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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It’s Fluxible Week!

Well, all the preparations, machinations, and invocations have come together and Fluxible is upon us!

This year we’ve pulled together a whole week of events for Fluxible, and there are UX-related events happening on each of the next seven days, all of them featuring interesting and engaging material presented and shared by folks who are committed to building UX community in Waterloo Region and around the world. I’m looking forward to learning something from all of them.

Things get started today at Boltmade, where my colleagues Brian Potstra and Katie Cerar will be presenting a workshop on learning Sketch, a favourite design tool amongst the UX team there. This workshop filled up quickly, as the Boltmade Sessions events tend to do.

Tuesday sees the September edition of uxWaterloo taking place at Christie, where Alan Woo and Chris Kirby from their design team will be taking us on a deep dive into designing a remote control for one of their projectors. Registration for this session filled up by the end of August. Amazing…

Wednesday features UX Book Club Waterloo Region, and a visit from Abby Covert, who happens to be in town for Fluxible. Abby is smart and articulate — not to mention funny — and this session should make for an engaging conversation. Katie Cerar and Davis Neable have been presenting these UX Book Club events for quite a while now, and they know how to deliver a fine experience.

Thursday finds Christina Wodtke joining Girl Geek Dinners Waterloo Region to talk about “The Architecture of Advocacy”. Christina will be busy while she’s in town, as she’s also presenting a Fluxible workshop on Friday morning (see below) as well as a presentation during the Fluxible main program on Saturday (also see below!).

Friday is filled with pre-conference Fluxible workshops by Christina Wodtke (Design Thinking for Innovation), Stephen Anderson (Design for Understanding), and Jeff Gothelf & Jim Kalbach (Jazz Performance as a Model for Team Collaboration). There’s a lot of learning to be done!

Saturday and Sunday sees all the UX activity comes to a head with the main program for Fluxible. This year’s edition of the UX party disguised as a conference sold out faster than ever, and the speakers will deliver a rich collection of presentations.

Next week I’ll be sleeping it off…

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

September kicks off a new season for uxWaterloo

After July and August sessions that featured relaxed conversations over drinks on summer patios, we’re kicking off a fresh new season of uxWaterloo events on Tuesday September 22 with a visit to Christie in Kitchener.

Their design team will be taking us deep into the process of creating a new remote control for their projectors. It’s always a great learning experience to see and hear how a design to team has approached and solved a problem, and the folks at Christie promise to share plenty of insights. It will be a terrific session. I’d usually encourage folks to register at this point, but the event is already full! Be sure to watch for announcements for more great uxWaterloo sessions for the fall.

There’s something special about the September session, though. It’s part of a full week of UX events in Waterloo Region that our Fluxible team has pulled together around this year’s edition of the UX conference disguised as a party.

In addition to the Tuesday uxWaterloo event, there’s a Boltmade Session on learning Sketch (Monday September 21); a UX Book  Club meetup with Fluxible speaker Abby Covert (Wednesday September 23); and a Girl Geek Dinners Waterloo Region event with Fluxible speaker Christina Wodtke (Thursday September 24).

Of course, there’s a day filled with Fluxible pre-conference workshops on Friday September 25, and the week culminates in the main Fluxible program on Saturday September 26 and Sunday September 27!

Great stuff, right?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fluxible 2015 sold out!

Well, that happened fast. Faster, in fact, than in each the last three years!

This past Friday we sold out the main program for Fluxible 2015. Obviously Bob Barlow-Busch and I, along with the rest of the Fluxible team, think that we’re presenting a great program at this year’s event, but we’re delighted that others agree and have registered to attend.

If you missed out, we have good news. Registration has not yet closed for two of our three Friday workshops. (Our Friday morning workshop with Christina Wodtke sold out earlier.)

Join Stephen Anderson on Friday morning for a terrific deep dive into Design for Understanding.

And on Friday afternoon you can join Jeff Gothelf and Jim Kalbach for Jazz Performance as a Model for Team Collaboration.

Sound interesting? Register now before it’s too late!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The calm before the storm…

While I’ve been quiet here on the blogging front, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes in anticipation of what promises to be a busy autumn.

Preparations are in the final stages for Fluxible. It’s going to be another terrific event, and there’s still more that’s yet to be announced. Relatedly, uxWaterloo will start the new season with a terrific, soon-to-be-announced event. There’s plenty more UX goodness in the pipeline, so stay tuned! September is going to be filled with exciting news.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Recommended UX books, part 2

A photo of all five books mentioned in the text
Following up on my earlier post, here’s a second 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. And some of them might make for excellent beach reading this summer!


User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product
by Jeff Patton, Peter Economy
A thoughtful, practical, and collaborative approach to thinking about products. We’re big on user story mapping at Boltmade.

The Elements of User Experience
by Jesse James Garret
One of the defining books on UX by the well-respected author, researcher, and practitioner, as well as co-founder of Adaptive Path.

Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World
by Peter Merholz, Brandon Schauer, David Verba, Todd Wilkens
Another insightful book on product design from the folks at Adaptive Path (a company since acquired by Capitol One).

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
by Ed Catmull
Loads of insights on how to organize a team for creative collaboration, from the co-founder of Pixar.

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rule-breakers, and Changemakers
by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo
Plenty of hands-on activities that are useful in the UX world and beyond.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Apple product with imperfections that improve over time

My iPad 2 cover in 2011
My iPad 2 cover in 2011
I thought it would be be fun to revisit the cover of my Apple iPad 2.

As I’ve written in the past, one of the most striking aspects of the iPad design is the optional leather cover for the second model. Specifically, it transforms in appearance over time as it’s handled and acquires an imperfectly beautiful patina that’s specific to the owner and device. In 2011, only a few months after I had bought it, my cover had already changed in appearance from what it had been in its box.

Over time, the transformation has continued.

My iPad 2 cover in 2015
My iPad 2 cover in 2015
Today, almost four years later, the patterns of use imprinted on the cover in 2011 have become even more pronounced and deeply ingrained. The resulting contrast between the glass and aluminum iPad and the leather cover that protects it has become even more beautiful. Even allowing for inevitable differences in photographic conditions between then and now, the change in appearance is remarkable.

Wabi Sabi!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A post in which I recommend a few UX books

I’m occasionally asked for suggestions on how people might learn more about UX. Usually it’s a pretty general question, but sometimes it’s more specifically for reading recommendations. In order to make it easy for me to quickly answer such questions, I’ve decided to post a few of my suggestions here. And rather than trying to get this perfect, which would prevent my ever getting it done, I’ll treat this as a series of occasional posts.

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. And some of them might make for excellent beach reading this summer!

Let’s start with five and see how things go.

The Design of Everyday Things
by Donald Norman
This is the first UX book I ever read. Any of Norman’s books are well worth a look, but this one is, for me, his greatest.

The Laws of Simplicity
by John Maeda
Short and simple, as it should be.

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden (Editor)
Filled with practical guidance that you can start to act on right away, from a pair of Fluxible speakers.

The Elements of Typographic Style
by Robert Bringhurst
This might very well be may favourite book on typography. Smart, detailed, and eminently approachable.

Envisioning Information
by Edward R. Tufte
A beautifully printed book that, naturally, communicates Tufte’s ideas in a compellingly visual way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hey, look! Fluxible 2015 early bird registration is open!

Fluxible 2015 Early Bird registration is open now. That means that there’s some pretty great pricing available for not just our main program, but for some wonderful Friday workshops as well. As I mentioned previously, we’ve made a few changes to our programming this year, and it feels like we’ve found a fine balance that makes Fluxible available to more folks.

Check out the program, and then get yourself registered before we sell out! And feel free to ask me any questions Fluxible — try Twitter if you don’t have my email.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Fluxible 2015 program is now online

We’ve announced our Fluxible 2015 program and it’s going to be a terrific three days in September!

This year we’ve expanded things a little with the intent of making Fluxible available to more people. Read all about our changes for 2015, and then check out the details of the program. It’s another great lineup filled with insightful presentations from smart and generous speakers, along with fine food and more than a little music!

Early Bird registration opens next Monday, June 15, at noon EST. Now’s the time to start sorting out your budget and preparing to register. Hope to see you at Fluxible!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Using realistic data in a design prototype

I mentioned code-based prototypes a few weeks back. Here’s a related observation.

I like to put realistic-looking content into my higher-fidelity prototypes. The main reason for my preference is that, in many cases, a design can’t be effectively evaluated if it doesn’t present realistic data and/or information. You need to see how the design handles the real thing.

When I was at Karos Health, I regularly used the names of jazz musicians to create fake patient data that was used in various design prototypes. I did it for two reasons, the first being my preference for realistic data and/or information.

The second is more subtle: while the names looked realistic, anyone who recognized a name like Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong would realize that what was being shown wasn’t real real patient data. That was an important consideration in health care, where patient privacy is a critical concern. One of my favourite moments came when someone viewing a prototype noticed that a birthday shown for Miles Davis was correct. (In fact, all the birthdays were correct.) The attention to detail made an impression!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

This is a recommendation?

Netflix is a service with which I have a love/hate relationship. Even with the comparatively slim pickings offered by the service in Canada, the monthly fee provides pretty good value. And, of course, the offerings became more compelling since they got into creating their own content, some of which is terrific. And being able to watch on multiple devices is a terrific feature, especially with playback synced across them.

I’ve never, though, enjoyed the experience of finding videos to watch. Scrolling through titles can be slow and imprecise. There’s no way for me to easily recall the videos that I want to watch; the “My List” feature reorders videos, making it hard to find something that I thought I had added. The “Suggestions for You” that it makes can sometimes seem cryptic — what, exactly makes for  “Exciting Movies”? And I regularly find unhelpful recommendations along the lines of “Because you watched [title of video]” where the first listing is something else that I watched recently.

Videos covers for "Stone Cold" and "The Stoning"Here’s a different unhelpful pair of recommendations that I ran into some time ago. Having watched a Robert De Niro movie called Stone (part of it, anyway), Netflix thought that I’d be interested in a movie called Stone Cold, as well as The Stoning of Soraya M. As far as I can tell, the movies have little in common other than similarities in their titles.

I get that this isn’t necessarily easy, and my response is mostly bemusement as the recommendations generally don’t add a lot of value for me. It just feels like discovery of what to watch is an untapped opportunity.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why I write software code as a part of my design work

Now that the whole designers-coding-stuff thing has died down a little (or maybe it hasn’t?), I thought I’d share some thoughts on why I code on my own design projects. There are a couple of main reasons why I engage in this activity.

First, I believe that it’s important for me as a designer to have a solid understanding of the medium for which I’m designing. Being able to code helps me better understand the things that matter to developers on a software product team, and it enables me to communicate more effectively with them.

Second, creating prototypes is a part of the design process for me. Prototypes, in various levels of fidelity, help me think through what the interaction should be for a particular design solution. Obviously prototypes have other uses; they are great for communicating a design to product team members and, of course, they are central in the testing of a product design with users.

There are many tools available for creating product prototypes. As it turns out, though, because I’ve been coding with html/css/js for so many years now, I can actually work fairly quickly to create a code-based prototype that I can iterate on and refine efficiently. I’m able to create realistic interactions and behaviours that are a big challenge with other approaches. I can start with something crude and wireframe-ish and iterate to something more polished. I like to call late-stage, high fidelity, code-based prototypes “real software with fake functionality”! It might be best to avoid ray guns, though…

Monday, April 27, 2015

User story mapping at Felt Lab

Last Friday I visited the REAP Felt Lab to provide an introduction to user story mapping in a lunch-hour workshop. I’ve been a big fan of story mapping ever since I was introduced to it in a workshop by Jeff Patton back in 2008, and I was delighted when he finally released a definitive book on the topic last year. I highly recommend User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product to anyone who wants to learn more about this powerful technique that can help product development teams focus on users and their needs rather than on features.

The introduction that I delivered comes straight from Patton’s book, and the folks at Felt Lab were thoroughly engaged by the experience. It was a full house, and each team learned a lot during the surprisingly challenging exercise of creating a story map about their morning routines.

Unsurprisingly, the same engagement and enlightenment were visible during a similar uxWaterloo session back in March.

If you missed these events, keep an eye on the schedule for The Boltmade Sessions, as there’s a good chance that we’ll deliver another iteration of the workshop there.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Video highlights from Fluxible 2014

We’re roughly mid-way between Fluxible 2014 and Fluxible 2015. The Fluxible team is currently focused on our 2015 event, with speakers being announced and plenty of behind-the-scenes details being attended to. There’s some great stuff coming, and I’m sure that folks will be excited about this year’s program.

Right now, though, let’s take a moment to look back at Fluxible 2014. My conference co-chair Bob Barlow-Busch has put together this highlights video, which is a delightful celebration of the 2014 experience. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The power of creating something that’s just good enough

We had a fun day at Boltmade recently, engaging in a series of testing sessions with users to assess the usability of a product that we’re working on for a client.

We had made some extensive changes to a particular mobile workflow, and needed to create a testable artifact as quickly as possible. This scenario is well understood in the UX design world, and is pretty much par for the course when taking a Lean approach to creating a product. In this case there was a striking observation that emerged during testing that surprised us all.

The test artifact that we created used a mix of approaches: an existing product was used to show functionality that was already well-understood; paper screens were created to show new functionality; and a human simulated the product back-end by sending appropriate feedback messages through the existing product in response to user input.

We had a test rig set up that enabled some of the team to observe from another room while a user interacted with the new design on a mobile device. It was easy to watch progress on a large screen during each testing session and, as always, there were useful insights that emerged.

Every time the paper screen was overlaid on the mobile device by our test facilitator we chuckled, as it looked funny to see the paper slide into place on the big screen. None of the users, though, had any trouble with the switch from pixels to paper and back again. And the messages that were sent by one of our team to the mobile device created a smooth and easily understood experience.

But the most striking thing we saw only became obvious, even to us, at the end of the day.

Despite the test artifact being a mix of real and fake functionality that included pieces of paper overlaid on a device screen, it felt “real”. Each user was even asked to “enter” information onto the paper “screen”, and to then watch the response on the mobile device screen; it still felt “real”.

And it was “real” to such an extent that every user we tested with told us, either unprompted or when asked, that the messages they saw in the mobile app were coming from a system with some kind of clever A.I. behind it. The workflow provided such an immersive experience that even paper screens did nothing to break the illusion that we were testing with a “real” mobile app.

When testing a hypothesis in a Lean context, you don’t need to build a fully functional artifact. All you need is an artifact that is good enough to learn from during testing. And that can mean designing and prototyping before starting to build.

This post also appears over on the Boltmade blog.

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!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Boltmade is hiring

The new year is well underway, and at Boltmade we’ve cranked up the hiring machine. We’re looking for developers to join our team.

Needless to say, I think that Boltmade is a fantastic place to work!

We have a diverse set of clients that range in size from “two people with an idea” to Fortune 500. All of our clients care deeply about their products and want Boltmade to help them deliver something meaningful to the world. To do that, we have a skilled and engaged team of software developers and designers who truly enjoy building software products. And we do it well.

There’s plenty of opportunity to learn new things, collaborate with smart people, and enjoy a level of autonomy that encourages both. And we do it all in the historic and beautifully restored Bauer Building on King Street in Uptown Waterloo, where fine food and other amenities are a short walk away.

In short, we have terrific fun doing what we do!

If Boltmade sounds interesting to you, then get in touch with us! We’d love to talk with you.