The following five podcasts, in no particular order, are considered UIE's favorite podcasts of 2008. Some of our favorite presenters at UIE events are highlighted in these podcasts along with great insights from UIE's own Jared Spool.

Are there topics you want to see addressed in 2009? Let us know what they are by sending us a comment on Twitter (@uie).

1: SpoolCast: Excelling at Interaction Design with Kim Goodwin, published August 18, 2008

What is the difference between good and great interaction designers?

Jared Spool asked that question to Kim Cooper, VP of Design and General Manager at Cooper, one of the world’s premier design consultancies, in San Francisco. She suggests that three traits of great designers include design judgment, communication skills, and the ability to observe people’s behavior and then design something that can give them a good experience.

Design judgment is the ability to know if your solution is good or not. Great designers have the ability to look at their own work with a critical eye, and implement outside suggestions that make their solutions better. Effective critique is essential.

Kim has even more thoughts in the podcast about concise communication, time management and collaboration skills, you’ll want to give it a listen.

2: SpoolCast: Creating a Culture of Innovation with Scott Berkun, published August 12, 2008

“We’re struggling with how to measure how well we are innovating […] Are we innovating better this year than last year? How would I know?”

If you work in a larger company and you haven’t heard a statement like this, you’re going to. Innovation has become such a buzzword, it’s nearly meaningless. But that doesn’t mean innovation itself is dead. In this podcast, we sat down with Scott Berkun, the dynamic speaker and author of The Myths of Innovation.

Innovation is critical, but it’s not being defined for those folks challenged with implementing it. Innovation is hard work. Scott asks that we face facts here; to find big, new ideas that will change things for the better, will never be easy.

OK, how do we innovate? Scott suggests that the key word is risk. The best organizations (Google, Apple, Pixar and 3M are offered as examples) promote this through a culture where it’s OK to take risks, where failure is acceptable if valuable lessons can be learned. Whenever risks can be taken in a safe environment innovation is much more likely to be successful.

Innovation happens in both small and large organizations, but in large companies, it takes dedicated resources, and the expectation of some amount of failure. Scott has found that in organizations resistant to change, you can find success in pitching that innovation is the tradition of the company.

As for Innovation and User Experience, in the early design stage there’s a delicate balance between collecting data from users and knowing where to take calculated risks that may run counter to the data. When taking a different approach, don’t be afraid to step out on a limb. Then test to see if it works.

Of course, this is just a taste of the half hour discussion with Scott, so you’ll want to listen to the entire podcast to get the most out of Scott’s insights on the subject.

3: Usability Tools Podcast: Successful Web App Usability Techniques (2 parts), published February 7 and February 13, 2008

In this podcast, Brian Christiansen and Jared Spool explore usability techniques for web-based applications. Web-based applications are different from content-based web sites because the users are involved in a transaction. When we’re researching the usability of a content-based site, we’re focused on how users will find and react to the information. However, with web-based applications, there are many other considerations that we need to account for.

Because this is a big topic, we’ve divided it into two podcasts. In Part 1, Brian and Jared lay down the framework for what our usability research needs to tell us about our web-based application. In Part 2, we'll look at the techniques for finding that information.

Part 1, Jared and Brian cover:

Listen to part 1.

In part 2, Brian and Jared explore the usability technique toolbox, focusing on those methods that help us with web-based applications. The episode starts with the basic usability test, moves onto variants, then talks about field studies. In each case, Brian and Jared explore the web-app specific advantages and talk about how to get the information needed to make informed design decisions.

Listen to part 2 .

4: Usability Tools Podcast: Moderating Usability Tests (2 parts), published July 7 and July 22, 2008

In this episode of Usability Tools, Brian Christiansen and Jared Spool talk about how to moderate a usability test. Turns out, the episode got so long that we decided to break it into two parts. Part 1 focuses upon the different roles a single moderator needs to take on during the session.

The usability test moderator has a lot of influence on the success of the test. Moderating isn’t rocket science, but you’ll need to understand the basics before you sit down with your users.

Jared covers the three roles a moderator needs to play during the test.

First is the scientist. The scientist makes sure your tasks get done, notes get taken, and keeps the show on track.

Then we have the sportscaster. The sportscaster gives play-by-play so the design team members don’t miss anything the user does.

Lastly, there’s the role of the flight attendant. This is the most important role. Keeping your test participant happy and comfortable is your number one job.

Tune in to learn the specifics of each role and how they affect one another.

Part 2 focuses upon the step-by-step tasks of running the session with a participant and your observers.

Good moderating is critically important to a successful session. Here are a few points we touched upon in the show:

Listen to part 2.

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