Tag Archives: UXPA

User Focus 2014

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The speakers at User Focus 2014 didn’t just focus on the user; they inspired us all to think more broadly about the UX profession. The conference on October 17 gave me a lot of food for thought. Here are a few of the highlights:

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Photo courtesy of Elaine Li

1. Consider the socio-cultural factors

Keynote speaker Curtiss Cobb described his research results looking at India’s socio-cultural barriers to internet adoption for women. Don’t forget about the social and cultural factors that influence users.

2. Look beyond the pixels in front of you

The UX profession is recognizing the importance of creating a unified, seamless, targeted experience across channels. We have to focus on the omni-channel experience to create a great user experience, not just on the individual websites or apps.

3. Responsive design is not the mobile design solution

We all know responsive design is increasingly popular for bridging the gap between desktop and mobile. It has its place, but it doesn’t solve everything. We have many techniques to solve unique problems. I hope Thomas Vander Wal will release a cheat sheet of his presentation that we can hang on our walls (hint, hint).

4. Use empathy to create accessibility

Svetlana Kouznetsova shared her personal experience growing up deaf when there was no consideration for accessibility. The most significant message was a lesson in empathy.

What if you couldn’t hear your favorite movie or participate in a video conference with your hearing coworkers? Try to empathize with the 20% of all Americans who have hearing disabilities the next time you are designing a website that contains audio. Provide quality captions for all audio content.

5. With digital empathy, tools measure emotion 

Andrew Schall and his team at Spark Experience brought the lab to the stage with a memorable live demo of emotion charted digitally in real-time. UX professionals now have a range of tools to use to measure the emotions of their users – eye tracking, electroencephalography (EEG), skin conductivity (sweating) and facial analysis, to name a few. These tools are now inexpensive, easy to use, less invasive than their predecessors, and increasingly accurate.

Thanks to everyone at UXPA DC, the sponsors and volunteers for making User Focus 2014 such a memorable event! I can’t wait for next year!

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Photo courtesy of Jerry Doremus

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Photo courtesy of Jerry Doremus

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Photo courtesy of Elaine Li

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Photo courtesy of Elaine Li

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Photo courtesy of Elaine Li

Interview with Anna Colton: Designing Your Future Career in UX

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Author’s note: Today we are speaking with Anna Colton, a senior partner at PROVEN, Inc. Anna will be hosting a UX Career Q&A session with DC/MD/VA folks on November 20. She will be discussing the UX industry as a whole and how to get the UX job that you’ve always wanted.

Norm: Can you tell us a bit about PROVEN and what you do?

Anna Colton

Anna Colton

Anna: We are a staffing firm that is headquartered in California. At our Herndon, Virginia office we support employers in the Washington DC region around three primary hiring areas: information technology, which is my focus area, finance and accounting, and human resource roles. Within our IT practice, we  find and place senior to management level user experience professionals. I’ve been doing this for about 13 years… I’m a particularly enthusiastic advocate of the industry because there is a cross section between these positions and the things I used to do.

How competitive is the UX market in DC?

The job market favors the candidate that is senior level in their career and distinguished in the user experience field. Most [of these types of] candidates that have been actively looking have multiple offers to consider. They have a lot of options, and counter-offers are actually very common – employers don’t want to lose them. It’s competitive but if you’ve got what it takes, you’re going to be able to write your own ticket. It is a very good market that tends to favor the job seekers as far as UX goes and generally anything related to IT.

When UX professionals can map their experience to how the company makes money, they put themselves in a great position. It is important to be able to show how their work has developed quantifiable results for their customers by sharing really good case studies.  When a UX professional can show and narrate some specific example of their finished project in an interview setting, that’s something that’s becoming more in demand and valuable as well.

How is the UX hiring market in DC  compared to other parts of the U.S.?

One thing that I think distinguishes this market is that there are a good number of positions in the government contracting space. Government contracting is not heavily represented in other markets [nationally] as it is in the local area.

The only other area of the U.S. that I think competes really strongly is probably the Silicon Valley area because it is such a rich tech area out there. At our Silicon Valley office, companies are looking for UX professionals that have worked for business-to-consumer organizations, whereas in the local area it tends to be more for people that have worked in UX for enterprise software or software that businesses are creating for other business users.

Do you notice any trends in the UX job market?

My perception is companies like to see a more holistic professional. When I first started, there were information architects, web designers, technical communicators or content developers. There was more stratification. Now, there is more opportunity for a more consummate and holistic UX professional who understands the integration of all those functions.

What are the most important skills to have in pursuing a UX career?

Maybe less about technology skills and more interpersonal and people skills. The ability to adapt, collaborate, and educate other team members on the importance of user experience.

I placed a person in July for a company had not really had anyone in a UX role. One of the reasons she got the job was that the CTO saw her ability to translate the value of UX to developers and engineers.

In the DC area, what types of companies are hiring UX professionals right now?

Most of the opportunities are in product development firms. The number-one opportunity are companies that are developing software for enterprise or consumer use. Next are companies that are developing custom software or solutions for either government or commercial clients. Lastly, IT departments that are developing web systems or mobile applications for internal employee use. The necessity of designing quality and effective user experiences for mobile users is fueling a lot of growth. People that have any experience in mobile development are highly sought after.

Want to ask Anna additional questions? Be sure to join us for the Designing your Future Career in UX Q&A event on November 20!

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.

I got my UX job through Speed Networking (and you can too)

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by Molly Schwartz

speed networkingAs a job-hungry graduate student, I was peripherally aware of UXPA-DC, but I never thought its events were meant for me. I always assumed it was an organization for “real” user experience and usability professionals to get together, hobnob, and that I wouldn’t fit in. Luckily, I was proved wrong.

My internship supervisor was involved with UXPA-DC and he always encouraged me to check it out as a way to network and get plugged in to the growing field of user experience. His enthusiasm and unwavering intent to include me in UXPA-DC’s activities eventually overcame my inhibitions, and I finally attended a User Experience/Web Professional Speed Networking event co-hosted by UXPA-DC.

Thinking it would be an informal opportunity to meet lots of UX professionals and hear about the work that they’re doing over a beer, I just hopped over to RFD after work with the mindset that I was going to loosely organized happy hour. Boy, was I woefully under-prepared. The speed networking event was a structured, rapid-fire event with one purpose and one purpose only: to get people jobs. Even though I had no business cards on me and my “elevator speech” was unrefined at best, the event was incredibly productive and life-changing. I had the opportunity to sit down with employer after employer in three-minute intervals to tell them about my professional interests and giddily listen to them say those three little words that are music to any grad student’s ears: “We are hiring.”

I came away from the event with a huge stack of business cards, multiple contacts, and job leads. I was contacted the next day by the UX Architect at BoxTone, a tech start-up company, who I particularly connected with. I went in for an interview at BoxTone the next week, had a job offer the next day, and am now a happy member of the UX team at a tech start-up company. For any students looking for a job who are interested in UX, I would definitely recommend checking out UXPA-DC’s events because in my experience they produce more real results than any other networking event I’ve been to.

 Molly Schwartz is the Information Strategist on the UX Team at BoxTone, a mobile enterprise management company. In September she will begin work on a project to make digital information usable and accessible as one of the Library of Congress’ National Digital Stewardship Residents.