I got a chance to attend Webvisions Chicago which was held from September 25-26, 2014 at the Siskel Film Center. According to their website, “WebVisions is an internationally-recognized conference that explores the future of Web and mobile design, technology, user experience and digital media.”. If you ask me I thought it was a decent conference in terms shear size and content. Owing to smaller size I could interact with the speakers and also network effectively. I would directly like to jump into the talks and the highlights that I thought were relevant.
The conference started with panel discussion by some experts in smart cities and data driven design. The panel talked about how a large number of people are still inaccessible to technology. A quick internet search gave me that 30% of population in USA is still lacking broadband connectivity. Tim Berners-Lee built internet for everyone but it is still lacking many groups of people. By not bringing these people closer to technology we are loosing brilliant ideas that would come out of these people because every person is creative. The panel concluded by discussing that 3D printers need more exposure because of its capabilities in rapid prototyping thus people would get a chance to try building things. Adam Harrell from Nebo gave an amazing talk on changing behavior by Design. He touched many great parallels on how humans are very similar to a buggy operating system and not necessarily run on logic on many instances. He shared 7 tips to design for behavior change, I have listed them below:
Craft message to fit person’s existing worldview.
Offer motivation matched to difficulty of task.
Utilize reciprocity, commitment, social proof & scarcity to increase motivation.
Make sure your triggers are noticeable, concrete & timely.
If you can’t change the actual experience change the perception of the experience.
Engineer variable rewards to build habits.
Build feedback loops to encourage repetition over time & make behaviors automatic.
I got a chance to talk with him and got his presentation and notes. Check it out here its awesome.
Meg Williams from Paypal, talked about how and why their company adopted lean UX strategy. Being Roller Derby coach she showed how lean approach in both Roller Derby and her work was giving better results. She stressed on the importance of work space and how it plays an important role in cross functional collaboration. It might be hard to adopt lean strategy but as Frank Roosevelt put “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”, similarly if you want to be effective you got to put in the efforts. Meg also touched few more tenets which helped her to ship more in less time and those were:
1. Make “Our Space” better than “My Space”
2. Keep a Toolbox handy to tackle roadblocks
3. Keep documentation transparent between teams
4. At intervals clearly define what you want to stop doing, keep doing and start doing. She called it start/stop/continue method.
5. Redefine success after every sprints because situations change.
If you search online there are hundreds of articles and books on lean UX, if you want to get better understanding.
The current landscape of digital things is constantly changing it brings together people from various cultures, nationalities and groups. It becomes challenging to express our ideas without creating design fluency. J. Cornelius from ninelabs gave a very insightful talk on “Digital Fluency and User Experience”. We have to understand that when we are creating digital experiences we are communicating ideas across broad group of people and design acts as a digital pidgin which facilitates this communication. Our design should be predictable, discoverable, learnable, simple, efficient and memorable. When we learn few things we forget how it used to be when we didn’t knew those. We fail to empathize with less knowledgeable people. Cornelius put it “Our knowledge has cursed us”. He gave an example about how we don’t remember times when we were learning to walk in our infancy. He pointed that aesthetically pleasing things are more likely to be be considered true. The usage of color, fonts, alignments matter when you want to sound authentic. At the end of the talk he presented a behavior loop of users, which is shown below. Users go through this loop continuously while doing any task be it buying an item online or wearing it for first time. EVALUATION >EXPECTATION > PROXIMITY > AWARENESS > CONNECTION > ACTION > RESPONSE > EVALUATION >…
Paul McAleer, UX strategist from Centralis, in his talk he took through his process of looking himself as a product and applying the design process to get better at living. It was an interesting to see how he found various challenges in this process as he was his stakeholder and designer. One of the slides talked about how not doing anything is also a design choice. To define your vision a thorough affinity wall diagram would let everything in your mind out. Group things together to derive a true intention. Your intentions should be enduring, flexible and communicate personal values.
Align your goals with your intentions and align your actions with your goals. Break down things in small and visible actionable items. Use tools that work for you. I personally have tried various kinds of tools to manage my life and have only found out that if its too complex I would give up very fast. I was following Mindmapping tool called Mindmeister and listing tool called Kanbanery as described in this quora post but it happens that I can’t keep up with it. For now I am back to google tasks its easy and being integrated with calendar helps. Paul ended his talk with pointing out the importance of feedback from your stakeholders, be it your spouse, siblings, your parents but constant feedback is important to guide you. There is no doubt that future would be more connected, smart things around us would be talking to each other and creating a real immersive experience. Stephanie Sansoucie from Kohl’s touched many aspects of omnichannel immersive experiences. She talked about the current VR technology and how the future would look with them. Especially applications of 3D printing and VR in medical areas becomes interesting which often doesn’t come to mind. Samsung’s Gear VR is definitely something to check out if you are a VR fan. With 3D printers we could be able to produce locally without the need to transportation and once we master printing conducting materials we could even be printing digital devices in our very homes. While iBeacon is reaching out in spaces we can expect more communication happening between devices and experiences getting personal. Coupling big data with smart algorithms and AI, we would be able to build a mechanism for insight generation. In terms of designing experiences we are challenged to think comprehensively and inclusive of communicating devices and context. Users safety, well being, and privacy are major concerns in the current scenarios and should be given active consideration. We should all be evaluating emerging technologies on individual level form our own judgement. Our businesses should make efforts to bring teams together to bring cohesive experience to users.
One of the interesting presentation was about UX anti-patterns given by Michael Boeke from Braintree. From numerous examples of UX fails, we can conclude that every app has different context of use and indiscriminate usage of UX patterns results in massive design breakdowns. It becomes imperative to reassess the complete experience as beneficial changes might become unintended problems. Working across devices, UX patterns should be well thought before direct implementation. For example, modals on desktop experience becomes “Door Slam” on smartphones.
Example of “Door Slam”
With ever increasing phone sizes puts emphasis on how we are transforming mobile interfaces. Physical limitation and ergonomics, needs to be central when we look at content architecture on phones.
Studies has shown, almost 50%of time people are using thumb to use their smartphone and from the above map we can see how current placement of menu items becomes extremely inaccessible to use. This just goes to show how old UX patterns becomes unintended breakdowns to newer contexts.
Adam Connor’s presentation on characteristics of productive and creative organizations touched very basics of cross functional collaboration. I’ve listed down some of these below:
1. Everyone(Business, Design and Development) in the organization is responsible for user’s experience hence part of the creative process.
2. Person managing organizations or a product should have experience in each process of the production.
3. Design and Development should work in tandem over the continuum of fidelity and be engaged accordingly with their expertise making the space for visualizing and exploring new ideas
4. Keep observing, learning and creating, cycle going for a project.
5. Staff for products rather than projects
6. Also, look for behavior and personality of a person to perform in a team and not just the skills.
These guiding principles may seem difficult to achieve in your organization but it is not impossible and would definitely bring better results.
There were many other great things that were discussed during the conference but I have tried to keep it as short as possible for my first ever post on a conference. If you attended any other similar talks and would like to share with the reader please, comment and let me know.
Also, I would really appreciate any feedback on my post. Thanks for your time.
I understand that fear campaigns do play important role in improving contribution but there are certain set of contributors that aren’t motivated by fear of loss but by a sense of personal responsibility. The recent SOPA and Wikipedia funding campaigns have many contributors that are driven to contribute to petition and funding by the sense of responsibility. These set of people are aroused by the plea put forth by websites and feel that they should stand in wake of crisis. I have seen people posting statuses like “Donated X amount to wikipedia, feels great”, These people take pride in helping their favourite websites and eventually pacify their consciences.
Richness of any online community lies in its quality and quantity of its content. More the contributors, more is the growth of the community. For the growth of online communities like wikipedia there is a demand of new contributors. Publishing a content on wikipedia requires a sense of confidence in its author. Effective communication of the content is one of the major barrier posed in front of new contributors. It takes a lot of effort and patience for the first time contributors to write or edit any article for wikipedia in comparison to other crowd sourcing communities. The effort lessens as the author gets more experienced in publishing articles on wikipedia. As the author passes this learning curve, the quality of content also get more enhanced.
It is highly possible that article edited by first timer gets reverted. Reverting article has a very discouraging effect on the author. The datasets provided in the paper proves how the reinforcement of reverts affect the number of newcomers in community. To achieve a perfect balance between the “generating quality data” and “improving participation”, I can imagine a constructive reverting system. In which the reverted edits can be on “hold” mode and this should be notified to the editors that their edits needs reconsideration. If further changes on the edits help it to qualify, it will certainly help to boost the editor’s confidence and they will contribute more.
This system can help the weak first time contributors to improve in a more supportive way. They will feel that their work even if not implemented is valued by wikipedia. If given an extra chance by reconsidering would drive them to get better. Knowing that their edits would get qualified with extra effort, these contributors will try their best to make their effort worthy.
Tim O’ Reilly in his article titled “State of the internet operating system” has provided in-depth understanding of how major players of the internet technologies function to maintain their dominance, eventually creating a consolidated system fostering development of the internet itself.
The one detail I wanted to be noted before reflecting on this article is that both of them are written approximately 2 years back. In the internet scenario 2 years of time is very long to have major role shifts, rises and falls of companies. Though the majors like google, microsoft, apple, etc are sufficiently stable in their position.
Here I would like to focus on how collaboration between companies is a win for the general user.
The article mentions how different internet giants, constantly strive to reach newer frontiers of internet and try to create their own ecosystem to monetize it. In this process there are lot of mergers and acquisitions, but each company wants its own ecosystem to grow distinctly and that doesn’t benefit the user in choosing different products. All of the big companies have their own expertise and to attempt to create a seamless experience for the users with their own family of products. I think that collaboration of these companies is very important. Because many times users do feel customization issues and managing this incompatibilities becomes a big hindrance to the complete user experience. For example if I like to use windows system but i am also fan of Iphone, then there are several issues created which degrade the experience. Why the user has to pick sides everytime?
The last day I had a chance to explore the new windows 8 and I have to say that the approach of microsoft for defining the new OS is overtly biased towards cloud computing. This move by microsoft reinforces the cloud computing future and it will surely free the user to an extent where he can customise his own experience with different products but if products remain incompatible with different OS, the experience of cloud won’t be to its full potential.
Even before the SOPA and PIPA, many giants like Microsoft, Adobe knew about the extent of piracy and their attitude had been very casual. They have the complete demographics of piracy and it is estimated that total loss because of software piracy is about $50.1B. Most of the online piracy is accounted by developing economies like Russia, Brazil, China, India, etc. So why are companies, not doing much about it. The answer to this is creatively put by Microsoft exec Jeff Raikes,
“In the long run the fundamental asset is the installed base of people who are using our products. What you hope to do over time is convert them to licensing the software (Mondok 2007).”
In emerging economies pirated softwares become the installed base, and then it acts as a reference to licensing products. This business model is very successful to microsoft, which captures almost 90% of market share in Operating systems. Adobe also has a strategic business model by which it retains its position by having a pro-piracy attitude. It helps to maintain adobe tools as standards in the market and also shifts the training cost to more informal sectors such as homes, schools, colleges, etc. When asked about piracy concerns, Bill Gates have often echoed that, “If people are going to steal something, we sure as hell want them to steal our stuff ”. This reinforces the facts about the business model adopted by Microsoft.
My personal voice about the whole piracy issue is that many economies are still trying to enter into industrial age but with the help of internet technologies and policy makers, we can cheat them directly into digital age. How can you expect the people in these economies buy softwares which are worth half of their annual incomes, If not then how many years it will take for these people to actually enter the digital age. I have seen efforts from many companies to make their softwares available to low income groups at cheap prices. As the piracy laws in developing economies get stricter there is a threat to their development. I want this fact to be acknowledged by the policy makers and delicately draw a line between piracy and development.
In data visualisation, we transform huge datasets into more usable data chunks, reducing the cognitive load on the user. It helps the user to understand the magnitude of implications caused by data sets in a more subtle manner. Data visualization is one the favorite topics of HCI, and in the past I have always tried to make it an important part of any activity I do.
I would want to talk here about one of my favorite data visualization websites, the “Google Public Data Explorer”. http://www.google.com/publicdata/directory
It uses the google chart API with publicly available datasets. It has some excellent dynamic data visualization techniques based on timeline. Adding extra dimension of timeline facilitate us to have insights on trends and projections of a dataset. Having numerous customizing filters available, users can create various permutation of data visualizations. Organizations can upload its dataset using open source XML- based metadata format. The website has large datasets from organisations such as the world bank, OECD, U.S. Census Bureau, etc. making tremendous amount of data available at one place.
As the amount of data grows with each passing year it becomes challenging to analyse them without simplification.I believe that, in future huge datasets will be interpreted only with appropriate data visualisations attached to them. It can be imagined that certain data visualization techniques will be standardized for different data sets, which will make the data understandable to broad range of audience. Google’s effort to create universal data format for visualization in their Public Data Explorer emphasises the use of data visualization.