Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bypassing clarity with LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the most successful social media networks and, with its focus on career, it’s a valuable tool for many of us.

I’ve noticed that I receive many requests to connect that contain nothing more than the default message that LinkedIn provides. As a result, I’m not sure why the request has been made. Generally, that’s not a huge problem if it’s someone I know. When it’s someone I’ve never met and don’t know, though, it can make it hard for me to accept the request and I often don’t.

There’s at least one reason for those default requests that is addressable by LinkedIn. When accessed from some places, the workflow for making a connection request includes an opportunity for the requestor to include a custom message.  It could be something like “Hey, great to see you at uxWaterloo last week. Let’s stay in touch about that Fluxible conference!”, which is actually pretty helpful for me. In other places, though, the workflow doesn’t provide that opportunity, which means that the default message is what appears in the request. This feels like a design gap to me. LinkedIn should ensure that it’s always an option for requestors to provide a custom message.

And if you’re using LinkedIn, take advantage of the opportunity to provide a little context and to explain why you want to connect!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Precise imperfection in the Yahoo Weather app

Yahoo Weather app screen example
The Yahoo Weather app has been widely, and deservedly, praised as an example of a beautifully conceived and executed native app. I agree with those assessments, and use it on my iPhone most days to try to understand how many facets of Canada’s weather I might expect to experience in the coming hours and days.

There’s one detail, though, that stands out as gratingly wrong for me. It’s such a small detail that to point it our seems petty, but in an app that otherwise is of such high quality this tiny detail stands out.

While I can configure the app to use metric measurements for temperatures and wind speeds, it uses a mix of imperial and metric in the text summary of the forecast. The imperial measurements are shown first, with a precisely calculated metric equivalent shown in parentheses. In the example shown here, that makes for an awkwardly presented result of “High around 35ºF (1.7ºC)”. Wind speed presentation is similarly awkward.

The word “around” shouldn’t be followed by such a precise measurement. Beyond that, the text summary should just show me the metric measurements if that’s what I’ve configured.

On an unrelated note, I’m looking forward to seeing some warmer temperatures showing up in the app…

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Craft beer and improvised music in Uptown Waterloo

Joe Sorbara
Last Friday I enjoyed an evening of craft beer and improvised music, a combination that’s perfect for me.

I started by meeting my friend David for a quick beer at Abe Erb, the brew pub that opened in Uptown Waterloo this past fall. I love the atmosphere, with its distinctive and local style that feels just right. I also love the selection of beers, with an emphasis on their own fine offerings but augmented with beers from other Ontario craft breweries. Lovely!

Next, David and I walked over to the Button Factory for a NUMUS concert featuring three terrific improvising musicians. The event was a part of their Mix Series, which focuses on “improvisational music and emerging artists”.

Kathryn Ladano, who has also performed at each edition of Fluxible, started the night off with a set of explorations on bass clarinet. Next was Alison Cameron performing on a variety of digital, analog, and acoustic instruments. Finally, Joe Sorbara gave us a grand musical tour around his drum kit. Each of the three musicians delivered mesmerizing individual performances before joining together for a group improvisation. The event finished off with all three answering questions from the audience and talking about their approaches to their music. It was a delightful concert, and I need to get out to more NUMUS events.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A visit to San Francisco for Interaction 15

Christina, Maria, and Jesse.
Julie is behind the column!
Last week Bob Barlow-Busch and I travelled to San Francisco for Interaction 15, this year’s edition of the annual conference of the IxDA. I had previously attended the 2013 edition in Toronto.

The conference is large, with 800+ people attending from around the world. The main venue was the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a terrific facility right downtown.

The program was a multi-track mix of topics, presented as talks, workshops, and panel discussions. Bob and I were pleased to see that there were several Fluxible alumni on the program, delivering new talks or material that they had previously done at Fluxible.

There were a few definite highlights for me.

“So, You Want To Run a Design Agency…” was a panel discussion with Christina Wodtke, Jesse James Garrett, Maria Giudice, and Julie Stanford. They were insightful and shared much from their years of experience running agencies. The fact that they all took shots of bourbon when one of them said the word “process” was a hilarious bonus.

“Jumping to the End: Practical Design Fiction at Google Creative Lab & BERG” had Matt Jones sharing some of the work that he’s done at those companies, and featured several fun looking projects.

Elizabeth Goodman’s “Beyond Handwaving: The Role of Performance in Interaction Design” did a good job of making explicit many of the things that I do intuitively when presenting a design to stakeholders.

The absolute highlight on the program for me was “The Modern UX Organization”, in which Fluxible alumnus Leah Buley presented the results from a study that looked at how top-performing design organizations work. It was data-driven and filled with astute observations.

For me, though, the most value at a conference like this comes from the conversations with friends old and new. The IxDA community is a friendly one, and there was plenty of opportunity to engage and learn. Whether through networking events, studio tours, meals, or just hanging around, the conversations were a huge part of the experience.

Finally, it was a treat to enjoy warmer temperatures in San Francisco. When we left for home at the end of the conference it was 16ºC there, and when we arrived in Waterloo Region it was -20ºC. Yup, still winter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fluxible dates announced!

And, just like that, we’ve announced the dates for Fluxible 2015! Our next edition of the UX party disguised as a conference is happening on September 26 & 27, 2015. As we revealed over there:
Like last year, Fluxible will take place in the Communitech Hub and Tannery Event Centre, in the heart of downtown Kitchener. Some exciting events will happen during the preceding week as well, so stay tuned for details. Further announcements will begin shortly, and we hope you’ll be as excited as we are!
As usual, we have some delightful surprises in store, so stay tuned! And what better way to stay tuned than to join our mailing list? You’ll get all the best news before anyone else!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Fluxible offseason is a busy one

Compared with the excitement around last September’s event, the Fluxible offseason may seem quiet. Behind the scenes, though, there’s plenty of activity as we plan for our September 2015 edition. We have dates and venues pretty much nailed down, if not announced, but there’s still much to do.

The main focus of activity for Bob Barlow-Busch and me right now is on finding speakers to bring to town. This is one of the most rewarding and fun parts of putting on our UX conference. We get to meet and talk with smart people who are passionate about UX, and who want to share their knowledge and experience. Recruiting continues, but we’ve already got some fantastic speakers lined up, with some terrific topics that they’ll be bringing to the event. There’ll also be a few surprising topics that are sure to delight attendees!

We’re pretty excited about how it’s shaping up. While it’s still a little early to be making any announcements, we’ll start doing that soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Talking about about design artifacts

On Friday I visited the REAP Felt Lab to talk with a group of people about design artifacts.

It was a bit of an overview of some of the things used to communicate a design to the various stakeholders in a product development project. As time was limited, the focus was on representations of the user interface. That is, while they’re important, we didn’t get into such useful research artifacts as personas or scenarios or journey maps.

We did cover such obvious candidates as wireframes and prototypes in various levels of fidelity, exploring the different forms that they can take, and their strengths and weaknesses in different contexts. We also looked at sketches, which might have a more limited audience — maybe even just the designer in some cases — but which are something that I use on every design project. (As an aside, I’ve written before about pencils and how regularly I use them for sketching and more.)

The discussion was lively and the group was an engaging one. I always find it much more interesting to hear what other folks have to say, and welcomed the thoughts that everyone shared. My thanks to REAP for inviting me!