Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Voices That Matter Web Design Conference - Part 2

Days two and three were full of great presentations. The interesting about this conference was that the sum of all the sessions taken as a whole was much greater than the individual sessions. I went from being disappointed on Tuesday to overwhelmed on Thursday.


Keynote: The Designful Company: Marty Neumeier
I'm not a designer, so this session wasn't really directed at me, but this was a fascinating discussion of design as more than graphic design and branding. Design is an entire approach to everything from the way a company is run to the way decisions are made to the end user experience.

One Twitter comment was pretty much to the point on this: "right now 'design' sounds like magic pixie dust that you can sprinkle on anything to make it better". You could almost substitute "project management" or "planning" for "design" and make the same points.

However, the designers I talked to thought this was a highly inspiring session.

Content Strategy, UX and the Real World - Kristina Halvorson
For me, this was the single best session of the conference. The main reason I loved this session was that it validated all that I'm going through with trying to wrap my head around dealing with the complexities of getting content for our new home page redesign.

Getting content for a site isn't as simple as creating a box on a flow chart saying "content comes in here". Content drives information architecture and information architecture drives content. Content is an iterative process, involving all team members and stakeholders.

The only way you'll succeed in getting the best content is to plan a content strategy around specific goals that you want to achieve.
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Publish
  • Govern (rinse, wash, repeat)
She provided some great examples about how less content is more: more focused, more maintainable, more on message.

However, she also made the point that taking a content inventory was critical to success. Ugh, that's a hell of a lot of work - mind numbing but necessary.

Take-aways: Content is a process, not a feature. A content strategy will help you avoid the pitfalls of delayed content, scattered, off-message content, etc. We need a clear content strategy statement to help us manage the content for our redesign.

What I Have Learned So Far in the 21st Century - Steve Krug
Steve Krug is the author of the single best web usability book out there: Don't Make me Think. This was a fun presentation. Steve's a great guy. Overall, Steve says that he hasn't really learned a lot about usability in the 12st century that he didn't already know, but there were a few nuggets.
  • If people need to see something, don't be afraid to shout (make it really stand out)
  • Fix the top 3 worst usability problems on a site first, before tackling any 'low hanging fruit' problems
  • Make the smallest change that fixes the problem - don't redesign a page just to fix one issue
  • http://usertesting.com, http://clicktale.com, http://silverback.com are good tools for online user testing

Beyond Web 2.0 - Jesse James Garrett
Another heavy hitter, Jess James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience, takes on Web 2.0. Actually, he pretty much dismisses Web 2.0 and focuses on the user experience instead. "The experience is the product." The main focus of his presentation is to continually simplify the user's experience. Examples of MS Word with all the tool bars open and a video Microsoft made about Microsoft redesigning the iPod packaging (hilarious!)

Take-aways: The user experience cannot be too simple or too easy. Simplify! Simplify!

Stump the Chump - Steve Krug
Steve Krug took questions from the audience about usability. Unfortunately - or actually fortunately - the first five names he picked were people from Berkeley!

Take-aways: University sites are fundamentally different from other sites. Audience segmentation is normally bad on sites, but appropriate on university sites because people self-identify and there is typically little overlap in roles.

Overall, this was a fantastic day. I'll cover the third and final day tomorrow.

1 comment:

Kate Harper said...

I went to it too and thought it was fantastic!