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About the user experience community in the Toledo region.

Internet User Experience conference, July 26-28

I am doing some prep for this year's Internet User Experience conference. (6th year? This "regional" conference has stood the test of time and only gets better.) I plan on being there Monday-Wednesday, July 26-28. Exactly which sessions I will attend, when I arrive/drive home, and which sessions I skip to do some IBM work while I am there is TBD, but there are 2 things I am doing for sure (panels that I am on):

The research-practice interaction panel is good because it is forcing me to go back to the CHI and IAS work from this spring, and add in newer things like Don Norman's interactions article (that just arrived in paper form).

I will also try hard to get to these sessions:

The content strategy and agile UX sessions look good. I do not know a lot about eye-tracking, so I might hit one of those sessions. Many other sessions are interesting, but it will depend on my work schedule, or if I am in the middle of a good conversation in the hallway, etc. (One more: UPA's Usability Body of Knowledge (BoK) project, if I can stay that late on Wednesday.)

I hope you can make it to the conference as well! If you are a user experience professional in the Toledo/Detroit/Ann Arbor area, there is no excuse for missing this great event.

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My schedule, November 10 & 12

I am attending two "local" events in mid-November. Hope to touch base with colleagues in the area I have not seen in a while - and meet some new ones, too, of course.

The first is the Smarter Cities Cleveland Forum on November 10th. From the description:

Cleveland Smarter Cities Forum will create a peer-to-peer exchange for mayors, civic leaders and businesses to engage with like-minded thinkers and shape the blueprints for smarter cities. We will discuss new approaches to regional partnership, identify roadblocks, evaluate frameworks for investment and review the tools and technologies that are making our urbanizing planet more instrumented, more interconnected and more intelligent. As leaders, we all have a vital stake in ensuring that our cities become more resilient, more sustainable and more secure. Indeed, the health of our planet and of society depends on it. We are pleased you will be joining us to start shaping that future.

IBM has hosted larger Smarter Cities events, so I am excited to be able to attend one near me. I am going partly to get out of the house (telecommuting is great but it wears on you), partly to learn some things myself, but mostly to spend time with my users. That is, get a little closer to the people who are interacting with aspects of the Smarter Planet web presence. I won't be doing any formal usability studies, just hanging out and listening.

If you are attending, leave a comment, send me an email, DM me, whatever, so I know to look for you there.

Two days later on November 12th is World Usability Day, with its theme of Designing for a sustainable world - a definite connection with Smarter Cities. Each year of WUD, I have done something different (05/San Francisco, 06/Hosted locally, 07/Chicago, 08/Cleveland) and I had several good options again this year.

Since I was in Cleveland last year, I decided to attend the festivities in East Lansing, Michigan this year: Designing for Sustainable Communities. It has been several years since I went to something hosted by the MSU Usability & accessibility center, too long.

Cleveland is having a great WUD event again and Dayton has another great WUD event planned (with a warm-up for the "kids"). Kent State has its own this time. There is one in Columbus but usually a few others emerge in the capital area as well. I am sure I am missing other World Usability Day events near me.

IBM celebrates World Usability Day with an internal company-wide webcast. It might be opened up to the outside this year, which would make it fun to attend while at a face-to-face event.

If you are also from the Toledo area and going to the MSU WUD event, drop me a line. I could use a ride up, but do not need a ride back.

Tickets still available: July 11, UX with Mud Hens

I am organizing a local get-together where you can hang out with others who are interested in user experience. We chose a truly-Toledo location: a Mud Hens ball game.

What: User Experience Day with the Mud Hens
When: Saturday, July 11 (first game of the double header starts at 5:30pm)
Where: Fifth Third Field, downtown Toledo, Ohio

Would you like to enjoy the company of fellow interaction designers, information architects, usability engineers, developers and others interested in enabling quality user experiences for their customers? And enjoy the world-famous Toledo Mud Hens in a double-header, with fireworks after the games? Bring your family, too, if they are willing to put up with us talking about user experience in between pitches.

40 tickets have been reserved for this group outing. Tickets will cost $9. The ticket order will be placed in mid June, so if you are interested, please contact me.

Tickets are still available! If you are interested, you can send me an email (keith2009 at this site) or leave a comment below. Help spread the word: I am hoping I can meet new people from Refresh Toledo and re-connect with colleagues from AIGA Toledo who I have not seen recently. And I will be happy to welcome anyone else who is crazy enough to come to a baseball game to share their passion about user experience.

We already have families coming from out of town (Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus areas) so we may also meet at the Toledo Zoo in the morning. Join the fun!

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Upcoming local (Toledo, OH) and area events

Spring is in the air here, and as the weather gets warmer, all sorts of things to do are popping up for people interested in user experience.

This is where you will find me in the next 6 weeks or so.

Add in a "spring break" trip to Boston for CHI 2009 and I will be busy. I have not recovered from IA Summit 2009 yet.

There is a lot more happening in the region - things I wish I could attend but I just won't be able to.

Whew! (I am sure I am missing some other things, too.) A good sign, tho: if you live around here and are interested in user experience, you have lots of opportunities to spend time discussing UX in lots of different contexts with lots of different groups.

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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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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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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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Internet User Experience 2008: March 31 - April 3, Ann Arbor

It just keeps getting bigger and better - Internet User Experience, the "local" conference with "national" quality. It will be in nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 31 - April 3.

IUE, in its 4th year, has expanded to 4 days. The first day has 2 all-day tutorials to choose from. The second day is the beginning of the main conference with 7 presentations and a night out-on-the-town. The third day has 2 morning panels, a presentation and 2 half-day afternoon tutorials. The last day is an interactive workshop.

You will see how web sites have been effectively designed for many different markets and target groups, ranging from 3-year olds to adult consumers to specialized professionals. You will see dramatic before-and-after improvements to established web sites. You will learn from experts in fields such as search engine optimization, online communities, and user experience management as they explain and debate the current state, future destiny, and current opportunities that exist for businesses with these evolving technologies and professions.

We are blessed to have such a high quality program for a locally-organized event. Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus, a Michigan UPA officer, is the main force behind this, but he gets volunteers from other local groups like MOCHI, STC/SM and Refresh Detroit, to help. It is a great example of how local User Experience Network collaboration can help pull off something "local" that is comparable to the other UX conferences.

Check out the schedule and register if you are interested. I have gone every year and it has been great. I will be there for at least part of the 4 days - see you there.

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AIGA Toledo chapter

I just discovered that we now have an AIGA local chapter in the area, AIGA Toledo. Yeah! Amy Fidler and Jenn Stucker issued a call for participation in July and had the first organizational meeting in April. Since becoming an official chapter, the group has hosted Marian Bantjes in September and a social gathering in October (with Flickr photos from both events). Amy and Jenn have collaborated on other things, too.

Before the Toledo chapter was formed, local AIGA members had the option of driving to Detroit or Cleveland for meetings. There is also an AIGA chapter in Cincinnati.

I was an AIGA member years ago, when it had an active Experience design community of practice. I am no longer an AIGA member, but one of the hi-lites of DUX was meeting AIGA members (the "dressed in black" crowd): as we talked about user experience, the differences in our backgrounds did not really matter.

AIGA Toledo represents the first truly local chapter related to user experience. As a UXnet Local Ambassador, I hope I will be able to help them incorporate the right mix of user experience topics into their programs so they can help serve the broader UX community in Northwest Ohio.

I will still be hanging out in the Ann Arbor/Detroit, Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus areas to connect with UX professionals in the region, but it will be nice to also have a connection with colleagues closer to home through our new AIGA chapter.

Thanks to Amy and Jenn and everyone else who helped form AIGA Toledo. This is great news for the area.

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