Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Usability Day

I went to World Usability Day down at IU and was really impressed, that was a fantastic conference. Very, very, very small, but gave me a lot to think about and didn't put me in a grouchy mood. No one there expect myself, Dr. Gestwicki, and Austin were programmers, which made us feel like outsiders in a sense, but we all still gained a lot by going and enjoyed ourselves quite a bit.

The highlight of the conference was definitely Rod Collier, the guy who designed the Letterman Building here at Ball State. His presentation was both informative and interesting, his PowerPoint was amazing, and he gave some fantastic examples of innovative design in his own home (which he designed himself!).

Unfortunately I didn't get a good sense of what everyone was thinking of when they were talking about design and usability...I guess it was just physical objects...but most everyone there avoided the topic of computers like the plague (even the guy who worked for Tuitive, which designs web-based apps and webpages for clients). This was unfortunate, since CS could use more good usability people.

Another refreshing aspect was the attitude; everyone there obviously knew what they were talking about, but didn't seem to be wallowing in their own sense of self-importance, which was extremely refreshing...I felt like this was due to the fact that these people are professionals, working for real clients, rather than a group of artists, which really makes an enormous difference.

It also encouraged me to get a better design sense...I still have a lot of work to do in that regard. Especially since one of my interests is web design, this will be an essential skill. Unfortunately I'll always be a struggling outsider, because I don't fool myself into believing for a minute that design is something people can just "pick up". The amount of studies done on usability, the ridiculous amount of unusable systems, and the amount of money companies will spend on design are all obvious proof that design is another "this isn't as easy at it looks" area, but on the plus side, I'm far more aware of it now than I ever was before.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to redesign my website again :)

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