Tag Archives: 2013

UX Interview with Dan Brown: Working in DC, Conflict, and Collaboration

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bio_dan

Author’s note: Welcome to the inaugural UXPA DC Interview series! Today we have Dan Brown, a founder of EightShapes, a prolific UX consulting firm in DC. He’ll also be presenting at the UXPA Conference Redux on October 25.

Norm: Why did you think DC was ripe for a user experience design studio?

Dan: Nathan Curtis approached me in 2006 to go out and start a company… We ended up getting engaged with companies who were looking to create more structure in their design process, specifically their design outputs. Nathan took the lion share of the work in developing a product we call EightShapes Unify, which is a set of templates and assets for for creating user experience documentation. We feel like being based here in DC is good for us because there’s a great pool of talent here.

What was the tipping point for user experience really taking off as the hot profession to be working in?

…Maybe a series of tipping points, it’s like watching your children grow up. We were talking to my son this evening and one of his teachers is celebrating a big milestone birthday. He’s seven and he asked, “When was my last milestone birthday?” I said to him, “You know, when you’re little, every birthday is a milestone because you’ve had so few of them, they each represent these new big stages in your life, but if you ask me and your Mom, everyday is a milestone.” …And that’s almost how I feel about user experience. Right before the bubble burst, even if it wasn’t new, it was clear this was the future. Everything was going to be online. Nowadays, for me, one of the most interesting design problems is people genuinely using the Internet and the web to solve real business problems… There’s sort of this trifecta of really difficult problems to solve: complex user experience design, real business strategy, and difficult IT architectures.

Awesome. And Dan, you participated in both the 2012 User Focus and the 2013 UXPA International events. What were your presentations about?

My most recent work and thinking has moved on from artifact and document creation, which was really important for user experience when it was in its infancy, to team dynamics which has largely grown out of my interest in documentation. My thinking really revolved around the idea that conflict is essential to design.

Poodle growling at a second dog that is trying to avoid conflict

Conflict in the sense that people need to disagree in order to come to a shared understanding. It’s that process of building a shared understanding that is nutritious for the design process…it sort of energizes it.

The other side of that coin is straight up collaboration techniques. How do we make use of collaboration tools? How do we build collaboration virtues into our culture to reward people for engaging with each other? My talks are really focusing about how do we deal with conflict and how do we make our collaboration more effective.

You’ve got a new book out on conflict and collaboration, right?

Yeah that’s right, it just came out in June and it’s called “Designing Together.” It gave me the opportunity to do two things. On the one hand, to try and articulate some of the underlying theory [of conflict and collaboration], and the second half of the book is almost like an encyclopedia of different situations, techniques, and behaviors you should be cultivating in yourself and your design teams in order to collaborate more effectively… What I keep coming back to is, if you look all of these online journals dedicated to our craft, you’re starting to see a lot more attention being paid to people skills, management skills, business skills, things that people need in order to thrive in an environment where we are constantly working with other people. I’m totally biased here, but if user experience isn’t at the center of that process, then I don’t know what is.

Are you going to be at any other local events soon?

One is called the Digital PM Summit, this is the first year it’s happening. It’s really around project management. That’s happening in Philadelphia. And then later on that week I’m actually going to Richmond to talk collaboration as well. I’ll be speaking at the UXPA DC Conference Redux event in late October. The UX Book Club in DC is doing my book in early November so I’ll be attending that, talking about “Designing Together.”

Dan, thanks again for being our gracious guest. And to our readers, thank you for joining us for this interview. Check back on the UXPA DC blog for more interviews coming soon!

Our UXPA Conference Redux – almost as good as a time machine

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Action. Intensity. Passion. Cold beer.

No, it’s not the latest movie from Lindsay Lohan. It’s the 2013 UXPA Conference Redux, coming up Oct. 25, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There were a ton of great presentations, discussions, and forums this summer at the UXPA International Conference, but understandably not everyone was able to attend. If you missed the three day conference, want to listen in on a talk that you missed, or even want to hear one of our great speakers again, now is your chance. Eight speakers and panels in just one day for super-low price of $55. That’s practically a steal given that you have some of the best and most experienced speakers in the DC region who can help you become a better User Experience practitioner. Not only are we kicking off the event by talking with UXPA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Ginny Reddish, you can come to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in Washington DC to hear topics such as:

  • Designing for Findability
  • Content as a Conversation
  • The Notetaker’s Perspective During Usability Testing: Understanding What’s Important, What’s Not
  • Cultivating Collaboration in Creative Environments
  • UX in Nontraditional Settings
  • This is why my UX research method rocks!
  • UX Yourself: A Business Guy’s Perspective

And to top it off, we have a fantastic social planned immediately following the event (hence the beer).

But wait, it gets better! If you sign up as a UXPA DC member, you’ll be able to attend the UXPA Redux event at a discounted price and be able to attend other UXPA talks and events at members-only prices. It’s just like buying a CostCo membership, except there’s no guarantee that we can send you home with a 200 pack of paper towel rolls or a 55 gallon drum of oatmeal.

So set aside your prototypes, reschedule your usability tests, and tie a laser pointer to a ceiling fan to keep your focus groups occupied so you can come join us for a day of insightful and informative UX discussions.

For more information or to sign up to attend, visit the UXPA DC Conference Redux registration page.

UXPA 2013: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen!

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User Experience Posters being presented and discussed to an audience at UXPA 2013

UX Posters and Discussion at UXPA 2013. Photo credit: Tom Tullis/UXPA International (flickr)

After four amazing days of user experience workshops, panels, discussions, UXPA 2013 has  come to an end. The opening keynote presentation by Noah Kunin, John Yuda, and Dan Munz from the Consumer Protection Financial Board (CFPB) set the bar high for the rest of the conference. Their story of how the government can engage the public in a discussion fit perfectly with the theme of the this year’s conference: collaboration. By relating to people using the human story, or in simpler terms, having a conversation with others, CFPB is reforming the public perception of what the Federal Government is capable of doing. Brilliant.

There were over 50 sessions over the course of the conference, and my biggest regret is not having a quantum mechanical solution to being in multiple places at once to have heard them all. Thankfully, a number of the sessions were recorded and I count myself among the many who look forward to listening in on some of the other talks when UXPA International releases those recordings.

A few tips and takeaways:

  • Collaboration sometimes means working outside your comfort zone. Even with strange bedfellows. (Navi Radjou)
  • Accessibility isn’t just about making your site 508 compliant. Did you know that step-by-step instructions on maps were an accessibility accommodation? (Whitney Quesenbery)
  • As we get better with UX, we see more problems with content. (Kerri Straub)
  • Four rules for creativity from Leonardo Da Vinci: 1. Strive for quantity 2. Defer judgment (both positive and negative) 3. Seek new combinations 4. Use your imagination. (Brian K Sullivan)
  • Read everything you can, keep an open, empathetic mind and learn things that you were not taught in school. (Ginny Reddish)
  • Remote testing allows easier access to participants in natural environments and hard to reach participants. (Jennifer Romano Bergstrom)
  • Always do a observer debrief after each usability test session. S/he’ll appreciate it. (Kyle Soucy)

If you weren’t able to attend this year’s UXPA 2013 conference, or just want a recap of the highlights, be sure to check out the #UXPA2013 information on twitter to get some of the best takeaways and discussion that happened. I’m sure you’ll find all the more reason to attend the UXPA 2014 conference in London!

Audience participating to an informal poll at the UXPA 2013 opening keynote presentationKeynote speech by CFPB on collaboration for the greater good: how a new government agency changed the face of financial experiences. Image taken from Tom Tullis/UXPA International (flickr)

The countdown to the 2013 UXPA International Conference

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On July 9th, the 2013 UXPA conference will kick off in Washington DC and start one of the biggest user experience community events of the year. It’s a great opportunity to learn and share ideas on how to make your user’s life even better. With four days of tutorials, discussions, panels, and workshops, I can’t say I’m not personally excited to head over to the Washington Hilton in a few weeks and hear about new techniques that I can implement with my clients. I never fail to leave the annual UXPA DC conference without hearing at least one good insight, learning one new technique, and meeting one new person that I would not have otherwise connected with. I don’t plan on this year being an exception! This conference also provides you with a unique chance for you to bring your clients along and have them learn more right next to you, whether it’s lean UX, usability, or just user experience in general. Or maybe you’ll join in on the Thursday afternoon Georgetown cupcake crawl and find out which cupcake provides the best user experience. Here’s my tip: it’s all about the frosting to cake ratio! So if you’re still waiting to sign up for the conference, consider this my sugar fueled war cry to come and attend this year’s UXPA International conference. It’s always fun, enlightening, and a way for you to renew your passion in being a user experience practitioner. I’ll see you there!