Midwest UX Conference 2011 (#midwestUX) a Review

Posted by & filed under business, day in the life, design, technology.

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.

Rest, Christmas, Kitchen Tables, and Babies

Posted by & filed under faith, thoughts.

image: reddirtwoman.blogspot.com

image: reddirtwoman.blogspot.com

I am poised. The house is still. Kate and Cohen are off to prepare for sister-in-law Becky’s baby shower. Baby Hudson is nearly here. So, this morning as I sit at our high-top kitchen table, listening to the furnace run, having been told by my own increasingly pregnant wife on her way out the door not to spend my entire morning along cleaning, I wonder what to do next. The Lord seems near this morning which, for those of you who don’t know what that’s like, is like Christmas, knowing there are all sorts of wonderful things prepared for you – presents, food, attention, time, and warmth, and while there are some expectations for how you behave – thanking your aunts and uncles for their gifts, chewing with your mouth closed at the table, and generally being interested in those around you, you know that to participate is really no burden at all and that there are others who have gone to great lengths to ensure that the holiday comes together with some degree of resemblance to expectation. Usually though, there are extra efforts just for the joy of it thrown in just to see what happens, usually exceeding expectation.

So I sit, wondering what activity or non-activity I should conspire in amid this feeling of God / Christmas / destiny. Obviously, I decided to blog in order to chronical and share these moments with you.

I was once told that sometimes the point is to do nothing which I think is silly because we are always, by virtue of the very passing of time, doing something. Besides we are commended to be ever watchful, always praying, always mindful. If we are doing nothing then those things are not being done.

I know, there is a time to rest, even sabbath, and frankly if we don’t take time to rest, it is the entrance to what becomes quite literally hell on earth (see the first section of Hebrews 4 especially verses 10-11 or “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis), but even rest can be either purposeful and effective or lackadaisical and fruitless. Consider, “Your mother told you to go crawl under the covers and take a real nap” verses, “I just watch 6 hours of infomercials, feel worse than I did to being with, and spent $150 on injection molded plastic junk!”

But I digress, rest, Christmas, my high-top kitchen table, babies… I think that was it. Do take time to rest. If you wait long enough you will discover you find you’ve been missing out on Christmas regardless the time of year, what type of kitchen table you have, or if you have a baby on the way.

Encouraged this Mid December

Posted by & filed under business, faith, thoughts.

I’m feeling really good in the way that makes you feel like you should blog. So, here it goes. I can’t explain exactly why I feel so good. I know that it is a matter of the hope that I have in Jesus, the hope that we really are the product of something (or rather someone) bigger than ourselves and bigger than our understanding for that matter. For some the name Jesus represents a political / cultural / religious blight, but for the sake of this post lets consider him the one real person and ideal that actually does represent the solution to all the world’s and our own hurtings, longings, and pains. That said, specifically the reasons in my immediate circumstance through which I see Jesus working are as follows.

I continue to be the recipient of a lot of good will at work. Yesterday I had a very transparent conversation with my boss about my abilities and what assignments they have lined up for me to tackle next. The bad news is that they feel that I’ve yet to reach a point where they are comfortable giving me a project and not having to think about it for the next 6 months. The good news is that they feel their uncertainty may be in part an artifact of my tackling messier projects and often being brought in after a project has started and taken off before the it is complete. At the end of the day the project they have lined up for me sounds like more than I could have hope for in terms of showing myself capable and getting to be a part of the bleeding edge of the industry.

My new home, wife, boy, and life are sweet. I wrote a friend last evening that my life feels like it’s been “turned on its ear,” and while future dreams and hopes have been clouded a bit by some sudden and dramatic shifts. I know that where I had been in life was growing stale, and I would rather be no where else than where I am now. Who unloads the dishwasher, how we manage our finances, how we spend our time, and generally where life’s boundaries are is all in a “re-discovery” mode these days, but I am so excited and hopeful because I, after years of having let go and lost her, now have the girl and the makings of a life that fits in a way I couldn’t have hoped for.

My head and heart are full of dreams. I am a chronic dreamer and fortunately a chronic planner too. For the last ten years I was a committed member of the Vineyard Church of Columbus and have dreamt of living a life that made an impact for … generically … making the world a better place. Today, I have excused myself from the church and am participating in a local congregation in the new married chapter of my life, and the means by which I can participate in this life are becoming clearer. Taking care of my family, contributing professionally, and doing more than allowing the momentum of common everyday life whisk too many of my moments away is becoming fulfilling in a way that most only ever hope could be.

Some things are still too big to share with you just now, but I am excited about what the future holds and hope that tens of hundreds, even thousands, of years from now the impact of having believed Jesus is real, attempted to participate in the good he intends for all humanity, and lived in a way that assumes all that realness and goodness can and will be made tangible and concrete, even in our own time, will have left the world a much better place. That’s probably a little abstract, but if you are willing to pause long enough to understand, I hope you will find yourself very encouraged. – Thanks for reading!