Back in October I stumbled upon a Southampton based usability consultancy called UX Media. I’m always interested in finding companies based in and around Dorset as I’m constantly surprised at the size and strength of the local community, and equally surprised that we don’t shout about it or at the very least talk to each other more.
Shortly after finding UX Media and hearing the impressive news that they had just redesigned Dom Norman’s website (amongst other things the author of ‘The Design of Everyday Things‘) I heard about a new series of events they were starting up called ‘UX Corner‘. They described it as:
“…a monthly meet up for user experience professionals to get together for a few glasses of wine, to support each other and network in an informal and relaxed environment. The first person to make a usability gag will buy the first round.”
Yesterday (Thursday, 8th January) saw the inaugural get together held at Sun Microsystems in central London, handily situated only yards from the nearest Snow+Rock store, although I didn’t manage to make the most of it, at least not this time.
Beyond the browser: Usability in mobile interaction design
The topic of the evening was ‘Usability in mobile interaction design’. The evening consisted of 3 key speakers; Antony Ribot (Ribot), Tom Hume (Future Platforms) and Scott Weiss (Human Factors International) and was hosted by Matt Goddard, director of UX Media.
Antony Ribot – ‘Intricacies of design for small screen devices’
Although I’d heard of the Brighton based agency Ribot before I knew very little of co-founder Antony Ribot. He was the first to speak and seemed a little nervous. I must admit at first I paid little attention until he mentioned having started his career at Tomato back in 2000. Having been a massive fan of their work back in the day my ears pricked up and I listened intently.
The presentation was visually strong and nicely put together. Ribot offered up some great sound bites and design metaphors which really helped to support some of his ideas. I especially liked the way he described mobile as being like Mars; unfamiliar territory, inhospitable and only partially explored. Having said this it didn’t feel like I took a huge amount away from his talk. He used no examples of his own work and I felt the advice that he did give bore little relevance to the audience. That said I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for Ribot’s work in the future.
Tome Hume – ‘Knitting design and development together’
By far the best presentation of the night was given by Tom Hume from Future Platforms, a software company which creates ‘delightful mobile experiences’. I was interested to see that between Tomato and setting up Ribot, Antony Ribot worked at Future Platforms as well.
Out of the 3 presentations I learnt the most from Tom’s, he spoke only briefly about Future Platforms, but enough to educate the audience and with a true sense of honesty as well. He explained how he had been around long enough to have learnt the hard way and shared with us some of his thoughts:
- Documentation is part of communication (but should never replace face to face contact)
- Be prepared to embrace change, mainly because you so rarely have a choice!
- Admit it to yourself that you can always do better.
Each point was backed up with some really interesting ideas and, in my mind; Hume’s presentation really hit the mark. He read the audience perfectly which for an event aimed towards UX professionals isn’t exactly a bad thing!
Scott Weiss – ‘Mobile 2.0 and Usability’
I’ve briefly met Scott on a number of occasions in the past, a couple of times at the HFI London office when I was attending the CUA course and then again at last years World Usability Day (WUD) at LBi.
I must admit I was a little disappointed by Weiss’ presentation. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the HFI PowerPoint’s as they’re rarely inspiring visually and always seem to try and cram too much onto a screen. I struggled to engage with Weiss as he came across as being generally quite negative and seemed to lack direction. Even now I’m unsure what the message or focus of the presentation was other than to knock any mobile app/device etc he had ever used.
I have no doubt that Scott is a highly knowledgeable person but I struggled to engage with his style of presentation. At WUD I thought the concept he was trying to convey was a good one, and although his views were seen as controversial at times the underlying message was well considered. However, the negative attitude that was evident at WUD carried through into his UX Corner talk and seemed to disconnect him once again from the audience.
One thing I will say for Weiss’ presentation I really liked the way he used video footage of himself using mobile devices such as the iPhone. It made it a lot easier to visualise the issues being discussed and definitely something I’ll use at some point in the future.
Was UX Corner a successful event?
Although some of my comments could probably be read as pretty negative I really enjoyed the first UX Corner. The simple format worked well, a decent number turned up and seemed genuinely interested in the subject matter.
A big thank you to Sam Serra, Matt Goddard and the UX Media team for organising such a great event, I can’t wait for the next one!