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A retrospective Diary of UXPA Boston 20134:15 AMAlarm… *smash* …snooze.4:24 AMUp n' at 'em. Waking up at dawn, and commuting from Hartford to Boston is not my favorite way to start a day. I'm no stranger to rising early, but when I've emptied my first cup of Joe an hour before I typically hit snooze for the first time — I know I'm going to set some caffeine intake records.I'd been searching for a worthwhile UX-focused conference in the region, that fit my schedule, was affordable, topical and to top it off, had great speakers (Steve Krug, Jared Spool, and other great UX'ers!) If a rainy, bleary-eyed, rush hour commute was what it took to attend — thats what you do for the love of the game.5:30 AMTickets? ... Check… Shoes on? ... Check… iPhone? ... Check. Time to hit the road.8:11 AMI'd just passed through Alston's tolls, when a wave of nostalgia swept over me. (I spent 8 years living and working in Boston, before moving back to Connecticut.) [Sigh] I love this city.8:33 AMRunning a little late — have to hurry up and park. Have you ever been in the Prudential Center's parking garage? If there was ever an interior space in need of usability testing — this was it [proof.] I kept waiting for David Bowie to pop out from behind one of the pillars. That's a labyrinth reference.8:45 AMChecking in was so smooth! I was greeted at the door by a smiling face: "Good Morning! Are you checking in?" Me (still confused from the Pru's garage): "Huh? Wuh-uh-Yes. Morning." Amused face: "Great. What's your name?" Me: "Um? Gannon… uh… Kurt" The smiling face, did a swipey gesture on an iPhone: "Okay, you're checked in. Have fun!" Well that was easy. Where's the coffee?9:01 AMAfter, a great welcome from Eva Kaniasty, UXPA Boston's President, the other attendance-record-setting 799 UX'ers and I were off to our chosen sessions (any one of five simultaneous tracks.)9:15 AMTo get the ball rolling, I decided to step out of my typical comfort zone (making things usable and pretty) and listen to Susan Mercer's talk on "Moderating to the Max: Refining Your Moderating and Interviewing Skills." Some of my favorite tidbits:
  • On the need to be able to improvise and break from your prepared interview scripts — Susan shared a great anecdote. As a child playing in a jazz camp the instructor (Ellis Louis Marsalis), instructed the kids to stop playing the notes on the page. In fact, play anything but the notes on the page. The outtake had a lot more humor and… more color to it — but the point is the same. Loosen up, live in the moment and play what feels right.
  • Using neutral "Acknowledgement Tokens" like "Uh-huh; Continue; Tell me more" and "MmmHmm" increase user feedback about 30% — Uh-huh!
  • Listen to NPR, and pay attention to the interviewers. They ask the right questions the right way – unbiased to collect honest responses.
10:15 AMSession two was a favorite - Dory Azar and Meng Yang's presentation, "Visual Communication in User Experience and Design" focused on the need to "transform a message into visuals, and transfer that message to the appropriate audience." Unfortunately, that's all I wrote down. They had a deck packed with fantastic, inspiring visuals and deliverables. I spent the majority of the session smiling, nodding like an idiot and trying to take mental snapshots. (They do some great work.)11:15 AMNext up was Jason Stehle and "Lean UX Prototyping" — entertaining guy with some great points. Solid tips on how to avoid prototyping wastes like Quadruplication (managing duplicative deliverables) and… Art (designs that can't be built). I'm not sure such lean prototyping in our agency can ever get as lean as some of Jason's straight to HTML/CSS prototypes — but implementing a handful of lean methods will help:
  • Reduce wasted time, money, energy and talent
  • Identify showstoppers earlier in the process
  • Amongst other things
LunchTurkey sandwich with a delicious oatmeal and golden raisin cookie. Took a walk. Missed Boston.1:02 PMFresh off a delicious lunch, it was Jen McGinn, Diana DeMarco Brown and Steve Krug's turn to talk about, "User Research for Agile Design and Development." McGinn and Krug outlined a hybrid of the RITE testing process and Krug's own method.
  • By holding test sessions remotely (Go-To-Meeting) session participation went viral – even unrequited department representatives participated
  • Require reps from key departments to attend
  • The right to provide session feedback is directly dependent on observation participation
2:01 PMJeremey Kriegel's "Sketch You Can!" workshop was one of the more interactive sessions on the day. We split into groups and learned about sketching to facilitate ideation. What level of fidelity is necessary, and how to practice thinking on your feet through some enjoyable improv-inspired exercises.3:03 PMThroughout the day, I had been looking forward to Vijay Hanumolu and Joanna Proulx's presentation on "Designing a Voice First (aka Screenless) User Experience." I can't say I've got a voice first experience coming down the pipe — but the idea of a conversation interface (think Apple's Siri) is exciting. Through their experience with a recent project they had a ton of insights for interfacing with a voice agent:
  • A voice experience is an infinitely vast, wide open landscape — no hierarchy, no visual queues, no signposts, no limits — scope accordingly
  • Voice commands need context because, "we mean endlessly more than we say."
  • Make a persona for your voice agent: tone, mood, gender, all have an effect on users
  • Seeing is believing. Users need to build trust with the system before they are willing to trust it without looking at a screen.
  • The voice interaction model is not a layer that overlays a visual interface, it is its own journey
  • Prototype Old School: Use actors, scripts and paper prototyping to test the usability of the system — and practice before presenting
4:15 PMSkipped around between a few sessions — found a decaf coffee.5:15 PMIt wouldn't be fair, to say #UXPABos2013 saved the best for last — but the last talk was an exciting one for me. Jared Spool is (in my humble opinion) as close to a rock star as it gets in the industry. I was excited to learn about "Build a Winning UX Strategy with the Kano Model" — I knew a little about Noriaki Kano's model but his examples and anecdotes were fresh, and really helped ground my understanding of the Kano model. I walked away, and ended the day, with some great insights:
  • In UX, the collective community, often strives to fix frustration points by replacing them with satisfactory experiences. In a restaurant, that is like "striving to serve edible meals." Hardly a lofty goal, why not delight users through exceptional experiences?
  • As features and functionality that excite grow in popularity, and are more widely excepted, they become a basic expectation. These basic expectations do little to excite users, in fact they are simply expected — the only effect they will have is cause frustration if they are missing.
Later that night...Reflecting on a day that flew by — the conference had far too many fantastic tips, tricks, perspectives and insights to do justice in a single roundup. I'll definitely be back next year, and have already started to follow my favorite speakers on Twitter! I've put together a list below. UXPA Boston UX'ers to follow on Twitter:UXPA @UXPA_IntUXPA Boston @uxpabostonEva Kaniasty @kaniastySusan Mercer @susanamercerJason Stehle @jasonstehleJen McGinn @jenmcginSteve Krug @skrugJeremy Kriegel @sonarcVijay Hanumolu @vijju2kJared Spool @jmspoolOh yeah, and this guy @kurtgannon