. Company Categorizations: size, business model, web property existence, precedence, strategic prioritization, sufficient funding.

Audiences & artifacts (Nathan Curtis, bio) [Slides] – Our documentation needs to be design and user-centered just like the resulting products that we help create. We need to map the right artifact to the right audience. Deliverable life cycle: 1. preparation, 2. concepts, 3. variations, 4. details. Try to be more structured, focused, predictable, prepared, investigative, mechanized. Collaborate on deliverables, Formalize deliverables, automate deliverables.

Designing with patterns in the real world: Lessons from Yahoo! And Comcast (Christian Crumlish, bio; Austin Govella, bio) [Slides] – Do design patterns stifle innovation? No. 1. Avoid reinventing the wheel. 2. Promote a familiar user experience for customers. 3. Free up designers to do innovative leading-edge work. The Essence of the Pattern – 1. Problem (what does the user want?). 2. Solution (How to meet the user’s needs). 3. Context (When to use it). 4. Examples (pictures, links). Link to related specs and documentation. How to contribute: 1. Check the library, 2. Give feedback, 3. Suggest a pattern, 4. Help write or review a pattern. Rating the Patterns – levels of 1. working solution, 2. best practice, 3. The Yahoo! way. Keep patterns fresh.

Data driven design research personas (Todd Zaki Warfel, bio) [Slides] – Personas make sure that design matches user and business goals. Personas communicate: knowledge, activities, interests, influencers, (what would influence you to use the system or prevent you from using it) goals, and pain points. Todd feels that the “Persona DNA” is the most important aspect of the persona (see slide 27).

Checking the feel of your UI with an interaction audit (Peter Stahl, bio; Josh Damon Williams, bio) [Slides] – Recommendations: 1. Affordances – consistent visual cues that an interaction is being offered (e.g., click link inconsistencies). 2. Tasks – consistent path to accomplish an immediate goal (e.g., filter inconsistencies). 3. Data object – representation of a data record or other piece of data (e.g., inconsistencies in representing eBay members). Interaction Goals – 1. low learning curve 2. consistent cues for actions 3. predictable behavior of affordances 4. instant recognition of interface elements 5. allow (eBay) member content to shine. Create interaction audit teams to check for consistent interactions (e.g., Clickers, Submitters).

Tags: [, , ]