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UI14 Podcasts: We Talk to the Expert Speakers

We're excited to share two different types of podcasts with you. You can now listen to featured presentations from the second day of last year's UI13 Conference. These 90 minute featured presentations, given by the full-day presenters, give you a taste of last year's talks. For UI14, we'll continue the 90 minute featured talks on day 2.

Over the coming months, Jared M. Spool, UI14's Conference Chair, will talk with this year's presenters in a series of podcasts. We think you'll enjoy these fantastic discussions.

Interviews with UI14 Presenters

Visual Design for the Non-Designer - An Interview with Dan Rubin

What can a non-designer do to harness the power of visual design without calling professional help? Quite a lot, says internationally-regarded visual designer Dan Rubin. We called Dan to talk about what design techniques are accessible to mere mortals. He also gave us a preview of his day-long workshop for non-designers at our User Interface 14 Conference, this November.

Call it low hanging fruit, Dan says, but there are a lot of small, seemingly simple things that combine to have a strong, positive effect upon your site’s impact. If you’ve built with web standards, especially using CSS for style, these small changes can be trivial to execute across your site. Start with the spacing between elements. Consistency with the white space and alignment bring an important sense of order to your pages.

“Humans love patterns and order,” Dan tells us. Patterns and rules are tools pro designers use to organize page elements. Arbitrary placement leave sites looking cluttered and out of sorts. Creating rules — for example, the amount of space between certain elements — is something non-pros can do to bring order to a page. Choose a spacing and alignment scheme and stick to it. The earlier you set these rules and patterns, the easier it is to wrangle your page elements. Once rules are in place, you’re left with fewer arbitrary decisions to make. Arbitrary decisions are often the cause of disorder.

Dan has gathered this advice and much more into this great podcast.

[Visit the orginal podcast post or listen now below]

Information Architecture Essentials - An Interview with Donna Spencer

Donna Spencer is our long-time, go-to expert on the topic of Information Architecture. We’re happy to bring her stateside again for the upcoming User Interface 14 conference. Recently, I spoke with her, all the way from Australia, in advance of her trip to Boston.

I asked Donna, what happens when, one day, you’re asked into the boss’s office and they drop “the web site” and “information architecture” into your lap? Regardless of your experience, where do you begin? Donna says your first question should be, “Why do we bother to have a web site in the first place?” “What’s its purpose?” She says if you don’t get this out of the way first, you’ll run up against it when you’re further along the trail and it won’t be easy to deal with.

One strategy Donna likes is to work backwards. Start with what should not be on the site. Sometimes pruning your unnecessary or no longer timely content is an effective way of honing the site. You should ask, “What’s the value of this content? Is this still relevant?” Before you can answer this for certain, you need to research your users’ needs thoroughly. Along with establishing the site’s purpose, knowing your users is the most important step to begin with. These two items will work hand in hand.

Donna has a lot more to say on this subject. It's definitely worth a listen.

[Visit the orginal podcast post or listen now below]

Prototyping Experiences - An Interview with Todd Zaki Warfel

Todd Zaki Warfel has just finished two years of research on the tools and processes used in prototyping web sites. His findings are published in a book due out this fall, and lucky for us, he's giving a full-day workshop on the topic at UI14. Did you know some people build prototypes in Microsoft Excel? It’s true. “People are using what they have at their disposal and what they are comfortable with,” Todd tells me.

In the podcast, Jared and Todd discuss some of the more popular tools used for prototyping today, from Adobe Fireworks, to Axure RP, to good old PowerPoint. Todd doesn’t think your choice of tool is important if you are able to communicate your ideas effectively to your audience. He thinks it is worth knowing the capabilities of a few other tools in the event you need to do something in the future that your current tool can’t handle.

Todd also discusses the process he uses for prototyping at his own shop, Messagefirst. You may be surprised to hear what they do and how often he shares his designs with his clients. Tune in to hear these topics plus how to create high fidelity prototypes with basic HTML skills, highlights of his two years' worth of findings, and a preview of his full-day workshop at User Interface 14.

[Visit the orginal podcast post or listen now below]

Managing Sites for Top Tasks - An Interview with Gerry McGovern

In this podcast, Jared Spool speaks with one of the top UI conference speakers, Gerry McGovern. The conversation centered around "customer care words" and top task management.

Gerry coined the term "customer care words"—distinct words and phrases that visitors are looking for that lead them to success and satisfaction. Care words are task-related not content-related; they are the words that visitors need to see to complete the task they are on your site for. These words are not always found in your search logs or in keywords that have led people from Google to your site. But, through polling, testing and observation, care words can be discovered.

Customer care words are both a concept and an eponymous technique that Gerry uses with his clients. When enough participants take part in his processes, his technique both shows top words people are attracted to and, perhaps more importantly, reveals the top tasks the customers are visiting the site to accomplish.

Top task management is what Gerry thinks your site's whole design should revolve around. Most site owners view their sites as places that house information, but your visitors are on your site to accomplish a task. You should optimize your site, mostly through language, so that it excels in helping visitors accomplish their most common tasks.

[Visit the orginal podcast post or listen now below]

Getting to Good Design Faster - An Interview with Leah Buley

Jared Spool recently spoke with Leah Buley, in advance of her appearance at our User Interface Conference. She’ll be speaking about getting to a Good Design Faster with new techniques to getting at your creative ideas.

Leah discusses how wireframes are really holding back the design process. Designers sit down with some rough ideas and start trying to fit them into one or two pages. Next they start sliding design elements around until things feel good, and then they show it to someone for feedback. That someone or group then sees a design that’s pretty far along, and looks pretty concrete. If some of the ideas in the wireframe are not developed as much as they should be, it’s difficult to stop the forward momentum and reassess.

In this podcast, Leah proposes to look at a range of solutions before diving into a single solution? She suggests a very open, cross-team exploratory stage. Invite people from across your organization and even collaborate with those who might not normally be within the core design group.

Leah suggests a week-long ‘design sprint’ that begins with a group brainstorming meeting in the morning, then continues in the afternoon with sketching out a large number of low-fidelity sketches further exploring the experience they’re looking to design, based on the morning’s activities.

Hear how the week-long process continues and other insightful information like ways to become an effective sketcher, and how to run productive group critique sessions.

[Visit the orginal podcast post or listen now below]

The Web as a Conversation - An Interview with Ginny Redish

One of our favorite people to speak with about the state of content on the web is Ginny Redish. She’s one of those people who cuts to the point so decisively that you’re left asking yourself… “why didn’t I think of that?”

Ginny has made her career by helping organizations engage their users with captivating content. Jared Spool recently spook with her regarding what she’s up to and what she plans to talk about at our upcoming User Interface Conference.

Ginny is using a new analogy in her workshops. Navigation and search, design, and technology are the three legs of a stool. In the stool sits the content: what your visitors come for. Why do we spend all of our time building the stool, then all-but ignore what the stool is built to support? It’s like putting a beautiful front door on your house, and having nothing inside!

[Visit the orginal podcast post or listen now below]

Featured Talks from UI13

We’re bringing back three of our top presenters from the 2008 conference, UI13. Though they’ll be doing different presentations at UI14, here is your opportunity to hear them in advance of the conference.