How will our future change with technology? Designers and developers gathered last week to answer this question at WebVisions in New York City. Presentations and workshops during this 3-day conference explored the future of design, content creation, user experience and business strategy. Workshops centered on embracing new technology, designing for the user and collaboration.
Much of the focus in the area of Interaction Design centered on responsive design and mobile first. None of this is new to the field, but new techniques were taught in workshops. Jason Grigsby and Lyza Danger Gardner gave an in-depth workshop on designing and developing for devices and how to build in a future friendly manner. They believe that everything will be interconnected in our future, from your internet-connected refrigerator to your app-loaded car dashboard. By designing a flexible system now, our content will adapt itself to future devices. Participants explored device APIs, CSS3 media queries, responsive web design, and PhoneGap. The workshop was heavy in technical jargon but they always brought it back to how a development methodology can directly affect the user experience.
As the field of User Experience (UX) grows many UX designers are still trying to define it. Whitney Hess, an independent UX consultant, guided us through her principles of experience design coupled with current examples to help us visualize each principle in practice. Hess used Wanderfly.com to exemplify her third principle, Limit Distractions. The Wanderfly home page is minimal with large icons to navigate to your destination. The tenth principle was the most compelling, Make a Good First Impression. "A website is analogous to your a first impression of a person. You want people to make you feel comfortable when you first meet them," she explained. She pointed to Vimeo as one of the best first-time user experiences. When a user visits the site for the first time a message asks, "Welcome, you're new aren't you?" This casual language guides you in like a friendly doorman. Hess is confident that her principles will stay true as technology evolves and experiences change because they are technology agnostic. "People deserve to be treated with humanity and empathy regardless of the communication medium. As the web evolves, as technology becomes even more pervasive and robust, we have both an increasing opportunity and responsibility to treat each other with compassion. I hope that my principles can continue to guide our behavior as technologists and ultimately change the way we do business at the most fundamental level," she says. Hess is committed to designing better experiences and she's clear about her mission: "Remember that website where you got totally lost and frustrated and gave up before you got anything done? That was a bad user experience, and it's my mission in life to erase those from the planet. Instead we'll replace them with digital experiences that enrich your life and make you smile and allow you to do whatever you do best, whatever that might be."
Luke Williams, Fellow at frog and Professor at NYU Stern School of Business, wrapped up the conference with a talk on Disruptive Thinking. "Disruptive Thinking utilizes unconventional strategies to look at an industry in an entirely new way and drives innovation by introducing something totally different," he explains. Williams suggests using an invert technique to brainstorm and used the rental car experience as an example. "There's an expectation with rental cars that you will see the customer, complete paperwork and rent cars by the day," he explains. But what happens when you invert all of these attributes and, "You don't see the customer, you skip the paperwork, and you rent cars by the hour? You have zipcar." he says. This is disruptive thinking. He believes that the opportunity for reinvention is all around us. Williams feels that organizations can see their industry with a fresh perspective by utilizing his techniques.
WebVisions merged the fields of design and technology to encourage us to think about how we can create better experiences in our future. The exploration of design, user experience, and business offered a new perspective and new ways of thinking about developing new products, disseminating content, and innovation in general. Designers walked away armed with new development techniques, methodologies for innovatation, and hopefully ideas about how they can be active participants in molding our future experiences.