Thursday, December 23, 2010

Developing with gingerbread at Karos Health

No, not the new Android release.

Yesterday at Karos Health we spent time building something special and appropriate to the holiday season. We built several gingerbread houses. Happily, though we were inexperienced builders, we were able to bring in some expert consultants to help us get the job done. The children of various team members came to the office and actually did pretty much all of the heavy lifting in building the candy-encrusted homes. It was fun to watch, and I know my boys had a great time.

Here’s a big thanks to Gillian for organizing this.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Conference strategy at Karos Health

I recently spent a week in Chicago at the annual conference put on by the Radiological Society of North America. I was there along with Rick, Michel, and Jeff, three of my colleagues from Karos Health (that’s Jeff in the picture). While it was my first visit to this conference, the others had all made the trip multiple times over the years. We had a great strategy for getting the most out of our visit, and I thought I’d share it here.

We had a minimal presence on the show floor, with just a tiny display as part of a booth organized by the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. It was perfect for us, though, as our strategy revolved around pre-arranged meetings and visits to specific companies rather than simply waiting for visitors to find us. Our display served as a place where people could find us if needed, with someone always present and ready to talk about our products and demonstrate our latest product, Rialto Consult.

We were able to provide demonstrations for a range of visitors. Some were people my colleagues knew who wanted to see our new product, some were existing customers, and some were new contacts that we made at the show. All were attentive while we showed what Rialto Consult can do and positive in their feedback. In fact, we were a little taken aback at the reception; we were pleased with what we were showing, but the response was even more than we could have hoped for.

There were a couple of highlights for me. One was prompted by a data issue, in which a customer noted that a sample document was missing from what we showed. I was able to add the document that evening, and when the customer returned the next day with some colleagues, the presence of the document did not go unnoticed.

The second was a visit to our booth by a colleague from one of our Karos Innovation Centers, who arrived while a demonstration was in progress. After we completed the demonstration, our colleague was able to answer some questions from the small audience relating to our work together. The timing was perfect!

RSNA 2010 was a successful conference with much positive feedback and a great response to Rialto Consult. In fact, on our return to Waterloo Rick characterized it as perhaps the most satisfying RSNA conference that he had attended. We’ll be there again next year.

This post originally ran, in a slightly different form, on the Karos Health blog.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Designing the BlackBerry user experience at RIM

Following our November 16 event with Google’s Adam Baker, the November 24 meeting of uxWaterloo featured a terrific presentation by Joey Benedek, Director of User Research at Research in Motion, on designing for user experience at the mobile pioneer.

Joey focused on examples from BlackBerry OS 6 in a presentation that was funny, frank, and insightful in its examination of the challenges that RIM faced in this major upgrade to the user interface of its iconic products.

Joey gave some specific examples of how user experience techniques were applied to specific design challenges. For example, a diary study, in which user participants kept a diary and recorded how they worked with BlackBerry, was used to inform the design of universal search in OS 6. Card sorting, another classic technique, was used to understand how to organize the configuration of options in OS 6.

He was pretty direct about the need to deliver a major improvement in the BlackBerry user experience in a short amount of time — the overhaul was accomplished in just nine months. He was also pretty direct about the company’s logic-driven culture, and how an understanding of, and level of comfort with, the UX organization’s process and data helped make the case for what needed to be done.

Joey provided some great observations that may challenge the perception of RIM in some quarters. As Joey put it in response to a question, “There’s no confusion on our part about whether people are enterprise users or consumers. They’re all humans.” Later, he added “We don’t pick users. We pick contexts of use,” and “I’m a fan of the classic usability test”.

Overall, it was a treat to hear from Joey, and we all appreciated his presence at uxWaterloo.

Julie Rutherford has provided a more detailed summary over at the uxWaterloo site.