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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A visit to the CanUX conference

Bret Marshall presenting at CanUX
Along with Bob Barlow-Busch, I recently attended the CanUX conference in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa. This was my third time attending the event formerly known as UX Camp Ottawa. As always, Cornelius Rachieru, Tanya Snook, Barb Spanton, and their team put on a fine event, with an interesting lineup of speakers presenting in a great venue (Canadian Museum of History, formerly the Museum of Civilization). It was a special treat to see our friend Brent Marshall delivering his Fluxible presentation to a fresh crowd.

Running Fluxible has made attending other events a bit odd for me, as my attention is always on evaluating experiences that might work well at our own conference. One thing that Fluxible 2016 attendees are almost certain to see is pre-event Friday dinners that will make it easy for UX people in town for the conference to meet each other in informal groups. CanUX set up several of these this year. Bob and I enjoyed lovely evening in Ottawa talking shop with a small group of CanUX attendees and want to bring that experience to Fluxible.

It’s great to see the UX community in Canada thriving in multiple locations, and see such thoughtful events being staged. Hats off to the CanUX team for delivering another successful event.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Looking back at Fluxible 2015

Well, Fluxible 2015 wrapped up one month ago today, and I’ve realized that I hadn’t done any kind of a wrap-up post here. It’s surprisingly challenging to do so, as the message every year is generally the same. That is, it was another terrific event with smart speakers and plenty of engaging conversations to be had all around, along with plenty of fun musical interludes.

Happily, I’ve got a couple of special artifacts to point at that document the conference so that I don’t have to!

First up is a great video created by one of our friends at Communitech. Phil Froklage captured many defining moments, large and small, at this year’s event. Check it out to get a small flavour of what happened.

More recently, our friends Amandah Wood and Matt Quinn documented their Fluxible 2015 experience over at Ways We Work. Moreover, as they were explicitly interested in how an event like this goes together, Bob Barlow-Busch and I chatted with them extensively, and they had plenty of behind-the-scenes access to see how it all happened. The result is a lovely essay in words and pictures. Have a look right now!

Meanwhile plans are already well underway for the 2016 edition of Fluxible.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Recommended UX books, part 3

A photo of all five books mentioned in the text
Following up on my earlier posts, here’s another set of books in an informal series on recommended UX reading.

As a reminder, the series isn’t meant to provide a definitive list, but rather a set of books that I’ve enjoyed and found helpful in my UX work. Some of them will be well known and already widely recommended. Others may be less so, though no less valuable to me. A few might even be eccentric choices for a list like this.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
by Scott McCloud
I’ve been recommending this classic to designers for 20 years now! It’s a wonderful look at visual communication, exquisitely told using the form that it documents.

See What I Mean: How to Use Comics to Communicate Ideas
By Kevin Cheng
In the context of this list, here is a perfect companion to Understanding Comics, as Cheng makes explicit the UX contexts in which to effectively use comics.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel H. Pink
While not explicitly a UX-related book, Pink’s book is nevertheless a relevant, and fascinating, read.

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights
by Steve Portigal
Thoughtful, humane, practical, and more, Steve has created a great guide for a foundational aspect of UX research.

Tog on Interface
by Bruce Tognazzini
It’s almost a quarter-century old, but while a few of the examples are a little dated Tog’s writing remains vibrant and engaging, and the concepts are as relevant and important as ever.