Notes on IBM's Make IT Easy Conference

The IBM Make IT Easy conference runs the gamut of user-related technology design topics, including visual, industrial, and user-centered design, information architecture and usability. The conference is free, but apparently limited to IBM customers and partners. For more information, see http://www.ibm.com/easy/. Copies of papers can be found here.

These are just my quirky notes, and don't accurately represent the conference proceedings.

Day 1: 'Information architecture'

The first workshop was "Information Architecture and Architecting Information beyond the Web". btw, Is it legal to use architect as a verb? It's certainly becoming more common.

IBM uses the term "user assistance architecture" or "UAA" to mean "matching people's information needs with their goals." It seems to encompass IA, but can be applied to non-traditional IA environments, like a help system in a software app.

The presenters made some interesting points:

Karen Young, IA for the ibm.com web site, IBM New York

Tess Lispi from Rare Medium, San Francisco,

Jamie Roberts had an interesting presentation of IA/UE concerns

Lee Anne Kowalski, user assistance architect for DB2, IBM California

Ken Godfrey had a case study of information architecture as applied to the ibm.com/linux web site.

Day 1: 'A comparison of UI design methodologies'

This workshop consisted of three teams spending two hours demonstrating a condensed version of their design methodologies. Main points:

Day 2: 'Visual design meets industrial design'

Richard Branham had a great presentation. A couple key points:

The timing of the switch from low- to high-fidelity prototypes is important. Essentially, the switch should be made depending on how much time you have and when your level of confidence is sufficient too justify the expense of the high-fidelity prototype.

Day 2: 'Using stories to design compelling user experiences'

A workshop designed to teach us how to create stories, it was quite similar to a writer's workshop. Stories are probably the best medium to communicate the user experiences our products will facilitate.

Kevin Russel's presentation on information for visually impaired users was particularly enlightening since he himself is blind. Watching a blind person using speech reading software to access documentation was an incredible experience.

Day 3

Tony Temple made the excellent point that we shouldn't be exclusively doing iterative design, which results in an endless loop of designing to user requirements. It's like driving while only looking in the rear view mirror. Good product design also thinks about the 'quantum leap', the innovation that will contribute several iterations down the road.

Peter Coffee of eWeek made a hilarious presentation. No new ideas, but it fired everyone up by poking fun of the stupid design we tolerate in our everyday lives.

Carolyn Bjerke's presentation on redesign the IBM Thinkpad advisor in 8 weeks was a good case study. Some points:

Day 4

Terry Winograd presented some work being done by students at Stanford. Points:

Gerry Lohse's presentation was very good, tracking user behavior over time using several terrabytes of data collected by Media Metrix. Points:

As expected, David Liddle's keynote speech was very good. Points: