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October Recap- Designing Mobile Readers at Kobo

uxWaterloo has lots of exciting events planned for November, including today’s Lessons from designing at Google event (which is at capacilty) and next Wednesday’s User Experience at RIM event (sign up if you haven’t already) .  We hope to see you out for our November events and would like to share this recap of our informative October event!

In October, James Wu spoke with a group of 40 uxWaterloo-ers about his work as a UI Architect at Kobo.   In this role, James has had the opportunity to design products that run on  iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), Android smart phones, RIM products (BlackBerry smart phones & the new Playbook tablet), and their own well-regarded Kobo eReader

With the shift from designing for desktop to mobile computing, James explained to us that we need to be aware of new constraints that will impact our design, graphics and develpment decisions. 

James Wu speaks to our uxWaterloo Group

When designing for smartphones and tablets, you cannot assume that all users will have standard hardware (e.g. CPU, memory, wifi, radio or screen technology).   Users will be accessing your applications and websites from unpredictable surroundings, so you need to to design for offline cases.  You also need to keep in mind that there is a high cost for bandwidth and a need to conserve battery life.  James provided some examples of how a Kobo will only download e-books when a user is on wifi.  Overall, it is important to use analytics software to understand what hardware is being used and this will help you decide what platforms and functionality to target and support.  

When designing for smaller screens, we need to put more effort into prioritization and task analysis, so only the most important content is on the screen.  There is less screen real estate due to smaller devices and on-screen keyboards, so James warned us to be aware of “hot spots.”  A hot spot occurs when your buttons are so close together, that your application cannot determine which button was clicked by the user.  Also, James and his team have designed affordances into their products, so new users know to click certain areas to view tutorials or instructions. 

 Touch screens on mobile devices give more options for gestures, such as tap, swipe, pinch, drag, shake rotate!  Users can also control how they hold their devices, so you will need to anticipate how your design will function in landscape versus portrait view.  You also cannot take a blanket approach to mobile design, as people use their tablets differently from their phones.  To cope with these factors, James’ project teams have been able to use Agile project management techniques in order to better understand users’ gestures and behaviours.  Agile will help you quickly understand what does and does not work early on in your project, by getting some early user feedback.

Many thanks to James for taking the time to speak with our group and for sharing his tricks and techniques!

James explaining what gestures mobile users can choose from

Our Google event is full

Wow! When we were planning our November 16 event on Lessons from designing at Google, we thought that there might be a good turnout. Well, we’ll certainly get that, as more than 80 people have registered already. As a result, we’ve had to close registration because the space simply cannot accomodate any more people. And, as it’s a workshop with group work on the agenda, it isn’t practical for us to move to another location.

Thanks to everyone who has shown interest, and be sure to check out our event the following week on User Experience at Research in Motion. It’s not full yet, but is filling up fast. Grab a reservation while you still can.

11th Annual Human Factors Inter-University Workshop

Here’s an event that may be of interest to uxWaterloo folks.

November 13 is the date for the 11th annual Inter-University Workshop, hosted at the University of Waterloo. The purpose of this day-long workshop is to bring universities and industry together to explore current issues in human factors and ergonomics. It is intended to be quite informal and presenters will discuss past research, work in progress, and ideas related to human factors engineering. Please join us for a great schedule of student speakers!

For those who cannot make it to attend the workshop, all the presentations being webcast by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Show your support by virtually attending one or more of these presentations.  It is a free, day-long webinar, open to all.  You can come and go as you please during the day. The webinar starts at 8:45am EST and ends at 4pm EST. There are 15 different speakers throughout the day. The schedule is found at:

To register for the FREE Webinar on November 13, go to:

To register to attend the workshop, go to:

Date and location

Saturday, November 13, 2010
8:45 am to 9:00 pm
Davic Centre, DC 1301
University of Waterloo


November 2010 event: Lessons from designing at Google

November has turned into an exciting month for uxWaterloo. We now have a second meeting in addition to our previously announced November 24 meeting on user experience at RIM.

Imagine an ideal design for your friend. Now make it work for your parents. Your entire neighbourhood. Your town, province, and entire country. Then throw in a couple of continents’ worth of users for good measure. Adam Baker, a user interface designer at Google, will conduct a hands-on workshop about “designing for everyone,” inspired by lessons learned working on Google Search. He’ll guide a discussion of techniques, tradeoffs, design language, and ways of understanding so many users that you couldn’t possibly truly understand them.

Adam is currently a designer at in San Francisco, working on projects related to climate change adaptation and public health. While at Google he’s contributed to a variety of projects from search UI to public data visualization to web annotation. A Canadian native, he previously directed design at Marketcircle in Toronto, and worked in UX evangelism at Apple.

We have not yet finalized the location for this event, but we wanted folks to have a chance to get it into their calendars since it’s not that many weeks away. Location is shown below.

Time/location details:
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
5:30 to 7:00 pm
Accelerator Centre
Meeting Room #2
295 Hagey Blvd., Waterloo

To help us better prepare, please register for this event. Registration is full!

November 2010 meeting: User Experience at Research In Motion

We have a special treat for November.

Joey Benedek, RIM’s Director of UX Research, will discuss how RIM approaches designing the Blackberry user experience. Joey will discuss the importance of the UX to the Blackberry development process, basic outline of the process and the key disciplines that play a role. Come hear how the UX process was applied to the development of Blackberry6 with specific examples from the recent release.

Joey joined Research in Motion as Director if UX Research in the summer of 2009, just in time to kick off the Blackberry6 development effort. Prior to RIM, Joey spent 9 years at Microsoft spending most of his time in the User Experience organization for Windows finishing his career there as the UX Research manager for Windows 7. Originally from Canada, RIM has provided a homecoming for Joey who completed his graduate work at Carleton’s HCI lab.

Time/location details:
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
5:30 to 7:00 pm
Accelerator Centre
Meeting Room #2
295 Hagey Blvd., Waterloo

To help us better prepare, please register for this event.