User Research for Everyone: Conference Notes

This was a virtual conference from Rosenfeld Media; a full day of sessions all about user research. Have a look at the program to see what a great lineup of speakers there was. Here are the bits that stood out for me.

Erika Hall: Just Enough Research

First off, Erika won me over right away with her first slide:

Slide text: Hello! You will need to imagine the emphatic gesturing.

I found she spoke more about the basic whys and hows of research, rather than how to do “just enough,” but she was so clear and engaging that I really enjoyed it anyway. Selected sound bites:

  • Keep asking research questions, but the answers will keep changing
  • Assumptions are risks
  • Research is fundamentally destabilizing to authority because it challenges the power dynamic; asking questions is threatening
  • Think about how your design decisions might make someone’s job easier. Or harder. (and not just your users, but your colleagues)
  • Focus groups are best used as a source of ideas to research, not research itself
  • 3 steps to conducting an interview: set up, warm up, shut up
  • You want your research to prove you wrong as quickly as possible

Leah Buley: The Right Research Method For Any Problem (And Budget)

Leah nicely set out stages of research and methods and tools that work best for each stage. I didn’t take careful notes because there was a lot of detail (and I can go back and look at the slides when I need to), but here are the broad strokes:

  • What is happening around us?
    • Use methods to gain an understanding of the bigger picture and to frame where the opportunities are (futures research fits in here too – blerg)
  • What do people need?
    • Ethnographic methods fit in nicely here. Journey maps can point out possible concepts or solutions
  • What can we make that will help?
    • User research with prototypes / mockups. New to me was the 5-second test, where you show a screen to a user for 5 seconds, take it away and then ask questions about it. (I’m guessing this assume that what people remember corresponds with what resonates with them – either good or bad.)
  • Does our solution actually work?
    • Traditional usability testing fits in here, as does analytics.
    • I kind of like how this question is separated from the last, so that you think about testing your concept and then testing your implementation of the concept. I can imagine it being difficult to write testing protocols that keep them separate though, especially as you start iterating the design.
  • What is the impact?
    • Analytics obviously come into play here, but again, it’s important to separate this question about impact from the previous one about the solution just working. Leah brought up Google’s HEART framework: Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success. Each of these is then divided into Goals (what do we want?), Signals (what will tell us this?), and Metrics (how do we measure success?).

Nate Bolt: How to Find and Recruit Amazing Participants for User Research

Recruiting participants is probably my least favourite part of user research, but I’m slowly coming around to the idea that it will always be thus. And that I’m incredibly lucky to be constantly surrounded by my target audience. Nate talked about different recruitment strategies, including just talking to the first person you see. For him, one of the downsides of that was that the person is unlikely to be in your target audience or care about your interface. Talking to the first person I see is how I do most of my recruiting. And it also works really well because they are very likely to be in my target audience and care about my interface. Yay!

One comment of Nate’s stood out most for me: If someone doesn’t like your research findings, they’ll most likely attack your participants before they’ll attack your methods. This is familiar to me: “But did you talk to any grad students?” “Were these all science students?” Nate recommended choosing your recruitment method based on how likely these kinds of objections are to sideline your research; if no one will take your results seriously unless your participants meet a certain profile, then make sure you recruit that profile.

Julie Stanford: Creating a Virtual Cycle: The Research and Design Feedback Loop

Julie spoke about the pitfalls of research and design being out of balance on a project. She pointed out how a stronger emphasis on research than design could lead to really bad interfaces (though this seemed to be more the case when you’re testing individual elements of a design rather than whole). Fixing one thing can always end up breaking something else. Julie suggested two solutions:

  1. Have the same person do both research and design
  2. Follow a 6-step process

Now, I am the person doing both research and design (with help, of course), so I don’t really need the process. But I also know that I’m much stronger on the research side than on the design side, so it’s important to think about pitfalls. A few bits that resonated with me:

  • When evaluating research findings, give each issue a severity rating to keep it in perspective. Keep an eye out for smaller issues that together suggest a larger issue.
  • Always come up with multiple possible solutions to the problem, especially if one solution seems obvious. Go for both small and large fixes and throw in a few out-there ideas.
  • When evaluating possible solutions (or really, anytime), if your team gets in an argument loop, take a sketch break and discuss from there. Making the ideas more concrete can help focus the discussion.

Abby Covert: Making Sense of Research Findings

I adore Abby Covert. Her talk at UXCamp Ottawa in 2014 was a huge highlight of that conference for me. I bought her book immediately afterward and tried to lend it to everyone, saying “youhavetoreadthisitsamazing.” So, I was looking forward to this session.

And it was great. She took the approach that making sense of research findings was essentially the same as making sense of any other mess, and applied her IA process to find clarity. I took a ridiculous amount of notes, but will try to share just the highlights:

  • This seems really obvious, but I’m not sure I actually do it: Think about how your method will get you the answer you’re looking for. What do you want to know? What’s the best way to find that out?
  • Abby doesn’t find transcriptions all that useful. They take so much time to do, and then to go through. She finds it easier to take notes and grab the actual verbatims that are interesting. And she now does her notetaking immediately after every session (rather than stacking the sessions one after another). She does not take notes in the field.
  • Abby takes her notes according to the question that is being asked/answered, rather than just chronologically. Makes analysis easier.
  • When you’re doing quantitative research, write sample findings ahead of time to make sure that you are going to capture all the data necessary to create those findings. Her slide is likely clearer:
    Slide from Abby Covert's talk
  • Think about the UX of your research results. Understand the audience for your results and create a good UX for them. A few things to consider:
    • What do they really need to know about your methodology?
    • What questions are they trying to answer?
    • What objections might they have to the findings? Or the research itself?
  • In closing, Abby summarized her four key points as:
    1. Keep capture separate from interpretation
    2. Plan the way you capture to support what you want to know
    3. Understand your audience for research
    4. Create a taxonomy that supports the way you want your findings to be used

I have quite a few notes on that last point that seemed to make sense at the time, but I think “create a good UX for the audience of your results” covers it sufficiently.

Cindy Alvarez: Infectious Research

Cindy’s theme was that research – like germs – is not inherently lovable; you can’t convince people to love research, so you need to infect them with it. Essentially, you need to find a few hosts and then help them be contagious in order to help your organization be more receptive to research. Kind of a gross analogy, really. But definitely a few gems for people finding it difficult to get any buy-in in their organization:

  • Create opportunities by finding out:
    • What problems do people already complain about?
    • What are the areas no is touching ?
  • Lower people’s resistance to research:
    • Find out who or what they trust (to find a way in)
    • Ask point-blank “What would convince you to change your decision?”
    • Think about how research could make their lives worse
    • “People are more receptive to new ideas when they think it was their idea.” <– there was a tiny bit of backlash on Twitter about this, but a lot of people recognized it as a true thing. I feel like I’m too dumb to lie to or manipulate people; being honest is just easier to keep track of. If I somehow successfully convinced someone that my idea was theirs, probably the next day I’d say something like “hey, thanks for agreeing with my idea!”
  • Help people spread a message by giving them a story to tell.
  • Always give lots of credit to other people. Helping a culture of research spread is not about your own ego.

Final thoughts

It’s been interesting finishing up this post after reading Donna Lanclos’ blog post on the importance of open-ended inquiry, particularly related to UX and ethnography in libraries. This conference was aimed mostly at user researchers in business operations. Erika Hall said that you want your research to prove you wrong as quickly as possible; essentially, you want research to help you solve the right problem quickly so that you can make (more) money. All the presenters were focused on how to do good user research efficiently. Open-ended inquiry isn’t about efficiency. As someone doing user research in academic libraries, I don’t have these same pressures to be efficient with my research. What a privilege! So I now want to go back and think about these notes of mine with Donna’s voice in my head:

So open-ended work without a hard stop is increasingly scarce, and reserved for people and institutions who can engage in it as a luxury (e.g. Macarthur Genius Grant awardees).  But this is to my mind precisely wrong.  Open exploration should not be framed as a luxury, it should be fundamental.

… How do we get institutions to allow space for exploration regardless of results?

Redesigning our Subject Guides: Student-First and Staff-Friendly

I presented about our Web Committee’s redesign project at Access 2016 in Fredericton, NB on October 5, 2016. We started doing user research for the project in October 2015 and launched the new guides in June 2016 so it took a while, but I’m really proud of the process we followed. Below is a reasonable facsimile of what I said at Access. (UPDATE: here’s the video of the session)

Our existing subject guides were built in 2011 as a custom content type in Drupal and they were based on the tabbed approach of LibGuides. Unlike LibGuides, tab labels were hard-coded; you didn’t have to use all of them but you could only choose from this specific set of tabs. And requests for more tabs kept coming. It felt a bit arbitrary to say no to tab 16 after agreeing to tab 15.

desktop-unfriendly

We knew the guides weren’t very mobile-friendly but they really were no longer desktop-friendly either. So we decided we needed a redesign.

Rather than figure out how to shoe-horn this existing content into a new design, we decided we’d take a step back and do some user research to see what the user needs were for subject guides. We do user testing fairly regularly, but this ended up being the biggest user research project we’ve done.

  • Student user research:
    • We did some guerrilla-style user research in the library lobby with 11 students: we showed them our existing guide and a model used at another library and asked a couple of quick questions to give us a sense of what we needed to explore further
    • I did 10 in-depth interviews with undergraduate students and 7 in-depth interviews with grad students. There were some questions related to subject guides, but also general questions about their research process: how they got started, what they do when they get stuck. When I talked to the grad students, I asked if they were TAs and if they were, I asked some extra questions about their perspectives on their students’ research and needs around things like subject guides.
    • One of the big takeaways from the research with students is likely what you would expect: they want to be able to find what they need quickly. Below is all of the content from a single subject guide and the highlighted bits are what students are mostly looking for in a guide: databases, citation information, and contact information for a librarian or subject specialist. It’s a tiny amount in a sea of content.guide-overload

I assumed that staff made guides like this for students; they put all that information in, even though there’s no way students are going to read it all. That assumption comes with a bit of an obnoxious eye roll: staff clearly don’t understand users like I understand users or they wouldn’t create all this content.  Well, we did some user research with our staff, and turns out I didn’t really understand staff as a user group.

  • Staff user research
    • We did a survey of staff to get a sense of how they use guides, what’s important to them, target audience, pain points – all at a high level
    • Then we did focus groups to probe some of these things more deeply
    • Biggest takeaway from the research with staff is that guides are most important for their teaching and for helping their colleagues on the reference desk when students have questions. Students themselves are not the primary target audience. I found this surprising.

We analyzed all of the user research, looked at our web analytics and came up with a set of design criteria based on everything we’d learned. But we still had this issue that staff wanted all the things, preferably on one page and students wanted quick access to a small number of resources. We were definitely tempted to focus exclusively on students but about 14% of subject guide use comes from staff computers, so they’re a significant user group. We felt it was important to come up with a design that would also be useful for them. In Web Committee, we try to make things “intuitive for students and learn-able for staff.” Student-first but staff-friendly.

Since the guides seemed to have these two distinct user groups, we thought maybe we need two versions of subject guides. And that’s what we did; we made a quick guide primarily for students, and a detailed guide primarily for staff.

We created mockups of two kinds of guides based on our design criteria. Then we did user tests of the mockups with students, iterating the designs a few times as we saw things that didn’t work. We ended up testing with a total of 17 students.

Once we felt confident that the guides worked well for students, we presented the designs to staff and again met with them in small groups to discuss. Reaction was quite positive. We had included a lot of direct quotations from students in our presentation and staff seemed to appreciate that we’d based our design decisions on what students had told us. No design changes came out of our consultations with staff; they had a lot of questions about how they would fit their content into the design, but they didn’t have any issues with the design itself. So we built the new guide content types in Drupal and created documentation with how-tos and best practices based on our research. We opened the new guides for editing on June 13, which was great because it gave staff most of the summer to work on their new guides.

Quick Guide

quick-guide

The first of the two guides is the Quick Guide, aimed at students. I described it to staff as the guide that would help a student who has a paper due tomorrow and is starting after the reference desk has closed for the day.

  • Hard limit of 5 Key Resources
  • Can have fewer than 5, but you can’t have more.
  • One of the students we talked to said: “When you have less information you focus more on something that you want to find; when you have a lot of information you start to panic: “Which one should I do? This one? Oh wait.” And then you start to forget what you’re looking for.” She’s describing basic information overload, but it’s nice to hear it in a student’s own words.
  • Some students still found this overwhelming, so we put a 160-character limit on annotations.
  • We recommend that databases feature prominently on this list, based on what students told us and our web analytics: Databases are selected 3x more than any other resource in subject guides
  • We also recommend not linking to encyclopedias and dictionaries. Encyclopedias and Dictionaries were very prominent on the tabbed Subject Guides but they really aren’t big draws for students (student quotations from user research: “If someone was to give this to me, I’d be like, yeah, I see encyclopedias, I see dictionaries… I’m not really interested in doing any of these, or looking through this, uh, I’m outta here.”)
  • Related Subject Guides and General Research Help Guides
  • Link to Detailed Guide if people want more information on the same subject. THERE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A DETAILED GUIDE.
  • Added benefit of the 2-version approach is that staff can use existing tabbed guides as the “Detailed Guides” until they are removed in Sept.2017. I think part of the reason we didn’t feel much pushback was that people didn’t have to redo all of their guides right away; there was this transition time.

Detailed Guide

detailed-guide

  • From a design point of view, the Detailed Guide is simpler than the Quick Guide. Accordions instead of tabs
    • Mobile-friendly
    • Students all saw all the accordions. Not all students saw the tabs (that’s a problem people have found in usability testing of LibGuides too)
  • Default of 5 accordions for the same reasons that Key Resources were limited to 5 – trying to avoid information overload – but because target audience is staff and not students, they can ask for additional accordions. We wanted there to be a small barrier to filling up the page, so here’s someone adding the 5th accordion, and once they add that 5th section the “Add another item” button is disabled and they have to ask us to create additional accordions. add-accordion
  • There’s now flexibility in both the labels and the content. Staff can put as much content as they want within the accordion – text, images, video, whatever – but we do ask them to be concise and keep in mind that students have limited time. I really like this student’s take and made sure to include this quotation in our presentation to staff as well as in our documentation:
    • When I come across something… I’ll skim through it and if I don’t see anything there that’s immediately helpful to me, it’s a waste of my time and I need to go do something else that is actually going to be helpful to me .

And speaking of time, thank you for yours.

UXLibs II: Conference Thoughts

fishMy UXLibs II experience started with the opening reception. There was a bit of a lull at the bar as I checked out the drinks menu, so the bartender said he’d make me a nice garnish while I decided. He then proceeded to carve a couple of limes into a fish(!) and gave it rather smashing strawberry eyes. I was utterly delighted during the entire process and then had a drink that acted as a fun ice-breaker for the rest of the evening, helping me to connect with some lovely people for great conversations.

And that – great connections with lovely people – continued throughout the conference (though I didn’t have my little lime-fish friend after Wednesday).

UXLibs is an intense conference, demanding a level of focus and engagement that I just don’t feel other conferences. The hands-on workshops and the team challenge mean that we’re not just listening and thinking to ourselves, but we’re creating and thinking with other people. Connecting. Collaborating. It’s really rather marvelous.

The conference organizers have thought a lot about the UX of UXLibs. For instance: everyone’s name badge had a personalized program inside, and beside the listing for my own presentation was a little “Good luck!” A small touch but a delightful one, like my little lime-fish. On Friday, the organizers were clearly exhausted and devastated and chose to be vulnerable and open about how they were feeling. The honesty and hard work (and fun!) the team models made it easier for me to be honest and open and to work hard and have fun too.

This year, the referendum loomed, creating low-level anxiety on Thursday and general sadness on Friday. Friday was hard for a lot of people. As a Canadian I’m a bit detached, but absolutely felt the heartbreak around me. First thing in the morning, Andy underlined the importance of us all being kind to each other and it felt like that really happened. Not that people were unkind on Thursday, but Friday felt different somehow. Emotions were definitely heightened and the sense of community felt heightened too. Last year I said that UXLibs was the best conference I’d ever been to. UXLibs II feels like it might be the best community I’ve ever belonged to.

How UXLibs II will have an impact on my work

I took away a lot from the conference, but Andy Pristner’s workshop on cultural probes – while also making my inner 10 year old snicker – has me really keen to try this method for my project on delight in the research process. How can I not try such a delightful method to explore delight itself? I’ll have to finish analyzing the data I’ve already gathered first, but I’m very excited about future possibilities!

When Ned described the team challenge this year, I’ll admit that I wasn’t immediately won over. I was in the Marketing Up category, where we had to pitch to senior management. I feel like my superpower in my job is that I seem to fly below the radar of senior management. Or at least they’re happy enough with what I do that they let me keep doing it, but are not so interested that they want or need to know much about it. (The latter isn’t ideal, but if it leads directly to the former then I’m not complaining. Yet.) So I thought the pitch wouldn’t be all that relevant to me. But my team was wonderful. Everyone was generous in both offering ideas and (this can be less common) letting go of them. People were happy to step up and happy to step back. It reminded me a bit of my beloved Web Committee; we worked hard but it didn’t feel hard. And after creating our pitch, hearing the other teams’ pitches, and mulling over bits from Donna Lanclos and Lawrie Phipps, I’m starting to realize that flying under the radar will not be a superpower for much longer. I will need to step up to not just do the work (and wow oh wow do I ever love doing this work) but I’ll need to start advocating for it to be a larger thing. I think I’m doing some good things in “stealth leadership” mode at the moment, but I need to think about when and how to go beyond, to amp up my swagger and diplomacy (à la Deirdre Costello).

Finally, I’m keen to embark on more collaborative projects. I have a sabbatical coming up in a couple of years, and I don’t think I’m constitutionally suited to squirreling myself away and working on my own. I feel like I could reach out to the UXLibs community (beyond my fellow Canadians) to find collaborators. Perhaps even on a larger-scale project like Donna was talking about in the final panel. It may not happen, but the possibility is exciting.

I’m already looking forward to UXLibs III, reconnecting with this lovely community and making new connections.

UXLibs_badge
My personalized program/name badge plus winning key ring/bottle opener

UXLibs II: Conference Notes

UXLibs_programme

As always with my conference notes, this isn’t a faithful summing up, but rather a few of the points that stuck out most for me. I’ll follow this up with a more reflective piece.

I haven’t added in anything about my own presentation, but have uploaded the pdf version of it: “From user-testing to user research: Collaborating to improve library websites.” I’ve also uploaded the pdf version of my poster: “Cram it all in! Exploring delight in the research process. And Summon. Oh, and subject guides too” in case you’re interested.

Andy Priestner: Opening address

Andy told us a couple of stories about his recent experiences on trains in Hong Kong and Melbourne. Despite the language barrier, he found the Hong Kong trains to be much easier to use, and in fact, made the experience so enjoyable that he and his family sought out opportunities to take the train: “Hey, if we go to that restaurant across town instead of the one down the street we could take the train!”(this isn’t a direct quote)

My notes on this read:

How can we help students not feel like they’re in a foreign place in the library?

How can we help the library feel desirable?

But now that I think about it, that first point is totally unecessary. Feeling like you’re in a foreign place isn’t the problem; it can actually be quite wonderful and exciting. Being made to feel unwelcome is the problem, regardless of whether the place is foreign or familiar. So I quite like the idea of trying to make the library feel desirable. I think my own library does this reasonably well with our physical space (we’re often full to bursting with students) but it’s a nice challenge for our virtual spaces.

Andy also talked about Ellen Isaacs idea of “the hidden obvious” when describing library staff reaction to his team’s user research findings. He also mentioned Dan North on uncertainty: “We would rather be wrong than be uncertain.” These two ideas returned at other times during the next two days.

Donna Lanclos: Keynote

Donna also told us stories. She told us stories about gardens and her mother’s advice that if you plant something new and it dies, you plant something else. With “Failed” as one of the conference streams, this key next step of “plant something else” is important to keep in mind. Failing and then learning from failure is great. But we must go on to try again. We must plant something else. Not just say “well, that didn’t work, let’s figure out what we learned and not do that again.” Plant something else.

Donna’s mother also said, though, that “sometimes the plant dies because of you.” So that maybe, sometimes, it’s not that you need to plant something else. You just need to plant the same thing and be more careful with it. Or maybe someone else should plant it or look after it.

Another point from this garden story was that there are always people in the library who take particular pains to keep lists of all the dead plants. People who say “we tried that before and it didn’t work.” Or who make it clear they think you shouldn’t try to plant anything at all. Or who cling too strongly to some of those dead plants; who never intend to plant again because of it. Don’t keep a list of the dead plants. Or maybe keep a list but not at the forefront of your mind.

Donna told us another story about her fieldwork in Northern Ireland. How she found it difficult to be gathering folklore when there were bigger issues; problems that needed fixing. Advice she got then and passed on to us was that just because you can’t fix problems with your ethnographic work doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything, that you aren’t doing anything. Gathering understanding – a new and different understanding – is valid and valuable work and it’s different work than solving problems.

She argued that ethnographic work is not about finding and solving problems but about meaning. Finding out what something means, or if you don’t know what it means, figuring out what you think it means. The work can help with small wins but is really about much more. This is a theme Donne and Andrew discussed further in the wrap-up panel on Friday.

Finally, I have this note that I can’t at all remember the context for, but boy do I like it anyway:

Not risk, but possibility

Jenny Morgan: UX – Small project/ high value?

Jenny’s was the first of the Nailed, Failed, Derailed sessions I attended and she was a wonderfully calm presenter – something I always admire since I often feel like a flailing goon. She spoke about a project she led, focusing on international students at her library at Leeds Beckett University. A couple of my take-aways:

  • They asked students how they felt about the library. I like this affective aspect and think it ties in with what Andy was talking about with making the library desirable.
  • Students don’t think of the whole building; despite the library making printers available in the same place on every floor, students didn’t realize there were printers on any floor other than the one they were on. As a consequence, students would stand in line to use printers on one floor instead of going to another floor where printers were available. Of course this makes sense, but library staff often think of the whole building and forget that our users only use, see, and know about a tiny portion.
  • The international students they spoke to found the library too noisy and were hesitant to ask the “home” students to be quiet. They didn’t like the silent study areas or the study carrels; they wanted quiet, but not silent.
  • International students are often on campus at times when “home” students are not (e.g. holidays, break times). They like going to the library for the community that they can’t find elsewhere, often because everywhere else is closed. This hit home for me because our campus really shuts down at the Christmas break, and even the library is closed. It made me wonder where our international students go for that feeling of community.

Carl Barrow: Getting back on the rails by spreading the load

One of the first things that struck me about Carl’s presentation was his job title – Student Engagement Manager – and that Web is included under his purview. I think I would love that job.

Carl was really open and honest in his presentation. He talked about being excited about what he learned at UXLibs and wanting to start doing user research with those methods, but feeling hesitant. And then he looked deeper into why he was feeling hesitant, and realized part of it was his own fear of failure. Hearing him be so honest about how his initial enthusiasm was almost sidetracked by fear was really refreshing. Conference presenters usually (and understandably) want to come off as polished and professional, and talking about feelings tends not to enter into it. But it makes so much sense at a UX conference – where we spend a fair bit of time talking about our users’ feelings – to talk about our own feelings as well. I really appreciated this about Carl’s talk. A few other points I noted down:

  • He trained staff on the ethnographic methods he wanted to use and then (this is the really good bit) he had them practice those methods on students who work in the library. This seemed to me to be a great way for staff to ease in: unfamiliar methods made less scary by using them with familiar people.
  • Something that made me think of Andy’s point about “the hidden obvious”: they realized through their user research that the silent reading room had services located in the space (e.g. printers, laptop loans) that made it rather useless for silent study. I personally love how user research can make us see these things, turning “the hidden obvious” to “the blindingly obvious.”
  • I just like this note of mine: “Found that signage was bad. (Signage is always bad.)”
  • They found that because people were not sure what they could do from the library’s information points (computer kiosk-type things), they simply stayed away from them. At my own library, trying to make our kiosks suck less is one of my next projects, so this was absolutely relevant to me.

Deirdre Costello: Sponsor presentation from EBSCO

Last year, Deirdre rocked her sponsor presentation and this year was no different. I was still a bit loopy from having done my own presentation and then gone right to my poster, so honestly, this was the only sponsor presentation I took notes on. My brain went on strike for a bit after this.

Deirdre talked about how to handle hard questions when you’re either presenting user research results, or trying to convince someone to let you do user research in the first place. One of those was “Are you sure about your sample?” and she said the hidden questions behind this was “Are you credible?” It reminded me about a presentation I did where I (in part) read out a particularly insightful love letter from a user, and someone’s notes on that part of the presentation read “n=1”: surely meant to be a withering slam.

Other points I took away from Deirdre:

  • Sometimes you need to find ways for stakeholders to hear the message from someone who is not you (her analogy was that you can become a teenager’s mom; once you’ve said something once, they can’t stand to hear the same thing from you again).
  • One great way of doing the above is through videos with student voices. She said students like being on video and cracking jokes, and this can create a valuable and entertaining artifact to show your stakeholders.
  • Again related to all this, Deidre talked about the importance of finding champions who can do things you can’t. She said that advocacy requires a mix of swagger and diplomacy, and if you’re too much on the swagger side then you need a champion who can do the diplomacy part for you.

Andrea Gasparini: A successful introduction of User Experience as a strategic tool for service and user centric organizations

Apologies to Andrea: I know I liked his session but the notes I took make almost no sense at all. I got a bit distracted when he was talking about his co-author being a product designer at his library at the University of Oslo. The day before I came to UXLibs II, I met with Jenn Phillips-Bacher who was one of my team-mates at the first UXLibs. Jenn does fabulously cool things at the Wellcome Library and is getting a new job title that includes either “product designer” or “product manager” and we had talked a bit about what that means and how it changes things for her and for the library. That discussion came back to me during Andrea’s session and took me away from the presentation at hand for a while.

The only semi-coherent note I do have is:

  • Openness to design methods implies testing and learning

Ingela Wahlgren: What happens when you let a non-user loose in the library?

Ingela described how a whole range of methods were used at Lund University library to get a bigger picture of their user experience. She then went into depth about a project that she and her colleague Åsa Forsberg undertook, trying to get the non-user’s perspective.

One UX method that was taught at last year’s UXLibs was “touchstone tours,” where a user takes the researcher on a tour of a space (physical or virtual). This lets the researcher experience the space from the user’s point of view and see the bits that are most useful or meaningful to them. Ingela and  Åsa wanted to have a non-user of the library take them on a touchstone tour. They might see useful and meaningful parts of the library, but more importantly would see what was confusing and awful for a new user. I thought this was a brilliant idea!

Most of the presentation, then, was Ingela taking the audience along for the touchstone tour she had with a non-user. With lots of pictures of what they had seen and experienced, Ingela clearly demonstrated how utterly frustrating the experience had been. And yet, after this long and frustrating experience, the student proclaimed that it had all gone well and she was very satisfied. ACK! What a stunningly clear reminder that what users say is not at all as important as what they do, and also how satisfaction surveys do not tell us the true story of our users’ experience.

Ingela won the “best paper” prize for this presentation at the gala dinner on Thursday night. Well-deserved!

Team Challenge

The team challenge this year focused on advocacy. There were three categories:

  • Marketing Up (advocating to senior management)
  • Collaboration (advocating to colleagues in other areas)
  • Recruitment (advocating to student groups)

Attendees were in groups of about 8 and there were 5 groups per category. We had less than 2 hours on Thursday and an additional 45 minutes on Friday to prepare our 7-minute pitches to our respective audiences. I was in team M1, so Marketing Up to senior management. I’m going to reflect on this in my Conference Thoughts post, but there are a few notes below from the other teams’ presentations.

Andy Priestner: Welcome to Day 2

Friday was a sombre day, with the results of the Brexit vote. Andy has written a lovely post about writing and delivering his Welcome to Day 2 speech. I will have my own reflections in my upcoming Conference Thoughts post. But suffice it to say, Andy’s speech was spot-on, clearly appreciated by the audience, and left me rather teary.

Lawrie Phipps: Keynote

I got a bit lost at some of the UK-specific vocabulary and content of Lawrie’s keynote, but he made some really rather wonderful points:

  • Don’t compromise the vision you have before you share it. He talked about how we often anticipate responses to our ideas before we have a chance to share them, and that this can lead to internally deciding on compromises. His point was that if you make those compromises before you’ve articulated your vision to others, you’re more likely to compromise rather than sticking to your guns. Don’t compromise before it’s actually necessary.
  • Incremental changes, when you make enough of them, can be transformative. You don’t have to make a huge change in order to make a difference. This was nice to hear because it’s absolutely how I approach things, particularly on the library website.
  • Use your external network of people to tell your internal stakeholders things because often external experts are more likely to be listened to or believed. (Deirdre Costello had said pretty much the same thing in her presentation. It can be hard on the ego, but is very often true.)
  • “Leadership is often stealthy.” Yes, I would say that if/when I show leadership, it is pretty much always stealthy.
  • Finally, Lawrie talked about the importance of documenting your failures. It’s not enough to fail and learn from your failures, you have to document them so that other people learn from them too, otherwise the failure is likely to be repeated again and again.

Team Challenge Presentations

I didn’t take as many notes as I should have during the team presentations. The other teams in my group certainly raised a lot of good points, but the only one I made special note of was from Team M5:

  • There are benefits to students seeing our UX work, even when they aren’t directly involved. It demonstrates that we care. Students are often impressed that the library is talking to students or observing student behaviour – that we are seeking to understand them. This can go a long way to generating goodwill and have students believe that we are genuinely trying to help them.

My team (M1) ended up winning the “Marketing Upwards” challenge, which was rather nice although I don’t think any of us were keen to repeat our pitch to the whole conference! We thought the fire alarm might get us out of it, but no luck. (Donna Lanclos – one of our judges – later said that including the student voice and being very specific about what we wanted were definitely contributing factors in our win. This feels very “real world” to me and was nice feedback to hear.)

There were a couple of points from the winning Collaboration team (C4) that I took note of:

  • Your networks are made up of people who are your friends, and people who may owe you favours. Don’t be afraid to make use of that.
  • Even if a collaborative project fails, the collaboration itself can still be a success. Don’t give up on a collaborative relationship just because the outcome wasn’t what you’d hoped.

Again, my brain checked out a bit during team R2’s winning Recruitment pitch. (I was ravenous and lunch was about to begin.) There was definitely uproarious laughter for Bethany Sherwood’s embodiment of the student voice.

Andrew Asher: Process Interviews

I chose the interviews workshop with Andrew Asher because when I was transcribing interviews I did this year, I was cringing from time to time and knew I needed to beef up my interview skills. I was also keen to get some help with coding because huge chunks of those interviews are still sitting there, waiting to be analyzed. Some good bits:

  • You generally will spend 3-4 hours analyzing for each 1 hour interview
  • Different kinds of interviews: descriptive (“tell me about”), demonstration (“show me”), and elicitation (using prompts such as cognitive maps, photos)
  • Nice to start with a throwaway question to act as an icebreaker. (I know this and still usually forget to include it. Maybe now it will stick.)

We practiced doing interviews and reflected on that experience. I was an interviewee and felt bad that I’d chosen a situation that didn’t match the questions very well. It was interesting to feel like a participant who wanted to please the interviewer, and to reflect on what the interviewer could have said to lessen the feeling that I wasn’t being a good interviewee. (I really don’t know the answer to that one.)

We looked at an example of a coded interview and practiced coding ourselves. There wasn’t a lot of time for this part of the workshop, but it’s nice to have the example in-hand, and also to know that there is really no big trick to it. Like so much, it really just takes doing it and refining your own approach.

Andy Priestner: Cultural Probes

I had never heard of cultural probes before this, and Andy started with a description and history of their use. Essentially, cultural probes are kits of things like maps, postcards, cameras, and diaries that are given to groups of people to use to document their thoughts, feelings, behaviour, etc.

Andy used cultural probes earlier this year in Cambridge to explore the lives of postdocs. His team’s kit included things like a diary pre-loaded with handwritten questions for the participants to answer, task envelopes that they would open and complete at specific times, pieces of foam to write key words on, and other bits and pieces. They found that the participants were really engaged with the project and gave very full answers. (Perhaps too full; they’re a bit overwhelmed with the amount of data the project has given them.)

After this, we were asked to create a cultural probe within our table groups. Again, there wasn’t a lot of time for the exercise but all the groups managed to come up with something really interesting.

I loved this. In part it was just fun to create (postcards, stickers, foam!) but it was also interesting to try to think about what would make it fun for participants to participate.  When I was doing cognitive maps and love letters/break-up letters with students last summer, one of them was really excited by how much fun it had been – so much better than filling out a survey. It’s easier to convince someone to participate in user research if they’re having a good time while doing it.

Panel Discussion (Ange, Andrew, Lawrie, Donna, Matthew)

The next-to-last thing on the agenda was a panel discussion. We’d been asked to write down any questions we had for the panelists ahead of time and Ned Potter chose a few from the pile. A few notes:

  • In response to a question about how to stop collecting data (which is fun) and start analyzing it (which is hard), Matthew Reidsma recommended the book Just Enough Research by Erika Hall. Other suggestions were: finding an external deadline by committing to a conference presentation or writing an article or report, working with a colleague who will keep you to a deadline, or having a project that relies on analyzing data before the project can move forward
  • Responding to a question about any fears about the direction UX in libraries is taking, Donna spoke about the need to keep thinking long-term; not to simply use UX research for quick wins and problem-solving, but to really try to create some solid and in-depth understanding. I think it was Donna again who said that we can’t just keep striking out on our own with small projects; we must bring our champions along with us so that we can develop larger visions. Andrew and Donna are working on an article on this very theme for an upcoming issue of Weave.
  • I don’t remember what question prompted this, but Ange Fitzpatrick talked about how she and colleague were able to get more expansive responses from students when they didn’t identify themselves as librarians. However, as team M5 had already mentioned and I believe it was Donna who reiterated at this point: students like to know that the library wants to know about them and cares about knowing them.
  • Finally, to a question about how to choose the most useful method for a given project, there were two really good responses. Andrew said to figure out what information you need and what you need to do with that information, and then pick a method that will help you with those two things. He recommended the ERIAL toolkit (well, Donna recommended it really, but Andrew wrote the toolkit, so I’ll credit him). And Matthew responded that you don’t have to choose the most useful method, you just have to choose a useful method.

Andy Priestner: Conference Review

Andy ended the day with a nice wrap-up and call-out to the positive collaborations that had happened and would continue to happen in the UXLibs community. He also got much applause ending his review with “I am a European.”

Like last year, I left exhausted and exhilarated, anxious to put some of these new ideas into practice, and hoping to attend another UXLibs conference. Next year?

 

CanUX Conference – Notes and Thoughts

This is not a faithful recording of the CanUX conference from Nov.7-8, 2015 but the things that I most wanted to remember for further action or reflection. Two presentations in particular really resonated with me. Happily, they were the two speakers I was most looking forward to.

Shelley Bernstein is the Manager of Information Systems at the Brooklyn Museum and talked about the visitor experience to both the online and physical museum space. She explained that the museum had changed its mission statement to be more visitor-friendly and committed to serving their immediate community.

She mentioned that in the mid-2000s (pre-smartphone) they noticed that people wanted to take pictures of the art so they removed their “no photography” policy. This reminded me of libraries trying so hard to enforce so many rules. What are people doing in our spaces? Are there very good reasons to prohibit this behaviour? If not, why not let people do what they’re already doing without feeling like they’re breaking rules?

She talked about an exhibit they created called “Click!” where people submitted their own photographs on the theme “Changing Faces of Brooklyn” and these photographs were then evaluated by anyone who visited the online forum. Bernstein noted that they didn’t have a “like” button but had people rate the photographs on a sliding scale (which takes more thought), and you couldn’t skip photographs but had to go through one by one. People still evaluated most of the 300+ photographs. Her comment on this was “The harder you make it, the deeper the engagement.”

I find this fascinating. Obviously, context is everything here. We try our best to make it easy to use our library systems because they tend to be needlessly complicated. We want to get our users to the content they want as quickly as possible so that they can engage deeply with that content. But are there occasions where it would make sense to actually make things a little more difficult, to slow people down a bit? The obvious answer would be where people are engaging with our digitized collections. But are there others? Would it ever make sense to slow down the research process itself? Not to needlessly complicate it, but to consciously add decision points or interactions beyond click-to-content?

Bernstein went on to talk about efforts to improve engagement within the walls of the museum. They put more staff on the floor, wearing (in her words) “hideous vests” to identify them. Visitors LOVED this, asking lots of questions. However, (and this should sound very familiar), this solution simply could not scale with the museum’s many galleries over five floors. Visitors would not always be able to find staff member when they had a question about the work they were looking at. So the museum bought a bunch of iPhones and had them available for visitors to use. They created an app, Ask Brooklyn Museum, that visitors could use to ask museum staff questions. They installed iBeacons around the museum to show staff where people were and what exhibits were nearby in order to provide proper context for their answers. Another great aspect of this is that museum staff now have a huge amount of data about the questions people are asking. They can use this information to make decisions about placement of signage, curatorial notes, etc. That’s really a side benefit though; the main positive aspect is that museum staff now have a way into visitors’ conversations and can use that opportunity to provide a richer experience. A question about the dim lighting around an exhibit provides an opportunity to talk about preservation, for example. Awesome! Oh, and one other takeaway: visitors were as happy to ask questions through the app as they were to people on the floor; they still felt the personal touch of a real person responding to their question in real time.

So this made me think a lot about libraries and reference. It’s a different environment for sure. The people in our spaces are not engaging with content that we have created and/or understand deeply; for the most part we don’t interpret content for our users. However, there may be ways we can increase the personal touch of our reference services without having to put our staff all over the library in hideous vests.

Leisa Reichelt was the other speaker who I found pretty amazing. She was the Head of User Research for Government Digital Services (known for their great work on GOV.UK) and is now working for the Australian government doing similar work. She started off talking about how a lot of organizations – even GOV.UK – talk the talk about being user-focused but often still rely on analytics and “thinking about users” or “thinking like users” rather than actually doing the work of talking directly to (and testing with) users themselves.

She had some examples that were perhaps more relevant to people working in a project-based environment, but still interesting:

  • Have a rule that a researcher has to be embedded in a team at least 3 days per week (so teams can’t share a single researcher).
  • User researchers should spend about 30% of their time on research (learning about users) and 70% making sure their team knows about and understands that research (helping their team learn about users).
  • If you’ve got hard problems, you need more researchers. (Leisa mentioned a project she was one that had more researchers than developers for a while.)
  • For project budgeting, budget for 5 people in a lab doing usability testing every two weeks. (This will be a placeholder in the budget; if you hire a smart researcher they will then have the budget to do something better. If you hire a researcher who’s not so smart, at the very least you get usability testing done.)
  • Jared Spool has advice about “user exposure hours” that everyone on a team needs to have; if you haven’t spent x amount of time directly engaged in user testing – or at least watching user testing – then you’re not doing part of your job.

She talked about how a measure of engagement (traffic + time on page) can often mask experiences of confusion and anxiety as people spend more time on a page if they don’t know what to do. I know I look for very short amounts of time on page for most of our web content.

This may have been my favourite slide of hers:

Slide: Do less work. Make it good.
Leisa Reichelt at CanUX

She showed a video of a user struggling mightily with a drop-down box and reminded us that just because certain interface elements are ubiquitous doesn’t make them easy to use. Test test test.

She spoke about the discovery phase of research and the importance of figuring out the real problem we are trying to solve. I took that very much to heart, perhaps because that’s the essence of my next research project – taking a step back and looking at students’ research processes. I will try to keep in mind that I don’t know what problem(s) the library is solving. I will try to banish preconceptions about what we do, or what we try to do, and try to focus on what students do. It was a nice and timely reminder for me.

In talking about her own transition from GOV.UK to the Australian government, Leisa said she will continue to use (steal) the GDS Design Principles, the Digital by Default Service Standard, and Design Patterns since these were based on a lot of research and continue to have relevance. I’ve read them before but will make a point of revisiting them.

Peter Merholz’s presentation (slides) on organizations made me think about the organization of libraries, not so much about the UX work I do specifically:

  • All design is service design (in libraries, absolutely everything we do is a service)
  • It’s important to do capability assessment, not just in terms of skills but in terms of how people are thinking (this reminded me of conversations about job descriptions and expecting people to do all the strategy stuff plus the detail work and everything in-between; I think we have to decide what level is most important — the 10,000 foot view or the 1 foot view — and focus people’s efforts there. They might do all of it, but their strengths should be at the level the organization needs most. If the organization needs all of it, they have to hire or assign people to cover all four levels. Expecting one person to be the strategy person AND the details person and do both well is a recipe for failure. I think Peter’s talk makes that point even more clear.
  • Something about leverage and power…

Brent Marshall’s talk was really fun, probably because he was talking about the element of play in design, and creating playful experiences. He talked about helping to create Molson’s Canadian Anthem Fridge (which made an appearance at the CanUX after party) and other interactive installations. He said that play creates memories (reminiscent, I think, of what Shelley Bernstein said about deep engagement). While I’m not a big proponent of the gamification of libraries, I did wonder about what we can do to bring a sense of play, or to enhance a sense of wonder, in our library spaces both physical and virtual.

Shannon Lee and Rob Rayson gave a delightful presentation about their award-winning work to build a prosthetic hand for a boy in Ottawa. It was obviously a labour of love for the two engineering students from UofO, and spoke volumes about how hard we can work to get something right when we can tangibly see the good it does and the difference it makes.

Ann Marie Lesage talked about her research into the UX of an office chair. Lesage spoke about the aesthetic experience of the chair where you become aware of the experience and then get rewarded for being aware (it’s not just a nice chair to sit in, but you notice that you’re enjoying sitting it in and that makes it more enjoyable). This reminded me of Shelley Bernstein’s comment about deep engagement and Brent Marshall’s talk about play creating memories. Experience plus awareness of the experience can create a better experience.

Jennifer Hogan from Getty Images said some interesting things about watching where our users are hacking our stuff. They may be creating functional prototypes that we can then develop further. It would be interesting to see what our students or faculty have done with our stuff, although I suspect they are more likely to hack other things (see #icanhazpdf).

Steve Hillenius had the most awe-inspiring job title of the conference: he is a UX Manager and Designer at NASA. Yes, NASA. A lot of what he said was quite amazing, but not so applicable to life in the library. (I just go downstairs to recruit users for testing; Steve can’t test directly on the International Space Station so they validate designs during NEEMO simulation missions on the ocean floor. Pretty similar really.) However, a few things stood out for me:

  • Only show the possibilities to the user; don’t show them what they can’t use or don’t need to care about
  • Seeing what people actually do (hello ethnography!) not only shows us current pain points but can help us see emerging user needs
  • With the time lag of space-to-Earth communications (8 – 48 minutes between Mars and Earth, depending on positioning), it’s important to tell the astronauts how long it will take until someone sees their message and the earliest response time they can count on. We provide generic information about response times but being more specific about the actual time lag of student-to-library communications would be useful.

Cennydd Bowles gave a talk on how he sees the UX industry changing in the next 5 years or so. I’m not the biggest fan of “future” talks but he raised some interesting points. He said that he doesn’t see another OS rivaling iOS and Android, but made the point that these systems are trying harder to keep their users away from the Web. I hadn’t thought of Siri actively discouraging people from interacting with the Web, but it’s true. I would be interested to know if students or faculty try to use Siri (or Cortana or Google Now) to access library content. Cennydd also talked about an increased role of motion and sound in interfaces, though his examples (beyond Final Fantasy) were largely about branding and not function.

Boon Sheridan’s talk was a highly entertaining account of his process of examining what he knows, what he may no longer know, what he needs to rethink, and so on. He talked about how best practices can change over time, but also how opinion often masquerades as best practice, which led to this fabulous slide:

Slide: Ignorance of the opinions of others is no vice.
Boon Sheridan at CanUX

His talk started with a really great story about a deaf cat that I won’t be able to do justice to here. The moral was that sometimes the new way of doing things is expensive and complicated and no better than the old way of doing things, but my notes summed it up like so:

Sometimes you just need to clap behind the cat.

Derek Featherstone spoke about designing for context and how our content and layouts can change with the context of time and/or location to provide better UX. He recommended designing to provide users the right content in the right context.

Carine Lallemand summarized various research that’s going on in the discipline of HCI and UX, challenging us to change our methods to reflect that research. One thing that stood out for me was her point about UX happening over time: that there is anticipated UX before the interaction and then afterward episodic UX as people reflect on the interaction and cumulative UX when people recall many interactions. She said that “the memory of the experience can matter more than the experience itself.” Have a look at that again: “the memory of the experience can matter more than the experience itself.” This seems so wrong to me. We do user testing and not user interviews because what people say they do is not what they actually do. What they do is more important than what they say, right? But how they remember an experience will be a good predictor for whether they seek to repeat the experience again.

Maybe yet again this ties back to “the harder you make it, the deeper the engagement.” Maybe, if you want to provide a great experience it really is important to go beyond what people do. But again, in a library context not everything has to be a great experience. Renewing a book doesn’t have to be the highlight of someone’s day. No one has to be deeply engaged when they’re booking a group study room. But I’d love to start thinking about where we can create and enable playful experiences in the library, where we can encourage deep engagement, the aesthetic UX that slows people down and provides a great memory.

Thanks to CanUX for once again providing great food for thought.

UXLibs conference: thoughts

My first post on UXLibs was bits taken from my conference notes. This is what shook out when I reread all my notes and reflected a bit.

Matthew Reidsma (who was somehow even more inspiring in person than online, and I’m not sure how that’s even possible) spoke in his keynote about Heidegger, including his concept of being-in-the-world, and the question “How does the world reveal itself to us through our encounters with it?” In my notes, I continued “How does the library reveal itself through our encounters with it?” and – more pertinent to my work – “How does the library website reveal itself through our encounters with it?” Matt went on to explain that by interacting with things, we are making meaning. So, by interacting with the library website, what meaning are we helping our students make?

This made me think of the great workshop I’d had with Andrew Asher on the first day. One of the many things we did was watch videos of students trying to find information. A second year student needed to find peer reviewed articles but clearly had no idea what this meant. A fourth year student came upon an article on her topic from the Wall Street Journal and thought it could be useful in her paper because it sounded like it was on her topic and came from a credible source (not seeming to realize that a credible source is not the same as a scholarly source).  I found it striking that neither of these students seemed to understand what scholarship looked like; what it meant for a thing to be a scholarly source.

So, taking those two points together, is there a way we can help students make meaning of scholarship through interacting with our website? And I don’t just mean, how can we help them understand how to find various scholarly materials (you find books in this way, you find journal articles in that way), but can we help them understand how to interact with a journal article in a scholarly context? Can we help them use that article to first create understanding and then create their own scholarly work?

This in turn circles back to Donna Lanclos’ keynote on the first day where she challenged us to move beyond helping our users with wayfinding, and engage with them in the act of creation. She challenged us to move beyond the model of the bodiless scholar whose chair is hard, who can’t leave the library to eat, and who has to endure horrible searching on crappy library websites to find what they need. The finding part doesn’t have to be so hard. The hard part should be thinking about what you’ve found and then making something new out of it.

So, to grab a phrase from Paul-Jervis Heath’s keynote, “how might we” design a library website that helps students make meaning out of the scholarship they are finding? How might we design a library website that helps students focus less on finding and more on thinking and creating?

Since reading Emma Coonan’s great piece in UKSG News, “The ‘F’ word,” about moving away from a focus on finding in the context of information literacy, I’ve been wondering how we could do this in the context of the library website. UXLibs has prodded me further, and – even better – given me some tools, techniques, and a giant mound of inspiration to get out and try to start working on it.

UXLibs conference: notes

I’ve been quiet of late, as we’ve not been doing any user testing this term; instead we’ve been taking a step back and thinking bigger about our website. But after attending the User Experience in Libraries conference (UXLibs) last week, I’m excited to move forward with user testing/research and thinking big.

St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, site of UXLibs
St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, site of UXLibs

UXLibs was amazing amazing. Don’t believe me? Check out the #UXLibs Twitter stream during the week of the conference. I’m not going to try to capture the essence of the conference (see these posts by Ned Potter, and conference organizer Andy Priestner for that). Rather, I’m just pulling out particular bits from my notes that resonate most strongly with me. Many of these may not make sense out of context, but I’m happy to provide context if you ask.

From the keynote by Donna Lanclos:

  • What happens if we decenter staff expertise?
  • Find out what users understand not what they want
  • Not helping with wayfinding but engagement with creation
  • If an activity has intrinsic value, does it need to be assessed?
  • We want people to “revel in independent thought” (Revel!)
  • If we’re going to do ethnography, we have to be okay with feeling uncomfortable, and with feeling comfortable with ambiguity. We need institutional support for uncertainty.
  • A pedagogy of questions involves “a voracious not-knowing” (from @jessifer)
  • Do a small proof-of-concept project and use ethnography to see if it’s working

From a workshop with Andrew Asher:

[we explored a couple of ethnographic techniques: cognitive mapping (e.g. asking people to draw a map of the library from memory, or mapping out where they went when and what they did there), and respective process interviews (asking people to draw each step of a step-by-step process as you ask them about that process)]

  • The location of mapping exercises (i.e. in the library or away from it) doesn’t seem to influence the content of the maps created
  • Mapping can demonstrate where prime real estate is being used for low-impact things
  • Commuter campuses [and so probably commuter students] are very different from residential, when looking at mapping journals
  • Drawing can help with specificity but don’t get too hung up on the drawing

From the keynote by Paul-Jervis Heath:

  • People are fundamentally unable to tell you what will help them (they don’t know or don’t notice)
  • Should vs want creates an interesting tension -> how do you help people be the better version of themselves?
  • Books are sharks!
  • Rules of improv are good rules for ideation
  • I really have to read Gamestorming one of these days

From a workshop with Matt Borg and Matthew Reidsma:

[we were introduced to the wonderful world of grouping post-its with affinity mapping (by voice, pain points and then categories) and empathy mapping (by what people say, what they think, what they do, and what they feel)]

  • Maybe we should add “games” to our “search books, articles and more” Summon box
  • We need to have empathy with our colleagues, as well as with our users
  • Add the demographic, etc. metadata to post-its to make it easier to find patterns

From the keynote by Matthew Reidsma:

  • All those links on the website – people put them there
  • Interacting with things = making meaning
  • Usability is beyond functional, it’s making sure people have meaningful interactions with the world
  • It’s easy to recover from breakdowns [errors, confusion] when you understand how the thing you’re using/doing works
  • Usability could be helping people better understand our tools/services so they can better recover
  • Test to learn, not just perfect; learn how people cope

There was so so so much more than this. I have a follow-up post on some bigger picture stuff. But there’s so much more than that too. I’m going to be processing this conference for a while.