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About the user experience community in the Toledo region.

October regional user experience events

Many of the user experience groups in the area kicked off the "season" with meetings in September. Here is what is in store within a 3+ hour radius of Toledo for October.

Let me know what else I am missing from this list. Also, MOCHI is gearing up again and a UPA chapter is forming in Columbus.

On November 8th, there will be quite a few regional events for World Usability Day.

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HCR Manor Care: Web Content Administrator

Here is a local job opportunity for a user experience professional (there are not very many opportunities around here).

HCR Manor Care: Web content administrator, Web Design (CSS) / Portal Administration. "This Web Content Administrator position will work with a team to administer our portal, utilize HTML/CSS for our web applications / web sites, manage and enhance our content management system." Two of the skills listed (in the local newspaper ad for this job):

  • Web usability and user experience
  • Information architecture

I know some of the people there - it would be a good place to work.

To find out more about this job, start with a Corporate office job search. You will eventually get to the job description where you can apply.

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Henry Petroski, April 30th

Another interesting speaker coming to Northwest Ohio - Henry Petroski, Monday, April 30, 6:30 PM, Nitschke Auditorium, University of Toledo. "To Engineer is Human" is the title of the talk. Sponsored by the U of T College of Engineering.

Local announcements: (will add more as I find them)

To help me understand what Henry is all about, I did some research into what my user experience colleagues have said about him.

If Josh and Peter and Don have read him, then I think it will be worth going to see him.

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IUE day 2

Raw notes taken during the IUE 2007 conference - day 2.

Development process, Dean Barker, HFI: Missed most of it. Saw some charts on methodology and Agile that I liked.

CSS and graphics

  • CSS's ability to implement web designs in layers is changing the way you export work from Photoshop, blurring lines between "design" and "code"
  • Interesting technique to put all page images into 1 graphic and use CSS positioning to show the right (sub-)image at the right time

Writing, web style, Ron Rundus

  • Content syndication means "Death of the home page". User generated content. Keep it Simple, Senator. Progressive disclosure.
  • Web style = Technical + Writing + Design
  • Semantic web, microformat, Web patterns.
  • Elements of web style: How to talk about web pages
  • Warehouse model: Cases, units, tags.
  • Analysis of 8 cases (ID, legal, impact, feature, navigation, ...). Decompose page into these content elements. Similar to Navigation stress test.

Lunch mini-workshop on Usability Labs: Good overview of lab technical details but I mostly attended to catch up with Scott from Ovo Studios.

Tuning up site search, Chris Farnum/Grant. Did not take good notes (since I am pretty familiar with this stuff). They did use search results as an example of filtering (and Chris F. did check in with me on it to make sure he got the details correct).

Web metrics and user testing, Jarret Knyal (user guy) and Jacque Smith (metrics gal) of Quicken Loans

  • Usability (qualitative, "why people do things") and analytics (quantitative, "what people are doing") is a good marriage
  • Their biggest business / user experience debate is where / how to do the "contact us for more information" form - their lead generation device
  • Landing page abandonment (from analytics) - do user testing to understand why
  • Single user feedback (from user research) - do analytics to see if common behavior, find data to back it up
  • Do A/B testing and use analytics to see which page works better
  • More complicated multi-variable testing where the system has several versions of a zone on the page. Gather metrics on which combinations work. Example: Try 4 different blurbs to say "fill out this form and we will contact you". They use some vendor to do this but I did not catch the name - Optimos?
  • Question: How many pages? Thousands but not a huge site like IBM.

State of web site user experience panel: I attached my presentation to my earlier announcement. Folks liked my Web 2.0 stuff. And my "call to actions" like volunteering your usability skills to an open source project. We did not argue too much but I did try to stir the pot by challenging the panel moderator Tim Kiernan of Design Critique on his furniture ordering problems.

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Internet User Experience 2007 - Day 1

Day 1 from Internet User Experience 2007 conference. Rough notes taken during the conference - I missed a few sessions because of work. redesign (with Enlighten)

  • Not like e-commerce since engineers are different and doing very specific things on this site
  • Increase browse/buy from 2% to 2.5%
  • Advice to presenters: Put the screen shots up front, instead of having talking points and saying "you will see the screen shots later"
  • Lawrence is the generalist and loved working with the Enlighten specialists ("wow, you get to be an IA all of the time?")
  • Old home page design - very functional but indicative of adding to and never removing, 11 years grew organically, never said "no" to stakeholders
  • New home page design: Branding focus ("who are we as a company?"), less navigation at the top of the page, shop by task (more than by publisher), pushed the customer service telephone number front and center, browse + search equally prominent
  • Search results: Most used page on the site. Correct document in correct format (52 choices). Example: Search for "usability" on Techstreet.
  • Publisher information page: Heavily indexed by search engines (thus often first page users see - designed like the home page). Example: NSF. Added branding element ("serious real estate"). Elevated the services (on the left) - global nav, not contextual to this publisher.
  • "The agency said no." (would not listen to Lawrence when he said the same thing)
  • Launched on Friday (so no data yet - will take months to measure this)
  • Questions: Rollout process? Flipped the switch to completely new site. Did you add new functions? No, moved things around, focused what was there. Better experience just by cleaning up. Re-did the code (to CSS).

Tec-Ed redesign

  • "The cobbler tries to make shoes for his children"
  • DIY challenges: Politics, content, customers, committees
  • Iteration from the internal designers: Heuristic evaluation and then user testing (to move forward, beyond internal struggles) and treat it as a "real project"
  • Usability testing: painful but useful (bad labels, dense content, images not appealing. Result: hire outside firm.
  • Like Techstreet, shocked at the state of proposals they received
  • More testing: "Why Tec-Ed?" is a good label. And so on.
  • End result: Very happy, outside design firm had great suggestions. Pictures of people and technology. Summary info at 3rd level (less dense text).
  • Lessons learned: Expertise does not mean you will have the time. Internal debates. Priorities. Bandwidth. What is OK to outsource? Fresh eyes.
  • Questions: Early struggles? Usability testing uncovered hidden requirements. Recruiting? Easy this time, colleagues and customers. Feedback so far? Very positive, reaching out to audiences they were aiming for. Budget crisis? Realized what you need to commit to a project like this.

Mini-workshop on "Positioning user experience in your organization" - Good wide-ranging discussion, from standardized, boring deliverables, to initiating organizational change, to usability vs. UX as a name, to being in IT vs. on the business side, to management prioritization.

Brand on web sites, John Yesko (now at Roundarch)

  • Graphic design: White/negative space = luxury; pack in the information for "nothing over $20" market (cramped is not lower quality design, just more appropriate design for the brand)
  • Navigation/IA: Separating totally different ideas into separate navigation, Users browse by category vs. Business pushing their marketing categories, Org-chart navigation (cannot find mobile phone products - left nav is their org chart). "Phones & consumer products" cf. "Business products". Want dish vs. Got dish? (nice try).
  • Bringing off-line brands online. Clear product categories (instead of being an adventure). Convention: Sales link in upper right for retail sites. "Gear bag" instead of "shopping cart" (trying to be branded/cute vs. web conventions)
  • Voice / copy writing. Serious vs. whimsical.
  • Questions. Profit vs. non-profit branding? Non-profits tend to be more territorial. Defining vs. communicating the brand?

Building an online community (Inner Circle Media): I missed the talk but Drupal was mentioned during the Q&A.

Guerilla Personas (not personas of gorillas), Matt Rehkopf, Fry

  • Why not more personas? They seem to get axed from projects often (the user research piece appears to be the killer expense)
  • Better personas: Downplay the personality, demographics; explain the behavior more. Connect to design decisions.
  • Difficulty mapping personas to business goals
  • Primary research not needed. "Buyer", "Shopper", "Browser" (with 3 versions of each) - 5 of them stick out from analytics.
  • Design decisions: 60 day shopping cart. By room, by topic. Easier to explore, big paging buttons. Iconic navigation. Quick order. Catalog badge.
  • Can you reverse engineer assumed personas?
  • Questions: How to leverage web analytics? What if starting from scratch - no data to start with? Do primary research.

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Involution goes Mad(house)

News item: Former Toledo user experience guru Dirk Knemeyer (now on the west coast) and his Involution Studios tapped Perrysburg firm Madhouse Creative to help design templates for a Yahoo! small business product.

Thanks for sending some work back home, Dirk. We do have some talent around here. And I hope my link for Madhouse makes them a little easier to find on Google - there is another "Madhouse Creative" in British Columbia that gets top billing - let's change that.

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What happened in Ohio?

I am collecting links to blog entries, trip reports, press releases, etc. about what happened in Ohio for World Usability Day. Leave a comment here if you find something else so that I can update the list.

Also, if/when you upload your photos to Flickr, be sure to put them in the World Usability Day 2006 gallery and tag them Ohio so all of our photos show up together. We have photographs from the Northwest (me) and Southwest (Kara Lock) corners already.

Ohio World Usability Day

I decided to make a little web site devoted to all of the World Usability Day activities in Ohio. I hope this view will make it easier to see what is going on in our state on November 14th.

If you know of additional events, or a change to the existing events, leave a comment here and I will update the site. Afterwards, let me know about trip reports, photos or any other news from the Ohio events and I will include them there as well.

Finally, we have the details on the World Usability Day dinner for Northwest Ohio: 7:30pm, downtown Bowling Green, at Cucina di Betto. Hope to see you there!

World Usability Day - Ohio (and Michigan)

We have not finalized our plans for the November 14th World Usability Day activity in northwest Ohio (it will be small), but if you are in the area, there are lots of "regional" events you can go to if you are willing to drive 2 hours.

To the north is a full day conference at Michigan State University (serving the whole state of Michigan).

To the east are two events in northeast Ohio: a daytime event at Kent State University and an evening session at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

To the southeast, there is 1 event in Columbus, at Nationwide Insurance. (October 30 update: this event is for Nationwide employees only. I will let you know if there is anything open to the public in Columbus.)

To the south, LexisNexis in Dayton is hosting a conference.

Some parts of Indiana are within a 2-hour drive, but the Indiana World Usability Day 2006 Conference is farther, in Indianapolis.

Also, you can partiicpate in World Usability Day without leaving your home or office, via Webcasts & Podcasts. There are some webcast-only events and several local events are being broadcast so that you can attend online. Note that some of these webcasts might take place on November 13th for us here in the Eastern US time zone.

Later, I will send out news about our local gathering here on my blog and also at NWOACM (the local group sponsoring it).

BGSU Computer Science grads return to talk

A pair of alumni from where I earned my degrees, Bowling Green State University Computer Science, are visiting us over the next few weeks.

On March 30th, Shantanu Narayen, President of Adobe, will be on campus to talk about Web 2.0, Rich Internet Applications, and Adobe's strategy for innovation.

On March 21st, Brian Rudolph (now with Systems & Applications, UNLV) will share stories about being a Software Engineer at SEGA, the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, and life in Las Vegas. Last year I was watching some cable show about beating the odds in Vegas and was surprised to see Brian talking about slot / poker machines.

Brian will be talking at 7:30 pm in Hayes 111. Sponsored by the BGSU student ACM chapter.

It is great to see my colleagues doing well - and even better to have them coming back to BGSU to tell us about their escapades.

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