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Adaptive Path UX Week / One of ux, one of ux1

I attend­ed (and spoke at) my first UX Week last week in Wash­ing­ton DC, and it lived up to its billing as a good ol' time. I met many amaz­ing peo­ple, stayed out too late, and yet was still moti­vat­ed to get up ear­ly every morn­ing to see the keynotes. That's say­ing some­thing. Most con­fer­ences can be con­sid­ered suc­cess­es if just one of those things hap­pens.

UX Week 2007 ProgramThe UX Week pro­gram with my lucky cat.

Breaking it down

The ses­sions came in three vari­eties: (1) prod­ucts and inter­face imple­men­ta­tions; (2) design tools and process­es; and (3) ideas and inspi­ra­tions. Sarah Nel­son at Adap­tive Path orga­nized the con­fer­ence, and she recruit­ed speak­ers who were not the usu­al talk­ing heads.2 The mix of back­grounds, expe­ri­ence, and sub­ject mat­ter kept things live­ly. I espe­cial­ly appre­ci­at­ed the dis­cus­sions of process by AP folks like Indi Young, Kate Rut­ter, and Jesse James Gar­rett dur­ing the pan­el dis­cus­sion of CNN.com. All of these opened my eyes to new design tools and tech­niques, and exposed the fact that there is a lot of inno­va­tion going on out there. In terms of the flashy prod­ucts on dis­play, I'm inher­ent­ly too inquis­i­tive and skep­ti­cal to believe what peo­ple tell me dur­ing prod­uct demoes — I need to get immersed in them myself, and ask: How did you get there? Where did that come from? What need is that address­ing? How did the design evolve? Because I'm a nerd.3

Design is story-telling

As Leisa Reichelt point­ed out dur­ing our pan­el, a lot of speak­ers addressed the top­ic of sto­ry-telling in one way or anoth­er. Kevin Brooks of Motoro­la Labs led a work­shop on sto­ry­telling tech­niques; the folks behind the recent redesign of CNN.com described the way in which they craft­ed the sto­ry that they told their inter­nal stake­hold­ers; peo­ple from BestBuy.com and Sachs dis­cussed the use of video­taped cus­tomer sto­ries to make a case for a redesign. Of course, sto­ry-telling and design are inti­mate­ly inter­twined — two strands of a busi­nessy dou­ble-helix. I was inspired by the vari­ety of ways in which design­ers are telling sto­ries about the prob­lems to be solved, and the tech­niques and nuances involved in their approach­es.

UX is real

I go to few­er con­fer­ences than I should (so I may be a bit shel­tered), but I'll say this any­way: at the con­fer­ence, I got the feel­ing that UX was much fur­ther along to becom­ing an actu­al pro­fes­sion. UX prac­tices are no longer out­posts in the Wild West of dig­i­tal prod­ucts; our work is now iden­ti­fi­able ter­ri­to­ry in the busi­ness land­scape. Not long ago, there were very few things that wouldn't be con­sid­ered with­in the purview of user expe­ri­ence; now, the bound­aries of our prob­lems are a lit­tle more clear, and our expe­ri­ences as prac­ti­tion­ers have more com­mon­al­i­ties than dif­fer­ences. I feel like Tom Han­ks in Big. Now, if only I could explain what I do to my par­ents … 1 From one of my favorite movies of all-time, Freaks, i.e., one of us, one of us, we accept you, one of ux.2 Okay, except Jared Spool, but it's always good to hear what he's think­ing. 3 I admit: The inter­face for One Lap­top Per Child is ele­gant and intrigu­ing, but I'm polit­i­cal­ly ambiva­lent about the project itself. I'm fas­ci­nat­ed by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of cre­at­ing an infor­ma­tion pipeline the devel­op­ing world, but I guess I'm not enough of a tech evan­ge­list to believe in the idea that dis­trib­ut­ing lap­tops is bet­ter than dis­trib­ut­ing more imme­di­ate aid. Maybe I'm not think­ing big enough.