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Apr 2006

Live from CHI 2006 – Monday, April 24

Here I am at CHI2006. My first impressions?
The student volunteers look a little lost… It’s really hard to get basic information on how to register for the workshops. They also don’t know how to direct a journalist to the press room…But overall, things are running smoothly, the Internet connection is perfect, the people are nice and I’m waiting for the first presentation.

I finally manage to register for the 4:30 workshop.

The first presentation, titled “Creating Game changing Innovation”, was pretty interesting. It was presented by Scott Cook, co-founder of the company Intuit.

Even if the essence of his presentation on the importance of gathering user information before starting development is obvious to the usability specialists present, Cook proposes taking it further and says we should innovate by drawing on the problems of everyday life.

Cook believes we must take design teams out of their offices. It’s important to meet and observe users within the environment in which they are using the product. Basically, it was a good presentation that set the tone for CHI2006 but had little impact on our lives.

This year, CHI offers a new element: the “Experience Reports”, real-life experiences and case studies that are shared with us, the lucky CHI2006 participants.

I just attended a presentation by Richard Boardman from Google on the use of Instant Messaging (IM) software to facilitate communication between the moderator and the observer during usability testing.

He told us about his experience in the Google lab and also shared results of a survey where industry professionals were asked about the benefits and drawbacks of this approach.

The conclusion? It’s too distracting! It bothers the moderator and the observer as much as it does the users themselves. If this tool was improved, however, it could turn out to be useful for some types of testing.

The unexpected. The speaker who was supposed to discuss how personal preferences can influence product use isn’t here yet.

I quickly came up with plan B and ran to the presentation about a voice recognition device.

Not much to say about it right now, but I do want to mention that it’s specifically designed to help programmers with disabilities and it works really well!

A few observations:
– when I got out of the presentation, I saw Jakob Nielsen in person, surrounded by a bunch of people
– I think this is the largest concentration of portable computers ever seen
– we’re surrounded by the largest concentration of HCI experts in the world, Yeah!

A great debate on research that’s been done on local users at the international level. We’re now faced with this situation more and more because of the global aspect of the Internet and the globalization of consumer markets that expose our products beyond our borders.

“Managing International User Research” brought together a group of professionals from Microsoft, Intel and Yahoo, as well as independent consultants. Points of view differed on various topics like cultural differences and the way these types of studies are conducted.

There’s still a lot of work to be done before an optimal work methodology is put in place.

“The Goldilocks Content Framework: What Users Want” was presented by Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering. The objective of the presentation was to help us understand the best way to present content on a Website.

In his opinion, the role of content is to bridge the gap between what the user knows when he arrives at the site and what he needs to learn throughout his visit.

Based on his research, Spool gave a few examples of how to search for pertinent information and how to determine what type of content should be posted. An interesting course that we should use to validate proposed concepts for future projects.

Cocktails, exhibits, software, circus acrobats, networking, wine, usability, Eye-tracking, cheese, books, smoked meat, not necessarily in that order, but remarkably at the same place at the same time. A great mix to end the first day of CHI2006.

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