Another year. Another Interaction conference.
This time, the clan of UX/IxD/IA enthusiasts converged in the beautiful city of Dublin. Not only I don’t need an excuse to go to the *one* conference I won’t miss for anything –but once you add traveling to one of the coolest cities in Europe… it can hardly get any better. Despite the typical Irish weather. During Winter.
My Ireland experience started when I hired a car with my friend Joshua (only a couple of hours after landing) and simply starting driving west. Going wherever the road took us, we managed to hit Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Cork. It was great to explore most of the country in a record 3 days.
Once back in Dublin, it was all Interaction, all the time. To me now it’s like coming to that pub where ” everybody knows your name” –except it never takes place on the same location, and your pub mates are all incredibly admirable, crazy-smart people.
And then there’s all the new friends you make, as well.
Interaction 12 was composed of a whole day of awesome workshops (from which I took 2 whole sessions of prototyping in Axure thanks to Fred Beecher & Jeff Harrison from Evantage), 6 keynotes, a total of 80 speakers with all sorts of events happening around Dublin –debates, networking gatherings, and the first (ever) Interaction Awards: an incredibly well-organized event with the glamour and elegance of any academy awards ceremony. And Guinness.
Most talks lasted 45 minutes, with long breaks in between, which I really liked for a particular reason (besides the coffee being served during such breaks): it allowed for conversation amongst fellow designers. Bouncing ideas off of each other, comparing perceptions from the different talks, and even sharing information from talks other didn’t get the chance to attend –this is what made being there worthwhile. After all, all the sessions were video-recorded and will be available online sometime soon… but the learning done from talking, sharing and comparing right there and then can’t be replicated.
Some of the most noticeable talks I had the chance to attend were:
- Luke Williams‘ “The Disruptive Age: Thriving in an Era of Constant Change”, in which he invited designers to disrupt cliches, products and theories; think of just about everything as “interfaces”, and have “provocation” always present when we design.
- Giles Colborne‘s “Artificial Intelligence: Designing Interaction for Emotional Awareness”, in which we learned that the same way people can “read other people” when interacting with them, we as designer can (and should) also pay attention to being “emotionally aware” with our work. Engaging in active listening, empathy and being positive but not eager to please should be accounted for in our designs.
- Maggie Breslin‘s “Designing For The Unknown”, where we were reminded that design is about solving problem, but most importantly, about conversation. She also mentioned that no matter what tool or medium we use, good design starts with just pen & paper. Taking all these things into account allowed her to design an interesting set of charts to communicate with cancer patients at a hospital.
- Rachel Hinman‘s “The Mobile Frontier”, in which she reminded us that mobile products and applications are sympathetic to contexts; GUIs have the mental model of c
omputers as tools and are reaching a limit, and that when it comes to mobile, people want unfolding, unanchored experiences. She also went over some interesting mobile patterns being seen today across various mobile products. Check out her upcoming book by the same title –it is said to include a couple of sketches drawn by yours truly
- Jonas Lowgren’ s “Exploring, Sketching and Other Forms of Working”. In this talk, Jonas invited us to think in terms of exploring (assume wide design possibilities) and sketching (exploring a full realm of ideas –in a disposable manner). He also highlighted the importance of increasing the material fidelity of prototypes if the interactions involved are not idiomatic. This also means prototyping in code, and building with a sketching mindset.
- Ryan Betts‘ “Concept to Code: Code Literacy in UX”, in which he reminded us (in less than 10 minutes) that Interaction Design is a multi-literate field, and that as designers we don’t need to learn how to code –but it not only helps immensely if you do, but it is also not necessarily all that difficult of a skill to master, and certainly one that pays dividends in this industry. He divided designers into 4 archetypes, Enthusiast (knows code enough to carry out a meaningful conversation about it), Mashup Artist (can play with small chunks of code), Inventor (know at least one language good enough to program anything on it from scratch) and Wizard (programing guru who can pick up just about any programming language there is). Ryan suggested that interaction designers should (ideally) be anywhere between Mashup Artists and Inventors. This was indeed one of my favourite talks of the entire conference.
- Dana Chisnell‘s “Real Users Don’t Do Tasks”. Here,
Dana reminded us that the web has evolved, but our usability techniques have not, that people don’t work with a device out of context (referring to testing under unlikely conditions), that users constantly redesign the UI of your product or application in real time, and most importantly, that our filed should focus on cultivating polymaths: meaning that we should learn more about practices such as anthropology, psychology and many others that naturally complements user experience, usability testing and interaction design.
- Fabian Hemert‘s “Hack To The Future”. In this talk, we learned about making digital content more “graspable” by applying concepts that we as humans are already used to, such as thinness, and weight. In other words, adding “digital texture” to prototypes and designs. I particularly remember him showing a video of a mobile phone that is able to transmit “kisses” by making the receiving device slightly wet once a kiss is sent from the originating device. The idea here was to make point of always letting your ideas out,since sharing with people is crucial to get feedback and inform your designs. Design should be a knowledge-producing discipline. This talk gave me the feeling that nothing is “unprototypeable” and turning ideas into a reality –even a hacked, play-pretend one, can go a long way.
- Abby Covert‘s “Does it Have Legs? Information Architecture Heuristics for Interaction Designers”. Abby reminded us that heuristics are a proven way to critique, evaluate and predict –but we have to many principles that overlap and do not apply to all contexts or channels. She proposed a list of 10 useful heuristic IA principles: is your product Findable, Accessible, Clear, Communicative, Useful, Credible, Controllable, Valuable, Learnable, and Delightful? This was one of the most applicable sessions from the entire conference, which why I invite you to take a look at the slides of her presentation instead of me describing it further here. If you’re an Interaction Designer, you can most definitely apply this you your work.
- Angel Anderson‘s “Why We Share?”. This was one of those talks that just about anyone who uses the web in any way, shape or form today can get immense value from. People are social by nature, and people use the web to interact with one another –hence making the web a place where we have inherently grown to share various aspects of our lives. In her talk, Angel told us that there are 3 reasons why we share: Bragging (because we seek validation), Complaining (because we seek agreement) and Reaching Out (because we seek comfort). She reminded that knowing what motivates people to share will results in designing optimal sharing mechanism and in turn, better products and applications. She also introduced 6 social design characteristics: Landscape, Frameworks, Social Objects, Personal Boundaries, Privacy and Friction. Her deck of slides is also one of the best I saw in the conference. Take a look at it for yourself.
These is only a short collection of the talks that caught my attention the most. There were many other interesting sessions I didn’t get to see –I am myself also waiting for the videos to come out to
get caught up on the rest of the stuff that was discussed in all the other rooms of Dublin’s Convention Centre.
A video no one has to wait for is one that took place in the hallways of the convention centre and was in fact completed before the conference ended and presented on the big screen for everyone to see: “Shit Interaction Designers Say”:
The closing party, hosted by Microsoft, was held at none other than the Guinness Storehouse/Museum. I had not been here since New Years Eve in 2003! I was happy to return –as happy as I was to talk, dance and laugh with friends from all over the world… and drink as much Guinness as humanly possible (which for me is not all that much). I also came out of that place with a XBOX’s Kinect sensor that i seem to have won on a raffle earlier that day. For that, yet another awesome closing party and much more: GRACIAS, MICROSOFT!
We learned. We drank. We shared. We dranked. We danced. We drank…. but most importantly,
we drank some more we got inspired to continue expanding our own limits and working to be the best designers we can be, creating the best products, services and applications we can design. This is why I make sure I don’t miss this amazing conference.
Thank you, Ireland, Thank you IxDA and thank all of you who I had the pleasure and honour of sharing yet another incredible Interaction experience. You know who you are.
(That is “Cheers”. In Gaelic)
For all things “Photos” make sure to check out my Ireland 2012 Flickr set.