EuroIA 09 report: day 2


EuroIA is the primary European Information Architecture conference. In 2011 it took place in Prague, The Czech Republic.

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For some the second day of EuroIA 09 started with a hangover, for others with interesting talks. But all of us had a great time at EuroIA 09 day 2. I am going to bed now, but I hope you enjoy this writeup.

Jason Hobbs: From Enterprise IA to Enterprise UX – Creating a User Experience Framework for a (big) Bank

How to you get an organisation to adopt UX in an effective, sustainable way? Jason Hobbs shared his experience of trying to do this for a large bank.

The objective of the project was to create a unified set of design artefacts to govern, standardise and optimise UX and interface design across multiple channels. The framework was based on stakeholder workshops, research, and a huge amount of relevant information from across the business. The result were UX principles, which informed guidelines, IA documents, and design templates. Jason stressed that principles are an important tool to measure success and allow traceability back to the business objectives.

To ensure the sustainability of the principles and the usage of the framework, UCD needs to be institutionalised in an organisation. A way to achieve this could be a core UX team, supported by decentralised, strategically placed allies. Jason’s team involved and trained the bank’s business analysts – a nice example of opening up the boundaries of our discipline and enabling others to be more user-centric.

Jason’s recommendations:

  • Don’t get lost in detail. Version 0 of a UX framework should be a strong container, broad and shallow, but robust;
  • It’s hard, so throw your best people at it;
  • It won’t work without an executive championing the UCD approach;
  • Make sure to integrate all parties and stakeholders;
  • Be prepared for iterations, it’s not a quick shot;
  • Focus on the users’ mental models.

Jason pointed out that they were lucky to come in at the right time, a time of change. The bank tried to overcome silos, stakeholders started talking to each other, and different projects supported and complemented the UX framework. The whole organisation was ready to take a leap, and UX was a small part of this.

Organisational change is hard, and Don Norman said it’s often impossible. Frameworks are important groundwork – championing them takes passion, patience and persistence.

(the above piece is written by Johanna Kollman)

Panel: A Thin White Line

In this panel the discussion focused on the challenges UX professionals face in Europe. What’s the current situation in the different parts of Europe? And are the differences as big as everybody thinks? The panel consists of four people, coming from all parts of Europe. Leisa Reichelt (United Kingdom), Hubert Anyzewski (Poland), Mark Kassteen (The Netherlands) and Luca Mascaro (Switzerland)

The first question they got was: “How is UX Perceived in your country?” Anyzewski answered that a few years ago it was pretty hard in his country. Clients had never heard about usability testing let alone user experience design. Four years ago he did the very first usability test in Poland… These days it is much better. According to Luca the Swiss and North-Italian areas are both very ‘creative’ markets. Clients used to trust mainly on marketing and didn’t really trust methodologies such as user centered design. But what Luca did was sell more hours of graphic design and creativity which he internally split up between design and research. These days it is much better. On the other side Mark says that UX has had a solid ground in the Netherlands for some years, even though it is still a struggle to get budget for proper research. Last but not least Leisa shared her thoughts about the UK. She said that it is a huge market, where a lot of organizations never heard of UX. But she also said that it really depends on the context. When you work in a mature organization like Flow you’ll attract mature clients, while as a freelancer you will see all sorts of clients.

After this there was a lot of debate about the problem that clients don’t understand what we can do for their business. Some said that it was really important that they understand the deliverables. Andreas Resmini, who moderated the talk, asked whether this was really interesting for a client… and Leisa jumped in by statingthat this is totally not interesting for a client. They don’t care for our deliverables, but they do care what we can do for their business. I think we need to learn to speak the clients language and translate our value into their business vision.

Reinoud Bosman & Joe Lamantia – The Architecture of Fun: Emotion, Interaction & Design for Massively Social Games

figure 3. Four Kinds of Fun

figure 3. Four Kinds of Fun

Reinoud and our own Joe gave this very interesting talk. They kicked off by saying: “All games have one thing in common: they are fun.” But there is more to this than you think, which Joe explained to us. Nicole Lazarro, a game developer, designed a model in which she divided fun into four different types (see graphic on the right). And by understanding these types of fun you can design better experiences. What Lazarro did was compare Massive Multiplayer Online Games to Facebook and what she found out was that Facebook had a lot more social benefits than MMO (a.o. the messaging is more open and cross-platform + it is easy to add friends). So she came with the idea of Massively Social Online Games: games connected to social platforms. By doing so she touched two types of fun: hard fun and social fun. And by combining these two you create a game that can have a long lasting value, that goes on beyond the time you actually play. This is where Killzone 2 comes in.

Killzone 2

Killzone 2 is a very popular Playstation 3 game developed in the Netherlands. The team focused mainly on creating a hard fun game, a hardcore 3D shooter. But what they wanted was to combine this with a huge social network (people fun). This resulted in the creation of, a website that was (and is) completely integrated with the game.

Here are a couple of things the team created for the website:

  • The right to brag: make it easy to show that you are good at something, that you won and achieved personal goals;
  • Integrate the ability to communicate cross-platform. So you are able to chat with in-game players via the website and vice-versa;
  • Translate numbers in appealing graphics;
  • Motivate everybody, even the lowest on the list, by chopping up the context depending on your position;
  • Show a small part you are good at when somebody is low, and give a huge overview when you are the best.

It really sounded like a very good approach to a game. And I really believe that this way of looking at fun can be used in different types of projects, not just games. It is all about touchpoints.

Leisa Reichelt – Bare Naked Design

Our own Leisa shared her experience on the D7UX project with the EuroIA audience. She started by stating that not the product, but the community was the biggest challenge in this project. At the start she was already a bit aware of the fact that it would be a massive experiment, but it really turned out to be a tough job.

Almost all open source projects that are completely run by the community have a sub-optimal user experience and good graphic design, it just doesn’t go hand in hand with the way the proces goes. The only open source projects that are able to manage this have very strong direction on the collaborative proces. This strong direction requires dedicated resources with a lot of authority. Succesful examples are Firefox and WordPress. An open process means transparency and involvement, but it doesnt mean democracy. That would make the process endless and frustrating.

It was difficult for Leisa to bring the user centered design message across in the Drupal community. It began with the developers not understanding that there were any other users beside themselves. And explaining what the strategy of the D7UX project was going to be proved a failure, it wasn’t understandable and felt irrelevant for the community. This made Leisa and her design partner come up with pencil personas, simple but clear. With these personas and a couple of project principles the community started to understand what the goal was: make Drupal usable for a wide variety of people, not just developers. But this caused another problem. How do you bring the message across that we design for the 80% and make it great for them, while this will make it less usable for the developers themselves? And that was something that became very difficult to overcome. Especially since there was a core group of developers in the Drupal community that didn’t want these changes. So did the D7UX project end in failure? Partly… but it also created a series of good learnings:

  • Its not Designers vs Developers thats the problem: its Framework vs Product;
  • Designing in the open is a great thing to do for your peers. We don’t get to see each other work very often;
  • It is possible to survive sporadic personal attacks for up to 6 months without going completely bonkers.

The end

And so ends EuroIA 09, an intimate conference with a lot of energetic people. Until next year, in Paris.

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

4 comments on this article

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  3. Linda on

    It was great to meet you at the Euro IA, Jeroen! Thank you for this great resource. Now I know the dude behind Johnny Holland :)

  4. Pingback: EuroIA day 1 and 2 Reports « DE.BU.TE