Friday, October 8, 2010

User Experience in Waterloo Region

This piece first appeared this week as a blog post on the newly launched Communitech web site.

We’ve kicked off a new season of uxWaterloo events last month with a design workshop. As it turns out, Communitech is launching a new web presence this month as well, which makes this an opportune time to write about designing for user experience (UX).

Many articles and books have been written on the topic of user experience, and there might not be a universally accepted definition of what it is. It’s reasonable to say, though, that designing for user experience in a software product will often address the following:

  • Functionality: what does the product do? Is it useful?
  • Interaction design: how does someone actually use the product?
  • Information architecture: how is the functionality in the product organized and presented?
  • Visual design: what does the product look like? Is it appealing?
  • Usability: how easy or hard is it to get something done with the product?
Getting these pieces in the UX puzzle right isn’t easy, but the results can have a major impact on a product’s success.

Waterloo Region is well-known for its innovative software and hardware companies, many of which devote dedicated resources to designing the user experience of their products. For some of the user experience researchers and practitioners who call the region home, getting together at a uxWaterloo meeting is a monthly activity.

uxWaterloo is, among other things, a Communitech peer-to-peer group devoted to building a community around the practice and understanding of creating a great user experience. While we’re primarily software-focused, we touch other areas on occasion as well. At our monthly meetings we explore a variety of topics through guest speakers, workshops, and even just discussion sessions at local pubs. In the last year we’ve explored table-top interfaces, guerilla usability techniques, personas in product design, and more. The atmosphere is friendly and folks are generous and willing to share their knowledge.

So here’s an invitation to all designers, product managers, developers, technical writers, and other interested folks to join us at a uxWaterloo meeting and help us to continue to grow our vibrant community around a common interest in user experience.

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