by Alison Phillips
World Usability Day (WUD), held annually on the second Thursday of November, is a “single day of events occurring around the world that brings together communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for our common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use” (according to worldusabilityday.org). This year, there were over 130 events held in 40 countries, and 6 of those events were hosted in locations across Michigan.
The WUD Detroit event, World Usability day in the “D,” was a held at the AIREA Studio in the Compuware building. About 40 participants from various disciplines (including some STC-SM chapter members) gathered to discuss topics related to this year’s theme, “User Experience, Usability, and the Value of Simplicity in Design.”
UX across industries
Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus started the morning by taking us back to 1943 and describing what are known as the first formal user experience (UX) experiments on the Boeing B-17 “flying fortresses.” Dave went on to explain how “applying our evolving knowledge of human capabilities and situations to the design of products and systems” can greatly improve the user experience from home healthcare products and Iterative Voice Response (IVR) systems to the apparel and automotive industries.
UX outside the lab
Martin Ho followed Dave’s discussion with a talk on how the principles we see in UX models (such as the CUBI User Experience Model) can be effectively applied in the field. He asked us the question “How do you UX?” and engaged us in a discussion on the various ways we apply UX principles in our everyday practice. The group came up with a sizable list, and Martin explained how many of the applications mentioned are used by UX professionals working in the field, conducting online research, working in client/user spaces, and working directly with the clients/users themselves to optimize the user experience.
UX and the auto industry
Dave welcomed us back after a short break with an interesting talk about how UX considerations are affecting the automotive designs of today and tomorrow. He described the auto industry’s intense focus on usability in vehicle design, especially when it comes to integrating mobile and other personal electronic devices. A primary goal for auto manufacturers is to create cars that can integrate the user’s technological devices as a part of the driving experience in a way that also minimizes driver distraction.
The future of UX: A common language across brand and products
The final talk of the morning was given by Martin Ho, Gino Fiore, and Whitney McKedy of Traceable Change, a UX consulting group based in Chicago. The trio began by asking us to consider the many different components that create an experience. The speakers also led us in an exercise to “deconstruct” the user experience by considering how UX encompasses and shapes aspects of branding as well as product usage.