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UX Week

Design, Travel, UXandrea dulkoComment

Hey peeps! I want to tell you a little about my summer wrap-up trip to SF.  I hit up Adaptive Path's UX Week and had a fab time meeting new people, eating dope chinese food, and caffinating at Blue Bottle (West) EVERY DAY.

While the conference itself spanned a variety of topics, from the curriculum I chose,  I extrapolated two major themes.

1. Cross-Channel Consistency

Content does not necessarily have to be replicated across platforms, but does have to feel like it is a part of the same experience in terms of quality and feel.

In his talk, Rob Maigret (@grapesmc), highlighted a failure to completely uphold this cohesion.

Apparently Porche has this pretty sick program that allows buyers to completely customize a new car then, once it's built, actually travel to Germany and test-drive it around the countryside. While nearly everything about this exclusive experience lived up to the excitement built by it's dramatically-lit promotional video, everything from the Rodeo Drive 'customization center' complete with an endless supply of buttery leather options to the Wall-E-esque German factory tour, a few touchpoints broke the grandiose illusion and caused an unfortunate, though temporary, snap back to reality.

For one, the current website (Porsche European Delivery) is meh at best and certainly does not aid anyone's self-justification for dropping tons of cash.

Like Rob's Porsche experience, most interactions that span across platforms can be broken into a series of user emotional highs and lows. Some parts of the experience are likely easier or more enjoyable than others. As designers, our goal is to improve the problem areas thus narrowing the gap between positive and negative aspects creating an over all smoother, better system. Obviously, the problem areas need to be identified prior to making such improvements. Experience mapping is a good way visualize the lows and, fortunately, Adaptive Path's Chris Risdon (@ChrisRisdon) and Patrick Quattlebaum ‏(@ptquattlebaum) lead a great UX week workshop on doing just that!

A few words on experience mapping from the workshop recap: (

  • Experience maps visualize the intangible stories of the experience customers have with a product or service. When done well, they communicate what is really happening outside of the walls of an organization and incite action by the stakeholders who have the responsibility to exceed the expectations of their customers.
  • The core building blocks of an experience map are what the customer is thinking, feeling, and doing as she interacts with touchpoints across time and place.
And my team's finished map (neatness doesn't count considering the time constraints lol):

The hotel example we were given to think about during the workshop was great as most hotel experiences span several touchpoints and anyone can be interviewed for research gathering. How did the booking experience, getting there, checking in, room, staff, dining, etc. compare to each other and to the user's expectations?

2. Think Small(er)

Basically, while no one wants to stifle radical innovation, don't underestimate the impact a small gesture can have. Tom Coates (@tomcoates) spoke about the fact that while advance research being done in the realm of networked appliances, very little from the fruits of this research are seen in the consumer home. One reason for this is cost and another, perhaps less obvios reason, is demand. Complex products don't led themselves well to widespread adoption. Many consumers actually don't want the freedom of unlimited customization and would prefer a more "plug-and-play" solution that just does whatever it is supposed to do very well. Not every solution requires the invention of something never-before-seen. Instead look around and think about how something as inexpensive and readily available (at least in most parts of the world) as a network connection can improve the things we already use each day. Coates spoke about the slew of information that can be gathered from a connected coffee pot from performance stats to average usage and how that information can then be used to both deliver necessary alerts to the user and insights on product improvements to the manufacturer. Follow @houseofcoates to see what's up with his networked home or start your own setup using Wemo.  This talk reminded me lot of what I learned at NYU's ITP (@ITP_NYU) and, specifically, Tom Igoe's work.

Similarly, Code For America Founder, Jennifer Pahlka (@pahlkadot) gave a powerful talk about the organization's philosophy. 'Interfaces to government can be simple beautiful and easy to use,' and that doesn't have to cost a lot or take a lot of time. While Code For America focues primarity on civic and govenment issues, the idea that simplicity, functionality, and accessibility are key should be applied when solving any problem. Learn how to build, code, design, write, hack. Become more DIY and just get it done.

I especially liked one very analog solution she highlighted. Bike lockers had been installed in Santa Cruz, but usage was very low. It was determined that the usage was so low because passers by did not recognize what these giant metal boxes were. Solution? Paint a bike on it.


Finally, I'd like to point out two other great speakers worth following up on. The first is Dr. Genevieve Bell (@feraldata). At UX Week, she spoke about the relationship between humans and machines past and present. A similar presentation she gave can be watched here:

Another speaker I'd like to point out, Stefan Sagmeister (@sagmeisterwalsh), is one of my favs. He spoke on the theme of design and happiness. Find out more about his film on the same topic here: