Reflections on Interaction08

Wow! What a terrific conference! I’m fired up about Interaction Design following the inaugural IxDA conference in Savannah, GA. As I reflect on the conference, here are the highlights for me:

Bill Buxton [video, book] – We must embrace our unique qualities as interaction designers, respect the talents of others (e.g. developers), and together change our organization so that our talents are used. We must “stop whining!” Buxton pointed out that Jonathan Ive was at Apple for 5 years before the Steve Jobs came back–and yet made little difference on the products. Jobs first move was to use the existing design talent at Apple to turn around the company. Finally, Buxton pointed out how Moore’s Law and the Growth of Features run counter to the fact that human capacity is not increasing.

Bill Buxton on Moore’s Law, Buxton’s Law, and God’s Law

Aza Raskin [video] – Aza is the first second-generation interaction designer I’ve met which I think is pretty cool. His late father, Jef Raskin, of course is responsible for designing the Macintosh and Aza founded his company Humanized to continue his father’s work. Aza is a refreshing speaker and clearly articulates his strong point of view that the best user interface is no user interface. In other words, selection and direct manipulation in the modern GUI has gone too far and we’d be better off with a recall based smart command line (see my previous post on his product Enso). By focusing hard on simplicity and reducing interactions where possible we just may fit under what Buxton’s called God’s Law (see above).

Chris ConleyiPhone Home ScreenChris spoke on how the use of dramatic features in interaction design yields more enjoyable and engaging products. He defined drama as “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events”. Furthermore he described how it’s only thru drama that you create truly meaningful products. Chris described how Pixar approaches this subject thru the heavy use of storyboarding. They spend years honing the story and using a series of design critiques, until it is just right. Only then does production begin. As interaction designers we must choreograph these dramatic elements in order to delight our customers. One example he shared was how to customize icons on the iPhone home screen. When you move into customization mode all the icons start jiggling and then jump out of the way as you drag icons. Very fun indeed.

Matt Jones [video, deck] – Matt is the designer behind Dopplr and his witty British humour was a joy to listen to. My favorite quote from his talk was a definition for serendipity (something we regularly discuss at eBay):

“Serendipity is looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer’s daughter” – Sir Hans Kornberg

He also built on the notion of delight as a key to product design. For example, one hotel left him a rubber ducky in the tub on the 4th night. On Dopplr they surprise their customers with customized Dopplr logos based on their travel history.

Jon Kolko – While Jon was not an official speaker, as a former professor at Savannah College of Art and Design he played a key role in bringing Interaction08 to SCAD. A designer on my team, Riaz, was a former student of Jon’s and introduced me to him over pizza and beer at VinnieVanGoGo’s the night before the conference. Jon cuts right to the point and is very direct about his POV on design (as well as other things). I found his attitude refreshing and it has motivated me to be less nuanced in my opinions. I’m halfway thru his book which I’d highly recommend.

Quick Tidbits:

  • Bill DeRouchey: Conversations w/Every Day Objects [video, deck] – How button’s have evolved and their affordances…
  • Gabe White: Ethics of Design [video] – Should we discourage addictive or compulsive behavior (e.g. twitter)?
  • Sarah Allen: Cinematic IxD [video, deck] – How to use visual cues in transitions to maintain context…
  • Gretchen Anderson: Concept Ideation [video] – If meeting with the CEO, tell a story about your customer and be dramatic…
  • UI Design in Agile Environment [video] – How to use a design studio and team offsites to make Agile work…

List of all video available from Interaction08.

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Preston builds apps that shape Comcast's next generation mobile and TV experiences at its Silicon Valley Innovation Center.

Former GM of Plaxo.com (acquired by Comcast), User Experience Design leader at eBay, Microsoft PM. MBA from UC Berkeley.

Danville Dad of Three.