Easy7 is a SIGCHI-SI conference held annually in Bangalore, India.
Being somewhat ignorant of the design community in India, I was not sure what the makeup or size of the audience would be. I was pleased to find out we had a sell-out crowd (I think it was around 150 attendees) and they turned away 50+ others due to venue size. And talk about an incredible venue! The Leela Palace Hotel looks literally like a palace with 9 acres of lush gardens. And beautiful weather to match.
What I really enjoyed was the audience participation. After each talk we gave space for Q&A and the questions were passionate and insightful. The in-between hallway conversations were interesting too as India rapidly moves into not just being a place for offshoring but a place for innovation (this has been going on for a while; It is just more real to me now).
Jeremy Ashley, VP of Application User Experience, spoke on Debunking the ‘Ultimate Design Myth’. It was a really great talk that removed the idea that the best design comes from a design diva locked in a room for 24 hours. The truth is good design is hard work that takes moments of inspiration followed by lots of hard work. Surya Vanka, Manager User Experience Excellence at Microsoft showed his iterative product lifecycle chart as a the ooh-aah-wow! model. After research with users there comes that moment of ooh! of understanding the user's plight. Followed by moments of deeper understanding as the product is refined & tested. If done right it ends up as a 'wow!' for the user.
Sarah Bloomer gave two talks. The first was a really great look at the process of designing interfaces. I really enjoyed the talk as I have the tendency to be more ad-hoc and found it to be a good refresher as well as a challenge not to forget some fundamental techniques. Her last talk was on a survey of what tools & methods were commonly used by designers. A few surprises card sorts & patterns ranked lowest. Wireframes of course topped the list. The most valuable tool? Talking to & observing live customers. No surprise, but quite often skipped. Sarah is a gifted communicator. I don't believe she has written any books, but certainly if she chose to it would be a great asset to the design community.
Back to Surya. Surya is an incredible speaker. He gave two short talks. The first talk was on Design Led Product Innovation. Examples he cited in Microsoft Vista were the Ribbon Bar (which does a great job of employing Focus + Context), the magic corner for 2007 provides all file related commands as well as recent files (the difference is in the display treatment of the rounded corner button and the actual menu window that is not bound by traditional menu sizing), and the send a smiley which allows real time digg-like voting for whether you are having a good user experience at the moment or not.
Some of the points he made:
- Virtuous Feedback Loops. Example: Send a Smiley.
- Deep Evidence. Using innovative technical solutions to gathering meaningful metrics.
- Simplicity is Hard But Worth Striving For
- Instead of FindAndUse it's now UseAndFind. This is the basis for the Office Ribbon Bar. With the incredible growth of features (which contrary to popular belief are needed to satisfy the wide audience) the Ribbon Bar took the approach to let the user USE the product and FIND out along the journey the commands as they need them. The old way focuses on the tools. The other on the flow.
- Constraints are Opportunities
- Details Matter
- Lead with Design/Validate with Data. I like this one in particular. This combines the interaction design approach of Alan Cooper with the detailed testing rigor of Jared Spool.
- Keep the Engine Under the Hood
- Don't Sacrifice Clarity for Depth
His second talk was on being a Change Agent (his unofficial title). This was
If you get a chance to hear Surya in the future I would highly recommend making the effort. I really liked the emphasis on understanding the culture and working within it, finding its values and using it to make the right changes.
My talk was on Designing for Ajax. I continue to give this talk in its various forms (I think I have given that talk 30 times since last January.) I am happy to report that it was very well received. I think most people appreciate the plethora of examples that illustrate the design principles. Sort of like a visual encyclopedia of current interaction patterns.
You can find my talks at billwscott.com
You can also see flickr photos of the easy7 conference.