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Typographica’s food for information design

Typographica sketch

Typographica sketch

I don’t visit art exhibits however today I attended a UX Field trip event ,organised by Alice, exploring local art. Today’s visit took us to the Kemistry Gallery, in Shoreditch London to see Typographica (11 September – 31 October). I walked away feeling inspired by the cleverly curated collection of photographic pieces. I enjoyed the company of like-minded folks from our local London UX/IA social group http://london-ia.ning.com too.

The journal (Typographica) was founded by a 25 year-old Herbert Spencer, who went on to become one of the most influential British communication designers and typographers. Typographica’s pioneering content included concrete poetry, avant-garde type experiments and photo-documentary, all highlighting Spencer’s ability to fuse images and words in meaningful new relationships, and featured the work of, among many others, Dieter Rot, Robert Brownjohn and Alexander Rodchenko.

We spent time admiring and ‘seeing’ the many visual stories of snippets from 32 publications (two 16 part series: Old and New series) presented as re-prints around the gallery. I particularly enjoyed Hernert Spencer‘s “Mile-a-Minute” edition as well as his “Piet Zwart” piece. Robert Brownjohn’s “Street Level” was seriously inspiring too. I managed to take some sketch notes of interest bits. It gave me a chance to think a little harder stand-out snaps… one in particular was about the “juxtaposed, accidental or design” question posed after a photo appeared of a shop sign ‘ACCESSORIES’ with the first ‘C’ lying at an odd angle provoking that very question (juxtaposed, accidental or design).

After the viewing we spent some time catching up on studies, work and our mobile worlds… with special attention being played to the new social network iPhone/Android app, Foursquare.

Typographica Exhibit

Typographica Exhibit

Typographica Exhibit

Typographica Exhibit

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Nine Essential Characteristics of Good UX Designers (Fred Beecher)

Fred Beecher writes a great post covering what personally use as guiding principles of good user experience design. Fred's characterises nine essential elements a designer should posses to make a good user experience designer:

  1. Moderate Familiarity with Business, Deep Familiarity with Your Business
  2. A Deep Understanding of Human Psychology & Research Methods
  3. Competence in the Basics of Graphic Design
  4. An Awareness of and Interest in Technology
  5. Verbal & Visual Communication Skills
  6. The Ability to Quickly Learn a Subject Matter Area
  7. Mediation, Facilitation, & Translation Skills
  8. Creativity & Vision
  9. Passion

Read the full post: Nine Essential Characteristics of Good UX Designers

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Newly released customisable theme feature from Posterous

Posterous is proud to announce the ability to change the look and feel of your Posterous blog! It’s been a long time coming, and are we ever excited about releasing this feature to you guys today.

With this recent announcement I believe Posterous will secure even more traction as a micro-blogging platform. Other than five off-the-shelf themes, Posterous also offers customisable headers and colours. And that’s not all. Posterous have also catered for the geeks out there. They’re given account holders the ability to customise further through access to HTML and CSS configs.

For more information on theming visit the ‘Custom Themes‘ page.

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Google Fast Flip demonstration from the couch

If you wondered what all the hype is surrounding Google’s new web app, Google Fast Flip, then look no further. Here I run through the basics of this app and demonstrate how Google have managed to find middle ground between online news content and RSS. What’s noticeable is how any display advertorial content has been removed from the thumb views (small and large) yet they manage to keep their ads in tact (as you’d expect).

Personally, I like it and will start to use it more than my RSS reader… for now that is.

Google Fast Flip demonstration

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Is Twitter just a marketing tool?

Guy Kawasaki and me

Guy Kawasaki and me

My world has just been shattered. Ok, perhaps that’s a little too dramatic, but today I experienced what it feels like to have my carpet pulled from under me (during the first-half that is). One of my long-time Twitter follows @GuyKawasaki had defied my laws of Twitter use without remorse, but made up for it later with useful tips for business use.

This morning I attended an event at Imperial College London, organised by MIT Enterprise Forum of the UK, Twitter – weapons of mass construction with Guy KawasakiAlltop, Nick Halstead – founder of Tweetmeme, Mario MentiTwitterfeed) to discuss Twitter and offer some tips and tricks. Whilst I was getting over Guy’s devastating and cold disregard for my Twitter beliefs, he surprised me with loads of extremely useful tips that can be applied at work – using Twitter purely as a Marketing tool.

AlltopGuy opened the conference with an assertion that nowadays there are no excuses for not being able to run affective Twitter campaigns. He argued that all elements (people, Twitter, Marketing) needed are FREE:

  • free tools (Twitter) – to publish the message
  • people are free – to consume and spread the message
  • marketing (Objective Marketer) is free – to reach people

… all to drive traffic to alltop.com.

TweetMeme buttonAlso, at the event was tweetmeme.com which allows you, as a publisher, to chose one of four buttons (via a plugin) on an article. The button allows visitors to tweet the story directly from the article page. Planned for release soon is Tweetmeme’s report and tracking suite. The suite of apps will allow the account holder to track clicks and RT’s and better manage activity.

The tools Guy suggested using to run an effective marketing campaign to drive traffic to alltop.com include:

With ~150,000 followers Guy strongly advocates automation. Automation of as many services as possible – especially useful when he travels. Part of the automation process includes auto sending of tweets and ghost tweeting – tweeting using a false name.

Using Objective Marketer, Guy is able to schedule tweets, track clicks and RT’s and RT effectiveness. Guy claims:

“There is no better way to create, test, and modify Twitter-based marketing than ObjectiveMarketer. If you’re going to take heat for using Twitter as tool, you might as well do it well.”

Finally, when Guy constructs a tweet manually (yes, he still tweets manually when at his desk) he includes two link portions to a tweet – one directly to the story and one to alltop.com’s channel/section page. When users click on the links from his tweet the target url is framed with an Alltop.com leader to help promote Alltop.com more. Guy assured us that website owners should not feel cheated, but rather pleased that a tweet of his has directed users to their website.

As the event drew to a close I couldn’t help but wonder how I might apply his useful steps to a work situation. Perhaps I might see if it works with some of our product teams.

[I have not mentioned Twitterfeed.com in this post as I lost track of what was being said other than it's a tool to auto send tweets out of your RSS fed blog posts]

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UXCampLondon – a day out the office

As local community-driven events go none comes close to the UXCampLondon experience – people, subject matter, venue, organisation, communication and relevance all culminating into a UX Festival.

On Saturday, August 22nd, we (pre-registered attendees) gathered at the eBay/Gumtree offices in Richmond to enjoy a full day un-conference-style barcamp for the local User Experience (UX) community – the first-ever organised by Cennydd (Bowles) of Clearleft). Cennydd and his able support team did a stunning job.

I, like many folk, missed the pre-registration but scooped a last-minute place after Cennydd contacted me through Twitter on Thursday evening (August, 20th) to ask whether I was still interested. You bet. I cancelled my track racing plans and began thinking about what I’d talk about.

What I learnt about the local UX community

The local UX community…

  1. is SOCIAL – we love to network (see the Twitter tag)
  2. LOVE what they do – designing good user experiences (see The Wall of Deliverables)
  3. are willing to LISTEN and LEARN – all the sessions were well supported (even mine) with plenty of commentry and debate
  4. KNOW HOW to put on a barcamp and enjoy themselves doing it.

The ‘Wall of Deliverables’

I decided to display my interactive engaging wireframe as an example of alternative ways to encourage engagement with a slightly fun kid-like wireframe assembly method (worked well for me). With exceptional competition my chances at claiming the prize was slim, however I did receive a few votes (using little green dot stickers). Thanks to those to voted for me. The winner, however, was a set of user flows (citation needed).

Photo: wall of deliverables

Photo: wall of deliverables

The opening session

Photo: Jeff Van Campens session: Diaries of a madman

Photo: Jeff Van Campens session: Diaries of a madman

I was struck by how many folk were interested in formal study in the UX/IxD. In the first session Cara bravely kicked off her session with Getting started in UX – my quest for answers‘ as her title. She opened up for feedback on where/how she, as a Project Manager, can get started in a UX designer role. She invited the session attendees to share their experiences. I empathised with Cara by suggesting we were in similiar positions… as did another attendees too. Andy Budd‘s, from Clearleft, heretical view carved a way for talented and experienced UX designers over newly qualified Masters graduates. He view from a small agency’s persepctive.

Photo: Cennydd and Dees leading the session

Over the course of the day in-between lunch and tea breaks, fantastic sessions were being put on by other attendees. With all talks ranging from research, corporate UX, iPhone/mobile UX design, UX patterns and personal experiences within UX, there was something for everone. Cennydd and Dees put on a ‘Location’ discussion which spoke about all experiences and thoughts related to location and its impact on real-life experiences and of course UX design.

The beanbag session

Photo: our outcome from the session

Photo: our outcome from the session

Another stand-out session I attended was facilitated by Andy (Budd) entitled: Design Games 101; better ways for collaboration, facilitation and ideations. The session was very much an interactive session focusing on ways to inspire and get creative with clients. Andy tasked everyone to split into groups – size irrelevant, but smaller groups prefered. We were then given boxes, pens and a sheet of paper and tasked to design a box (yes, 3-D) for Gumtree. We were to design it so people looking at the box would know what Gumtree was and what it offered highlighting all the obvious draws. We were given 10mins to come up with the design, in our teams, and then to present our design (the box) to the rest of the group.

The exercise was great fun, ‘forcing’ each person to bond, to form good teamwork to come up with our design… something that is very often difficult to achieve in the field. The exercise got us thinking about what we were designing, but importantly, as Andy stated, to think about design without the usual constraints (again difficult to achieve). Personally, I had a lot of fun and inspired to try this technique at work, but it also got me to think about design without constraints, this before ploughing into my projects. I’m sure all my fellow attendees would concur that the session was both fun and useful.

Finally, the all important supporters

A huge thanks to all the supporters of UXCampLondonVodafoneAmberlightSaros ResearchGumtreeAxureRosenfeld MediaSilverback and Addlestones.

UXCampLondon sponsors

UXCampLondon sponsors

For anyone local to London and interested in UX design be sure to watch out for news of the next UXCampLondon (follow uxcamplondon on Twitter).

Photo: Post UX Camp London riverside setting (Richmond Upon Thames)

Photo: Post UX Camp London riverside setting (Richmond Upon Thames)

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Liferay 5 interface (Admin)

Our IT team are putting together a ‘cookie cutter’ solution for rapid website deployments. During this process they are moving to the latest version of Liferay (Liferay version 5). I was privy to be invited to join a introduction training session on how to add/edit pages and content.

For those who are unfamiliar with Liferay, the CMS is powered by Java and basis itself on editable java ‘portlets’ by drop-n-drag methodology.

I can’t say I’m a fan of drop-n-drag when it comes to managing the UI, especially for Marketers or anyone who has little knowledge about the importance of UI design and consistentcy. I see this approach as a somewhat irresponsibly provactive unless very tight portlet lock-down is enforced.

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Email data good practice

One of many problems with email marketing is deliverablity – getting your emails into inboxes. Sure, once they’re there then we start to worry about open rates and click rates, but before that we need to get the emails in there right? Companies have been experimenting with different ways to clean their data to ensure high deliverability rates.

One-off data cleansing emails is bar far the most common way to clean your data. There are other techniques: including your registered email address in the footer of the email to see or the company sends an email to its list with a unique account access links which enable the subscribers to enter their account and update their details. Most subscribers are lazy and I suspect would rather sign up with a new email address than update their old email.

IAB are smart! (I’m sure this isn’t ground-breaking)

They sent their IAB Smartbrief newsletter to me today, but this time when I tried to access a story I was re-directed to a ‘Update your details’ page first – ‘Update details now’ or ‘Update later’ buttons – included a brief explanation why I was being sent here. With these two options I can update my details without having to think about it or update my details later if incorrect (and not being pushy, which I like).

The update your details form includes further data options over and above email address, which might just compel me to provide more detail about me to IAB who can then further target the emails I receive.

They naturally then have cleaner data which improves their deliverability.