Solutions architect (local UX job posting)

The Information Architect Institute Job Board lists something for Toledo (which is rare).

This seems to be a technical job with a responsibility like "Keeps abreast of Best in Class user experience and technical solutions and competitive sites/solutions". But an actual "do-er" as well: "Develops detailed, thought-through Site Architecture: Wireframes, Navigation, User Experience Diagrams, Whiteside/Prototypes and related documentation". (Never heard the term "whiteside" before.)

I have no idea what company this is with locally. Or who Ray and Barney is/are. They do claim (PDF) to be "Ohio’s leading SharePoint Service Provider and a Microsoft Partner". And their history seems to be focused on the IT/HR marriage: "...dedicated to transforming client HR and IT functions into strategic business units..."

Checking out their open positions, I see 3 things listed for Toledo.

  • Digital Agency-Director of Design. "...embodies the convergence of excellent design skills with advanced front-end development skills, along with the proven ability to lead and mentor more junior interactive designers...ability to translate brand essence and brand goals into the interactive experience..."
  • Digital Agency-Interactive Designer. "...interactive designers to create interactive experiences and Web sites...passion for interactive development...balances beauty, innovation and usability..."
  • Solutions Architect. Same as what is posted at IAI

If you know of more details about who the local client is, or who gets hired for these positions in the end, let me know and I will introduce them to the other user experience professionals in the area.

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IBM Total User Experience Innovation

Check out the July 22nd BusinessWeek: Innovation of the Week podcast:

  • R&D: The D Is for Design. "How research and development must change. Monty Montague, a principal at innovation consultancy Bolt, discusses how incorporating design into traditional R and D departments has led to major innovations at companies ranging from IBM to Herman Miller."

The basic question: "What is the relationship between research and innovation?" A few overall notes:

  • Innovation defined as "invention that gets out in the world" (debatable: "and provides value")
  • Do demand-driven research, not supply-driven (e.g., "outside-in" not "inside-out" which is the more traditional way)
  • Colt 45s and individualized blender examples
  • Key is "making connections" with the outside (customers, users, other industries)
  • The "D" is becoming more than just "development", including "design" (and design thinking)
  • Product, service and process innovation (not just products)

At about 6 and a half minutes into the interview. Monty starts talking about IBM. I may have transcribed some of the words wrong, but here is the basic quote:

Total user experience is how IBM has, not only through research and through revamping of their business model, developed innovative products, but they are innovating the user experience. And that is part of what R&D needs to do today. It needs to not consider itself a "product R&D group," but an "experience R&D group." And look at not only the development of the product, but the development of the user guide for the product, the service center for the product, the call center, the people calling to get information about the product, the selling environment in which the product is sold. All of those are touchpoints for the consumer that are as important as the product and the R&D team can be the facilitator of the innovation around all of those. And IBM has done that.

He does not mention specific examples or sources, but it is a very nice thing to say about IBM.

Since Monty seems like such a smart guy, I did a little searching for other things he has written. I only found a few:

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Ballot design

With the US presidential election coming up, ballot design is starting to get some attention again. My local paper printed "Ballot design, new machines, instructions recipe for lost votes" (by Andrew Stengel and Lawrence Norden, but I cannot find the article online) in the Opinion section earlier this week. The article seems to have been triggered by a Brennan Center press release. The main point of the article is that there is now data about the number of "lost votes" (votes thrown away because of errors) that points to usability problems. That is, ballots that violate basic design principles cause more lost votes.

One of the recommendations for government officials is "Make necessary changes based on usability testing and public sample feedback". Cool!

That reminded me to check up on the Usability Professionals' Association Voting and Usability project. It had been a while since I took notice of the great work going on there. Something new appears to be the Local Election Officials testing kit.

So if you are a local elections official who has read the Toledo Blade article and you want to do some usability testing, check out the LEO testing kit. Also, if you need to hire help doing the usability testing, UPA has a list of usability consultants in Ohio. And then there is Better Ballots from the Brennan Center - and Whitney Quesenbery, a dear colleague. Ohio ballots and Ohio laws that impede usability are included.

(What I also found interesting is that most of the people who started the LEO kit are from right around here. Not from Ohio, but just up north: MSU Usability and Accessibility Center, University of Michigan and several Michigan companies.)

I am no expert in ballot design, but if you are a local election official who needs help understanding how to do usability testing on ballots, contact me and I will be more than happy to help you get started.

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Save the date: Scott McCloud at BGSU, October 24

I do not have final details, but wanted to get the word out as soon as possible so you can start planning. Subject to change.

Who: Scott McCloud, Cartoonist and Theorist
What: Comics: A Medium in Transition
When: Friday, October 24, 2008, 6:30 pm
Where: 206 Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

One of the sponsoring organizations appears to be the BGSU student chapter of SIGGRAPH / Computer Arts Club. The School of Art may also be funding part of this (Todd Childers is the one who gave me the basic info - thanks Todd!).

Poking around some more, I found "The Comic Book in Popular Culture" scheduled in many rooms in the same building at the same time. Which led me to this call for participation from the Popular Culture Department. So I assume Scott's visit is part of the conference.

And checking out "Comics: A Medium in Transition" by Scott, I see these other performances:

Stay tuned for more info...

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IBM Service Science feature

The ibm.com US home page has a feature on Service Science this week.

(In the past, I have written about service innovation, frontiers in service and service science in politics.)

The main angle for this IBM feature on Service Science, Management and Engineering seems to be "it is the next computer science" (not unlike web science).

A few quotes:

  • IBM helped create "computer science" as a field of study... IBM is again at the forefront of the next major trend in college and professional education...
  • We already live in a world full of service systems, with access to more and more every day. Computer science was studying something that was very rare in the world—digital computers... (Jim Spohrer)
  • Traditional courses do not integrate across discipline boundaries...It will be very important that graduates understand that an SSME focus will lead to good jobs and careers... (Lynne Rosansky)
  • It provides for an integrated framework to explore all disciplines, especially computer science and information technology... (Mohammed Ghriga)
  • ...a group of full professors starts to teach and research SSME, then they get from their faculty a recognition of their discipline, then the ministry of universities recognizes the discipline and then it is possible to get new full professors... (Guido M. Rey)
  • ...the emerging model for software engineering is to offer an ongoing service as opposed to a tangible product acquired through a one-time sale. (Aaron Quirk)

One of the items of additional reading is the Succeeding through Service Innovation white paper, which I had the pleasure of giving feedback on. I commented on various aspects of user experience that seemed to be missing. They did use one of my quotes about the relevance to business.

I think we still have a long way to go to get the next generation ready to fix all of the messes we are going to leave them, but inter-disciplinary approaches like SSME are a step in the right direction.

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Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch died yesterday. His pages at CMU (such as his update page) have been hard to access because of the traffic, so let me summarize in case you still cannot get to them.

July 25th, 2008: Randy died this morning of complications from pancreatic cancer.

July 24th, 2008: The cancer is progressing. A biopsy last week revealed that the cancer has progresed further than we had thought from recent PETscans. Since last week, Randy has also taken a step down and is much sicker than he had been. He's now enrolled in hospice. He's no longer able to post here so I'm a friend posting on his behalf because we know that many folks are watching this space for updates.

I personally found the CMU article An Enduring Legacy the best single thing to read if you are not familiar with Randy's life. Let me extract one paragraph:

He is survived by his wife, Jai, and three children: Chloe, Dylan and Logan. The family requests that donations on his behalf be directed to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, CA 90245, or to Carnegie Mellon's Randy Pausch Memorial Fund, which the university will use primarily to support continued work on the Alice project.

Donating money is one way to show you care. In this case, "living life the Randy Pausch way" is also a pretty nice thing to do.

Over time, I know we will see some very fitting tributes to Randy from his professional colleagues. So far I have seen:

  • Whitney Hess, one of his students
  • David Armano, who has already folded one of Randy's stories into his user experience presentations

Last week, I submitted the first draft of an article to interactions about the Randy Pausch story. It was by far the hardest thing I had ever tried to write. I cannot tell yet if the next draft will be easier or harder.

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TorCHI talk: Stories behind the links

On June 24th, I was honored to be part of the TorCHI program and talk about information architecture on ibm.com. The talk was entitled There is a story behind every link:

Ever wonder how a large corporate web site navigation system is designed, and how it evolves over time? How certain links find their way to the corporate home page, while other ones do not? How major changes in the corporation's business affect the web site navigation? And how the IA of the corporate web site can give clues about how well the business is doing?

If so, then join Keith Instone as he tells stories about the information architecture of ibm.com. Example stories may include:

  • The evolution of sitewide navigation categories like "solutions" and "services"
  • Worldwide information architecture challenges
  • The cultural shifts required to do something as (theoretically) simple as adding a "sign in" link to the masthead
  • Tracking the evolution of a single web page as it signals fundamental shifts in how the business is operating "behind the scenes"
  • The effect of selling off a key division of the company on the navigation system
  • Balancing the strategic goals while handling day-to-day requests for changes to the navigation
  • Techniques for dealing with executive home page link requests

The stories Keith tells will be in part determined by what you want to hear. Come prepared to select some high level links on ibm.com and see if Keith has any interesting stories to tell about them.

I prepared about 100 slides of possible things we could talk about, but, by design, the session was driven by what the audience wanted to talk about. Here is my (incomplete) list of what we covered:

  • Sign in / register, country location in the masthead today (logic for placement today, and in the future)
  • Who owns what, how to manage the millions of pages
  • Solutions, services, products and corporate strategy over the years
  • Masthead sign in challenges and compromises
  • My IBM: use as anonymous user, gateway to various applications
  • Who does the 3 prongs of user feedback: User research studies, analytics, qualitative user feedback
  • Search challenges: technology/budget, tagging, UI (easiest of the 3)
  • User-generated content (silos likely initially, integrated over time)
  • Accessibility challenges overall, why the link in the footer
  • Role based navigation (home page Learn about tab), task based navigation
  • Standards for page design ("what we offer" module as an example)
  • Content management, sharing, the "4th tab owners" of a solution page
  • Tactical, medium-term, long-term planning for changes (add 1 link now, work with groups for better tactical changes later, save some things for a big, strategic redesign)

As it happens with these things, you really had to be there to get any value out of my artifacts from the talk. For those of you who were there, you can download (below) a PDF of screen grabs from some of the parts of ibm.com that we talked about. And I included some of the text slides that I prepared ahead of time that were relevant to what we discussed. I included the "history of the ibm.com masthead categories" slide that several people have asked for.

There are lots more stories to tell: I will have to save them for some other talk.

Getting to "we"

When I first read Getting to "we" in the April 2008 Communications of the ACM, I really liked two things about the article:

  • The 4 categories of Information sharing, Coordination, Cooperation, and Collaboration, with technology examples for each. Good framework: I will throw those terms around more carefully now.
  • The mention of whole system change methods like Appreciative inquiry and Charrettes to get to collaboration. The Change Handbook includes a lot more methods. Over the past 2 years, I have found the Nexus for Change conference a great way to learn more about these methods.

(You can download the article from ACM above. It is also available at The Profession of IT series from Peter J. Denning.)

A few other folks thought this article was also worth mentioning:

  • Thomas Vander Wal points out that "most of the tools and services...do not even come close" to what we need for collaboration.
  • Jack Vinson expands on "collaboration and community" and ties in another CACM article about social ties.
  • Mark Lindsey summarizes the punchline of the article: "collaboration comes by failure of other plans".

Weeks later after first reading it, I am still finding it useful (I have gone back to it several times lately), so I decided to mention it here. This article is another nice data point on the "IT systems" meets "social change" landscape for me.

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Almaden bound

I am lucky. I am off to visit the Almaden Research Center next week for the Almaden Institute 2008 conference.

I did a little research about some of the (non-IBM) speakers to help me get the most out of the program. Here are a few links in case you want to learn more, too.

I managed to also plan 1 day of "extra time" to hang out with area IBMers that I do not get to see often enough, like Fred Sampson, Andrea Ames and Thyra Rauch. And do "real ibm.com work" with Rob Johnson. Finally, it will be nice to see EWHCI colleague Allen Cypher while I am there.

Three local job openings in Web UX

This could be a first: three Toledo-area job openings in web user experience, at the same time.

#1 is with the Toledo Zoo as a Web Project Coordinator: "...create a website experience that engages audiences..." is mentioned in the description (in today's Toledo Blade). I do not see an online description of the job to link to, however. Contact the zoo for more information, I guess.

#2 is Web Interface Designer with TolTest, a construction management firm. "...Design web interfaces for TolTest’s next generation of internal and external applications" with "solid understanding of user-centered design principles and methodologies, information and interaction design".

#3 is Web Development Specialist/Designer at BGSU (PDF). "...Continuously improve navigation, accessibility, usability and brand image" based on a "knowledge of designing and implementing site architecture, functionality, data flow, user interfaces and intuitive navigation".

(There could be more - these are 3 that I found completely by accident. Let me know if you know of any other web user experience jobs in the area - I am happy to promote them.)

Perhaps there is something to the idea that customer experience is recession proof.

These 3 jobs are small potatoes compared to the big economic development news in the area, of course. Xunlight getting more funding and hiring. First Solar continuing to hire.

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