Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Notes by Southwest: Notes from 3/9/08

Notes from sessions attended on 3/9/08 at South by Southwest.

“Wireframing in a Web 2.0 World”

Just the Gist

  • A wireframe is cheaper to build than a whole product and saves a lot of time
  • Allows for very rapid iteration and a great tool for agile methodology
  • Should be using the product or project in some way as early as possible, and this allows for that

James Box,
User Experience Consultant,
Clearleft Ltd

Richard Rutter,
Production Dir.,
Clearleft Ltd

View Notes

  • Cheaper than building the whole thing
  • High-fidelity prototypes, meaning that it shows ALL interactions and workflow
  • Using something is better than talking about it or guessing
  • The more complex page interactions that are becoming more common require more encapsulation (more interaction per page in modern web design)
  • Deliver the whole experience, so are able to get a much better feel for what will happen with full design
  • Possibility scale - open, now, rather than confined when the actual is being constructed
  • Without page refresh, feedback mechanisms need to be built back in (for the user)
  • Universal appeal of high fidelity prototyping - it’s easier for people to get what is happening, and a better foundation on which to make decisions
  • The high-fidelity prototypes give the opportunity to usability test them


  • Basic start, server sides
  • JQuery-powered for functional prototyping - also allows for a large number of off-the-shelf plugins for quick iteration
  • Spend time on design, not coding (keep the code messy, it’s meant to be quick)
  • Example: Lightbox off shelves - can plug in default styles and know you will change them (or not)
  • “Notes” tab on page - turns on notes in page to show them revealed on click (and turn back off again) - alows for all elements to have attached notes
  • Mimic simple ajax action with the help of JS libraries and plugins/turn objects on and off to mimic dynamic objects
    • Ex: showing/hiding objects to fake interaction (ex: stars for rating, etc)
  • Shared library of widgets between groups (build up a library so they can be used again and again - emphasis on speed)
  • Sharing early will save crucial time down the road
  • Dealing with other “ifs” - timeouts, error, notes, etc
  • Show/hide states again for much more exploration while designing
  • Can add additional states to the “notes” bar
  • JQuery plugin w/ new bamboo - polypage plugin allows for this interaction
    • Adds the options to the bar automatically
    • Client example: Eden Bee
  • Looking at an actual page will show how complex it will actually be
  • Ex: whether or not to use ajax - in this case, 3 interactions in line was too much for one page
  • IA vs. using to see if it’s working
  • Polypage demo: - LIVE DEMO (of Elf Cartel wireframes)
  • Use wireframes as templates, helps to keep momentum going, work away from waterfall methodology
  • Usually, Wireframes are built for speed and assets are built up over time as the wireframes are used
  • The wireframes should not be kept a secret, and should be actively used by the team
  • Ensure conversation is structure/behavior - the wireframes are not about style or designed details
  • Subversion version control is used to keep track of changes as the prototypes are developed (at least for Clearleft)
  • Sometimes keep track of release number (of the prototype) in either the polypage selector, or in a list
  • Can use xml/ajax to simulate a database interaction
  • Paper mixed w/ high-res forms (sketch this before building it, use the wireframes to refine interaction, workflow, and layout)
  • Always starts with paper, for formatting

“Magic and Mental Models: Using Illusion to Simplify Designs”

Just the Gist

  • Designers can learn some things from magic
  • Controlling perception is key to providing a good experience and even improving the sense of something
  • Being aware of what to reveal and hide from user’s about technical details is very important

Jared Spool,
Founding Principle,
User Interface Engineering

View Notes

  • (Using the models of magic to result in the delight of users)
  • “Magic” = certain level of delight
  • Jared became interested in magic because his son was getting very into magic, and he’s been encouraging him

1. The Role of Mental Models

  • Illusion = Separating the user’s mental model from the designer’s model
  • Opposite from normal - communicate what you WANT the user to think is going on
  • Example: Teller and the “Miser’s Dream” and later explained it and in video
  • Disney’s Haunted Mansion
    • Experience: scary sounds, floating chandelier, head in ball
    • Technical: lights, scary sounds, tracks, speakers, etc
  • A computer example: “Deleting a file” in the OS - not actually happening…the file system is a lie
  • “Complexity fades to the background, simplicity comes to the foreground” - Marissa Mayer (speaking @ Core 77), VP Search & User Experience
  • Another example: - loading, visualizations, sets, etc - all lead into an experience and structure that's rearranged dependng on the viewing method

2. The Role of Perception

  • Tunneling effect - this was a live demonstration of a large, spinning disc - when the audience looked at it and then at a person’s head, their head would either contract or expand depending on the direction the disc had spun
  • Another computer example: Perception of time - blank vs. arrow vs. countdown (for loading, or other methods of showing a chronological progression or data loading)
  • All metaphors give a different perception of the passage of time
  • Even if the metaphors are exactly the same length, they come across mentally as taking more or less time
  • In one user testing example, they had done a test where they just studied user’s experiences compared to the real data. It was a very open test where they could surf pretty much wherever they wanted. The results were uniformly the same, but there was no uniformity from perception to reality. Task completion is the real key to perceived speed.
  • Tricks and helpers can be used to affect the perception of speed. A good example is the preloader on YouTube (and many other) FLV players - starts to play the video as it is being streamed.
  • Designers must understand perception

3. The Role of Delight

“Logos: Why They're Irrelevant and Can Actually Hurt Your Business”

Just the Gist

  • For a startup, emphasizing on identity and logos can distract from more important tasks

Jeremy Britton,
Zurb Inc.

Christina Wodtke,

Luke Wroblewski,
Sr Principal,
Yahoo! Inc

View Notes

  • People have created iconography to represent something larger for as long as can be remembered
  • The main reasons to not focus on identity can be broken down into costs, printing/money, time, momentum that could be used elsewhere
  • Industrial Revolution to Information Age
    • Manufactured goods vs. URL
    • Naming vs. logo
    • Principle of scarcity
  • Experience Economy
  • Separation of identity and webwork
  • Build the business first (startups)

I think I would have found this talk more interesting and convincing if I was involved in a startup, it had good points on that level. It failed to persuade across as large of a generality such as the title would suggest. A better title would have been “Identity for Startups” - it weakened the presentation to jump back and forth between the generalities of presenting an entire history of the logo (at least in concept), and then did not successfully drive the reasons home for their lack of power in today’s world. It was way too tied to the online world, and to a startup experience - both of which they had good points for. It failed to deliver what the title seemed to be promising, however.

“Tools for Enchantment: 20 Ways to Woo Users”

Just the Gist

  • Design attention to users into your tools and into your system of creation
  • Inspire and cultivate your user community
  • Give them the tools they need to have the best possible results, it will ultimately come back to help you

Kathy Sierra,

View Notes

  • “Cognitive seduction 4.0”
  • How do you help users kick ass at something?
  • To make better products, we must compensate for lack of humanness in them
  • Which is better? A kick ass... A. Product, B. Company?
  • What about C. I (the user)
  • Care about how they feel about themselves
  • Higher resolution user experience
  • Being better IS better
  • Neuro Genesis - Enriched environment = neurogenesis possibilities
  • Brain death by dull cube
  • Difference between fantastic and average
  • Not all about natural talent, talent for practicing
  • “We need a rage to master”
  • What do you help your users kick ass at?
  1. Use Telepathy
    • Two flavors of mirror neurons
    • Allow us to run simulations of experiences
    • Resolution of the simulation depends on you - on what you’ve done
    • For visualization - sitting and thinking about doing something does improve your ability to do it (ex: downhill skiing, etc)
  2. Serendipity
    • “Psychic” shuffle
    • “Serendipity” curve
    • Add randomness
    • Creative idea cards - Brian Eno
  3. The “Dog Ears” Principle
    • iPhone scrolling ends in a little bounce
    • Real world physics - something small matters
    • Think about details as small as physics in animations, even if they’re small
  4. Create Joy
  5. Inspire First Person Language
    • Example: In positive reviews, tend to be more “I’s”
    • Is there a larger action to connect it to?
    • What do they have in common?
    • Care
    • Give your users a way to woo other users
  6. T-Shirt First Development
    • Inspire passionate users and they will share it with others
    • Make the shirt and other items before the product, will help to promote it early
    • People will express passion with objects
  7. Easter eggs are great, so are other goodies
    • People love discovery
  8. Tools for Evangelism, give your users a way to woo other users.
    • Video: “Twitter in plain english
    • “My passion is awesome, yours is lame”
    • Help users defend this “totally lame waste of time” - Ex: Flickr, Twitter
  9. Reduce user Stress!
    • Manage the user fight/flight response
  10. Exercise the brain
  11. Give them superpowers quickly
    • Example: Electric Rain: A user must be able to do something cool in 20 minutes or less
  12. Momentum (Speed Up/Shorten How Long It Takes Someone)
  13. Focus
  14. Make your user documents reflect great feelings
    • Can mean the difference between “oops” and “you bastards”
  15. Reinvest Mental Resources Into New Problems
  16. Culture of support
    • Make sure that there are places that there are no dumb questions or answers. Teach your community how to give and take questions and answers.
  17. Do not insist on ‘inclusivity’
    • Passionate users talk differently and will sometimes use jargon. Separate advanced and normal users from the beginning.
  18. Practice seductive opacity
    • The brain loves mystery, anticipation, and curiosity
    • The digital world has raised the value of real-world things. A good example is the the packaging “unboxing” pictures you can find across the internet.
    • Example: Electric Rain - “getting and installing should feel like getting a gift”
    • Etsy - It’s not boomer nostalgia
    • Make Mag, Na Bak Tag, Chumby
  19. Atoms are not old school
    • People have senses, use them - ibuddy, etc
  20. Do what this guy does

Tea and Scandal Notes

“SEO 3.0: Optimizing Search & Social for 2008 and Beyond”

Just the Gist

  • Search Engine Optimization is a marketing tool, not just an analytical exercise - a marketing background can help
  • Still optimize for Google
  • Move to cost per action
  • Focus on providing good content, foster good word-of-mouth and links with your content
  • Mixed search results are becoming more common, so delivering a wider variety of media (including video) will become increasingly important
  • Find other ways to appear at the top of search, Google Local for example

Bill Leake,
Apogee Search

View Notes

  • Search is a type of marketing. It is better to have someone doing it who is good at marketing than just an analyst approach. Though, mathematics is more and more important.
  • Google is still the overwhelming leader = it’s a Google world, so it’s best to optimize against them. Not only does a competitor have to have something better, but Google has to do a face plant in order for this to change.
  • Destination sites, particularly socially-based are making headway into popularity against Google (Facebook, etc)


  • Online is a piece of a total marketing approach
  • Avoid online industry myopia
  • Integrated usually works best – “be on both sides of Google” (Facebook/LinkedIn ads, plus search – combination approach). This requires a tight internal communication to pull off. Use online and offline together for mose effect.
  • Types of- 1. Word of mouth/referral marketing (best), 2. well-done PR, 3. search/internet marketing
  • Funnel of measurement for web: Impressions > Clicks > Leads/Sales > Offline sales
  • “measure twice, cut once” – use your data, build on it, see what’s working

Online Marketing Trends

Pay-Per-Click Trends

  • Understand who your customers are
  • Turn on and off marketing spin outside of normal
  • Move to cost per action
  • Bid management on the most competitive phrases – not necessarily the most popular terms
  • Site targeting is worth it. You choose the site, this trend is very threatening to large firms.
  • A/B testing
  • Keyword, ads, landing page
  • “Procter and Gamble” story: they had been languishing in the market, but started using their affiliates for product ideas, now most of their product ideas are not created internally. (Basic idea is draw fromView Notes a larger bucket – consider buying a wider range of adwords, etc – a broader base will allow for more competitive performance based to cost.)
  • Keywords that may have worked in the past (finding site) may not once those words become more competitive
  • Think of Google as supermarket – shelf space is limited. How can you dominate, have an unfair amount of that shelf space?

SEO Trends

  • GOOD content is king (again) – most important thing
  • Links are really important, and effect Google heavily. HS Yearbook analogy: the more people that signed your yearbook, the more popular you were (validation). Not all links good – what are the links in saying? There is a lot of contextual analysis around links to site (page/trust rank).
  • Keyword density doesn’t matter, and can kill conversions. Too much SEO time is wasted here.
  • 80% of your Google ranking is what the world is saying (about you), 20% about yourself. The most important is the title tag. Use the keyword you need to be found in the title tag. Like “Keyword here, brought to you by Company Name”. In that 20%, about 6% is keyword.
  • Do not let SEO write content – most not qualified. Use writers, or write yourself.
  • Write content that will GIVE LINKS to you
  • Link baiting: funny, news, resource, controversial (“contra” hook), flame (not recommended, but can work)
  • Basically, it’s all about the experience
  • PR agency (good) press releases are excellent SEO (your content on other people’s sites) with keyword embedding (based on data)
  • Best results with frequency, keyword embedding, use internet wires, internet-only releases are great (not a print one is fine)
  • Online reputation management: what people can and can’t do with your copyrighted material – if you have enough customers, you will find crazy and evil – hopefully not both
  • VERY FEW in SEO are doing local, USE THIS
  • It’s another way to get ranked in Google, also map will show up above search results
  • Blended search will be more and more important, getting media and other content out there will help more and more (maps, video, books)
  • Get listed in multiple categories
  • Properly tag content (VIDEO)
  • Boring text listing can’t compete with video listing – plus they’ll be more engaged. It’s worth it.
  • Get ranking in multimedia

More Hype Than Real

  • Pay-per-click
  • Mobile is getting bigger, but not in ‘08 – iphone helped, but still to painful over all. Maybe 2010-11?
  • Virtual worlds (don’t waste money in second life) – only about 100,000 ACTUAL users, numbers heavily inflated – heavy and expensive

Real in 2008

  • Video. People will respond.
  • Social media optimization will become more important.
  • More convergence and cross-channel marketing (across platforms and media, experimentation will happen more and more, properly done online measurement drive more and better)

How to optimize video?

  • Video must all be tag-driven
  • Make a smaller video
  • Use Youtube, or other popular sites (more likely to deliver results)
  • Tags and text around video, but not overly done (again, youtube does this as part of the system – so better)
  • Run ALL versions of an ad – better to pick them all then to pick the wrong one internally. Use the data that is available to everyone now and use it. It’s much cheaper to produce and experiment short-term than to do the wrong thing long-term.
  • Change the way you think about delivering. After finding what works, THEN optimize – build landing pages, etc. Unless you are getting the clicks, don’t do the work.
  • Use the data, that’s what it’s for. Ignore it to your detriment.
  • Try not to create something and not use it (create and use everything, at least test it)
  • Not getting results? Move on.


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