You are here

Presenter's blog

WUD Research-Practice Interaction pre-work

On November 11th - World Usability Day - I will have the honor of giving a keynote "talk" at the Dayton-area event. I say "talk" in quotes because I really want it to be a more interactive session, where I provide enough background to get the discussion going, then the audience (participants, really) take over from there.

In the spirit of trying to make it easier for attendees to become participants, Douglas Gardner, the awesome organizer of the event at LexisNexis, has asked me to compile some pre-work / questions that he can distribute to people who have signed up to attend the Dayton event. I feel like a teacher giving students homework to do, but here goes!

Issues to consider, questions to ask yourself

  • If you are a user experience practitioner, what types of challenges do you face often that you wish you had a "scientific" answer to? Have you tried to find answers in the research literature? What roadblocks did you encounter when looking for answers? What successes have you had in taking research findings and improving your practice?
  • If you are a researcher, what is the value in engaging with practitioners? What is in it for you? Do you have any examples of success stories, where your research got better because of interactions you had with practitioners?
  • What should students of HCI, interaction design and other user experience disciplines be taught about research to better prepare themselves for the practitioner world?

Things to read

Things to do

  • If you are on Twitter, tweet something about the research-practitioner interaction topic with the #uxrpi hashtag.
  • Get a napkin (or some scrap of paper) and sketch something. Bring it to the session, you will have a chance to share this with every one else. (Even better, post your sketch to Flickr.)
  • Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to what you think are the most important research-practitioner challenges. Or make a list of solutions you know about from other fields. Bring it to the session.

Also, I have not quite figured out how to handle the interactiveness with a session in Ottawa who is planning on listening in remotely. My IBM/Cognos colleagues are hosting their own WUD event and will be joining both IBM's Social Media in the Workplace session (at noon ET USA) and mine (at 3:30).

And we might have others joining us remotely. We will have a LiveMeeting and call in: (800) 963-3556 / Conf ID: 266.4656. 3:30pm ET USA, November 11.

I hope I can make the session worthwhile for everyone who joins us.

November 21 update: I finally got around to posting the slides (as presented) on SlideShare.

So you wanna be on our UX team? (BGSU ARTD 4050)

I did an intro to user experience for members of the BGSU ARTD 4050 Interactive Graphic Design classes this morning. The instructors, Amy Fidler and Jenn Stucker, also had guest speakers on kiosk design and social media. Sort of a "mini conference" of talks from practitioners for the students. Always happy to help out like this!

PDF of my slides

I tried something different this time, putting it all in the context of the student applying for a job on my fictional user experience team, and giving them questions they should ask of their potential employer. Sometimes I answered the question from the point of view of a "good" company to work for; sometimes what you might get from a "bad" company.

Below are the set of questions I prepared to seed the discussion. As usual, the class asked better questions than I prepared. The one that I think generated the best discussion was how they, as graphic designers on a user experience team, would work with the technical folks. Good: an integrated team where the developers worked hand-in-hand with the graphic designers. Bad: where designs were thrown "over the fence" and then ignored.

I ran out of time and did not get to do a quick overview of things to stay in touch with to help the students learn more, so let me list those here for the students:

A couple of people (on Twitter, Facebook) thought the idea of using a job interview as the setting for an intro to UX for students was interesting. It seemed to work OK here. But this was my first time trying it, so I already have some ideas on how to do it better next time. I will definitely prepare several "company" scenarios ahead of time - typical company/team profiles that match the types of places the students want to work. I used personal experience at IBM as one profile, of course, but talking with the students, they mentioned "print firms getting into digital" as a more likely company they would be applying to. Procter & Gamble (with its branding focus) was another. Small design agencies, Large design agencies: two more settings that I think would expose interesting answers about UX.

But it was fun trying something different. Getting out of the house. Hanging out with the students.

Finally, here are my prepared set of questions. (If you want my set of good and bad answers for each, sorry, I made up most of those answers up on the spot, only a few are covered in the slides.)


  • What is your definition of user experience?
  • Within the company, who "owns" the experience with the customer (consumer, citizen, constituent, partner, …) Does anyone think they own it?
  • Which channels does the team focus on – only web? Is mobile "hot" or "huh"?

About the team

  • Who else is on the UX team? What are their backgrounds? Who specializes in what things, which activities are shared?
  • What would my role on the team be? Would I specialize in the graphic design work? How much technical work would I do? Would there be an opportunity for me to branch out into other UX activities?

How the team works

  • How does the UX team collaborate with other parts of the business (such as stakeholders and technical teams)? Tell me a story of a typical engagement for the UX team.
  • Is this a single, centralized UX team, or is it one of several UX teams distributed throughout the company? Is this a "project" team or a "manager" team (which works on many projects)?
  • What UX methods does the team use? Do you have a "methodology" or just "methods"? Agile or waterfall? How would you compare your idea of the "complete method" (all of the steps needed to design for a good experience) compare with the actual methods the team has time/resources to do in practice?

Work atmosphere, culture

  • What professional development opportunities are there? Does our team participate in any local UX communities?
  • What does the team read (together)? Do team members write/contribute regularly?
  • Do we have time to "innovate" (try out new ideas)? Or just heads down and do the basics? Are we rewarded for failing?

The business

  • Who are the users? What are their goals? What specific tasks does the team design for? What is an example of some recent user research you did? Was it focus groups, a survey, ethnographic, remote usability testing?
  • What are some of the specific business goals that the UX team is designing for? How does the team UX strategy support the strategic direction of the company?
  • How is the team measured?

Panel: Effective user experience professionals and teams

I am honored to be one of the panelists at tonight's Michigan UPA / MOCHI meeting: What makes an effective user experience professional and team (UX management perspectives). Here is an outline of what I will cover in my 5-10 minute introduction.

A few related conference sessions I have been to:

Possible debate topics:

  • Methods and deliverables for individuals and teams. Personas, usability test analysis, how many users, … Does any of it even matter today? Which methods and skills will stand the test of time? Which will not?
  • Engagement models for "the UX team" (and org chart concerns). Part of the organization, Loaned to the team, Part of the project, Consultant, Reviewer, Enforcer, Ignoring. Should there even such thing as a "UX team"? When short on resources, it is OK to "teach and deputize" UX responsibilities?
  • Agile vs. Waterfall. Is Agile evil or what "UCD" has meant all along? Or both? Are you a Newtonian or a Quantum mechanic? Is there a unified field theory for UX? Do the UX skills transfer between Agile & Waterfall? What else may need to change?
  • Individual UX skills. Jack-of-all trades/generalist, T-shaped, Specialist. Should you be an "Interaction designer/IA/etc.", a "UX person" or a "person who does good work, including planning good experiences"?

Looking forward to hanging out. Hope we get good participation from the audience and a lively debate.

Keynote at SIG USE research symposium

I had the honor of presenting one of the keynotes at yesterday's SIG USE annual research symposium (part of the 2008 ASIS&T annual meeting in Columbus). The theme was "Future Directions: Information Behavior in Design & the Making of Relevant Research."

I took on the task of giving SIG USE feedback "from the outside" with these two perspectives:

  • Human-computer interaction, information architecture and general user experience professional. What is this thing called "human information behavior (HIB) research" and how does it relate to the research disciplines I am familiar with?
  • Practitioner. What can practitioners learn from HIB and apply to their challenges? How do we bridge the research/practice gaps?

I broke my talk down into 3 sections:

  • About me and my journey to gain an initial understanding of HIB
  • An analysis of the symposium position papers, where I tried to distill them down into both "how do we connect with designers" and the specific research they are doing which I might be able to apply to my "finding information" challenges
  • Stories about things I work on for, with the hope that they could spur some ideas for some research topics

Download a PDF of my slides (2 meg). I deleted / cleaned up a few things for the public archive. And usual disclaimer: slides geared for the presentation. If you were not there, they may not be very interesting.

I sped through the slides and talked too fast, but I think (hope) that I put forth some good questions for the SIG USE community to debate going forward. The individual discussions and small group work after my talk were very valuable to me. I have some more reading to do (such as information encountering) and contacts of "SIG USE people" who I can stay in touch with. Looking forward to it!

One final note: I can see why SIG USE wins awards from ASIS&T. Very well run.

Blog topics: 

UXDesignCast 13 - Panel podcast

I was a panelist on the latest UXDesignCast. Karel, Eliane and I have done similar podcasts within IBM, but this was our first external one. It was nice to have Valerie Fox join us - see her interview with Karel to learn more about her.

I have not listened to it yet, hope I did not say anything stupid.

We plan on doing more panel podcasts and are using the UXDesignCast tag on delicious to keep track of things to talk about. Feel free to add things to the list for us to consider.

Organic networking event, Detroit, September 30th

I will be part of Network and Learn - An evening of user experience design and information architecture discussion - Hosted by Organic next week. I will be the "filling" for two networking "cookies".

I will be doing another version of my There is a story behind every link: Tales of information architecture from talk. This talk was designed to be not much work for me - I have a basic intro and then take a ton of questions - so that I could, in part, do it on short notice. Folks at the Detroit office of Organic wanted to host a meeting, so I was able to help by pulling this talk off the shelf.

If you plan on attending, RSVP on Facebook. To get the most out of the session, spend some time on find stuff you like, stuff you hate, stuff that baffles you. Speak up during my talk and make your comment or ask your question. Chances are I will have an "interesting" story: about how we pulled it off, or about the challenges we face as a large company. I bet there will be a few nods of "sounds like where I work, too...."

Also, be sure to show up in time for the networking event before my talk. And I will try to keep my talk short so you can enjoy more networking after. That is the part I enjoy more than the talks, to be honest.

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 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 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 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 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 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.

Catalyze Webcast, October 29th

Thanks for all the messages-of-support about the upcoming Catalyze webcast about UXnet. See my other blog posting for links to some of the things we will talk about. The Catalyze marketing engine is impressive, so I think there will be plenty of attendees. I will post a version of the presentation here (and other places) afterwards. See you on the webcast tomorrow.

Blog topics: 

A day at Kent State, April 26

I will be spending Thursday, April 26th, on the campus of Kent State University, hosted by the wonderful folks at IAKM. I will be meeting with various groups throughout the day, but at 4pm will be my main presentation, an update to my "Applying information architecture to university web sites" (first presented at CASE V). I will also be meeting with the Usability I class in the evening.

A joke term we used when planning the event was Keith Instone Day - and that term stuck. I am kind of embarrassed to have my own day at KSU, but I do like the idea where experienced professionals spend a day on a local campus and share their expertise with students (and others).

I am also on the IAKM Advisory Board. Spending a day there seems like a good way to strengthen those practitioner / researcher / educator bonds (something I think IA needs more of).

Also, Karl Fast, who I worked with at Argus, will also be on campus, as he prepares to join the IAKM faculty. With Samantha Bailey also coming, another Argus Alum, it really should be Argus Associates Day.

IUE panel on the state of the web UX

I will be a part of the panel "The State of Web Site User Experience in 2007", along with Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus and Stephanie Rosenbaum on February 21st. This will wrap up the second day of presentations at Internet User Experience 2007, a conference in Ann Arbor.

This panel explores the user experience that is most prevalent on web sites today and debates the highest impact options for making improvements. The panelists, each of whom is involved in web design, explain how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with the state of web site usability today. Attendees will walk away with a sense of purpose and focus on the highest impact improvements for today and the future.

Dave runs these panels about once a year; I am glad that I could return after participating in 2003. I wonder what I will say! And how will I make sure folks come away with a "sense of purpose...for today and the future."


Subscribe to RSS - Presenter's blog