Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Stellar DUX 2005 tutorial lineup

Six outstanding tutorials will be offered on day 1 of the three-day Designing for User eXperience 2005 conference.

Marc Rettig returns to DUX to lead a workshop on tools for analyzing and understanding the layers of human experience, a prerequisite for successful design.

Steve Portigal, whom I referenced in a related blog entry ("Done any good improv lately?"), will offer a tutorial about improv, ethnography, and innovation, and how the three fit together.

How to choose high-value, high-impact Web development projects will be a part of the focus of a tutorial presented by Janice Fraser on the ROI of user experience and the context of UX practice.

Shelley Evanson will provide instruction on designing for service; Mark Baskinger will teach methodologies of hand-generated visualization; and Brian Lanahan and Gary Hirsch will teach how fundamental principles behind effective stories can inform work on brand identity, design, and user experience.

Information about each of the above offerings can be found on the DUX 2005 website.

(Thanks especially to Rakhi Rajani, DUX 2005 Program Co-Chair, for her work pulling together this stellar tutorial lineup.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Patterns for achieving change

How do you go about changing the role "user experience" plays in your business?

A new book by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising entitled, "Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas" describes 48 patterns (i.e., recurring best practices -- strategies) "for driving and sustaining change in your organization." And it presents a framework -- a pattern language -- for how the patterns work together at different points in the change process.

The following paragraph from the end of chapter 5 provides a flavor:
"If you've been able to apply the patterns in this chapter, you've been busy! You've had a meeting using the pattern Piggyback or Brown Bag. Perhaps you were able to Do Food and you scheduled the meeting at The Right Time. Your brought some interesting books or articles, hoping to Plant the Seeds and point to External Validation for your new idea. You talked about the Next Steps for your fledgling effort and maybe you used e-Forum to help Stay in Touch with people who are getting interested in your work. If you were really lucky, your collection of like-minded folks has started to form a Group Identity."
Patterns of a different sort, and how they can work together effectively, are described in a May+June 2005 interactions article entitled, "Success with User-Centered Design Management." According to the authors, "Doing good design work is actually the easier part of the software user interface design process. The real challenge lies in getting (good) designs realized in a product." Formalize Communication, Manage Expectations, and Facilitate are among the patterns, or "principles," that Jeremy Ashley and Kristin Desmond argue can be applied to meet this challenge.

Patterns described in both publications can help you figure out how to address your particular challenge regarding changing the role "user experience" plays in your business.

(My thanks to John Thomas of IBM Research for refering me to the book on Fearless Change, and to Luke Kowalski of Oracle for referring me to the interactions article.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Framing change / Changing frames

How do you go about changing the role "user experience" plays in your business?

As described in a May 2005 Fast Company article entitled "Change or Die," how you "frame" the change is important, as you often need to change the way things are currently framed.
"Our thinking is guided by narratives, not facts. When a fact doesn't fit our conceptual "frame" -- the metaphors we use to make sense of the world -- we reject it."
I made a short presentation about this at a symposium a number of years ago. Calling my presentation, "Models We Live By" (mimicing a portion of the title of a George Lakoff book, "Metaphors We Live By"), I talked about the conceptual models -- the frames -- that governed much of the thinking at my place of work then that were obstacles to my introduction of forms of user-centered design, ethnographic and usability research, and the like.

So facts and analyses will not alone motivate change?
"Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people's feelings. This is true even in organizations that are very focused on analysis and quantitative measurement, even among people who think of themselves as smart in an MBA sense."
In a presentation on the Business of Design earlier this week in San Francisco, Tom Andrews and colleagues from Stone Yamashita emphasized the importance of engaging emotion in their work with corporate executives to redefine and change organizational culture.

Should you motivate change by the emotion of fear?
"It's too easy for people to go into denial of the bad things that might happen to them. Compelling, positive visions of the future are a much stronger inspiration for change."
The extent of the role compelling visions of the future can play in achieving change in a business is very nicely described in a July 2005 Boxes and Arrows article entitled, "Customer Storytelling at the Heart of Business Success."

But oftentimes decision makers need to participate in the development of those compelling stories for change to occur. I've talked about this in a couple of earlier blog entries (e.g., "Perturbing the ecosystem via intensive, rapid, cross-disciplinary collaboration"), where facilitation of that development is key ("The need for good facilitation").

Indeed, Stone Yamashita's approach to designing organizational change is very much one of creatively facilitating their clients' development of those future visions. (For more on the work of Stone Yamishita, where several of my former colleagues do wonderful work, see "Designing Change" in the May/June 2005 issue of Communication Arts.)

(My thanks to Juli Betwee of pivot.point for providing me with a copy of the quoted Fast Company article.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Collaboration sessions

How do you achieve effective collaboration among the multiple disciplines involved in designing for user experiences?

Someone I've worked with -- Sasha Verhage -- tells how in Collaboration Sessions: How to Lead Multidisciplinary Teams, Generate Buy-In, and Create Unified Design Views in Compressed Timeframes (see this July 2005 article in Boxes and Arrows). Sasha describes an approach he has used for several years for running effective collaboration sessions during website redesign projects.

Guidance for running collaboration sessions for various types of projects is widely scattered. I've refered to other types of collaboration sessions from my worklife in previous blog entries (e.g., "Perturbing the ecosystem via intensive, rapid, cross-disciplinary collaboration"). I'll refer to still others in future postings, and will talk more about some of the elements that successful sessions have in common (I already talked abit about "The need for good facilitation," which Sasha also emphasizes).

Sasha tells me that he has received email from people around the world asking for additional information about his approach. What kinds of information do you or others you know seek regarding collaboration? In what contexts do you experience collaboration challenges? What approaches to collaborating do you find particularly effective?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Design humans in or design humans out?

In the most recent issue of ACM's Ubiquity, Francis Hsu argues for "lowering the frequency and necessity of human data inputs" in future IT systems and applications.

When I worked at Pacific Bell many years ago, I often heard similar arguments. IT systems were designed to minimize human involvement in their operation. Humans were to be involved only when there were "exceptions" -- i.e., cases that the technology could not handle on its own. The goal was to reduce this pricey human involvement as much as possible.

Reducing pricey human involvement remains the goal years later for lots of systems. The Vice President responsible for usability and user productivity at a major enterprise software and services company emphasized the importance of this goal in a conversation I had with him earlier this year.

Contrast the above perspective with that of John Thackara, who visited the San Francisco Bay Area in May to promote his book "In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World." John lamented the ongoing goal of replacing people with technology, telling tales about the terrible user experiences that so often result. Referencing very different, innovative examples exhibiting outstanding user experiences, John advocated a design principle of "enabling human agency" -- of designing people in, rather than designing people out.

Should humans be designed in or designed out? Is the answer, "it depends"? If so, on what does it depend?

For more information on John's new book, including extracts from the book, see