Midwest UX Conference 2011 (#midwestUX) a Review

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This weekend I spent at the AEP building in downtown Columbus, OH with a couple hundred of my closest user experience (UX) design friends at the Midwest UX Conference. We laughed we cried we bonded, but really I wanted to include here for your reading pleasure several highlights which I think will in the coming months and years prove themselves trends that will affect the direction of UX design and design at large.

Jessie James Garrett (@jjg) capped it all off by proposing a cannon for what UX design is. You’ll have to check out his full presentation for your self, but what I heard was that UX has evolved into a medium agnostic practice focused on analyzing, synthesizing, and ultimately orchestrating the perception, action, cognition, and emotion of people who engage in subjective, ephemeral, and intangible experiences. He explained UX design as learning to play the music between the notes while accounting for people’s capabilities, constrains, and context. When asked about how to play between the notes, he said that’s what he’s planning to work on for the next 20 years.

Lis Hubert (@lishubert) dropped a metaphoric bomb in her talk on discovery and planning as it relates to the agile process when she showed an image of bottling assembly line. Her point was that the bottle, the label, and whatever tasty beverage is to be bottled all have to be completed before the bottling line can get started. Her analogy had to do with how the agile development methodology has enabled information technology development teams to create extraordinarily efficient coding assembly lines, but too often the pieces and even the idea that are supposed to be assembled are poorly defined when the line gets started. As a result what is produced is vastly ineffective. Upfront UX discovery and planning, taking time to refine an idea and the pieces of that idea before starting the coding assembly line, was her proposal for how to solve the problem. Thanks Lis for the metaphor. I will be using it.

Jay Morgan (@jayamorgan) described how UX design can help business solve their problems. He had some really interesting diagrams for mapping future, current, and past projects to show how upfront discovery cycles directly correlate with business success and synthesize standards, projects, and innovation. He also showed how to describe the importance of lessons learned and visioning communication. He clearly has been thinking about how to get important design concepts in front of business decision makers in a way that makes sure everybody makes good decisions together.

Dan Willis  (@uxcrank) started us off Sunday morning by telling us control in design is an illusion. Let your user hold the reigns. People’s trust is paper-thin. The least that can be done is provide them experiences they want. People are like sheep, but we’ll do will to engage in conversation with them rather than try to herd them. Superficial interaction is sometimes all there is. Don’t try so hard. Runaway technology is a myth. There have always been advancements that have astounded people. And finally design is problem solving. Be holistic. Don’t be defensive, and don’t muddle it up with a lot of adjectives. Just do good work. Work with people.

Marc Rettig (@mrettig) had some interesting thoughts on empathetic design and leveling down with people to discover the real essence of their need.

Heidi Munc (@heidimunc) & Derren Hermann (@derrenh) presented on creating “walls of knowledge” as a means of getting the discovery process started and getting knowns, unknowns, priorities, etc out in front of you and everybody else. I have bias here because I work with both of them and do walls of knowledge … I love this stuff.

Jarred Spool (@jmspool) drove home the importance of good links and making sure the sent of what lies behind a link is apparent before a user clicks.

Check here for more #midwestUX presentations as they become available on slideshare and are tweeted about.

One Response to “Midwest UX Conference 2011 (#midwestUX) a Review”

  1. Lis Hubert

    Thanks for writing this! Yes please do use the metaphor… I’m glad that it made sense (and wasn’t just a beer ramble). Good luck!


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