Who is taking over the UX world? (notes from STC conference)
13 May 2005 - 12:43pm
10 years ago
This week, I attended the 52nd STC (Society for Technical
Communication) conference. It's a major event with close to 1,000 of
attendees and up to 25 sessions running in parallel (multiple by 3
days by 3-4 session slots per day). In other words, it's big, well
established and influential in its world.
What totally surprised me is that both opening and closing keynote
speakers chose absolutely the same theme: User Experience Design. I am
not that familiar with the STC world, but the surprising choice didn't
seem to be coincidental. Below are brief notes and my reflections.
Opening session: Patrick Whitney, Director of the Institute of Design
at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
1. Core competency of Design:
- Understanding users in the context of business value;
- Linking user values to economic values;
- Analysing patterns of use and applying them to design of new products.
2. From design of form to design of function to design of UX.
3. Half of the presentation was devoted to ethnographic research as the
basis of good design.
4. Tech. communicators have a big role to play in all this.
Closing session: William Gribbons, Director of Human Factors Program
at Bentley College, Mass.
1. The greatest challenge faced by many companies is product
differentiation, and the UX model stands as the greatest opportunity
for such differentiation.
2. UX reflects the pinnacle of UCD and is a logical extension of what
many in the field of tech. communication have been doing for years.
3. UX comprises market segmentation, value proposition, human
behaviour, experience as brand, etc.
4. UX is the future, but is currently an orphan with no single parent
discipline. No one seems to be skilled or bold enough to say "it's
mine", so go tech. communicators and grab UX, while it is still up
for grab. [This is where learning to keep stiff upper lip comes in
handy, folks :-)]
There are conferences to which we go to learn, and there are
conferences to which we go (or should do so) to teach. This is one of
the latter kind. Agree, it may seem to be off our track. With the
exception of a few advanced sessions on information design tools (note
that they call it "info design" not "info architecture"), the rest of
what was relevant to me was very basic. But oh boy, these guys are
eager to learn about UX, usability, and design, just come and teach
them! Many wear UX-type hats, often with patchy understanding of what
UX means and requires. And they will be taking on these roles more and
more in the future, because the progression seems to be natural and is
highly encouraged within their field.
These are highly skilled and pretty open-minded people with a passion
for personal and professional growth. To me, they seem to be ideal
candidates for the role of "design communicators", which we discussed
some time ago. Many of them also work in corporate communications and
thus have hidden influence on corporate cultures and languages.
I left the conference feeling that we shall do something about it.
Would encourage you to think of STC as a place where we can go to
educate and make friends with those who are willing to help us in
spreading (and wording) our big message. Call for papers for the next
year's conference will be issued in about 6-7 weeks. If you think it's
worth a thought, we may consider joining efforts and come up with a
series of targeted UX/Design education sessions.
There were presenters that will be known to many on this list, such as
Whitney Quesenbery, Caroline Jarrett, Ginny Redish (both Whitney and
Ginny are STC fellows), but I failed to spot any single
distinguishable and consistent theme that would hold most talks in the
"Usability and Information Design" stem together.
What do you reckon? If anyone is interested, let's talk.