ConveyUX Conference 2013: Day 2: 5 March 2013March 6, 2013
As for yesterday, we started the day with breakfast at 8:30 am (such a civilized hour for breakfast!), then the first session at 9 am. First up was a general session with Carol Barnum, then followed two break-out sessions before lunch, a single session after lunch, a session at the Seattle Central Public Library, followed by a tour of the library, then a networking mixer with food and drinks at the Blink offices down on the Seattle waterfront. It was a busy day for all those who participated in everything.
Content strategy: How to get it, how to test it
Carol Barnum was our keynote speaker for today. She talked about what content strategy (CS) is, highlighted the explosion in CS books and resources in the past year or so, and detailed the major steps in CS (audit, plan, manage, create).
Testing is the only way to find out if the content is useful and usable to the audience it serves. The top findings (from the research) in testing are:
- page design
- mental model.
She offered three reasons for why content matters:
- increases sales
- increases user satisfaction (both internal and external users)
- reduces support calls.
The remainder of her talk focused on two case studies she’s been involved in — one for an international hotel chain’s green/sustainability program, and one for a sports shoe retailer’s website.
She finished by emphasizing that content strategy plus usability testing equals good business.
Communicating with users around the world: Understanding culture’s impact on user experience (Parts 1 and 2)
I had a morning full of Carol ;-) I also attended her two-part session on communicating with users outside your own country. In the first half she looked at some of the work done by Hall and Hofstede in the 1950s to 1970s on how different cultures have different behaviors and values.
Essentially, Hall’s categories can be condensed into the following:
- perceptions of space — some cultures are more territorial than others; some have more or less personal space than we do
- perceptions of time — polychronic time (people more important than the schedule — tends to be the hotter regions of the world); monochronic (schedule more important — tends to be the colder regions of the world)
- high-context — information is obtained from the physical context or internalized; affiliations and relationships are most important; typically Asian and southern European nations
- low-context — information is explicit (typically in words); achievement of goals is most important; typically North American, northern European nations
The implications of these differences are important in communication — communication in high-context cultures depends on sub-text for meaning (i.e. more indirect messages); communication in low-context cultures relies on clarity/explicitness (i.e. more direct messages).
Hofstede’s categories are:
- power distance (authoritarian hierarchies or decentralization of authority/teamwork)
- individualism vs collectivism (‘I’ culture [Australia and US the highest] vs unquestioning loyalty to the group)
- uncertainty avoidance (those cultures that avoid uncertainty accept formal procedures and highly structured organizations; those that accept uncertainty take each day as it comes and don’t view rules as sacred)
- masculine vs feminine, which had nothing to do with the gender of the user, only the culture’s role (masculine cultures focus on performance, while feminine cultures focus on relationships)
- long-term vs short-term.
After the theory part, Carol got us to look at various McDonalds websites for different countries and asked us to notice how some focused on people, and some had no people in them. And where there were people (there were none on the US McDonalds home page), to notice how they were portrayed — whether they looked at the camera or away from it, whether they looked like they were in charge or not.
In relation to communication, culture affects:
- learning styles
- reading patterns
She then focused on various cultural studies related to trust of websites based on country, how the information architecture varied in differed countries (e.g. Chinese website design favored a portal model filled with every possible link on the one long page), how card sorting results varied for the same activity between Danes and Chinese, ATM studies in China, banking studies in India, mobile phone issue in Ghana, healthcare information for bilingual US users, etc.
One thing to come out of the studies was that users tend to perform better at information-seeking tasks when site designers are from the same culture.
There was a lot more, but we ran out of time. However, her slides are comprehensive and there’s enough information for us to follow-up on various studies if we’re interested.
A graphical approach to Help info in a mobile app
I was quite looking forward to Steve Segelin’s session, as he’s a cartoonist as well as an information architect. He was speaking on how his company — Blackbaud — have used graphics to communicate succinctly. However, whether it was where I was sitting, or the microphone, or the position of the clip-on mike on Steve’s shirt, or my hearing, I could hardly make out what he was saying. I do have his slides, so I’ll look at them in my own time and hope that I can get the information from them.
As an aside, one thing I noticed in many presentations, including Steve’s, is the predominance of applications with lime green (or other shades of green) for buttons, nav bars etc., some also with white text. Not once did this green project well on screen at the conference — each time there was lime green in a presentation, it was hard to read.
HTML5 for a better UX
The final session of the day was at the Seattle Central Public Library, about 8 blocks or so from the hotel. Peter Lubbers from Google was the presenter and he talked about and demonstrated lots of cool new things in HTML5. Like really cool! Many are not available in most browsers yet, but Peter’s assessment is that within two years most browsers will be able to do them. There was some amazing stuff he showed us.
Seattle Central Public Library Tour
The highlight of my day today was the Seattle Central Public Library tour. As an ex-librarian, I have a soft spot for libraries, and had hoped we would see some of the behind-the-scenes areas, but alas, this tour didn’t include those. However, it was still a great tour of a most amazing building. Here are some photos; click on a photo to view it larger.
Food and drink
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese, fresh fruit, orange juice, etc.
- Lunch: On our own. I joined two others at a tiny French bakery close to the hotel where we each had one of their baguette sandwiches. Yummy!
- Networking mixer at the Blink offices: Drinks in mason jars, heaps of hot and cold food, terrific location, interesting lab setups. Thank you for hosting our noisy mob, Blink! (Here’s what the hot and cold food consisted of: Molasses BBQ Pulled Pork on a Chip [16-hour pulled pork, russet potato chip, pickled shallots, big b’s bbq sauce]; Risotto Bites w/ Spiced Butternut Squash [Puree: roasted butternut squash, allspice, lemon, grana padano cheese]; Beet Lollipop Bites w/ Pistachio Dust [roasted golden beets, pistachio dust, piquillo pepper, sea salt, evoo]; Roasted Mushroom Duxelle Pinwheel [puff pastry, red wine, garlic, mushroom duxelle, herbs]; Fruit and Cheese Platters [with heaps of bread rounds and crackers]