IDEA 2010 Conference: Day Two

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Day two of the Information Architecture Institute’s annual IDEA2010 conference promised to be just as interesting as the first. Just like the first day, day two’s presentations and breakout sessions were about future trends in technology and how our profession can adapt to meet the opportunities and challenges these trends present.

Here’s a recap of the sessions that occurred on the second day.

The Best is the Enemy of the Good: Similarities in Perfection Between Magic & Design

With Jared Spool’s reputation as an engaging, entertaining speaker, there was a strong sense of anticipation for his and son Reed’s presentation about uncovering similarities between magic and design.  It’s safe to say the presentation met, if not exceeded, those already high expectations.

Following Reed’s introductory magic performance, Jared outlined how magic as a craft reflects the path of novice designers, starting at a beginner stage, advancing to mimicry and evolving to innovator.

In addition to similar career paths, magicians and designers share many similar concerns when creating the environment for an intended experience. For instance, whereas designers must concern themselves with the context in which a product or service will be used, the technology to make it work, and the business goals it must address, Reed and other magicians also have to manage variables such as sound, light, and stage blocking.

There are also similarities between when to innovate and when to leave well enough alone. In both magic and design you evaluate whether there is an actual benefit to innovation, and not simply doing something because it hasn’t been done before, or because someone else is already doing it.

With classic Spool humor enhanced by sharing the stage with his son (one of the funnier exchanges was when Reed handed Jared the presentation remote, saying dryly, “Here, Father”, to which Jared replied in even stronger deadpan “Thank you, Boy”), the audience was treated to a fun and unique show that revealed insights many of us can relate to but may not necessarily practice (at least until Reed’s breakout session featuring magic lessons).

The Importance of Story(thinking) in the Age of Service Ecosystems

Cindy Chastain expands the reach of storytelling from the foundation of user-focused scenarios describing tasks into describing how, when, where, and ultimately why people will engage with many interconnected services to address needs and desires.

Before diving into storythinking, she started by revealing how many digital properties don’t start and stop at the desktop.  For example, she cited the Major League Baseball’s iPad and iPhone app At Bat 2010. This is a tool that not only provides information about games and standings, but also provides additional information that’s not found on television broadcasts, such as details regarding pitch location, speed, and more.

Though storytelling has been making the rounds in the UX community, Cindy’s presentation discussed less-told aspects of using narrative in the design process; specifically, she established the “storythinking” approach. To illustrate storythinking, she displayed a customer journey of shopping for telecommunication services from the customer’s perspective that identified several business opportunities throughout the beginning of the process, whether it started over the phone, via television, a mobile device, or the flagship web site.

She reinforced the importance of a common theme and approach across such an ecosystem to establish greater trust and engagement with the customer.   She also offered how task flows and concept models can act as the foundation for storythinking exercises. These exercises help practitioners evaluate and develop an interaction design for a group of integrated applications and services.

Cindy presented a well-thought out and tested methodology. To learn more details, check out an article she wrote for Boxes and Arrows at

Persuasive Design: Encouraging your Users to do What you Want them to do!


Slot machine game designers use persuasion techniques to attract people to play and keep playing these games. Advertisers use psychology to persuade customers to buy products. In Andy Budd’s presentation on “Persuasive Design: Encouraging your users to do what you want them to,” he illustrated in detail how these fields use persuasion techniques guide people’s behavior.

He provided some good examples of how some applications currently persuade users and shared how interaction designers could use the same techniques. These techniques include establishing authority and trust, layout and positioning, social proof, loss aversion and likeability and gifting.

You can find a copy of Andy’s slides here:


Web 2.1: Transformers are Go!


Jeffery Zeldman, founder and creative director at Happy Cog, gave a presentation outlining where we’ve come in terms of web design and where we are going. After his interesting and informative review of information design and technology, he explained how Web 2.1 is now emerging. This new web interaction paradigm is a result of the perfect storm: the maturity of standards-based web development (i.e., HTML5, CSS3, and webfonts), webkit-based smart phones (like the iPhone and Android), and user’s increasing acceptance of the same website looking different on different devices (for example, a website looking different on an iPhone compared to a browser on a laptop.)

Web 2.1 will be about “ubiquitous interaction”. His summary of “Got a minute? Check in” encapsulated the current mobile usage of the web where people consume short information chunks via their phone throughout their daily tasks (such as waiting in line, and while waiting for the laundry to finish.) This new world will be powered by web standards and informed by user experience.

Amy Quinn

Amy Quinn is a Product Manager of UX Tools at Infragistics. For the past decade, she has been a user researcher and interaction designer both as a consultant and as part of internal UX teams. She has a Masters of Human Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University.

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