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An Event Apart Roundup – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series. Visit Part 1 here.

I had the good fortune to attend An Event Apart Boston last week. The speakers were inspirational. The content was brilliant. Even the food was excellent. Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer really know how to put on a show. This is (part 2 of) a breakdown of what I learned at the event and how I plan to use it.

The short version

Don’t have time to read the whole post? That’s ok. I know you’re busy. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version.

Wroblewski

  • Mobile is more important than desktop (or will be VERY soon).
  • Focus, focus, focus. Deliver immediate answers & value.
  • Mobile is EXPLODING and it’s reshaping what the web can do.

Walter

  • Make your designs personal, relatable, and pleasurable.
  • The experience will either add to or subtract from your goal. Design accordingly.
  • Humans are human. Treat them as humans.

Spool

  • There are 5 design styles. Great designers know which style they’re using.
  • Great designers use the same style for the entire project and great teams ensure everyone uses the same style.
  • The more advanced the style, the better the design.

The long version

Ok, now on the good stuff. Pieces of this roundup were drawn from Notes from An Event Apart by the brilliant and more-talented-than-me Fred LeBlanc.

From An Event Apart: Boston 2010. Luke Wroblewski's first slide.

Mobile First!

By Luke Wroblewski

Design the mobile version of your app or website first―before you design the desktop version―even if your app or website won’t have a mobile version.

Growth = Opportunity

Mobile web is growing at an unprecedented rate. In his talk, Luke described that the mobile web is growing 8 times faster than the desktop web grew and that smartphone sales will pass PC sales in 2011. These new mobile web users will demand excellent mobile websites and the demand will quickly become more important than a desktop website.

Mobile websites are not an afterthought. Examples like Facebook’s iPhone app (and, in my opinion, GMail for iPhone & iPad) demonstrate how, in some cases, mobile versions are actually better than their corresponding websites.

Constraints = Focus

Apple’s iPhone Interface Guidelines state, “In iPhone apps, the main function should be immediately apparent. Minimize the number of controls from which users have to choose.” Forcing yourself to pare down the number of available options and keeping only the absolutely necessary components creates a fine-tuned, focused direction.

This minimalist approach will help you identify the primary goals of your website. Use that primary-goal approach on your desktop version as well as your mobile version. Basing your desktop version on the primary goal will dramatically improve the simplicity and clarity of your desktop website.

Capabilities = Innovation

Capabilities of mobile devices are changing the way users interact with our websites. The clearest example of this idea is touch. Hover is out. Gestures are in. The ways in which websites utilize touch gestures are still being pioneered.

Location awareness is another huge advantage inherent to the mobile web. Services like Yelp, Gowalla, and Foursquare are demonstrating how useful location-based apps can be while Google uses location to show relevant ads. By nature of carrying mobile devices around in our pockets, we have begun to use them differently than desktops. They are being used in a “I need this information right here, right now” sort of way. It’s up to designers and developers to harness that philosophy and maximize its potential.

Summary

  • Mobile is more important than desktop (or will be VERY soon).
  • Focus, focus, focus. Deliver immediate answers & value.
  • Mobile is EXPLODING and it’s reshaping what the web can do.
From An Event Apart: Boston 2010. Luke Wroblewski's first slide.

Learning To Love Humans—Emotional Interface Design

By Aarron Walter

We’ve changed, says Aarron. Humans are sharing our lives on the web more than ever. What we look for in a website is changing. We need computers and websites to be functional, reliable, usable, and pleasurable…in that order. Aarron claims that the pleasurable is missing.

Personality

Personality and design are a platforms for emotion. Humans have personalities. They’re what make us human. Objects and products that have personality are relatable to us.

The Volkswagen Bug is one of the most popular cars because it has personality. On the iPhone, Tapbots is doing interesting work with their apps because they use personality. Personification is important. Personality is important.

Emotion

Aarron’s principle of emotional design says, “people will forgive shortcomings, follow your lead, and sing your praises if you reward them with positive emotion.” Fun is a very powerful tool for positive emotion.Software shouldn’t be a hurdle users have to use or tackle, it should provide a fun experience while accomplishing a user’s tasks.

Discovery

CoffeeCup is an Atlanta software company. They held a contest to find “easter eggs” around their website, giving away $18,000 worth of products. Aarron’s stats listed that CoffeeCup’s page views increased 600%. They saw a 300% jump in traffic, 217% increase in Facebook fans, and 170% increase in Twitter followers. They used discovery, fun, and a little bribery to turn non-customers into customers.

Summary

  • Make your designs personal, relatable, and pleasurable.
  • The experience will either add to or subtract from your goal. Design accordingly.
  • Humans are human. Treat them as humans.
From An Event Apart: Boston 2010. Luke Wroblewski's first slide.

Anatomy of a Design Decision

By Jared Spool

What is anatomy? Gray’s Anatomy (the 1858 medical text) defines anatomy as “a study of the structure or internal workings of something.” So what are the internal workings of how we make design decisions?

Types of Design Decisions

  • Self design: when we design something for our own use. Self design works well when our users are just like us and we regularly use the product just like our users do.
  • Unintentional design: when the design just happens on its own. Unintentional design works well when our users will put up with whatever we give them and we don’t care about support costs from pain and frustration.
  • Genius design: when we’’ve previously learned what users need. Genius design works well when we already understand users’ knowledge, previous experiences, and contexts and we’re solving the same design problems repeatedly.
  • Activity design: when we’’re designing for new activities unfamiliar to us. Activity design works well when we can easily identify the users & their activities, we need to go beyond our own previous experiences, and innovations can come from removing complexity.
  • Experience design: when we’’re designing for the entire experience. Experience design works well when we want to improve our users’’ complete experiences in between specific activities, we can be proactive about the design, and game-changing innovations are the top priority.

Rule-based Decisions vs. Informed Decisions

Jared’s company, User Interface Engineering (UIE), worked with the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to working with UIE, none of their campus websites looked the same. Penn decided they needed style guidelines to help unify things. These guidelines were expensive to produce. People never followed them and ultimately, they failed. (So they called UIE to come save the day.)

Don’t make design decisions based on rules. It prevents the designer from thinking. Instead, make informed decisions. These decisions require a lot of thought & research, but they are worth it.

Methodologies & Dogma vs. Techniques & Tricks

UIE interviewed companies about their design work. They found that to get work done, designers form their own process. This process has 2 opposing sides.

On one side, there is methodology. A methodology is a collection of methods and rules employed by a discipline. It can be formal or informal and is typically used as a guide. Beyond methodology is dogma. Dogma is an unquestioned faith in something, with or without any supporting evidence. Dogma is typically more formal than methodology and is often adhered to more strictly. Some groups always design within the confines of methodologies and dogma. Don’t be that guy.

On the other side of the design process are techniques. Techniques arise out of patterns are typically the result of experience. They can come and go, being employed if and when they are needed. Beyond techniques are tricks. A trick is essentially a technique that we don’t use properly. Tricks are typically used less frequently than techniques, and they are not usually our proudest moments.

Summary

  • Every style has a purpose. It’s ok to use Unintentional Design, just admit that you’re using it.
  • Great designers know which style they’re using.
  • Great designers use the same style for the entire project.
  • Great teams ensure everyone uses the same style.
  • The more advanced the style, the more expensive. Agencies don’t go beyond genius design.
  • The more advanced the style, the better the design.

Part 2 Conclusion

Wroblewski

  • Mobile is more important than desktop (or will be VERY soon).
  • Focus, focus, focus. Deliver immediate answers & value.
  • Mobile is EXPLODING and it’s reshaping what the web can do.

Walter

  • Make your designs personal, relatable, and pleasurable.
  • The experience will either add to or subtract from your goal. Design accordingly.
  • Humans are human. Treat them as humans.

Spool

  • There are 5 design styles. Great designers know which style they’re using.
  • Great designers use the same style for the entire project and great teams ensure everyone uses the same style.
  • The more advanced the style, the better the design.

This is part 2. Visit Part 1 here. AEA screen photo borrowed (without permission―please don’t sue me) from ZDnet’s The Web Life.