webDU 2009 — Year of the Prototype
May 21 and 22 was the 7th webDU and my 3rd as part of the Daemon team who organise the event. WebDU is a technology conference, primarily but not solely, focused on developers. Amongst all the code and whiz bang-ery this year was an entire track dedicated to the consulting and planning side of projects: Team/UX (user experience). The room was packed for the whole two days.
As a non developer, the theme I took away from webDU 2009 was prototyping. Delivering prototypes be it a wireframe or design, that are closer to the final web page or web application.
Both Adobe and Microsoft debuted products at webDU. Steven Heintz of Adobe talked up the re-branded Flash Catalyst. Anyone familiar with the Creative Suite can now deliver interactive wireframes and designs to developers. As Steven put it in the keynote Flash Calatyst seeks to “make interaction more of a design experience“.
Shane Morris of Microsoft switched off the microphones (the recording) at the end of his talk, for the Australian debut of Sketchflow; which is all my dreams come true. It’s Visio on steroids and is more of a drawing tool where interactive elements can be produced easily. Not only does Sketchflow provide stencils for re-usable elements like controls and buttons but it lets you use and repurpose data, for instance creating different views. Information can be exported by developers for use as their sample data.
It was interesting to me that Adobe and Microsoft were both on such similar tracks. Both products get the prototype looking more like the design and both the wireframe and design behaving and functioning more like the application. Or as Steven Heintz put it “build[ing] high fidelity earlier in the process and bridging the gap between designers and developers“.
It wasn’t all new product releases though. Richard Turner Jones showed us how to use Fireworks for prototyping. He used it as a hybrid Visio/Photoshop tool. I love seeing how other people work. Richard went from sketch to wireframe, to design, to interactive prototype in an hour. He shared lots of tips and tricks. I had long forgotten Fireworks but Richard’s demo of the Pages utility in Fireworks to walk a client through each stage of the design process was compelling.
Simon Reid bought it back to the user defining user experience as a wholistic change to workflow not a redesign. He took us through his four pillars of user experience in his session “Pixel Envy: The Digital Art of Pencil and Paper” emphasizing that aesthetics should be the last step to avoid mimicry. He then spelled out his seven step design process which included people watching (contextual research) and persona development. My biggest take away from this session will be incorporating a process map to illustrate what a user is thinking at each step and not just drawing application workflows.
Since I am part of the organising team I wont speak to the atmosphere or awesomeness of the conference. I am clearly biased ;-) So I will instead leave you with the following reviews to check out more details of the event from impartial third parties.
I cannot wait until next year.