After a daylong workshop given by Nathan Curtis of EightShapes, The Information Architecture Institute’s IDEA09 officially kicked off on September 15th. The conference took place in Toronto at the MaRS Centre this year, with an approximate attendance of 250 UX professionals from around the world. Many of the conversations that took place over dinner and drinks were fueled by the sessions of the day, and extended the conference’s experience well into the night.
Luke Wroblewski – The Impact of Social Models
Luke’s unique position at Yahoo, and some data collection applications on Facebook, allowed him to present on a variety of social models a social network can use, and how that model influences member behavior and contribution. The data used to validate these social models was derived from Yahoo Answers, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.
The social models of he identified were:
- No Relationship – No clear definition exists between the users of a network
- Community – A simply defined meaning to a large group of users
- Group – Clearly defined relationships that can be a subset of an overall network
- Symmetrical – User acknowledgment of a relationship brings personal meaning to a connection
- Asymmetrical – Loosely connected relationship that don’t require any confirmation
All of these models work on the fact that people naturally organize with other people based on the context in which their relationship exists. The level of user feedback and involvement in the network also influences how active an individual person’s contributions becomes.
Leisa Reichelt – Bare Naked Design: Reflections on Designing With An Open Source Community
Based on her experience working on the Drupal 7 UX Project, Leisa offered the audience insight and lessons learned based on her team’s interactions with an open source community. Over the course of the project, her team has had to foster involvement and gather feedback from a community that is diverse and global.
The first piece of insight offered was how to successful lead the design of an open source project that must remain open and be transparent in order to encourage community involvement. Though there are many voices that need to be listened to and demand to be heard, the design process can’t be a democracy. The design team must show a strong sense of authority in order to lead the project in the right direction.
Another great take away was the process her team used to gather user feedback and solicit ideas from the community. Using YouTube, the UX team on Drupal 7 showcased their thought process, ideas, and prototypes. Her team even created usability kits in order to crowdsource some usability tests using the posted videos. The community responded with follow up videos, or ideas of their own posted on Flickr.
Thomas Malaby – Making Virtual Worlds: Games and the Human for a Digital Age
Thomas offered attendees a view how the digital worlds that are present in many of today’s online games are becoming extensions of our real world societies. In many of these games, concepts like social status and community involvement are being reflected and encouraged based on the game mechanics of the virtual world.
Virtual worlds are becoming more and more persistent in nature (persistent games in nature? awkward sentence), with no real end. Game developers are able to continually add new ‘spaces’ and features, which keeps the worlds alive and challenging. Players, or residents, of these persistent worlds are required to put forth effort in order to stay on top, or to ensure their current social status level. In order to maintain their quality of ‘life’ in-game, certain objects need to be acquired through the games virtual economy or by accomplishing goals. The digital avatar is becoming more of a digital extension of the person engaged with the game.
The major crux to these persistent worlds is player involvement. If there isn’t a large engaged population, the world will slowly fade way. Or as Thomas puts it “Something isn’t interesting unless there are a lot of people involved. Be it virtual or physical.”
Christina Wodtke – Social Space Online: Lessons from Radical Architects
Sessions that follow lunch are always tough, but Christina did a great job getting the crowd engaged by comparing the world of user experience with that of architecture. As a profession, architecture understands the importance of designing for a specific environment, and there are many lessons that translate to the world of design.
One of the best examples of properly designing for an environment is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Japan. Since earthquakes are common in this region, many aspects of the hotel were designed solely for withstanding and recovering from an earthquake. The lesson here for us, as designers, is to consider all the possible digital earthquakes that may occur in the projects we are involved with.
Types of Digital Earthquakes:
- Technical Execution
Another interesting concept she shared is how the mode of travel, and the velocity of that travel, has a direct influence of the architectural style of a time period. As we drive by buildings faster and faster, bigger and more eye catching signage is required to draw us in. This concept translates to the web, for many times we don’t consider how fast our users are going when traversing the web and how best to capture their attention.
Maya Kalman – Does Designing a Social Experience Affect How We Party? Of Course It Does!
What made Maya’s session so great was how everything she said turned into an analogy for what User Experience is all about. Maya runs Swank Production, an event planning agency in New York City. Her business is all about planning personal and meaningful experiences for her clients.
During her presentation, she provided us with a down to earth definition of Social Experience Design. “Social Experience Design is mean to connect people in new and meaningful ways.” She continued by detailing the reasons why good design is important. Good design helps to put people at ease and gets them to relax (aren’t those the same thing?). This helps to remove social barriers and encourages people to open up and be more social. Also, a beautiful design gives everything associated with a presentation a higher sense of value. This concept ties into the cognitive nature of aesthetics and how it effects the perceived value of an object. For experience design is experience design, whether it is done using pixels or party hats.
Jeff Dachis – User Experience as a Crucial Driver of Social Business Design
Social Experience Design can be hard to sell, but Jeff gave the crowd a great framework to use in order to help convince our clients. The framework for this was called ‘Social Business Design’ and is made up of four main aspects.
- Ecosystem – The connections a person, or business, has with others.
- Hivemind – Businesses need to stop hoarding all its information and open it up for collaboration.
- Dynamic Signal – Inject your company into the overall conversation, for this conversation is happening with or without you.
- Metafilter – Define the meaning in all the noise that comes along with your ecosystem and by being a hivemind.
In the near future, a company that is hive-minded, dynamically signaled, with a meta-filtered ecosystem will be better than any other.
After hours of great presenters and high quality content, Day one of IDEA closed.
Top image by Small