Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Who will represent IAs at CHI's Development Consortium?

Looking at the summaries of position papers submitted to the CHI2005 Development Consortium about an umbrella organization for User Experience, I sure hope something positive will come out.

Some statements (e.g. those by Jonathan Grudin, John Zapolski and possibly Arnie Lund) sound rather gloomy: Jonathan mentions "an unusual situation" and John says that "the focus of the group needs to shift". I think they are referring to the fact that a lot of groups are fighting over who should own the User Experience and while the fight is going on, little progress, especially in the area of promotion of the field, can be made.

It looks like a lot of topics will have to be discussed over two days to cover the interests of all attendees. I count at least 10:
  1. uniting professional organizations
  2. uniting professional knowledge (Keith's personalized portal)
  3. raising the status of the UX profession
  4. finding UX's place in academia
  5. co-ordinating and professionalizing conferences
  6. fighting competition for resources (volunteers? teachers?)
  7. fostering local ambassadors
  8. fixing differences in terminology
  9. publishing UX research
  10. valuation of (research) publications
It is good to see that the previous experience of several other organizations will be available: the submitters mention SIGCHI, UXnet, AIS, AIGA, HFES, SIGGRAPH, and IxDG.

One organization that I hold dearly (I am an advisor to the board and even ran for a place in that board) is missing from the list: the Information Architecture Institute (IAI). When the IAI advisors met during the IA Summit we discussed a lot of the same subjects, sometimes with a smaller IA focus but often enough in the wide UX sense.
What happened? Didn't we get invited? Don't we want to take part in the conversation? I am sure some of the advisors see Information Architecture as central to the field of UX (especially those who call it BIG IA instead of UX). I only put it at the center to make a point, as I explained in my original post about the t-model. But one way or the other, the IA Institute has an interest in the outcome of the discussion.

Oh, and of course I do I hope that some of the business aspects that I added to the t-model, applied to UX (UX ROI, selling UX, UX's organizational impact, managing UX and UX processes), will also be discussed.

Who will invite the IA Institute to the table and who will add business aspects to the agenda?

Update: (April 15, 2005): A first report of the Development Consortium acknowledges IAI and it seems the Institute was represented informally. Good! The slides from the associated CHI Panel identify a list of "first projects" that will help establish an umbrella environment for all organizations (and hopefully practitioners!) to flourish. I am confident that the IAI will review these and see which ones can be picked up. As the last slide says: Engage!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A night of UCD and RUP with SIGCHI.NL

(If the title looks too much like alphabet soup for your liking, here's a legend: UCD = User Centered Design, RUP = Rational Unified Process, SIGCHI.NL = Special Interest Group for Computer-Human Interaction's Dutch chapter)

Last Thursday evening, at SIGCHI.NL's March meeting, I gave a 10-minute version of the presentation I gave at the IA Summit about integrating IA deliverables into a RUP-based software development methodology. The whole evening was dedicated to UCD and the Rational Unified Process and featured 5 other presenters (including my co-organizer Joris van Gaal) from Dutch companies that had integrated the two worlds. It was good to see the others' approaches, the similarities as well as the differences.

Some things I noticed:
  • it's almost a rule that it is the techies who select the RUP as their favorite method and forced it upon the company. Not management, and definitely not the designers; designers are forced to adopt the chosen methods were possible. After the meeting we had a feeling it is time for a comprehensive, UCD-based method to arise that will turn this around (MWUHAHAH!).
  • most companies took 18 months to 2 years to complete the process of standardizing and documenting their methods and promoting it to the rest of the company. Apparently that is how long it takes for a group to develop its standards and convince the stakeholders that it's worth changing the old methods.
  • it is harder to connect business and design than it is to connect design and technology. Several attendees suggested to execute the entire UCD process before the RUP process kicks in, assumingly to be present when business people make decisions and shape solutions.
  • early design deliverables might, or might not, speed up the specification process, the jury was out on this one. Some attendees were convinced that starting with sketches of screens makes it a lot easier to visualize the solution, while others insisted that technolgy-and-design-agnostic use cases should be written before any screens are designed. One promising solution that might settle this debate is a deliverable called "content maps"; they identify the information required to proceed to the next step in a use case and as such are valuable input for what information should be on the associated wireframe, without having to layout the screen.
  • we need a common vocabulary and standardized names for our deliverables. Possibly this was due to the different backgrounds and experience of the attendees, but I was surprised that I had to sketch a wireframe to explain what a wireframe looks like, especially for this audience.
It probably helped that SIGCHI.NL had organized a meeting between representatives of our country's educational institutions just before our workshop, but I was glad to see that the number of attendees reached at least 30. Apparently more than a few companies wrestle with integrating UCD with RUP. I look forward to continuing the discussions with the participants, possibly through a thread in SIGCHI.NL's forums.

Update (April 6, 2005): The "content maps" mentioned above might also be used in conjunction with page desciption diagrams as identified by Keith Robinson. Both deliverables focus on the content of a page(type) and not on layout or visual design.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

My IA Summit presentation "StUX - integrating IA deliverables in a software development methodology"

In time this will appear on the IA Summit website as well, but for now a PDF version of my slides can be found here (1.73MB).

Feedback is welcome, and I'll be happy to explain elements if requested.

Update (April 7, 2005): To get a feeling for what's to come I've included thumbnails of key slides.
The slide with the promotional poster of our additions to the RUP:
promotional poster of our additions to the RUP

and that of the lessons learned:
lessons learned from integrating IA deliverables with RUP

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Shoulder IA: t-model extended with business layer

In honour of the IA Institute (IAI), in this post I will refrain from calling Big IA "UX".

During the IA Summit the IAI's Board of Advisors met and discussed the legitimization of the field of IA. Jess McMullin asked me to explain the t-model to the advisors and from that moment on it was used to frame parts of th ediscussion. Questions like "what skills should the IAI promote as core-IA skills?" and "should we claim the title of UX?" were answered by the advisors while they were pointing at parts of the t-model.

In the process, Harry Max extended the model in a way that fits well with my interest in the business side of IA: a layer of Business IA was placed on top of the horizontal UX band. This would include subjects such as "ROI for IA", "selling IA", "IA's organizational impact", "managing IA" and "IA processes".
t-model with added business IA layer
When we were discussing the idea that the IAI should protect the corners of the t-model, someone jokingly came up with "Armpit IA" for the area which I dubbed guerrilla IA earlier: the area where the cross-over occurs between shallow IA methods with those of other fields. Of course this was quickly followed by "Shoulder IA" for those areas where Business IA methods cross-over into business-related methods of other fields.

So, the t-model is now cross-shaped and I want to be a Shoulder IA.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Result of IA Summit: 22 pages of notes, 400 friends

The IA Summit 2005 just ended and I feel great!

Andrew Dillon gave the closing plenary and boy, was I looking forward to it! The title was "Who's afraid of Big IA" and you know how I feel about Big IA. Andrew sees a place for Big IA, or macro IA as he calls it, as a profession that builds on craft knowledge, needs academic institutions to provide the necessary education at the highest level, that builds on user research, and is values based (not just value based).
Central to his talk was the notion that our work, our designs, will turn into experiences that have human consequences.
Other statements from his talk that I found interesting were:
  • IA is a craft profession and craft knowledge means there's room for customization in each project
  • we need academic research to be transformed into applicable models (Andrew said this is the role of academics but I think it's a co-ordinated effort by academics and practitioners)
  • "I didn't come here to navigate"
Several times Andrew referred to our ethics, and I think there's a role for the IA Institute to pick this up, just like ACM did with their Code of Ethics for its members.

My notes on the closing plenary were just 1 page out of the 22 pages that I filled in my notepad. I am not sure if writing them all up and creating a trip report will be very useful, but I am certain that I will refer to things that I've heard here in my postings in the coming months. Some highlights:
  • I stil have to find a place in my head for BJ Fogg's keynote about persuasive technologies.
  • I loved the attention that the business aspects of design got, and I have to update my t-model (see update below) after the IAI Advisory Board meeting.
  • It was also great to see that a team at Yahoo! had implemented a working pattern library, pretty much following the model that I proposed for Nokia in a previous life.
What was really great about this Summit (and remember this was just my second one!) is the number of people I actually knew, either from the previous summit or simply from online conversation. And the funny things is: many of them came to me to shake my hand and I felt honoured, recognized somehow. It was all I needed in return for co-organizing the thing.
Thank you my friends, all 400 of you!

Update (march 21, 2005): meanwhile, the t-model has been updated.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

IA Summit, here I come!

In what will surely be a massive stream of "me too" messsages, I'd like to report that today I will be flying to Montreal, Canada, to attend the IA Summit 2005.

The tactical execution now lies with ASIS&T which means the conference team can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I'm sure we'll be needed here and there and I'll definitely show my face at the registration desk/nerve center of the conference to see if I can help, but I am also looking forward to being able to attend the sessions like a regular attendee. Oh, and as a presenter too.

I am packing a laptop with a wireless card, so I hope to be able to post one or two messages here about the trip.

My only worry is the snow: We haven't had this much snow fall in one night since 1979 . Let's hope the people at Schiphol are carrying shovels!