SXSWi 2010- Seven panels I wish I went to but didn’t (and one I did)

Category : Code, Design, Geek-out, Ramblings, UX · (2) Comments · by Apr 3rd, 2010


What one word would I use to describe 2010’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival? Overwhelming. In the seven years that I have attended, never was it harder to physically- or even mentally- get into the daily panels and talks. A good chunk of the time I would arrive at a panel and it would be full to capacity, other times I would have the foresight to go to a panel early, but then be completely bored with the outcome. By the last day of the festival, I had come to the conclusion that maybe the panels just weren’t worth going to anymore.

Or maybe I chose to go to the wrong ones.

Now that several presentations have made their way to SlideShare, I’m pretty sure it was the latter. Here are 7 presentations I would have loved to have seen, as well as 1 that I did:

11th hour copy. Fix-it-later launches. Our users deserve more than the last-minute content we often get stuck with. And you have the power to change the game. Learn how to introduce (and sell) content strategy into your web design process.

Content strategy is starting to become an obsession of mine; What better way to encourage a client to get on the ball with their content than by presenting them with a strategy for it? Kristina Halvorson recently published a book on this very topic, a book that is on my short list right now. Had I known she was speaking, I likely would have made an effort to catch this one…

Designing a comprehensive user experience without thinking about body copy, calls to action, errors, and nomenclature? Think again–about content strategy. If you’re an IA, designer, search marketer, or strategist, content strategy can help you understand clients’ needs, articulate an approach, and align with a brand-driven, user-centered message architecture.

This one in particular addresses how content strategy fits in with UX. Maybe I need a panel that tells how to convince the client to pay for it…

User experience is the result of your interactions with a product or service, specifically how it’s delivered and its related artifacts according to the design. In this presentation we will explain how following the ten commandments can boost your project’s ease of use, appeal, conversion rates, and more.

I’ve long been a fan of Nick Finck, and this is an extended version of his original ‘7 Commandments of User Experience’ with a little help from Raina Van Cleave. I blew it off because I had seen the original, but after looking through the slides of this new one I wish I hadn’t.

In the world of user experience, learning about your customers is key to making great stuff. But design research reports are dense and boring. Unlock the power of sketching and pen and paper tools to create research outputs that are vibrant, sticky and that reflect personality, human perspective and that move seamlessly into design.

Ok, how the hell did I miss an Adaptive Path speaker? I hope next year’s guides and iPhone app display the speaker and affiliation, information that was glaringly omitted this year. Sigh.

So you’ve designed a great product, fixed a stack of usability problems and spent a fortune on marketing. The only problem is, people aren’t using it. In this session you will learn how to get your users to do what you want them to through good design, human psychology and a touch of mind control.

Another speaker whose work I have long admired. Andy did a real good job of making these slides make sense without him speaking.

The term ‘user experience’ used to be an afterthought in mobile application design. The iPhone changed all that and has set a new benchmark for user experience on mobile devices. This panel will serve as a primer for anyone interested in learning how to apply UX principles to the creation of applications for iPhone, Android, and mobile websites.

The actual panel was UX of Mobile. Specifically, this presentation is from the Razorfish panelist, Kyle Outlaw. Based on these slides, I would have loved to have heard from all four of them, but sadly this is was the first and most poignant attempt at getting into a panel that was too full once I got there.

Tapworthy apps cope with small screens and fleeting user attention to make every pixel count, every tap rewarding. Learn to: Focus your feature set and simplify your interface; use iPhone gestures and controls the Apple way; forge ahead with your own custom views; and craft efficient but personality-packed visuals. Look over the shoulders of the best developers with real-life examples that follow app designs from early sketches to finished product.

Thumbing through the slides, this one starts off like every other beginning iPhone design treatise I’ve ever read. And then the screen that said simply “You’re designing a physical device” came up and a little lightbulb went off in my head. Continued worthiness follows.

And finally:

Projects fall apart. We often blame the client, the politics and the personalities. But when it happens, there is a tremendous opportunity to grow as a professional and as a person. Candidly recounting past catastrophes, the panelists explore the emotional experience of project implosion and the silver lining that emerges.

This panel was one of the truly great ones I actually DID attend this year. Watching and listening to the folks from Happy Cog and elsewhere talk about some of their nightmare moments was very encouraging- we all f*ck up, after all. I just wish the format of the whole thing had been modeled after the roleplaying game they got the crowd involved with midway through.

As more presentations pop up on SlideShare, I am sure to find many more that, for one reason or another, I totally spaced on. I’ve already heard of a few that had me curious but ultimately blew off, such as My Three-Year Old Is My Usability Expert, which reading about now strikes me as a no-brainer. In past years, it was never a problem, as I would just jump over to another room, discovering hidden gold more often than not. That’s just not possible with the deluge of attendees SXSWi garners these days, self-scheduling requires precision and care, and more than a little luck.

There’s always next year…

Mad Libs aren’t all fun and games anymore.

Category : Ramblings, UX · No Comments · by Feb 27th, 2010

Forget for a moment that  haven’t posted to this blog for nearly four months.  Forget that I have a post that is clearly labeled ‘part one’ and starts a conversation and never finishes. At this point, I’m not even going to offer excuses, regardless of how valid they are.  Let’s just dive into something groovy, k?

A couple of days ago this started popping up everywhere and got a lot of people excited- me included. Put simply, Luke Wroblewski (author of one of the only books out there about creating good online form design- Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks) with a little help from Ron Kurti and did a little A/B testing with the following two form designs:

The result?

In’s testing, Mad Libs style forms increased conversion across the board by 25-40%.

That’s pretty damn amazing. Obviously, this isn’t an approach that we can just rubberstamp across every web form from here to eternity, but it’s nice to have a case study for when the opportunity presents itself. I’m considering a few tests of my own.

IS ’09 Presentation: Intro to UX

Category : Ramblings · No Comments · by Oct 22nd, 2009

Last month I spoke at Interactive Strategies ’09, an annual event held by the Houston Interactive Marketing Association. Having gone the previous year, I was struck by how incredibly lopsided the panel line-up was: all anyone wanted to talk about was social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of social media and tweet and facebook with the best of ’em, but it really seemed to me that very few of these people really had anything interesting to say. Everybody seemed very enamored of the idea of social media, but most of them just didn’t get it at all (even some of the speakers). The other thing that perturbed me was the dearth of panels for creatives or user experience professionals. In fact, the one thing that I came out of last year’s conference with was a strong motivation to rectify the situation myself. Heh.

Fast forward to this year’s conference and my presentation: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love My Audience- An Intro to UX.

As speaking gigs go, well, let’s just say I’m glad I got my first one over with. How did I fare in staving off the droves who just wanted to talk about talking? I’m thinking my impact was minimal, but watching my colleague David Saxe burst that particular bubble during his session made me feel a little better.