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February 16, 2011

Interaction 11, you rocked my world

February 16, 2011
A parakeet prototype in Sara Summers' Self Ethnography workshop

I'm still sorting out all my thoughts and things I learned (and dreaming of mountains) from the Interaction11 conference I went to last week, but I want to share a few thoughts I have about an idea that circulated the conference, as well as talk about some of my favorite sessions and presenters.

Empathy is requisite
Empathy was a big theme in a number of the workshops I attended. Many people brought up this idea that as interaction designers, it's our job to be empathetic. It's so true. Empathy, as defined by my handy MacBook dictionary, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is a key skill one needs when designing user experiences; we have to be able to put ourselves in another person's (the user's) shoes and visualize how they'll walk through that experience. If we can't do that, we're going to have less success in designing positive and rewarding interactions.

Sketching is awesome
One of the highlights for me presenter-wise was watching Bill Verplank sketch his whole presentation as he went. No prepared PowerPoint slides, nothing. Just Bill, an overhead projector (which felt very old school, by the way), a notebook and conté crayon and his good ol' brain. It was far more engaging to follow along with him that way and listen to his ideas on design and systems and ways of thinking. Bill is a prolific practitioner in this field, and his talk inspired me to sketch more. More, more, more! (This conference goer is also inspiring.)

(An aside, one thing I found interesting is that in asking a room of designers how much time they have to create and sketch in the average day or week, no matter the number — from as little as a few minutes to as much as 15 hours and more — they all commented that the number was 'Not enough.')

You can build a fresh, usable app in four weeks or less
Lastly, Scott Stroud's session on building and launching NPR's new iPad app in less than four weeks was, in a word, impressive. Okay, maybe it was more that the idea of designing, building, testing and launching an app in less than four weeks is the impressive part. I mean, really. That's a huge feat! It was inspiring to know that with the right mix of people, attitude and effort, good, usable things can happen in a short amount of time.

My takeaway from his session is to keep pushing, to continually ask myself, 'How can you make this better/surprising/less expected?' And also, do user testing, no matter the deadline.

All in all, the conference was incredible. I met a ton of talented and thoughtful people and found inspiration to take back to the team here at SmallBox. Thanks, Boulder, and thanks everyone for a wonderful time! See you next year!

For a Tweetscape of the conference, check out tweetscapeit.com or see what folks had to say (and are still saying) at the #ixd11 Twitter hashtag. Also, please don't miss Beards of Boulder, created during the conference, which features some of the best beards from Boulder and other IxD11 conference attendees.

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