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Survey about UX Needs & Possible Ideas

If you are in the Toledo region and a practicing user experience professional, I want to hear from you. What do you need to do your job better?

If you are a business leader in the Toledo region who realizes the UX of your products & services is crucial to your business success, I want to hear from you. What does your company need?

If you are a student (at UT, BGSU, elsewhere around here) or someone who lives here and just wants to get started in UX, I want to hear from you. How would you like to begin your professional journey?

I created a survey to help compile information about needs and reactions to possible ideas for addressing those needs. It should only take 3 minutes to fill it out: I kept it pretty short.

Below are the important elements of the survey (for anyone who wants to peek ahead).

I have contacted many folks by email and already gotten a good response. More people are welcome to give their input: thus this post and related tweets, etc.

At some point, I will compile the data and share with the community (exactly when depends on how busy I am: this is fun but not the top thing on my to-do list). I will post something here and schedule a session at Seed Coworking, where we can discuss the results as a group. I would also like to get people to break into smaller teams to tackle specific needs or solutions.

Thanks in advance for your responses! If you want to be sure to catch the results, leave your email address at the end of the survey. And/or follow @UXToledoRegion.

We are collecting information about User Experience needs for the Toledo Region. We would also like your reaction to ideas to address these needs. Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. It will help us plan local UX community activities. Thanks in advance!


What do you need to improve the user experience (UX) of the things you create? The things you are creating might be web sites, software products, paper brochures, smartphone apps, hardware, healthcare services, events. And more.

  • Practice doing UX
  • Awareness and understanding of UX by others within my company
  • Better tools for doing UX work
  • Insights into innovative UI & interaction designs
  • Knowledge of advanced UX techniques
  • More commitment from my clients to pay me for UX work
  • Training and formal education on how to do basic UX methods
  • A UX "tribe" to hang out with, get support from
  • Case studies showing how others do UX
  • UX talent to hire


What can we do to address your UX needs? Below are some of the ideas that have been suggested for the Toledo Region.

Scale: Bad idea | Good idea | Great idea, will help | Awesome idea, will pay $

  • Plan road trips to UX events in Detroit, Columbus and other nearby cities
  • Launch a UX book club
  • Set up a site where we can show off our UX capabilities
  • Schedule UX reviews so we can talk about UX and help improve local products and services
  • Collaborate with AIGA Toledo
  • Set up an online area for discussions (e.g., Google group)
  • Arrange online webinars and virtual training
  • Create hands-on training of UX methods
  • Rejuvenate Refresh Toledo
  • Create a marketplace for UX work (where clients and agencies can meet)
  • Organize a local conference about UX
  • Set up a mentoring program for students and others new to UX
  • Evangelize UX to local business leaders
  • Build a directory of UX people/companies in the region
  • Establish a local chapter of a professional organization (like IxDA or UXPA)
  • Create a Meetup group, schedule meetups
  • Add more UX events to the Toledo Web Professionals program
  • Set up an exchange program with other cities (to help us get up to speed faster)
  • Compile a list of classes to take (e.g., BGSU CS 3240)
  • Suggest the best national UX conferences to travel to
Blog topics: 

Toledo Region UXPA Member Lunch

After helping the tech and startup community form in the Toledo region the last few years (see my summary of 2012 activity), it is time to focus on the user experience community.

In 2012, we attended a UX webinar as a group, did some card sorting, made sure designers participated in Startup Weekend Toledo. AIGA Toledo continued to serve professionals with a graphical design focus in innovative ways.

As a next step to kick off 2013, I am helping organize a local UXPA Member Lunch.

  • Join us for a lunch gathering of User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) members in the Toledo region. We are meeting at Dyers Family Restaurant, 200 Campbell Hill Road, Bowling Green, OH 43402, from 11:30am - 2pm on Wednesday, January 16, 2013.
  • People interested in meeting user experience professionals in the area and learning more about user experience & UXPA are welcome as well.
  • Everyone buys their own lunch as we meet each other and talk about user experience.
  • UXPA supports people who research, design, and evaluate the user experience of products and services. Current UXPA members can discuss how to get the most out of membership. Non-members can learn about UXPA and see if they want to join. See for more information.
  • If this lunch generates enough interest, we will talk about forming an informal local group to help advance the UX community in the Toledo region.
  • RSVP if you are planning to join us, to make sure we have enough seats at the lunch table. Leave a comment below or email me at keith2013 at instone dot org.

At this point, there are only 4 people who are UXPA members in the Toledo region, with half of them living south of BG and half in the Toledo metro area (thus why we are meeting in the middle). But I know there are more people interested in UX and several design agencies that employ UX people. So I am hoping we can start to grow a larger community of user experience professionals in the region.

Blog topics: 

Usable Web: First version of new site

I have spent the last month cobbling together the foundation for a new version of Usable Web. I believe I have enough content to start getting some feedback. If you would like to help me out, you can:

  1. Check out the old, old Usable Web, which is still online at usableweb.COM but has not been updated since 2006. If you are not familiar with the site or just have not visited it in years, you may want to spend a few minutes there.
  2. Spend some time at usableweb.ORG, where I have started building a new version of the site. I have updates to 10 entries, all from 1995. I have also written 3 "inactive destinations". Not a lot, but hopefully enough content to give you a sense of the potential of the new site.
  3. Fill out a survey with your feedback and comments. You are also welcome to send feedback via Twitter (to @Usable_Web) or via email (to instone at usableweb dot org). Or leave a comment here.


Integrating User Interface Design Specifications

It is time for another Internet User Experience conference in Ann Arbor. Next week!

In addition to Eight Years of IUE: Reflection and Perspective, I am doing a talk about Integrating User Interface Design Specifications.

At the 2006 IUE conference, Keith Instone presented " re-design and standards", where he talked about how they managed the user interface specifications for IBM's public web presence. This talk will be an update on what has happened since then:
  • Advancements in the type of UI specifications covered, such as interaction patterns, mobile, tablets (and the challenges in organizing this information)
  • Changes in governance approach, from less compliance to more community leadership and innovation
  • Broadening of scope and engagement within IBM: merging intranet and internet specs and collaborating with IBM product groups
  • A re-design to celebrate IBM's 100th anniversary, which included building a business case for the UI design system

Because he has left IBM, he can share a more honest assessment of what things worked in that culture and what did not.

One of his first freelance projects has a cross-business unit UI design system aspect, so he can relate some early experiences "out in the real world".

If you have the feeling that there is a better way than drawing the same wireframes over and over again for each project, then you will want to hear some of my stories about how you can document a design system to speed up the design process, create more consistent experiences, save your company money, and still leave room for innovation.

I will use this blog entry to post links to background information, share the deck afterwards, and give people a chance to comment. A few links for starters:

Eight Years of IUE: Reflection and Perspective

It is time for another Internet User Experience conference in Ann Arbor. Next week!

I get the honor of helping kick-off the conference on Tuesday with "Eight Years of IUE: Reflection and Perspective", a short talk to give you some of the history of this great event (hoping this will help you enjoy the 2012 conference even more).

To do my research about the first 8 years of IUE, I compiled a set of links to older versions of the conference web site and a few other things. Here is my list, in case you want to re-live some of the past experiences.

I will update this blog posting after the talk, including the slides. If you have links to other things about IUE, leave a comment or contact me.

Midwest UX, May 31

I am at the Midwest UX conference.

I am just hanging out today. Tomorrow I will be the emcee in the Gallery Theatre. (It is hard to find, so if you are going to a session there, be sure to follow the signs to the 2nd floor and then the additional signs to the theatre.) If you are here and want to find me, your best bet is to come to the theatre.

Here are the sessions in the theatre that I will be attending: (links to slide decks added as they are posted)

A great set of sessions! You can follow along with these sessions, and the rest of the conference, with the Twitter hashtag MWUX12. And since I cannot make it on Saturday, I will be following Day 2 virtually myself.

Blog topics: 

Cleveland lunch, Wednesday, Noon, GLBC

The next stop on my tour around the area to re-connect with my user experience colleagues and talk about options for my next career will be:

If you are in the Cleveland area and would like to join me for lunch, then please leave a comment here, send me a tweet, leave me a message on Facebook or contact me on LinkedIn. Or just show up at GLBC at noon and ask for the Instone reservation.

I would love to hear what you are working on. I would be happy to share some stories of what I have been doing. And share some of the "crazy" ideas about what I might do next.

And you may want to show up REALLY just to hang out with the other awesome user experience people who might be there.

I am spending the whole day in the Cleveland area, visiting something on the west side in the morning, visiting someone on the east side in the afternoon, then attending the NEOUPA presentation at the Cleveland Clinic at 6pm. I will probably return home after that, not sure I will have enough stamina to stay after for food and drinks.

Last week, I toured Detroit and other parts of Michigan, as I "hauled Molly" during her visit on Friday. Overall, I got to connect with people at Refresh Detroit and TechSmith and MSU UARC. Many more people in the Ann Arbor / Detroit area to see. Dayton, Columbus coming up next month.

Save $100 on Midwest UX conference registration

I am going to the 2012 Midwest UX conference (May 31 - June 2) in Columbus and I'd like others from the Toledo region to join me.

Last year was the first year for Midwest UX, and it was a great conference, with content rivaling events that are much farther away. If you are interested in user experience and in the Toledo region, I highly recommend you go to Midwest UX (and/or Internet User Experience, in Ann Arbor, slated for July 16-18 - follow @internetUX for info).

To encourage people from the region to attend, I am running a little contest. The winner gets $100 off their Midwest UX registration. To enter, send me an email (to midwestux at instone dot org) with why you think you should win, in 100 words or less. I will pick my favorite on April 15th and send you a promotional code so you can go off and register and save $100. $350 is already a bargain: $250 is a steal.

There is only 1 thing I ask of the winner: write up a summary of your experience at the conference on Saturday, June 2. I will be missing that day (my daughter's high school graduation is then). Post your summary publicly (anywhere you want) so that I can see some of what I missed, and others can benefit from my $100 contribution. You can write up more than just what you learned on Saturday, of course.

Contest only open to people who live in the Toledo region (loosely defined) and have not already registered for Midwest UX. You cannot use it for workshop registration, only a regular conference pass.

Blog topics: 

Leaving IBM

Starting in April, I will not be an employee of IBM. Why? They laid me off. I am not upset about it.

It was a great 10 years. I got to work with great people on really challenging and interesting business problems. I contributed to several important, transformative efforts within the company. I made a difference for users across a variety of IBM digital touchpoints.

What's next for me? I do not know yet. If you are going to the IA Summit this week, then I want to talk with you about opportunities to collaborate. I am excited that I will get to do something new and different, and can build upon what I experienced working for IBM for a decade.

What did I learn, teach, discover, accomplish, survive the past 10 years? Four items to start with as I reflect back a bit.

1. You can indeed have effective, distributed, worldwide teams (e.g., dozens of people, all working remotely, in many time zones) but it is not easy. It takes discipline, planning, good communication skills, and proper use of a wide variety of tools.

User experience methods are useful for planning the "team experience" and information architecture skills come in handy for organizing the work spaces.

2. Agile UX & development processes, in general, are a better way to work in large corporations, since it makes it easier to do continuous, incremental improvements.

In a large, complex, systems-driven infrastructure, the "trick" is in the analysis phase (aka "writing stories"), where large problems are broken down into smaller work items. Avoid the roadblock parts of the infrastructure - things that are so broken, they need to be thrown away.

Certain parts of the user experience will always stink until the company commits to starting over from scratch. Make progress where you can and constantly remind management what is FUBAR.

3. One of the trends I see coming is more and more integration of UI design systems. Within IBM, our latest web redesign included a huge effort to combine our intranet and internet UIs. They do not look exactly the same, but our definitions/implementations of breadcrumbs, local navigation, icons, page grids and other UI elements are the same now.

The business case includes both UX benefits and costs savings. For example, a widget developed for the intranet can easily be used on internet sites.

The integration is happening at a larger scale within the company now. With platforms evolving quickly (smart phones, tablets), companies will need to spend even more time integrating UI design systems to make all of their digital touchpoints fit together.

My personal interest is on the information architecture side: how to organize the elements in the design systems (in a multi-faceted classification scheme, of course) so they can be integrated.

4. A technique I used for dealing with stakeholders on a daily basis was acting like a "requirements therapist". Groups would come to me with the "solution" in mind (e.g., "add a link to the home page", "we need smaller tabs to fit them all on our pages") and I would ask them lots of questions about how they got to this as the answer to their problems.

What is the actual business problem you are trying to solve? What are the user needs, goals, tasks? What other options did you consider (and what are the pros/cons of each)? What impact would this have on other business units? What would be the ideal user experience (even if we know that is not possible)? What is the bare minimum we can do to move us in the right direction? And so on.

Sometimes the net result was no actual change to the user experience, but the client changed through the therapy.

Four of my thoughts after 10 years with IBM, without getting into the weeds. And boy, are there a lot of IBM business and technical details I have gotten into over the past 10 years, things only an "innie" gets to experience. I guess that is something else that is important: how to stay at a high level for a while, and when to get into the details to actually get the work done. Being able to switch your brain quickly from the "clouds" to the "weeds" - and back - is crucial.

10 great years: now to start the next great 10 years!

Site back

I shut down the site for a while so I could fix some things on the back end. You would not have noticed, except that I have not been posting anything for longer than usual. Everything seems working on the new version of Drupal, new hosting service, etc. So a lot fewer excuses to skip write something here!


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