Monday, May 2, 2016

25 short stories about user experience

Photo by Davis Neable
Last Wednesday, Bob Barlow-Busch and I delivered a presentation as a part of the Communitech Breakfast Series. It was titled Insights that lead to great UX, and the focus was on ways in which to use stories to fuel insights.

We structured the presentation in a way that put the focus on stories, with the bulk of the presentation being organized into 25 Short Stories About User Experience. Perhaps unexpectedly, the structure was inspired by a similarly-titled movie about Glenn Gould, as well as John Cage’s story-telling on Indeterminacy, and Oblique Strategies, an influential card deck by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. And, of course, there was the obvious appeal of telling stories about stories — everything goes meta.

The beauty of the structure for us is that it’s quite flexible — stories can be swapped in and out as needed to emphasize different things for different presentation contexts. In fact, there were stories that didn’t make it into last week’s presentation.

It was the first time delivering this presentation, and we were pleased that people who attended appear to have found it a valuable one.

Friday, April 15, 2016

State of the City of Kitchener

I had the honour of attending the City of Kitchener’s annual State of the City event on Wednesday, representing Fluxible along with friend, colleague, and long-time collaborator Bob Barlow-Busch.

The event was held in the magnificent industrial space at 41 Ardelt Place, and featured Mayor Berry Vrbanovic delivering a State of the City address to a large crowd.

Make It Kitchener was the theme, and it was fun to hear the details. There are six opportunities identified in the strategy:

  • Make it Spark
  • Make it Start
  • Make it Grow
  • Make it Urban
  • Make it Vibrant
  • Make it Connect

It’s exciting to see “Support professional development in user experience” identified as one of the ways to get “Make It Spark” to happen. I’m delighted to help drive that through Fluxible!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hiring season at Boltmade

It’s co-op hiring season, and at Boltmade we’re been deeply engaged in finding students at University of Waterloo who can join us for a four-month work term this coming summer. We’ve been a long-time employer of development co-ops, and have more recently been hiring for our UX team. That’s the side of things that has kept me and my colleagues busy.

It’s fascinating to see the wide range of academic disciplines that we’ve seen in the applications for our UX position. There are, as expected, many great applications from within Systems Design Engineering, but also from Software Engineering and Mechatronics. There are Computer Science applications, of course, which isn’t really a surprise, but we’re delighted to see applications representing many departments and programs in the Arts faculty — DACEnglish, Anthropology, Psychology, Fine Arts, and more.

Because of the diversity of sources, it can be a real challenge to evaluate and compare candidates, but as we like to say, that’s a great problem to have. We’re excited about seeing who joins us in May.

Of course, we’re also looking for full-time software developers to join us at Boltmade. Check us out and let us know if you’re interested!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

O'Reilly Design Conference

Last week I attended the inaugural O’Reilly Design conference, along with my Fluxible co-chair Bob Barlow-Busch. As with last fall’s trip to the CanUX conference, I’m always watching to see what works at a particular conference and thinking about how we might apply it to Fluxible. There was a level of logistical sophistication here that reveals O’Reilly’s years of experience running similar conferences and events.

The program touched on user experience, industrial design, and graphic design, with standard mix of keynotes and breakout sessions. Highlights for me included a briskly paced vision of design from Erika Hall, a primer on effective critique from Adam Connor, and a call from Bob Baxley to bring more people into the design profession.

The venue was Fort Mason Centre, with the main program happening in a cool warehouse space on a pier over the bay, and breakout sessions also happening in what appeared to be old army buildings. It worked well for me, even with a long and steep staircase to climb between buildings!

Beyond the program, of course, there were many fine conversations with friends old and new.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cooking up a career bigos

I had a recent conversation with a friend about working in UX. As we all do, he’s aiming to find a balance of work that is rewarding, provides room for growth, and pays the bills. He has a range of important creative activities that he’s engaged in and he wants to ensure that none of them are being neglected.

Our conversation resonated with my own thinking about my career. Metaphorically, I have a soup of ingredients that are all important to my UX work and that I aim to have aligned with each other. Boltmade is the major ingredient, while Fluxible and uxWaterloo are two other obvious ingredients in that soup. Other ingredients like attending other events, having conversations with various folks in the community, and ongoing readings all go into the mix as well. I’m delighted that these all complement each other as well as they do.

As I talked about this with my friend, he got it right away and declared it to be more of a stew. What immediately popped into my mind was a wonderful kind of stew called bigos.

My mom taught me how to make bigos, and it’s a dish that my whole family loves. One of the great things about it is how it improves on subsequent days as it cooks. Moreover, adding new ingredients on those day renews it and extends it over more meals.

My UX career bigos evolves, and the ingredients that I add over time ensure that it keeps getting better.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Designing Fluxible

In the aftermath of Fluxible 2015 in September, the Fluxible team has been reflecting on how things went and thinking about next year’s edition. It’s an ongoing activity, really, as we look for ways to refine what we do to create a great conference experience.

With many of us being user experience professionals, it’s inevitable that we bring our UX tools to bear on the task of improving Fluxible. Recently, we’ve engaged in several story mapping sessions to help us better articulate the experience of our attendees. It’s productive, as well as good fun, to think about the Fluxible experience this way.

User story mapping progress…

Bob Barlow-Busch observed that the thinking and activities that go into designing a conference might be of wider interest, and suggested that we share some of what we go through. That does seem like a great idea and is something that we’re planning to do in the months leading up to Fluxible next year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Model trains in St. Jacobs

A daylight scene at the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway
I took my sons to St. Jacobs a few weeks back to visit the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway. It’s something that we’d been meaning to do for some time, and after experiencing it we were all delighted that we had finally made the trip. We stayed for well over an hour taking it all in, and surely missed much more than we saw.

A night scene at the St. Jacobs & Aberfoyle Model Railway
What you see, hear, and otherwise experience is a vast and meticulously detailed “O” scale model train layout that features realistic train operations. The layout covers rural, city, and industrial landscapes and more, with dozens of tiny vignettes that tell stories about life in southern Ontario in the 1950s. Stay long enough, and you’ll see the overhead lights dim as the night-time layout come to life in a beautifully choreographed way.

They’re open through the end of December, and it’s well worth a visit.