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June 2006 Issue

By Joel Grossman

Published: June 30, 2006

“User experience is a discipline that expects unending change, dramatic technological innovation, and unanticipated consequences. We thrive on remix, mashup, and appropriation and use them to help solve the issues that arise from employing these very same techniques.”

The practice of user experience lacks the historical pedigree of many of its constituent elements, including human/computer interaction, library science, social-science research methods, product-development methodology, and, most of all, design. What it does enjoy, however, is a pragmatic, multidisciplinary approach that encompasses the intertwined social, economic, and technological forces it engages. It’s a contingent amalgamation—an assembly of what works—and a set of perspectives and problem-solving techniques that define how we, as practitioners, think about creating products and services.

Sometimes this fact is lost upon us in the rush of day-to-day work.

The UX community, broadly construed, has done a fairly decent job of building real economic value over the last decade—to say nothing of producing artwork, developing communication vehicles, and distributing information. The fact that user experience does work tends to obscure the primary reason why it works: consistently flexible adaptation. User experience is a discipline that expects unending change, dramatic technological innovation, and unanticipated consequences. We thrive on remix, mashup, and appropriation and use them to help solve the issues that arise from employing these very same techniques./p>

This is not to engage in self-congratulation, but to recognize what has worked well in the past and acknowledge that it’s time to get to work again. We need to remember how well the practical approach we took when confronted with the demands of the Web has served us. We need to begin considering the tectonic shifts on the horizon that the emergence of ubiquitous computing in non-vaporware forms presents. And most immediately, we need to focus on a challenge that helps tie these two phenomena together. That challenge is designing bridge experiences. Read moreRead More>

A CHI 2006 Course: Presented by:

  • Marti Hearst, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley
  • Preston Smalley and Corey Chandler, eBay User Experience and Design

Reviewed by Jessyca Frederick

Published: June 30, 2006

“The course, while originating in an academic environment, acknowledged the needs of practitioners by showing us how faceted metadata provides a solution that answers real users’ information-foraging problems and demonstrated two real-world applications of this solution ….”

The CHI 2006 program provided this course summary:
Learn the advantages of and strategies for using faceted metadata for integrating browsing and search of large information collections. Examples are drawn from formal studies and results of real-world applications.

Sometimes first impressions are a great way to gauge the likelihood of a successful experience. This wasn’t one of those times. I was deeply concerned that I’d signed myself up for some esoteric discussion on the proper use of metadata, but pleasantly surprised to find a real-world interface solution for dealing with large information collections—exactly what the summary said this course would cover.

It’s worth noting that I’m a little biased in my glowing review of this course. First, I work for a company (Shopzilla) with more than 28 million products in its inventory. I was, therefore, able to make immediate use of what I learned. Second, one of our primary competitors (eBay) co-presented the course, and I enjoyed this rare opportunity of learning about their inner-workings. Third, we were invited to eat lunch with the presenters between sessions, and I found them all to be likeable, sharing, and knowledgeable people. Read moreRead More>

By Elizabeth Bacon

Published: June 5, 2006

“As our field continues to have to build its standing among entrenched disciplines such as software engineering and product marketing, recognizing and ideally controlling the impact of politics is frequently crucial to the success of a UX design endeavor.”

When I signed up to attend CHI 2006, for the very first time in my seven-year career, I didn’t expect that I’d spend most of the event helping to staff our company’s exhibit space and drive hiring for the St. Jude Medical Human Factors Engineering team. In 2001, a paper I’d co-authored with Robert Reimann was accepted for CHI, but I was unable to attend due to conflicting project duties. Over the years, events always seemed to conspire against my attending CHI, although I’ve had the pleasure of attending other conferences such as DIS and DUX. At CHI 2006, I hoped to educate myself about leading research and fresh trends in the field of computer/human interaction, as well as network with folks I’ve worked and communicated with, especially through the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). In the end, though, working the St. Jude Medical booth consumed the bulk of my time. More on that later, however.

I was glad to attend two courses: a short course called “An Exercise in the Politics of Usability” and a full-day course called “Designing for User Efficiency.” I was generally disappointed by the course on the politics of usability, which was structured around the single, idiosyncratic example of “Mary the Usability Engineer” and her particular organizational challenges. Plus, the discussion that resulted from examining the political stratagems the instructor presented wasn’t as free-flowing and creative as I’d hoped it would be. Perhaps it was wrong for me to expect much edification from a ninety-minute course? Read moreRead More>

By Jessyca Frederick

Published: June 5, 2006

“There are a lot of reasons to attend a conference, but like school, you only get out of it what you put into it.”

CHI 2006 took place on April 22–27, in Montréal, Québec, Canada, at the Palais des Congrès. Its theme: Interact. Inform. Inspire.

Looking Back to CHI 2001

In April of 2001, a small dotcom sent a young Webmaster to a conference called CHI in Seattle. That was my first CHI experience. I had been forced to read The Design of Everyday Things, the author of which was some guy the owner knew from when he was working on his PhD at the University of California, San Diego—that’d be Don Norman. I’d never been to Seattle, never been on a business trip before, knew hopelessly little about the concept of usability—except that I was grateful when somebody blamed her problems with doors on the designers of the doors and not her inability to intuit in which direction a door will open—and was chaperoned by most of the dotcom’s management team.

A whole new world opened up for me that week, and my career was born. When I returned to San Diego, my notebook was filled with ideas I was convinced would put that little dotcom at the center of its industry’s universe and inspired to focus my career on user-centered design, because really, what else was worth doing? Read moreRead More>