UXPA 2013 Idea Market

I hosted an Idea Market about User Experience Research and Practice at the UXPA 2013 conference in DC on July 11th. Another event in the series exploring the challenges and solutions to the research-practice gap in UX.

Idea Markets are informal, discussion-oriented events. I has some space to put up info to announce the topic. Some people came by and left comments at random times, but most of the activity was during a special session for idea markets: a break in the regular program. We had up to 8 people talking at once and a few people were recruited to participate as certain topics came up. Here is a grouping of the things we talked about (the topics left as sticky notes, at least).

Problem statements: The session focused on ideas for solutions, but some people could not resist (re)-stating problems.

  • When I was a researcher, I felt I had more time to do in-depth user research and testing. As a practitioner, I feel that in an agile, feature-design world it is not possible.
  • Hard to apply the findings from the scientific research.
  • Making the findings from the scientific research digestable.
  • Researchers should start doing relevant research, and present it outside acadmic journals/conferences.

Hubs-of-activity ideas: Places, events where researchers and practitioners can hang out, interact, and where the other solutions can take place.

  • Monthly meet-ups.
  • Plan simultaneous practitioner and researcher conferences nearby, with social parties to combine both audiences.
  • Usability.gov as an online hub.
  • UXPA Body of Knowledge as an online hub.
  • A person as the hub: someone like Kath Straub who can compile the research and hold seminars to explain the research to many groups of practitioners.

Publishing-related ideas: focused on how to communicate research to practitioners.

  • Boxes and Arrows (and other online magazines that practitioners read) summary of research.
  • Business owners and designers/researchers write article together (e.g., HBR).
  • Comic books, "CHI Comix".
  • Articles written by practitioners and researchers together.
  • Quick reviews ("bite sized") of emerging research for practitioners.
  • Include practitioner articles in academic journals.

Higher education ideas: where the foundation for research-practice interaction is.

  • Team teaching: 1 researcher/academic and 1 practitioner.
  • Translate (industry) research topics into HCI programs (e.g., master's theses).
  • Cycle new grads thru the "professional ranks" like conference volunteer, newsletter editor.
  • Multi-disciplinary projects in school.

Do-it-yourself ideas: Practitioners serving themselves, instead of relying on "researchers".

  • Sharing tools developed by practitioners to solve their own user research challenges.
  • Self-funded R&D by practitioner companies.
  • Independent research of best practices, by industry.

Influence decision maker ideas: to help get to some of the root causes of the research-practice gap.

  • Find grant funders to attract researchers.
  • Executive understanding of importance of UX research.
  • Reach upper management.
  • Influence the grant and venture capital organizations.

Overall, a lot of the same from past conversations, but also some new twists. The important thing is to keep the challenges and ideas for improving in mind for the long haul.

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Midwest UX 2013 recaps and slides

The 3rd Midwest UX conference, back in October in Grand Rapids, MI, was great! Below are links to recaps and slides and other things, to help people who were there to get more out of the event afterwards, and for people who were not even there.

Conference resources

Conference recaps

Session & speakers, with link to slides and other resources

Keynote: Making Sense of Place
Abby Covert

It's Not You, It's Your Anti-Pattern
Edward Stojakovic, Fran Diamond

Boats, Trains & Shopping Malls: Testing the Usability of Products in their Natural Habitat
Kathi Kaiser

Dude, Who Stole My Community?
Charles Erdman

Everyone is a Designer, Whether You Like it or Not
Kyle Murphy

Hey, You Got Your Map In My Territory!: The Role of Language in Placemaking
Andrew Hinton

After Orientation: Making Room for a Novice UX Designer
Megan Schwarz

Keynote: Places Make Us
Christina Wodtke

Panel by Design West Michigan
Christina Wodtke, Chris Hoyt, Jeff Reuschel, Ritu Bajaj

Narrative Spaces
Christian Eckels

The Essence of Experience
Kaleem Khan

The Programmable World
Matt Nish-Lapidus

Field Manual: UX Lessons From The Military Profession
Jason Alderman

Defining our Place in Emerging Technologies
Erik Dahl

Resistance is Futile: Google Glass and the Cyborg Workforce of the Future
Donna Lichaw

Pecha Kucha:

Turn About is Fair Play: How We Employed UX to Transform Our Workplaces and Rethink Our Business
Seth Starner

The Place You’re In Is More Than The Place You’re At
Phillip Hunter

Social Smarts for Small Screens
Sonia Koesterer

Distant Land, Different Life
Kerry-Anne Gilowey

Scratch Your Own Itch: Simple, Designer-driven Apps
Simon King

The Four Mobile Traps: How To Avoid the Most Common Mistakes Plaguing The Mobile Space
Michael Mace

Keynote: Data is the Experience
Karl Fast

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UX Community Survey Results, Part 1

Back in March, I published a survey to get insights into what people in the Toledo region needed to help them create better user experiences. We have gotten 43 replies, so it seems like a good time to start analyzing the results and sharing them. This write-up will just cover the "needs" part: "ideas" results will come later. Just the data, no interpretation yet.

Before we start: who replied? I let people answer anonymously, and purposely did not ask "demographic" questions, preferring instead to keep the survey short. But here are some generic job titles of people who left their name and/or told me they answered:

  • Executives: CEO, President, Vice President, CIO
  • UX Practitioners: Web designer/developer, Usability analyst, Creative director, Interactive designer, UX designer
  • Other practitioners: Communications, Software developer, Application developer
  • Academia: Student, Instructor


We can rank each need by the number of times it was selected, out of 43, to get a sense of what people think are the most important answers to "What do you need to improve the user experience (UX) of the things you create?".

30Insights into innovative UI & interaction designs
29Knowledge of advanced UX techniques
27Case studies showing how others do UX
27Practice doing UX
25Training and formal education on how to do basic UX methods
19A UX "tribe" to hang out with, get support from
15More commitment from my clients to pay me for UX work
13Better tools for doing UX work
12Awareness and understanding of UX by others within my company
8UX talent to hire

Comments about the needs

A summary of what people typed in, edited and grouped.

What I need....

  • Inspiration and aspiration for my team
  • Real-world use cases and empirical data
  • User interface design guidelines and best practices
  • Good UX (for my app), without paying too much
  • UX value to business
  • More of ALL of this

How I want to address these needs....

  • Tell war stories with other veterans of UI
  • See UX teams in action
  • Network with people who need my services
  • Compare my practices to the work of others
  • Bounce idea off of others
  • Learn by doing

That is all for part 1. The "ideas" will be more complicated, and perhaps more interesting.

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BGSU last week

I spent most of last week on the campus of BGSU. Lots of different things, from Sibs N Kids to graphic design portfolios to playing hockey.

One of the major events was Entrepreneurship Week that included The Hatch, a Shark-Tank-like event, and the Sebo conference, which I have written about in the past. One of the personal hi-lites was being recognized as the person who reached the largest audience with Twitter during the conference. Hanson folks did a great job getting the audience engaged: loved the live social network analysis.

My other major on-campus activity was presenting to 3 undergraduate Usability Engineering classes. I extracted what I thought were the key things they learned this semester and pointed out some other things they will need to survive and prosper doing user experience-related work in industry. It was great meeting the students and learning about what they got out of the class. As usual, the questions they asked were better than the topics I was prepared to talk about, so the slides (PDF) are only a poor sampling of what we discussed.

It was great to spend so much time on campus last week. I learned a lot.

Reframing IA at IA Summit

I am looking forward to the IA Summit next week. My 13th, out of 14. Mostly going to catch-up with colleagues, learn, sight-see with the family, and talk about business opportunities.

And I will be participating in the Reframe IA workshop. There will be many people smarter than me there who will talk about better framings for IA. My interest is more about the process of reframing and how to close aspects of the research-practice gap. I have been "studying" the problems and solutions with user experience research practice interaction (#UXRPI) and this is another attempt at making progress.

I have posted my slides for the workshop on SlideShare in case you want to take a peek.

I am not really sure what my talking points will be for each slide: going to wing it. It is "round table workshop" so it will be all about the discussion.

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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
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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 usabilityprofessionals.org 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.

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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 "ibm.com 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.


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