Several folks on Emma’s UX team — Geoff, Trey and Jairo (who are based in Nashville) and Jenny and Benjamin (who call Portland home) — attended WebVisions, a conference that explores web design, technology, user experience and business strategy, in Portland from May 25 – 27. They saw the future of the web, connected with UX experts in town and even played with some robots. Here, they take time to share their experience.
WebVisions 2011 had a lot to offer its attendees this year. With various topics ranging from Designing for Mobile to Deep Dive into HTML 5, the conference appealed to new and experienced UXers alike. I attended Designing for Touch and Mobile UX Essentials, which gave great insight into the direction of the mobile market. Touch-screen devices are changing the way user interface designers and application developers think about UI; and the possibilities for newer techniques and processes are wide, as more and more people access the internet through their mobile devices. Other topics covered were best practices for user interface, use of GUI (graphic user interface) versus NUI (natural user interface), gestures and the use of visual metaphors to create familiarity and invite touch.
I also enjoyed some seminars on the right way to wireframe (hint: there is no one right way), developing web apps for display on television (use of media queries and css techniques), user experience on an emotional and perceptual level (making a connection with users and understanding user behaviors), the use of stories (you know … telling a story is vastly important) and progressive enhancement.
Connect with Jairo on Twitter: @jairoglyph
For a UX newbie, WebVisions was great because it had big picture inspiration and nitty gritty tips. Leah Buley lead a great workshop with the modest goal of UX World Domination. The gist is that UX is good, the world needs more of it, and you/we/me can make that happen, as long as we keep in mind that user experience is about behaviors, not features.
A couple good examples of products with great experiences: Mint and the Weber grill iPhone app. They both focus on making the customers successful at the core, not as an afterthought.
And, did you know that UXers love robots? We had the chance to do rock ‘em sock ‘em fights with bots on little vehicles controlled through Kinect. Despite dominating the match, my robot’s head got knocked off in the end. (I challenge you to a robot duel.)
Accept Jenny’s challenge on Twitter: @unjenny
WebVisions took an interesting look at the current state of interaction design. While the web is at its core, it’s becoming more common to hear about how it pertains to mobile (both web and native apps) than to the desktop. We heard some talk of web design for TV, but that still seems a bit of an oddity (even though the WebTV came out in 1995).
I was glad to dive a bit more into usability testing. This is a fairly mature field that we’re starting to really apply to our UX workflow at Emma. Hearing how other companies do it will help get us adopt some best practices.
Also, it’s always fun to chat with people from our industry, and I got to meet one of my heroes from Panic Software.
Become one of Trey’s heroes. Say hi on Twitter: @trey
WebVisions was a great experience. I particularly enjoyed The Visual Interface is Now Your Brand with Nick Myers. Your brand and the user experience are inextricably linked. Consider the idea of a signature interaction — an experience that immediately evokes your brand, or is very closely tied to your brand in the minds of customers. Apple’s Cover Flow interaction is a good example. When you see a Cover Flow-like interface somewhere other than in an Apple product, it doesn’t feel right. It feels like a rip-off, almost. And there’s a ton of value there. Whenever you see Cover Flow, you’re immediately thinking Apple. However, you have to find the right balance of doing something new and keeping it usable, meaningful and memorable without wandering off into Gimmick Land.
In Mapping the Unknown: Diagramming 21st Century Experiences, Dan Willis talked about how centuries ago, people began to realize that flat maps had become inadequate to describe a larger, rounder world. There are parallels between these flat, incomplete maps and the traditional flow charts, interaction diagrams and the like that described software of the 20th century. Nowadays, products and experiences are not confined to a single device or location, and we need to consider the larger context when “mapping” experiences: They happen across many devices, in real time, while moving from place to place, and they’re decidedly non-linear. Dan introduced the metaphor of an intent path. Imagine a person standing on a beehive-like grid of hexagons, facing forward, with three adjacent hexagons in their sight, each representing a possible path. Think about leaving your house to go buy shoes at the mall; at every juncture, you are presented with many tasks and interfaces, and the experience can play out in many ways. We must keep in mind this larger context while designing user experiences.
Talk UX & more with Benjamin on Twitter: @bvanderveen
If you attended WebVisions, we’d love to hear what you learned. And do tell us if you’re attending any other UX conferences this year.
In the Portland area? Our UX team is hiring! See the job description and apply here.