The Power of Public Media

Published: 7 years ago

UX Boston Conference #2!

I attended the July, 19th UX Conference at the NERD Center! Great speakers, great crowd, and all focused on the User Experience! Here are my recaps from the notes I took and some impressions I got from 5/10 speakers (see Lisa’s post for the other half). It looks like there will be another in conference in November for those who would love to hear these things from the horse’s mouth.

1. Unconventional User Experiences
Derek Cascio (co-founder of Design Museum Boston, designer, and Industrial Design faculty member at Wentworth IT). Derek talked through the thought process, development, and constant iteration that makes up the Design Museum Boston. From their decision to bring the museum to where the people already are, to their exhibits in public spaces like the waterfront and Logan Airport, Derek made it clear that a serious user experience goes far being UI or even simply the digital. Derek urged the breaking down of discipline silos explaining that the beauty of good experience design is that everyone can participate in creating it – using any and all of the skills and tools at their disposal. 

The Street Seats project brought people together in a competition to design great seating (one experience) to improve the experience of hanging around in South Boston – to connect the city and the people. There are info podiums at the site which bring the more formal museum experience elements and the lights at the tops of those podiums are controlled by the same app that you can use to find these seats on a map. That’s a really well rounded experience! A location, a seat (night and day with the super cool podium light-switch control), an app, information – not to mention the kids series that brings more community and learning to the project by getting children involved. The process involves a slew of design skills and disciplines and brings it all together for one really full user experience.  Design Museum solicits feedback from users in many ways including on-site observation, & social media to inform how to improve for their next installation. 

Some points Derek made in the Q&A part were that project management is an integral part of the UX process and that he finds it funny (not haha funny) that there is often a disconnect in the expectation there. Support for process is key to the process. He made an additional point that in selling a sometimes messy non-turn-key non-assembly-line process, it helps to apply this thinking to other areas of people’s (stakeholders) lives. In solving problems in your own life you need to test and iterate and use the lessons you’ve learned to keep improving.

  • everyone should be involved using all their skills and disciplines to create full experiences that really cater to the user with empathy and consideration.
  • bring design/learning/experiences to the user where they are
  • UX is not UI – it is so much more. 

LinkedIn: Derek Cascio 


3. Designing motion as part of a UX process
BIO: “Matthew Crist is a Principal at Cantina with a passion for crafting great experiences through an iterative creative process. In his career, Matthew has worked with companies like Macy’s, MTV, Rue La La, McLaren, and Fidelity. Recently, he has focused on helping companies refine their ideas into useful products for their customers.”
Matthew advocated for the use of motion as a basic deliverable in the design process as motion should be seen as a utility that we can tap to show relationships, explain, and hide bottlenecks to improve the overall user experience. He showed us how far we’ve come from “blink” and “marquee” tags, and brought us through the history of motion on the web into the current “CSS <3 Javascript” world where we need to be considering where in our process we get to thinking about motion. He suggested quickly moving through wires and comps and into the browser where we can animate quickly and get to testing early and often in that space. If we really bake it into the process we can start to use animations thoughtfully in ways that are quick and helpful to the experience (non-blocking). He also suggested that we not ignore the decades of insight that actual animators have gathered siting The Illusion of Life as a solid starting point, or for the quick version He insists performance over all else is key in considering animation, and that more muted motions can be very effective. 

[Additional Resource suggested by Tyler Howe:]

LinkedIn: Matthew Crist


5. SEO and UX: The Peanut Butter & Jelly of the Web

BIO: “Tom Shapiro is the founder of Digital Marketing NOW, a strategy, marketing and design agency in Cambridge. Throughout Tom’s career, he has developed digital strategies for clients ranging from startups to market leaders such as HP, AT&T, Intel, Experian and P&G. Tom’s thoughts on websites, UX and marketing have been published in, MarketingProfs, Website Magazine and many others.”
Tom gave a really sweet presentation about what should be a marriage made in heaven between UX and SEO. He said in order to work really well together, we need to bridge the misunderstandings that exist between what each is setting out accomplish and really notice how in sync the goals are, and how without the both in harmony, an experience can be pretty doomed.      

  • need to stop seeing SEO as a shady practice that games the system but instead as a process that provides much needed relevance to users
  • SEO needs to see the real value of good design – if you’re bringing the right users to the site, they have to have something really valuable waiting at the other end
  • SEO is not about driving traffic – it’s about driving highly qualified traffic. getting the right people to the right place. 
  • Thus, SEO has to be a part of the strategy from the get-go and not just an afterthought once the site is built (ahh!) 
  • Both UX and SEO need Personas in order to strategize and function. So much in common! Why all the beef?
  • stressing emotion as a key element to both marketing and design.
  • success in Pampers (audience segmentation success), Nieman Marcus site, Puma, Red Bull (SEO isn’t about more more more text text text!)

LinkedIn: Tom Shapiro


7. UX for CMSs (changed from User Research for the Web and Applications)

BIO: “Dani Nordin is a UX Designer specializing in helping hard-working Drupal teams organize, gather requirements for, and understand the content and users of complex projects. In addition to speaking about UX and Drupal around the country, Dani also teaches the User Experience Design course at General Assembly in Boston. Author of O’Reilly’s Drupal for Designers (2012) and one of many authors of The Definitive Guide to Drupal 7 (Apress, 2011). “

Dani talked about the process of creating a user experience for two user types – building a site and building the CMS to run that site. She walked us through her process in doing so for Berklee College of Music recently, where the task was to migrate 2 legacy sites into one drupal site that would serve all 98 departments. Dani said it is crucial that we understand the perspective of the client in something like this – to them, this is a huge change in their workflows and will require huge efforts from lots of different people. End users are just the tip of the iceberg in designing this experience – success has depended for Dani on having a dedicated team member to manage the emotions (yes, emotions – they’ll have some strong ones), expectations, and perceptions of the client and all the people who will have to use the CMS in the end. She stressed that you cannot magically prevent people from doing what they want with the system once you deliver it if they can find a way to ‘jackhammer’ a way to make it possible. Because of that, it is important to have a thorough process with lots of research and stakeholder involvement to avoid tangles later that kill scope (late in the game requests for a new content type). 

My Quick Notes on Dani’s Process:

  • users & ALL stakeholders have to be considered carefully
  • who is using it? who is maintaining it? be specific. do research.
  • How do they feel about the new system (stakeholders/admin users)? How do we manage that?
  • Will there be a migration plan for content? Who? What? When?
  • How do we (builders) keep them (admin users) from breaking the site?
  • Meetings, functional priorities, meetings
  • Personas
  • Gap Analysis – evaluate the current content. consider new content. scope. 
  • Sitemaps & More Meetings
  • Content Types! Establish them! Needs for displays and formats (don’t assume anything about their expectations – be specific, get it down – if they can’t embed a Youtube video, it’s our fault for not thinking they would. they will find a way). 
  • Content Models – Architecture Workshops
  • Prototyping (Dani uses Axure)
  • Understand the political implications in the stakeholder team – there should be 1 person just to handle this part of it. 
  •  CMS Training & Documentation Documentation Documentation! Make as much as possible Automatic or Bulk manageable. 
  • Do a ton of research in the beginning, lots of site mapping and be very upfront throughout about how BIG a task this is. Manage the expectations (one person’s whole job – she stressed this a bunch of times). 

LinkedIn: Dani Nordin

9. Designing Government
BIO: “Danny Chapman has been improving citizen to government interactions online for over nine years. Most recently, Danny served as a member of the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows at the White House. His work can be seen at the new, as well as for White House initiatives including and”

How do we interact with government? Danny’s first point turned up some pretty depressing answers – first, a picture of the DMV in all its glory. Then to the Voting experience with the strange analogue components and usability problems. Then finally on to the terrifying and hideous 1040 tax form (which is so dreadful there is an entire industry to avoid having to touch it). Danny didn’t have to say much about the bad user experience that currently exists – people were pretty on board from the get-go here. Law-makers are not thinking digitally (though Danny pointed hopefully to some up and coming politicians who are trying to break into the system). Much of Danny’s talk was about solutions – and ways to participate in being a part of that solution. Here are some links he shared/brought up:

I’m a Coder Running for Congress

There was a guy from Code for Boston in the audience inviting people to their Tuesday hack meetings!
Danny’s talk started out really depressing (giant picture of the DMV and everybody groans), but he built to a feeling of having the power in our hands because we can use UX knowledge and technology and can change our world for the better – we just have to start somewhere and keep moving.  

LinkedIn: Danny Chapman

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