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Service innovation

Checking out some of my Innovation resources, I hit Business Innovation from BusinessWeek. "IBM" jumped out at me, leading me to:

I knew that the Almaden lab was doing service research (excuse the legacy page design). The news here is the announcement of the Service Research & Innovation Initiative. Their first big activity appears to be a symposium on May 30th.

Jim Spohrer, the IBMer involved with this, used to be active in HCI. Nice to see him move into the "business research" area.

I see this as the natural progression in The Experience Economy (a book in my UX Zeitgeist). Stages of economic value: Extract commodities, Make goods (product innovation), Deliver services, Stage experiences.

So when will we get the "Experience Research & Innovation Initiative"? I am kinda surprised "Experience Innovation" was NOT listed as a "next realm of business" in the NextD slash at IA.

Breadcrumb Navigation Increasingly Useful

I do not regularly read Alertbox any more, but this one was too good to pass up.

People often think that when I defined different types of breadcrumbs that I automatically thought "path breadcrumbs" were a good idea or that I was advocating that breadcrumbs as a whole were mandatory. Not so - I simply wanted to define the various types so that information architects (and others) could talk about breadcrumbs intelligently.

Jakob, of course, goes farther, saying location breadcrumbs are the way to go and they are worth doing.

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Reaction to NextD

"NextD takes a slash at "Findability Information Architecture" is a hot topic on the IA Institute member mailing list. Excerpts from IA’s Unidentical Twins (Revisited) [PDF - only long-term direct link that is available, ack] is the trigger. By GK VanPatter. The response has ranged from:

  • "#$%@ him, he is a moron."
  • Agreement on the basic points (since others with the IA community have been saying the same thing).
  • The tone and the inflammatory nature gets in the way of the message - there are some valid points but it is hard to address them because of the way it is written. Not exactly an invitation for conversation.
  • Where are these other "twins" like "Design 3.0" and "Human-Centered Innovation" and "Strategic Information Architecture" - e.g., show me the books to buy to learn about them.

My reaction: NextD represents a view on IA I am not familiar with (I know about RSW of course but I do not recognize this "NextDesign Leadership Institute"). I try really hard to stay up on the broad touch points of the field, but this is a group / set of writings I am not familiar with. Most likely, I stumbled across NextD a long time ago but have forgotten that I ever saw it ("old fart's disease"). But now that I have found it, I am obligated to learn about it, understand what this NextD thing is about, find connections to my professional background, and become a better IA as a result.

Here are the things I am doing in my spare time to learn about NextD:

  1. Read some of the other writings at - hopefully they are more helpful and educational than the trigger article. The Journal has some interesting articles at first glance. Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 [again, only as PDF, ack] caught my eye.
  2. Find connection points to people I am familiar with: the interviews with Peter Merholz and Patrick Whitney look promising. Rethinking Wicked Problems [PDF, ack] is also interesting, since I just re-discovered Jeff Conklin (one of the fathers of the hypertext field) on my own.
  3. Scanning the blogosphere for posts that reference
  4. Like Richard Dalton has done, look into some of these "twins" that were mentioned. Not having much luck either - which I think speaks volumes. But I am not giving up. I have been trying to poke around in as much "Innovation" literature that I can - at least the part that connects with the human experience side of it. So I am probing my personal "Innovation network" to see where NextD fits in.

All of this learning will take time. I will let others continue the conversation until I digest it all more.

I would recommend 1 thing for the IA Community to consider: invite someone from the NextDesign Leadership Institute to speak at the 2008 IA Summit (Miami, Florida, USA, April 10-14). We have a history of giving our biggest critics a voice at our main event - Mark Hurst and Mark Bernstein are just 2 examples. Time to find our long-lost twins.

IA Summit report on what matters

Did not have any energy to blog during the IA Summit. Have lots of notes to go thru and share. But I want to do 1 quick posting on the one part of the conference that matters most.

The people who are more than just colleagues and professional contacts.

My highlights:

  • Argus family (the bonds are as strong as ever)
  • Being mentioned in Jess's emotional 5-minute madness. I am a very proud "older brother."
  • Being there to help Lou with his UX Zeitgeist demo and discussion. Worked together seemlessly like old times.
  • Kent State crew
  • Brian and Lincoln, two IBMers who hunted me down to introduce themselves
  • The folks who brought their kids, reminding us what matters more than work

And of course, seeing folks I had not seen in a year. And meeting new people.

I will report on the less important stuff later - what was presented, what I learned.

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Quick Nexus wrap-up

I had to leave the Nexus for change conference early today so that I could rest a little before my trip to Vegas for the IA Summit - need some energy to travel. Nexus was a great event. As a fellow IT person said at lunch - "I have learned a lot but I have no idea what it is yet." It will take a while for this intensive 2-days with the leading change methods experts to sink in.

"Get everyone in the same space at the same time" is my over-simplification of what these professionals do every day. The conference was about getting them all in the same physical space, of course, but the conference web site served as that virtual place before and it will support the community afterwards.

Although only a handful of attendees were into the "Web 2.0" thing as an enabler for getting everybody into the same virtual space for conversations, I was excited that most saw the need for better technology adoption by the group as a whole. Unfortunately, there was a missed opportunity for Nexus to hook up with a Web 2.0 talk that was happening on the BGSU campus at the same time:

Technology Trends and Web 2.0, Erick Schonfeld, Business 2.0.

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Nametagging at Nexus for Change

Reporting from the Nexus for change conference. First activity was what I would call nametagging - where you add labels to your name tag to classify yourself and help start conversations.

We did this at the 2006 IA Summit and I assume I will be doing it again Saturday morning at the 2007 IA Summit. The IAs like to leave a lot of extra room for the tagging, and of course we analyzed it.

I "loose" tagged myself IBM, web, UX and BGSU. We also had 3 questions to answer: What do you aspire to experience? ("Change (lame answer)", What methods do you use? ("UCD", abbreviated on purpose) and something about what your speciality is ("User experience, web"). And we had stickers and markers to spruce up our name tags: none of the stickers worked for me, so I chose this weird looking bug (since I am not sure I fit in here yet) and some sort of whale (since I hope to have a whale of a good time).

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UI Smackdown, Ann Arbor, April 4

I am not affiliated with this, have no idea who the group is that is putting this on (SRT Solutions), but if you are a local programmer, it looks like a good way to learn about some of the latest toolkits - with a focus on the end user experience it will help you design for.

User Interface Smackdown 2007
Join SRT for a day of exploration with new toolkits for developing user interfaces.

This forum will include an overview of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Google Web Toolkit (GWT), and Adobe's Flex.

The Open Spaces format will allow attendees to specify the afternoon's content and direction, taking full advantage of the experts in attendance.

Participants will be able to engage in group discussions of specific technical challenges and write test code in order to gain a fundamental understanding of these technologies.

This forum will benefit software developers, technical decision makers, senior engineers and architects. By providing the opportunity to experiment with these new toolkits, you will see how you can create compelling user experiences for your users and customers, which will be a key differentiator for software offerings in coming years.

Cost for the event is $75 before March 26, or $90 after March 26 (and at the door, if space is available)....

I believe the event is April 4th - but it would be nice if the date was listed on the registration page. (^: If you go, leave a comment on how it went. And I really like the fact that they list the local "Groups we work with" on the side.

Entrepreneurial thinking

Registration is now open for the 4th Annual Sebo Series in Entrepreneurship, April 13, 2007 - Entrepreneurial Thinking - the catalyst for business growth at BGSU.


Other sessions:

  • Supply Chain Entrepreneurial Thinking
  • Entrepreneurial Thinking from the Start
  • Innovation in Corporate Strategy
  • Innovative Business Models


TC 841 Design research

Earlier this evening, I had a nice conversation with the students in TC 841: Design Research, a class taught by Carrie Heeter of Michigan State University. I met Carrie at DUX 2005 and have been hearing lots of good things coming out of MSU (like Serious games), so I thought it would be fun to be a guest / interviewee. The class is held online, so I did not even have to drive to East Lansing.

They are using Design research: methods and perspectives as their textbook and it does not really cover usability methods as part of the design process, so that is what we focused on. How to recruit the right participants for a test, what tools are available for usability testing, how to improve a legacy application when users are afraid of change, when should you use Flash and when not, how to test the usability of online learning applications, and how to design for universal usability.

But we also covered "real world" stories like what an information architect does every day and what to do when the business goals and user goals do not match. Carrie ended with the biggest question: what should the students be doing to help them get a job.

I hope the students found it worthwhile. I know I enjoyed it. It was also fun just preparing for talking with them: reading the syllabus, checking out their textbook, reviewing my older usability presentations, and taking their first quiz (I only missed 1 question, which I thought was pretty good). I may have learned as much as the students - at least, I re-learned something.

I try to stay connected to our local universities as much as I can - usually working with my BGSU CS department colleagues. I am visiting Kent State IAKM in the spring.

To other user experience practitioners - track down a class at a local university and volunteer to be a guest speaker. Share your professional experiences. It will be worthwhile.

IUE day 2

Raw notes taken during the IUE 2007 conference - day 2.

Development process, Dean Barker, HFI: Missed most of it. Saw some charts on methodology and Agile that I liked.

CSS and graphics

  • CSS's ability to implement web designs in layers is changing the way you export work from Photoshop, blurring lines between "design" and "code"
  • Interesting technique to put all page images into 1 graphic and use CSS positioning to show the right (sub-)image at the right time

Writing, web style, Ron Rundus

  • Content syndication means "Death of the home page". User generated content. Keep it Simple, Senator. Progressive disclosure.
  • Web style = Technical + Writing + Design
  • Semantic web, microformat, Web patterns.
  • Elements of web style: How to talk about web pages
  • Warehouse model: Cases, units, tags.
  • Analysis of 8 cases (ID, legal, impact, feature, navigation, ...). Decompose page into these content elements. Similar to Navigation stress test.

Lunch mini-workshop on Usability Labs: Good overview of lab technical details but I mostly attended to catch up with Scott from Ovo Studios.

Tuning up site search, Chris Farnum/Grant. Did not take good notes (since I am pretty familiar with this stuff). They did use search results as an example of filtering (and Chris F. did check in with me on it to make sure he got the details correct).

Web metrics and user testing, Jarret Knyal (user guy) and Jacque Smith (metrics gal) of Quicken Loans

  • Usability (qualitative, "why people do things") and analytics (quantitative, "what people are doing") is a good marriage
  • Their biggest business / user experience debate is where / how to do the "contact us for more information" form - their lead generation device
  • Landing page abandonment (from analytics) - do user testing to understand why
  • Single user feedback (from user research) - do analytics to see if common behavior, find data to back it up
  • Do A/B testing and use analytics to see which page works better
  • More complicated multi-variable testing where the system has several versions of a zone on the page. Gather metrics on which combinations work. Example: Try 4 different blurbs to say "fill out this form and we will contact you". They use some vendor to do this but I did not catch the name - Optimos?
  • Question: How many pages? Thousands but not a huge site like IBM.

State of web site user experience panel: I attached my presentation to my earlier announcement. Folks liked my Web 2.0 stuff. And my "call to actions" like volunteering your usability skills to an open source project. We did not argue too much but I did try to stir the pot by challenging the panel moderator Tim Kiernan of Design Critique on his furniture ordering problems.

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