November 12, 2009
World Usability Day 2009 - Afternoon Session Reflections
The afternoon of World Usability Day (WUD) 2009 [http://usability.msu.edu/conf/2009/Default.aspx] focussed on larger infrastructural, community and sustainability issues. Almost all speakers were excellent, spare one who performed the good old, 'death by powerpoint'. He shall remain unnamed for the rest of this blog post.
I liked Kirk Riley's presentation on how ITEC, a local Lansing org is working to bridge the digital divide that exists due to class, race or gender, working with a local faith based organization. They recognize the lack of hard skills and subsequent low enrollment in computer science degrees. So they are using Randy Pausch's head fakes (Riley's own words, not mine) to entice students to learn math and programming skills through 3D worlds (Kodu on XBox) and other programming languages like Alice. They think they are doing cool stuff but actually learning hard stuff. Way to go.
Sharron Rush spoke on the need for accessibility. She is a "well decorated veteran" of the IT world and she proved it with an engaging presentation. It was impressive how she illustrated population percentage statistics by making all audiences stand, to begin with (100%). Then having portions sit down and make a statement about the rest. Do another chop, have more people sit down and make a statistical statement. I would love to use this audience engagement tool, if I ever got a large audience like this. (World Youth Congress, Turkey 2010, application submitted, fingers crossed). Sharon runs Knowbility.org.
It's a pity, I did not find a way to follow either Sharon or Knowbility.org via RSS.
Conferences are my favorite use-scenarios for twitter. Even passively following one. By not providing a twitter tag, WUD caused tweeters to use a wide and wild variety of hashtags: #wud09, #wud2009, #wud, #inwud etc… I think we missed out on some great microlearning there. Nevertheless, a good 1-day learning event to go to. Thanks to all MSU folks for hosting the event.
World Usability Day 2009 - Morning Session Reflections
I began learning about usability the moment I sat in the car this morning to travel to East Lansing to attend World Usability Day (WUD) conference hosted by MSU. Its an hours drive from home, so I decided to pack some podcast-heat to bring myself unto speed. My last format interaction with Usability was at the 2007 WUD conference in the exact same spot.
Listening to the UXPod podcast, which interviewed Ethnograpist and UX lab work expert Patrick Larvie, I picked up my first micro-learning lesson.
Bollywood Method of UX Testing
In Asian countries where it is considered inappropriate to criticize other people's work, users are culturally restrained from openly commenting on the drawbacks of design. This hurdle was overcome by a Mumbai UX company who started putting the users in a story which could come right out of a cheesy Bollywood movie (similar to Telenovelas). Now the user is role-playing and has to use the product/service/system/website under pressure of time etc. And their roleplaying starts generating UX data for the studies.
Anyhoo, onward to WUD09: http://usability.msu.edu/conf/2009/
WCAG 2.0, ARIA and AJAX
The morning session on WCAG was quite enlightening. The talent was playing on home pitch, the presenters being mostly from MSU, but an excellent, enlightened bunch. The first part focussed on the new and improved WCAG 2.0 guidelines released by W3C.
There are three levels of compliance a web interface can meet, A, AA and AAA. A stands for minimal, AA for minimal+recommended and AAA, unbelievably are impossible to meet in the given state of technology, as per Elledge. The thought that occurred to me was how are SEO/SEM types dealing with accessibility? Mostly accessibility works well for SEO, but SEM (Search engine marketing) requires blatant breakage of consistency of design (e.g. landing pages, which have no navigation for most parts. Just big kiosk style design with a huge call to action button.) But maybe I am just being paranoid.
The second part of the morning session was on AJAX, which was quickly moved on from a rather long introduction to AJAX mechanisms (since its not 2005 anymore) to a well rounded presentation on challenges brought to accessibility by the so-called usability of these Rich applications. CAPTCHA emerged as the top culprit amongst all AJAX widgets/elements. In the third part of the morning session, Carl Bussema showed screen-videos of the hell that is unleashed on a JAWS user with AJAX and how they were countering it with special tags and behaviors - i.e. ARIA - Accessible Rich Internet Applications. The handling of accessibility through careful implementation of ARIA was impressive. It is hard work, but these guys impressively make it happen. ARIA is still a working draft, nevertheless, the most crucial happening in coming times. The logic is to expose AJAX elements in the interface to a screenreader in a systematic, logical and non-repititive manner. http://www.w3.org/TR/wai-aria/
Firefox and surprisingly IE do quite well when it comes to ARIA support. Google Chrome comes in last. The best combination for a user with accessibility needs would be Firefox 3.5 + JAWS 10.
The morning presentations were followed by a tour of the Usability Labs, which is well equipped, well supported and well staffed.