A few of us headed south to Columbia recently to check out Converge SE. Converge brings together design, tech and digital business through a slate of speakers and panels across three days. About 50 people, mostly developers, spoke on a range of topics including 3D printing, type for responsive, mobile UX, the demise of social media. Although I did not attend that last one, there maybe some truth to that as only one Converge presentation was specifically about social. Coincidence?
I toted Glass, hoping to experience it at a conference — a place perfectly suited to its sharing merits — but the battery drained itself nearly completely simply sitting overnight in my bag. Some might call that a glitch, but I’m gonna call it salvation from having to wear it in public.
Can you say, Hooyah! Louder … HOO YAH!! That’s more like it. We began our day with a talk/shout from Mark Divine, a Navy Seal, trainer of Navy Seals and author about how to be as fit as, well, you know.
Actually, he’s more than about fitness. He’s really an expert on human performance and mental conditioning — the kind necessary to succeed in business, life and even at the SEAL thing. His SEALFIT program helped the Navy increase SEAL pass rates from 33% to over 80% and its principles have launched books and an exec training business.
He had lots of great quotes, but I’ll leave you with his four principles of mental toughness. 1) Control your mind (develop a “feel good” mantra); 2) Learn how to breath. Really. 3) Use imagery to transport yourself to a better place. 4) Set ridiculously short-term “micro” goals. Does it work? I told my son to use Devine’s feel-good mantra during his soccer game this weekend (“Feelin’ good, lookin’ good, I oughta be in Hollywood!”) and he scored. So there ya go.
Converge offers various “tracks” — design, gaming, front-end, makers, UX, development, and business & marketing. We split up and headed toward these areas but weren’t religious sticking to them. I know a few of us jumped our track to attend a beer making presentation! Venues were near each other and start times synched up making spontaneous agenda changes easy.
Alex, our animator and designer, and I were treated to Josh Higgins’ recollections on his stint as Design Director for the second Obama Campaign. He now works for Facebook. Not only is he a great designer but a super humble guy. Takeaway: Follow the thing that you love and success will happen.
Heard a panel on working effectively in small teams. This session was billed as a “UX Design Panel” in the UX track, but it had more to do with workflow and work enivironment/culture. Panels are funny; if they’re not moderated well they can be somewhat conversational between panelists and not very on topic. In fact, I’m gonna call that my takeaway given that I struggled to take any comprehensive notes.
Just as I was about to bounce to another venue, I saw Caleb, another Untoldr, sitting down for the next event so I stayed in same room to hear, “Practical ways to incorporate content strategy into the design process.” This was well presented but very basic (like, “what is content strategy?”). Spawned some typical points though, such as, everybody, including the client, needs to buy in to the strategy process otherwise it can break down. Since so much, including client-supplied information, needs to go into strategy it’s easy to rush into projects without a fully baked one. Setting client expectations about planning time and their role is paramount.
I attended a few other sessions, but the one that I really found valuable was UX for the small screen. This was a smart examination of mobile interface design practices by Ben Callahan of Sparkbox. Ben’s talk was about “reveal triggers and interaction patterns” that make up our primary mobile experience and endeavored to challenge assumptions.
Essential questions we pondered: When people land on a page, what are they encouraged to do? How should they proceed? Is it right?
So, reveal triggers are symbols (the hamburger, AKA 3 stacked horizontal lines) or words such as “explore” or “menu.” These are, hopefully, intuitive and/or familiar to the user. Because they may be intuitive to us as designers, doesn’t mean they will be to our audience, so test, don’t guess.
After users engage a trigger, there are a multitude of ways that new information “reveals” itself. These are reveal patterns and they range from they the typical drop-down menu to full screen take-overs, slide over panels and jump-to’s on same page (usually anchored to bottom of page).
A few paragraphs here won’t do this topic justice, but I’ll say that because of responsive design and proliferation of smaller devices, the game has changed for designers as we must confront strategic messaging as well as user needs in our designs. Further, we need to be able to present, talk and defend our choices articulately. Ben did a great job of framing this topic for me to take it further into our agency for discussion. I’m sure “small screen navigation” will become a topic for a Untold Lunch & Learn in near future.