Usability Week 2010, San Francisco

Posted by Eric Bastholm on October 12, 2010
Oct 122010

Lucky enough to be able to attend Usability Week 2010, in San Francisco this year. Great city. I attended the same conference last year in Sydney, Australia and thought it was quite useful and informative which is why I was keen to go this year and see what else the Nielsen Norman Group had in store.


San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridgephoto © 2009 Wally Gobetz | more info(via: Wylio)
Nielsen Norman Group is a company that advocates user centered design and usability principles. This means putting the user first when considering your application or website design and making sure, through usability testing and consideration of predictable user behaviour, that you end up with a design that will produce a favourable user experience. Only then will you enjoy customer loyalty, and through that conversions (traffic, profit, downloads, whatever the measure).
Jakob Nielsen’s alertbox column on is a good read and summarises a lot of the usability testing that the company does and analyses the current trends.
This year they offer some sessions similar to last year on writing for the web, navigation design, and usability guidelines.

Also, there were some sessions which addressed particular issues with mobile devices. Designing applications for mobile devices involves many difference considerations which developers may not be familiar with or used to. The most obvious is screen size, but there were less obvious ones too. People do very different things on phones than they do on their desktop computer. Most of what they do is small, short time tasks like searching, messaging, quick lookups, directions, that sort of thing.  You also now have to consider your market a lot more. What types of phones will I support? Will I do an application or a website?
Psychology plays an important part in determining what makes a good design for you application or website. The session about how users think when using your design was very interesting. Consideration must be made to the user’s limitations in attention, memory and perception. Example videos show that sometimes they don’t see your big shiny attention grabbing custom control even it is right in front of them.
Customer’s impression of your company brand will be influenced greatly by the experience that you provide them through your application or website. In this session we saw how even large, well established companies with good offline reputations had their brand damaged because the user had a bad online experience. Unlike in your offline premises, often you never hear about this problem and never get a chance to make amends.
All in all a good conference with friendly, approachable presenters and a good venue in the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

Blue Angels: Painting with smokephoto © 2010 John Krzesinski | more info(via: Wylio)

A bonus was that the US Navy was in town doing the annual Fleet Week show. The Blue Angels flight demonstration team were doing their thing over the city. Very impressive.

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