Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Windows Mobile and Bad Design - update

A quick note today triggered by finding this at Engadget.

As you might recall, I recently went through a painful upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.2 after suffering through many problems with my VZ6800.

I was actually pleased with a few of the changes and some of my frustrations have eased slightly. However, as Engadget points out, Microsoft still doesn't really get what it means to mobilize. They are prepping a release of Windows Mobile 6.5 that makes them resemble the Big 3 auto makers in its combination of old stuff wrapped in new marketing.

"Instead of demonstrating its technical prowess and vast resources, Microsoft limped out a half-hearted rehash of an OS we've seen all too much of, and managed to blind most onlookers with a storm of big time partnerships and bloated PR." - Engadget

Monday, February 23, 2009

IxDA Workshops – Stretching the Brain Muscles

All right. I will make this happen and get my rememories of IxDA'09 up here. Bronchitis still hanging on, but I am determined. Here goes.

Thursday, the 5th, held the first of three workshops I had signed up to attend. First up was a Design Studio led by Jeanine Harriman & Liya Zheng from LiquidNet. Not only did they make me envious of their design-focused environment, they led me through the first real studio exercises outside of voice design that I’d ever participated in. I loved every second. Yes, the anxiety about being new to this world was there, but I dove in figuring that the faster I displayed my ignorance the quicker I would get helped to see the right track. However, I quickly discovered that I had a place here, that my ideas wove easily with those of others. Guided by Jeanine and Liya, we worked through three exercises that moved us along a design path from a narrowly focused interaction design of a new way to engage online clothes buyers to a service design for a clothing retailer seeking to create positive relationships with customers, society in general, and the environment 30 years in the future. In this one session, we discussed online avatars, self-cleaning, disease-resistant clothing, and everything in between. Design-wise we produced storyboards, strategy documents, and a service map. It was fantastic, especially getting to know and working with Brian, Dante, and Adler. I left the session incredibly energized and looking forward to everything else so very happy to be there.

My scritch-a-scratch sketching.

After finding some lunch and chatting with my sweetie, I settled in for a very crowded session covering Adobe’s CS4. This quickly went over my head since I have only dabbled a bit in Photoshop and Dreamweaver over the past few years and know next to nothing about Fireworks, Flash, and the rest. However, the presenter was doing a great job showing off the power of the tools in the suite and, if I ever have the need and chance, I look forward to learning more. I left this session early and decided to catch up on email and some reading.

That evening the conference held a pubcrawl. We managed to make through about 4 spots around Gastown before I called it a night. I met a number of great people such as Daniel N., Jack M., and DeniseP. talking kids, home automation, martinis, work environments and design, of course. It was also my first chance to say “Hi” to some NYC area designers (Dave M. and MJ) I met when I spoke at the IxDA meeting last March at IconNicholson.

Friday morning’s workshop subject was the thing that’s all the rage these days, touch-screen and gestural interactions. Bill Derouchey from Ziba and Dan Saffer from Kicker led. I was extra-psyched to see Dan since I had recently read his first book (which I in turn passed on to a nephew thinking about interaction design as a career. Hey Matt!). I had high hopes for this session. They were more than fulfilled. The two of them gave us a 45 minute or so overview of what types of touch and gesture-based interfaces exist so far, technologies underlying them, and special design considerations they have, including problems, tips, and tricks. Funny that fingerprints can cause problems! They also covered how sensors, such as the iPhone accelerometer, are the secret sauce that really help touch and gesture be effective.

Displaying Dan

Then time to work! The two main exercises had us creating a 6x6 interactive area for a record store to bring customers back into the shops and re-engage the store-based buying experience while incorporating the alluring qualities of today’s digital interfaces. Using touch and gestures, of course. Awesome! And the, er, kicker was that we had to produce paper prototypes that would be interacted with unguided by a member of another group. A rapid design session followed by instant user feedback. Instant adrenalin! Each of the five tables had about 8 people, which was a little much for every single person to contribute ideas constantly, but we settled into a pattern of taking turns and notes and making things. We created a 5 seat table that allowed simulated record bin browsing, looking at covers and jackets, listening, sharing with others at the table, a shopping bag, and a means of checkout.

Shaun M. draws really well!

We were the slowest about creating our materials, but we ended up being the last group to present, so we snuck in some extra work while listening to the others. There was an amazing range of ideas and I must have said “I wish I’d thought of that!” about a dozen times, but as our turn came up I felt really pumped about our approach. I had suggested that we say next to nothing to our test participant after seeing that other groups got very hands on about walking through theirs. I felt that would be the strongest test, just seeing what would happen. That was a great idea because the woman sat down at our “Turntable” and began verbally and manually working through the prototype. As she said and did different steps, we would put different artifacts or simulated screen changes in front of her. And it worked really well! The biggest thing we learned was kind of a “doh!” moment, when it was pointed out that she just slapped her forearms down on our touch-screen, which would have probably caused all kinds of weirdness. Lesson learned, but quickly and cheaply, if this were a real project. After a bit of summary, we wrapped up with homework: take an everyday mechanical object around us and redesign it using touch and gesture. Look for that here in the future.

This workshop just added to my joy at being at the conference. I felt like I was compressing tons of learning into a little time and really finding myself as a designer among all these others who have so much more experience in these area. It was great to feel like I could swim right alongside them.

Next, the conference proper. Hopefully this bronchitis won’t cause another slow down in posting the rest.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finally: IxDA 2009 – Vancouver, BC, Canada, in five parts


The Interaction Design Association is a young professional organization that just put on its second annual conference. I missed the first in 2008, held in Savannah, GA. I had wished to attend that one and heard good things about it. As 2008 closed, I wanted very much to go in 2009 but was uncertain given the economic climate and tightening finances at my current employer. However, positive thinking prevailed and I landed in Vancouver on Wednesday, February 4th full of anticipation and apprehension.

Why apprehensive? I felt like the new kid starting school in the middle of the year as well as a bit of an interloper. All of these people probably knew each other well and I had only met a few briefly. Plus, so many of them have degrees in a field barely ten years old! I felt unknown and unqualified to be attending. Also imposing was that my area of focus in interaction design has been speech recognition, little known and less understood. I have done some web and desktop app design, but nothing on the scale of many of the attendees. I was actually going to be around people responsible for design thought and work that I had admired for years. For me, it was a bit like being a guitar player (oh, actually I am) and getting to meet someone like Eric Johnson. But I knew virtually none of them would be able to relate to my daily craft. Nonetheless, I was determined not to be a wallflower and so to meet as many people as I could, find out more about them, and hopefully, make some sort of decent impression. Most of all, I hoped to really stretch my brain into design areas I have only dabbled in or read about, especially mobile and service.

Things started well right after arrival. An uneventful flight and border crossing led to sitting on a bus with three guys from Chicago’s Manifest Digital, Jim, Kevin, and Jason. They were there as sponsors and participants. We briefly traded details of who and where and then concentrated on finding our hotel. I would meet up with them again later, to my gain in more ways than one.

The afternoon weather was fantastic and I was able to walk around bit taking photos and had a bite to eat at Steamworks, a brewpub in Gastown. Their Coal Porter brew was the best micro I’ve had in a long time. After that, I headed to the room (by the way, I found the Four Seasons to be very comfortable and I had a great view) early due to no energy and wanting to be ready to learn in the morning. I followed a few arrivals via twitter and settled in.

Next, Day 1.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Busy week, strong links

So, I haven't had enough time to fully pull together my own thoughts about IxDA '09, but go here for what others have had to say:

Lots o'links Courtesy of SemanticWill

Also, a couple of cool other tidbits:

Why Interaction Design Matters

Becoming a Customer Experience-Driven Business

Fight the good fight. Every moment. Every Day.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Back from Vancouver - IxDA'09

Just got back. Really tired but so happy to have gone. This view greeted me on the last day of the conference.

I'll post more links and thoughts during the week.

Good design 2009.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

IxDA09 in Vancouver

On day 3 of the IxDA conference and have loved every minute. Tweeting (@designoutloud) like a madman (at least to me). John Thackara, Rob Fabricant, Dan Saffer have enlightened and inspired. But really so much good stuff. This is a big deal.

More pics.

Making 2009 the Year of Good Design.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Time for IxDA 2009!

I'm very excited to have the chance to attend the second IxDA conference, taking place in beautiful Vancouver, BC. I hope to have many wonderful things to pass along when I get back next week.

Meanwhile, if you read this, give me a comment or two! And tell your friends and acquaintances!