On Thursday, November 12, 2015 the world celebrated World Usability Day with conferences, talks, and social events around the theme of Innovation.
From the website:
“World Usability Day brings together communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for our common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. We don’t have to put up with products and services that don’t work well and human error is a misnomer.”
“Innovation can mean different things to different people but most can agree it includes inventions and changes in products and services that improve a situation or solve a problem in a new way. Innovation in User Experience means that people can do what they need and want to, with technology, products, and services that enhance their experience.”
In Philly, Bresslergroup, PhillyCHI, and Onward Search combined forces to offer usability and innovation enthusiasts a night of networking and talks from local leaders in the tech industry. Business strategists, web developers, product designers, content specialists, and user experience professionals gathered to hear a few different perspectives on the intersection of usability and innovation and how some organizations are navigating the perceived clash of these two necessary sides of the same coin.
First we heard from Andrew Golaszewski, a user researcher at Bresslergroup, on the conflict between usability and innovation in physical product design. Andrew recommends increasing our appetite for failure by testing early and testing often and not being afraid of the results. It’s when we get too focused on process that innovation is lost and when we get too focused on usability, we get stuck in a box. In the words of Diego Rodriguez of IDEO, Andrew reminded us that ‘A prototype is a question embodied’ and that when we allow users to answer that question, we get closer to usability at its best.
Next, Erin Abler, Content Designer at the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology, talked us through the phila.gov redesign that she is currently leading. Her user-centered approach is turning the site upside down, from content that is organized by department – does anyone know to look under Office of Revenue to pay their water bill? – to an architecture that leads by topic – a header that reads Pay A Bill is more intuitive. Extensive data and analytics matched with specific user research is informing Erin’s work and by developing in the open – alpha.phila.gov is up for your use and review – the site is continually becoming more usable, bringing a bit of innovation to our government.
Mike Gadsby of O3 World, a product design and development agency in Philadelphia, showed us how his team is experimenting with usability and innovation with their Labs program. The program encourages employees to play with emerging technologies to create new, fun and useful products. The processes and insights that come out of those experiments are used to inform the company’s business strategy and to expand its service offerings. For example, when O3 employees walk into the office, an app on their phone alerts a beacon at the door. The beacon connects to a raspberry pi and a set of speakers and as the employee strolls over to their desk, the whole office hears their self-selected ‘theme music’. Mike talked through some of the possible applications for the technology, such as personalized push notifications for sales in retail stores based on user movements. His team is deep in the user research and real world understanding of the project now, to ensure that product’s usability is seamless.
Thanks to Bresslergroup for providing the gorgeous space and hospitable staff. PhillyCHI, we love your board for organizing and creating a community around usability. Onward Search, the generous spread and open bar kept us well fed and hydrated! eCity hopes to see you all at more community events in the coming months!