IDEA 2009 report: day 2

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After a night of engaging conversation over dinner, drinks, as well as Brad Pitt and George Clooney sightings, the second day of IDEA kicked off. The speakers of the second day had big shoes to fill after the great speakers from the day before. Needless to say, they all rose to the occasion effortlessly and gave attendees plenty to think about for their trips home.

Tim Queenan – The Dawn of Perfect Products

During the opening session, Tim laid out what perfect products used to look like in the past, and more importantly, what a perfect product will look like in the near future. He started off by asserting that “The assumption that social media makes products better is wrong”. The truth is, products have flaws and some of those flaws are there by design. The social media ‘silver bullet’ can’t fix these flaws, or even hide them.

Types of flaws:

  • Volume – How much space does it take up?
  • Physical Decay – How long will the product function, or stay relevant?
  • Usability – Is it easy for the intended consumer to use?
  • Usefulness – Does it provide any value to its consumers?

The view of a perfect product is no longer accurate. In the past, to reach product perfection it needed to:

  • Fulfill a need or want
  • Have a niche or mass market
  • Provide the business with high margins
  • Be perceived to give high value
  • Have customer replenish or repurchase the product
  • Allow the customer to be easily up-sold or cross-sold

So, how is this view changing? Some emerging ideas are that the perfect product of the future will focus more on human behavior and needs. These future products will need to be intuitive, elastic, intelligent, and polarizing. The challenge for us is that many companies don’t understand this yet, and user experience professionals are the ones best suited to teach them.

Christian Crumlish & Erin Malone – Social Design Patterns Mini-Workshop

The book “Designing Social Interfaces” written by Christian and Erin is set to be released this October. Over the course of this mini-workshop they showcased 5 Steps, 5 Principles, and 5 Anti-Patterns from their book. The workshop portion of the session was a companion card game that showcased the importance of a variety of social design patterns.

5 Steps to follow:

  • Give people the ability to identify themselves and their work.
  • Ensure there is a way to create objects in the system that people can relate to.
  • Give people something to do. Mark favorites, define tags, and collect objects. Start out simple, and let the network grow as is necessary.
  • Enable a bridge to real life events, because aspects of events occurs both online and off.
  • Finding interesting content shouldn’t be a selfish act, allow people to easily share their interests with others.

5 Principles to consider:

  • Pave the cowpaths, see what shortcuts people make and then lay down the paths.
  • Talk like a person, and make it conversational. People want to know what has been written was done by a human.
  • Be open and play well with others. It’s ok to keep private information private, but take advantage of openness where it makes sense.
  • Learn from games. Games are becoming more social everyday and they have many lessons which we can learn from.
  • Respect the ethical dimensions. Consider what you will do with the private information you collect.

5 Anti-Patterns to avoid with your social network:

  • Cargo Cult – The act of performing particular behaviors and setting up certain scenarios expecting past outcomes that were actually dependent on outside forces.
  • Don’t Break Email – People have standard behaviors and habits when it comes to their email, don’t run the risk of alienating them.
  • The Password Anti-Pattern – 3rd party services are training people to sign on using their service rather than an internal login system.
  • Ex-Boyfriend Bug Anti-Pattern – Though it appears a specific relationship should exist, there may be a good reason why it doesn’t.
  • Potemkin Village – Building out many groups and relationships when a population can’t support them decreases the overall value of the network.

The card game that followed the presentation was very entertaining, once our team learned all the game mechanics. The basic flow of the game was to start with a social object card, e.g. Urban Farming, and create a social product for a specific audience delivered through a defined channel. The team is dealt cards, and team members place a balance of social feature cards, delivery mechanism cards, and target demographic cards around the social object card until they have created a completed social digital product. The more balanced the resulting social network is, the more points the team accrues.

cial Media Card Game. Image by evoljen

Social Media Card Game

The game is currently in beta, so keep an eye out for its release date.

Matthew Milan – Innovation Parkour

Using Parkour as an analogy, Matthew’s presentation dispelled some common misconceptions about innovation and instructed us on some activities we can adopt as designers to practice being more innovative. To start off, he identified innovation as “creating a better way to deliver value.”

Some of the myths that Milan attempted to dispel is that innovation is expensive, requires a ton of time, and takes a special kind of person to do it. To the contrary, he argues that innovation is rather cheap; takes some practice to train the mind to look for it; and is a collaborative effort.

In order to reach the stage where innovation becomes second nature, Milan argued that people need to achieve a certain level of skill. The degrees of mastery are unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence (True Mastery). In order to reach the level of unconscious competence it is necessary to practice:

  • Visualizing
  • Seeing
  • Collaborating
  • Trusting
  • Participating
  • Being Open

The session ended with an impromptu interview with Dennis Schleicher Jr on how practicing the art of Parkour trains the mind to do all this.

Mari Luangrath – If You Build It (Using Social Media), They Will Come

The story of Foiled Cupcakes and its owner Mari is truly inspiring. When she started her business, she didn’t understand the importance of social media and how it could affect her business model. The lesson was quickly learned though when she beat her initial sales projection by over 300%. This was all done without a single storefront location.

She found her customer base using social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and LinkedIn. Rather than approaching them as a sales person, she looked to forge a personal relationships with people. Through her activities on these networks, people generated a lot of buzz for her business, which eventually made its way into local news media as free press. Though she had a target market, she quickly found other untapped markets through the events she planned online.

In the course of just six months, she has gone from being a social media novice to one who is dominating her local market. The use of social media has become the single most powerful driver of her business today.

Stephen Anderson – The Art and Science of Seductive Interactions

The task of closing out IDEA fell to Stephen with an intriguing view on how to persuade users into becoming more engaged with the products we design. He said to the engaged audience in the MaRS auditorium that by using the art of seduction, we are able to draw people deeper into the interactions of our designs. People are able to engage in a desired form of behavior that is both fun for them, and informative to the system. Using the psychology that lies behind seduction, designers are able to motivate people to overlook any usability potholes that make certain actions difficult to perform. This isn’t an excuse not to fix these flaws, but it gets the user engaged and having an overall good experience.

Steven continued by informing the audience that in order to seduce people into engaging with your designs, it’s necessary to understand what motivates them. These motivations can be uncovered by observing the way people interact with others. Things to remember are that people are emotional; can be both irrational or rational; eager to learn; desire the familiar; and inclined to do what is easy. Looking for the behavior that drives these desires allows us to create something that plays on their curiosity and encourages them to behave in a variety of ways. A quote by Kathy Sierra was shared that best sums this up, “Brains pay attention to what brains care about, not necessarily what the conscious mind cares about.”

Thus ended the IDEA conference of 2009. Thanks to all the conference organizers, the Information Architecture Institute, the MaRS Centre, and Toronto for providing everyone with a fantastic  experience.

Top image by chanc, photo of the social media card game by evoljennifer

Brad Nunnally

Brad Nunnally is a User Experience Design Consultant at Perficient based in St. Louis, MO. Aside from writing, plotting UX world domination, and tweeting a whole bunch , he fills his time playing with his son and dog.

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