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We’ve moved to uxwaterloo.org

uxgroup.wordpress.com has been home to uxWaterloo for many years. We’ve recently graduated, so to speak, to our own domain, uxwaterloo.org. This is the last post that you’ll see at the old WordPress site, and it’s really here for the benefit or those who have subscribed to our old WordPress RSS feed, since everyone else gets automatically redirected to the new site. Please take a moment to head over to the new site and resubscribe there (or here,as the case may be!).

January event: Practical Advice for Accessible Design

Thursday January 20, 2010
5:30 to 7:00 pm

Desire2Learn
The Tannery
151 Charles St. W., 3rd Floor
Use entrance beside Balzacs coffee
Parking off Charles St.
Kitchener, ON
[Map]

One of the most challenging design spaces in software is accessibility.  Users with disabilities face challenges reading, navigating, and interacting with the modern Web applications. Even with the help of assistive technology (AT) they face renewed discrimination by being denied the same experience in social networking, video sharing, and other applications that are critical to our web citizenship.

As the population ages, access legislation strengthens throughout North America, and AT users become more vocal, accessibility considerations become harder to ignore. For user experience and design professionals, this should be a call to action!  The reality is designing accessible applications is foreign to many of us, highly nuanced, technically challenging, and difficult to assess/critique.

This presentation by Ali Ghassemi and Dariusz Grabka of Desire2Learn will seek to make accessibility a lot less scary, and introduce you to some best practices that the company has developed for designing accessible web software.

This month’s event is being held at the office of Desire2Learn, located in suite 400 at 151 Charles Street West, in Kitchener. That’s the digital Hub in the old Lang Tannery building — use the entrance beside Balzac’s Coffee. There’s parking off Charles Street.

Please register if you want to attend, as space is limited for what is sure to be a great event.

December event: Product potluck 2010

For our December meeting we’ve featured a product potluck event for two years in a row now. If that’s not a tradition, I don’t know what is! And so, after an autumn schedule that has featured some high-powered visitors to our meetings, our meeting on December 16 will extend the potluck tradition with a relaxing and, we expect, enriching, evening of conversation and camaraderie. Please join us for a potluck with a twist: instead of food, we’re asking you to bring a product. Make it a product that you either love or hate, because we’ll be sharing stories with each other about these products. And the juicier the story, the better!

Some guidelines and tips:

  • You’ll have a few minutes to introduce your product and describe what you love or hate about it.If the product you want to share isn’t something you can physically demonstrate at the event (like a particle accelerator, a Wankel rotary engine, or a table saw), then bring something that helps you talk about the product.
  • If you’d like to share software or a website, a laptop would be best, but a printed screenshot will do the job if technology is scarce.This year, we’re meeting at McMullan’s on King — because what’s a potluck without food! (Note the UX Group is volunteer-run and without a budget, so plan to pick up your own tab.)

If you’re hoping to attend, please help us make an appropriate reservation by registering. Thanks! Everyone’s invited, so spread the word.

5:30pm, Thursday December 16

Location to be announced shortly.

Let’s meet at McMullan’s on King, which is at the corner of King St N and Princess St in Waterloo.

November Recap- Design at Google & RIM

In November, our uxWaterloo group had the privilege of hosting two exciting events!  We had a great turnout for both and everyone was interested to find out more about design & usability best practices at Google and RIM.

Event 1: Lessons from Designing at Google

 Adam Baker, a user interface designer at Google, kicked off his talk with us by splitting the room of about 68 people into groups of 4 per group.  Each group picked from the “bucket of constriants” and discussed the design challenge they were given.  After they found a solution, Adam merged each group with another, and asked them to incorporate all of the constraints that they were facing and design one joint product.  For example, a group designing an iPad application that lets a user build their own pizza was merged with another group creating a mobile application for scheduling a pizza delivery.  Then, when Adam asked the groups to merge again into groups of about 15 people, there were some really interesting combinations!  One group found themselves designing a blind first time user of an old BlackBerry, with only two minutes on a train, who was trying to order 100 pizzas for 100 locations!

This exercise really showed the difficulties that are faced when designing for a product like Google Search, that is used by millions of people.  Adam explained that each design team brings a different perspective to a problem, and it’s important to be open to new ideas.  The analogy that Adam used to describe design at Google Search, is that it is like designing for the backcountry.  He and his teams needed lightweight and multi-purpose usability testing tools that are adaptable to different users and situations.  He also showed us that designing for search must be obvious and subtle, since minor changes greatly impact user happiness.  Thanks to Adam for his sharing his informative talk and interactive activity with us!

Event 2: User Experience at Research In Motion

Our second speaker in November was Joey Benedek, the Director of User Experience Research at Research in Motion (RIM). His talk brought home the idea of what user experience is all about – “building an emotional experience around something“. His example of television poker brought home the idea that it is possible to take something mundane (strangers playing poker together), and wrap it in a story that suddenly makes it interesting and exciting. It becomes the responsibility of those in UX to find the right emotional experience and story to wrap around their product.

Joey then continued his talk by highlighting a number of different activities that were conducted by the UX research team at RIM for the BlackBerry 6 product.

  • Ethnographic methods, specifically a diary study, were used to find out more about how people search for things in their everyday lives (not just with their smartphones). This directed the redesign of the search interface on the BlackBerry by highlighting the need for seamless integration with online searching, and the need for dynamically updating search results.
  • Short A/B studies conducted using hundreds of reactions to 4 second flashes of two different UI aesthetics. The unique part of this study was to show different aesthetics that accentuated different variables, rather than presenting real interface concepts. The reaction to different emphasis helped to direct the aesthetic design of the BlackBerry. Joey also mentioned that it was critical in this aesthetic development to ensure that research didn’t get in the way of the creative process.
  • Classic card sorts were used to redesign the options menu.
  • Call centre data showed where people were dropping out of the initial setup process, inspiring a new setup screen that allows the user to complete setup activities for the features they wanted, and at any time. They also incorporated a video into the new intro that quickly shows the user how they can use the inputs (touch and keyboard) on the device to interact with the interface.
  • A new graphical context menu was created to solve the issue of what to present in the initial menu brought up by the user.
  • The browser was redesigned to play off the user’s predefined expectations of how browsers should function – tabs, location bar at the top, actions available at the top by the location bar, etc.

Along with his eye-opening talk, Joey answered a number of questions about UX research at RIM. He spoke about where ideas came from, how to deal with touch inputs, how to appeal to your loyal users while drawing in new users, and their philosophy on iconography and theme development. Thanks to Joey for showing us so much about how a large and successful company can integrate change and fresh UX ideas into their company!

Job: UI and UX Designer at Enflick

This is a full-time position in Waterloo, Ontario.

Enflick, Inc. is a fast growing Waterloo startup creating mobile solutions that expand the potential of today’s leading mobile platforms. With multiple highly acclaimed apps on the iPhone platform, we are looking to further enhance our product line as well as diversify our portfolio to more platforms. Amongst other products, Enflick’s flagship products TextNow and PingChat! are top seller apps in the iTunes App Store.

We are seeking a highly talented individual to take the role of designing the user experience for Enflick’s mobile applications. We are offering extremely competitive compensation for the right candidates.

Responsibilities

  • Design user interfaces for mobile applications on Android, BlackBerry and iPhone.
  • Develop high level and/or detailed storyboards, wireframes, and prototypes to effectively communicate interaction and design ideas and validate proposed designs with product development.
  • Work with the product management team to analyze customer/product requirements and propose application solutions to be developed.
  • Provide interface design expertise and review from concept development through delivery.

Requirements

  • 1+ years of experience in commercial user interface design experience for mobile platforms (Android, Blackberry, iPhone)
  • Passionate for design and user experience
  • Proficient in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, etc.
  • Understanding of interaction design for mobile platforms
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills
  • A degree in visual or graphic design related studies or equivalent

How to apply

To apply for this position, please email your cover letter and resume to jobs@enflick.com. If possible, please include your portfolio to demonstrate your past work in user experience design.

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