UX Week

UX Week 2011: First Impressions

From UX Week 2011

I have high expectations of UX Week as I chose to attend particular UX – user experience event/conference (from a selection of many) based on recommendations from people. But, I think I tried to compare it too much to Interactions (an IxD conference), which seems to have more of a practical focus, and also more my area of interest.

So far, UX Week feels more like TED talks for smart UX people, which I am not. Some of the demos, like the ones by 18 year olds blew me away (in a good way) – companies should be hiring these students! At times, it also felt like Adaptive Path case studies or success stories instead of impartial talks. It’s more like going to university than college: you don’t get practical hands-on experience unless you attend the workshops; instead, the talks are rather abstract and somehow you manage to extract principles around the various topics on politics, biology (genetics), business (economics), and mathematics (statistics, algorithms, geometry). And, like school, you see and meet new faces and hope to make friends in your classes/program – some people know each other from before, or are attending together, but others are like me, attending for the first time and the only one representing their company.

Nice touches: moleskin notebooks to jot down interesting notes and pre-washed alumnimum water bottles to make sure you’re hydrated throughout the conference. And, they take you to field trips: to the club and to the California Academy of Sciences Night Life, not to mentioned sponsored lunches (although some food ran out by the time I got to the front of the line), and drinks (alcholic and non-alcoholic).

From UX Week 2011

Some common themes or interesting intepreted comments that seemed to surface from the assortment of speakers today:

  • The use of video in experience design, whether as demostrative, to educate, or for pleasure
    • One talk suggested the use of the Kinect and the TV as a digital canvas for painting, but I would argue that it’s not the same as the tactical feel of painting and the texture is very important in art and painting
    • People arrange their living spaces, especially the living room, around the TV (us? it’s around the piano now, and the TV is secondary) but the TV is still primarily a passive, consumption medium
    • The integration of social content and media can enhance and deliver a richer experience (like the demo of 1dollair from CCA)
  • Advertising is romanticizing ideals (or ideal purpose of product) – Jaron Lanier
    • Good point. How many times do we see a car commercial that says something along the lines of stunt driver, closed circuit, do not attempt at home? Or the commercials with perfect models and scenic landscapes…
  • “Feedback is a gift” – Todd Walthall
    • His company moved from mail/phone interaction to digital contacts 10:1; and his background in call support, just makes it so much more relevant to what we do
    • “Experience design is a competitive advantage”
    • The strengths and opportunities at their company echoed some of ours
  • Sometimes, the story behind the story (product) is just as important – Chad Jennings
    • People like stories, a narrative can often evoke emotions or a connection (to the author in this case) that a product otherwise can’t
    • Also: limiting choice can often help make decisions smoother – reminded me of the illustration with the supermarket samples where one table had more samples but one had less. The one with more samples had more visits, but ironically enough, the one with less resulted in more purchases. I guess that’s why sometimes restaurants with a larger menu choice seems to be a bit more overwhelming than one with only a few choices (less broad, more specialty)
  • More buys/adds doesn’t mean that it is good in the long run (blockbuster mentality or twitter followers)
  • We’re not always aware of why we do things –  we may rationalize differently when asked – Steven Pemberton
    • I have seen this in user research. When you observe someone attempt a task, sometimes they are not consciously aware of what they are doing until you ask them about it, and the reason they give you may not necessarily match.
  • Connect people with different skills and perspectives: not 1D-thinking. By avoiding illectual uniformity, which kills critical thinking, you foster complementary collaborators and richer ideas. You may not even like them, but that’s even better – Chris van der Halt and PJ Onori
  • “Subtlety is the key to everything…if it feels right, tone it down a notch” – Adam Lisagor
  • If a new user hits a barrier and doesn’t engage within 7 days after first use (excluding login sign up), they likely won’t come back – Mark Trammell for Twitter
    • Why? Some did not understand or see the value or the experience/product did not map to their expectations
    • Why do some re-engage? The perception of value evolved the more they used it: what brought them here may not have been the same as what kept them here.
    • One thing they did was to add a step in their sign-up flow preparing for a drop in completion but to allow more connections, but instead an increase in complete resulted, and more people were engaged (29%!)
    • Sometimes, tweaking the text can change the semantics and increase the perceived value
    • 1 problem may actually be a subset of problems
    • These insights can definitely apply in my work as we also have those that sign-up but never return
  • Sometimes accidents result in new experiences (e.g. Edison’s turn table: dictation machine, not for DJs) – DJ Spooky/Paul Miller
  • Lastly, Airbnb and Quora must be a San Francisco-based company (or nearby), because I have heard it mentioned more than once! (And to think that I’ve only heard of Airbnb within the last 3 months)

And that’s it for Day One!

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