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Interactive Communications

An Event Apart

April 9th, 2012

Last week I got a chance to attend An Event Apart in Seattle, here are some of my notes from the event, a lot was covered, these are just a few things that jumped out at me:

Jeffrey Zeldman – Content First!

  • Content is a design problem. Our designs are often hostile to content.
  • Design that doesn’t serve people doesn’t serve business.
  • Designers may no longer control the visual experience (referring to add-ons like Readibility)
  • Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.
  • Responsive and mobile are creating a new interaction design landscape that puts users and content first.

Jon Tan – Big Type, Little Type

  • Good typography induces a good mood, users lose track of time, don’t mind it if it takes longer to perform a task.
  • Test typography in the worst environment.
  • Typesetting should help reading, not interrupt or distract.
  • There are no rules, just good decisions.
  • Design spaces where stories can be told.
  • Type shapes our experience. It paints pictures that echo in our memory long after we’ve left.

Kim Goodwin – Silo-Busting with Scenarios

  • Get clients to root for the user.
  • Think beyond site, consider all experiences.
  • 3 reasons to use scenarios first:
    • Excited team = better UX
    • Humans are not just system components, we empathize with emotions frustrations, hopes and dreams.
    • Silos = Worse UX
  • Add something unexpectedly good.

Scott Berkun – The Five Most Dangerous Ideas

  • Everyone is a designer.
  • You have no power.
  • Whoever uses the most jargon has the least confidence in their ideas.
  • The generalists are in charge.
  • If there are more than 5 people in the room, you have less power than you think.
  • You work in sales (regardless of your job title).
  • Creativity is risk.

Karen McGrane – Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content

  • NPR’s API – create once publish everywhere. Displayed different across devices, content is the same. NPR page views grew over 80%.
  • Magazine tablet apps are just a snapshot of print version, the web is not print. Ipad magazine sales are declining.
  • TV guide created adaptive content before the web even existed, they were creating multiple length descriptions for TV shows.
  • Metadata is the new art direction.
  • Metadata supports personalized content.

Ethan Marcotte – Rolling Up Our Responsive Sleeves

  • Solve the parts, not the whole problem.
  • “Chaos was the law of nature, order was the dream of man” – Henry Adams
  • A responsive design has a flexible foundation.
  • We should start treating layout as an enhancement.
  • Let’s embrace the entropy.
  • Simplify before you suppress.
  • We’ve been focused too much on columns, let’s refocus on content.
  • Start with the smallest part.
  • If something is not necessary on small screen, why keep on desktop version.

Simon Collison – A Philosophy of Restraint

  • We design to communicate and we seek emotive responses.
  • We don’t design web pages, we design systems.
  • Avoid misplaced vernacular and cliche, makes your design look stupid.
  • You don’t have to avoid complexity, avoid creating the impression of complexity, make it more manageable.
  • Don’t have to reveal everything, let audience fill in gaps, pause and think.
  • CMS template vs. editorial, used to be able to tell story with design.
  • Unleash complexity in orchestrated phases, and increase power gradually.

Luke Wroblewski -  Mobile to the Future

  • Mobile should not be a dumbed down version of desktop.
  • “…copy, extend, and finally, discovery of a new form. It takes a while to shed old paradigms.” -Scott Jenson
  • Do little things to make it easier, reduce mistakes.
  • Login screens – don’t remove critical features, show passwords by default.
  • Our focus on layout keeps us from seizing big opportunities on mobile.
  • Keep people on keyboard, consolidate input fields.

Whitney Hess – What’s Your Problem? Putting Purpose Back into Your Projects

  • Relying on best practices doesn’t make sites useful. No one size fits all
  • Leave the desk to find the problem.
  • Market research – what people like (doesn’t tell you who they are) vs. user research – what people do
  • Rarely ask about the product/company, get to know user, who they are what they need.
  • Specialize in the problem, not the solution.
  • Personas – categorizing people based on aspirations, personality, not based on demographics
  • Don’t use jargon use own words make it easy to understand the problem.
  • Don’t try to be good at it all, pick one “why” or problem
  • Understand the problem before devising the solution.
  • Sometimes there are no problems to solve, find out if there is one to begin with.

Jared Spool – The Curious Properties of Intuitive Web Pages

  • Unintuitive design – something that’s invisible becomes visible.
  • Design for gap between current knowledge and target knowledge.
  • Visual design – not about aesthetics, more about placement & organization.
  • Techniques for uncovering knowledge:
    • Field Visits – go to your users and see them work. Helps identify who the users are and their current knowledge.
    • Usability Tests – watch people use your design. Helps identify the target knowledge and ideal solutions
    • Paper Prototyping – testing early workflow & process ideaspaper prototyping.
  • Intuitive Design is how we give our users new superpowers
  • Intuitive designs are when what the user knows matches what they need to know
  • Identify current knowledge and target knowledge for your design
    • Train the user to grow their current knowledge
    • Simplify the design to reduce the design’s target knowledge

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