Feb 06, 2009

Notes from Interaction '09

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The trip to Vancouver began on Wednesday evening by running into Ian Swinson, ex-Process 39 (Maria connection), ex-Oracle/Peoplesoft (Tanya connection), current Salesforce, Lead UI Designer. Off the plane, Ian, Tanya, Peter (also of Salesforce lore) and I naturally go drink beer and find that we shared a love of punk. He will be leading a lightening round session tomorrow morning: "Postcard Patterns: An Agile UI Pattern Creation Process." I can't go, I really need to attend the "Visual Complexity: A Visual Exploration on Mapping Complex Networks." I'm sure Josh or Tanya will attend Ian's, since we are, after all, in an agile world.

I spent yesterday morning plodding through various downtown neighborhoods, getting my bearing since I am apparently the only person at IxDA with a non-touchscreen Blackberry and have no access to Google Maps. While I admit I am holding out on getting an iPhone out of spite because its so expensive AND that everyone in San Francisco owns one, the fact I ended up in the equivalent of the Tenderloin (but worse, far worse) makes me think I may need to bite the bullet. But I should probably get the Palm (gasp!) so we have some other device to QA work against. And who would have thought there was a yuckier version of the Tenderloin in Vancouver?? By the way, I heart the Tenderloin.

Behind Gastown

Behind Gastown

Noteworthy find: I also accidentally stumbled upon a John Fleuvog's having a 70% off sale in Gastown. Score.

After lunch of smoked salmon and risotto soup, I attended Dan Saffer's and and Bill DeRouchey's workshop "Designing for Touch Screens and Interactive Gestures." (I'm happy that there is no [:] colon separating a multiple-sentence title.) It was very hands-on, as I expected, and I also came away with a basic list of to-do's and don't-do's, which for a pure web designer like myself, was a simple but necessary list. It honestly was what I was hoping for, simple tactical and practical strategic rules for thinking about touch screen interactions that we never encounter as web designers. Dan and Bill delivered this rule-set through describing time-tested methods and good anecdotes that gave context to those rules (never underestimate the power of a good story).

Each set of folks at each table became the team for the hands-on activity, which was to create a new music listening experience that would be immersive and large enough to encompass one or more human beings in the space. Our table had some great ideas, but some broke the rules of touch screen; some we couldn't come to a strategic consensus as a group; some just weren't addressing the challenge. Once we had a working idea, we had to paper-prototype it. That was ridiclously difficult compared to prototyping a web screen on paper. Or at least our group made it difficult, I'm not sure. Meaning: we weren't all on the same page for different inputs and components, we were neglecting to patternize gestures in the interface, we weren't remembering key rules for good UX (offer help!), and some of us (me) were getting far too mired in technical details rather than simply creating a good concept.

We user tested it with a participant from a different group and had a chance to improve the design in the second exercise. Thank Dan and Bill for not making us test the second round! We were already somewhat deflated by the mediocre success (or lackthereof) of the first round. But by corporating the feedback and learning other thinking processes of how to engage people with products and interfaces (attraction, observation, interaction) and addressing engagement at all of these points, not simpy at the moment where a person would interact with the product, we made some really good improvements.

That night I had dinner with a group including Dan who told me that everytime he teaches this workshop, at least one group comes up with the same idea my group did. Jeez, dagger.

Decapitated salmon at the public market on Granville Island

Decapitated salmon at the public market on Granville Island

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Josh Damon Williams's picture

I'm looking forward to Mikkel Michelsen's presentation on mission critical design solutions. When designs fail, money isn't the worst thing that can be lost.

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