Conference review

X.5 September + October 2003
Page: 55
Digital Citation

DUX2003 Redux


Authors:
Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson

Prologue

They’re up to something, and it looks exciting, promising, awkward, satisfying, messy, and, well, new. The DUX2003 conference held this June 2003 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco was the first installment of a new biannual ACM conference series for, by, and about user experience designers.

Jonathan Arnowitz met Terry Swack of AIGA at DIS 2000 and started plans to develop a conference to serve the needs of user experience professionals in our two organizations. Our first joint event was the CHI2002|AIGA Experience Design FORUM, a special ‘satellite’ event at CHI2002 in Minneapolis. The FORUM proved to be a successful joint venture and AIGA agreed to a conference series. DUX planning broadened with the addition of Alan Chalmers and SIGGRAPH, providing a triple perspective on design with conference chairs from SIGCHI, SIGGRAPH, and AIGA. SIGGRAPH is increasingly interested in interactive user experiences in addition to their tradition of research and practice on dynamic media and its underlying technology. The three societies represent an inspiring mix of traditions, interest areas, and perspectives on how one plans and delivers a well-rounded program. The varied approaches of the organizations kept the conference committee on their toes and truly questioning the many issues around "the right thing to do" in a new conference series. DUX2003 is the first of a series of bi-annual conferences. From the organizing perspective, by most measures it was well worth the sometimes extraordinary effort required to walk a reasoned path among three different social cultures with overlapping but not identical objectives. And from the attendee perspective, it was supremely satisfying to recognize a true community of interest with the requisite diversity to make interactions a true learning opportunity.

The stated objective of DUX is to "look at all facets of the product/service development lifecycle and at other facets of a business as decisions are made that affect the user experience" (cf www.dux2003.org). But what many attendees appreciated about DUX2003 was the opportunity to participate in a "home" community for people who study, build, test, and use interactive systems. Its tangible product is an archive of design case studies, for the most part cross-posted between the ACM Digital Library and AIGA’s Experience Design Case Study Archive. The format of case studies is still developing. Each iteration makes improvements—the format is being used in the CHI2004 Design Expo—making for a rather uneven read from early to more recent additions to the archives. A more intangible product is the opportunity to consider design practice from a wide number of individual, corporate, and disciplinary perspectives.

The DUX2003 conference accepted 33 of 105 submissions. The wealth of experience documented in the case studies is undeniable. However, a case study is not a research paper in format or objective. A significant value of the DUX approach is to make a "big picture" story of interactive user experience accessible to a practitioner audience. The format requires not only a descriptive treatment of process and clear illustration of the design under discussion; it also requires business impact, user impact, and next steps the authors intend to take. The fourteen page landscape format is well-suited to rich visual illustration of designs, and overcomes some of the limitations of the standard CHI papers format. This makes the Case Study format compelling indeed, and a rich source of instructional media for students learning design and product development, as well as practitioners eager to learn from others’ successes and failures. DUX sets the bar for documenting the state of the art in creating interactive computer-mediated user experiences. A side note to consider is how high the bar is set, and whether submission quality, reviewing quality, and the conference attendee’s experience together create a promising and meaningful beginning to a formal archive. Over the next few DUX conferences—and there is substantial interest and support for the series to carry on—standards and practices among the three organizations will no doubt more closely converge and self-organize to create and sustain a viable design case study literature.

The Structure

The accepted submissions to this three day event were structured as a day of tutorials and master classes, followed by two days of technical programs, each day divided into three sessions (see the full list of Case Studies at the end of this article.) Case Study sessions were interspersed with keynote speakers and panel sessions. For a first-time, small event-the conference drew over 300 paid attendees—the program was exceedingly ambitious. A well-rounded and accessible collection of design studios opened their doors for studio tours; the tutorial and "master class" program preceding the technical program sold out; and the two days of paper sessions each consistently kept the audience in their chairs, up to the superb end.

Evening social events sponsored by the local AIGA Experience Design group and the Santa Clara branch of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) provided a convivial atmosphere for networking. Looking forward to food, drink, and socializing in the early evening hours tended to keep the papers and panels sessions well attended, with networking for the most part limited to standard short between-session breaks. Modeled somewhat after CHI conference sessions and the DIS conferences, the DUX format provided enough formality to be taken seriously, and enough casual banter from the podium to put attendees at ease. The Palace Hotel—a stately San Francisco grand dame small enough to provide an intimate ambiance even in the larger of the ballrooms (and who doesn’t enjoy a magnificent 25 foot tall stained glass domed ceiling?) was comfortable and interesting with little of the sterility of most conference hotels, but alas could improve audio/visual support and the visibility of speakers. Undoubtedly, lessons have been learned and future DUX conferences will be prepared to make clearer requirements of facilities.

The variety of offerings was geared specifically to professional designers usually inconvenienced by leaving their work in the middle of the week for a conference. A small bookstore was available on site with dozens of excellent selections requested in advance by the conference chairs; all were targeted specifically to the subject of the conference. Attendees seemed very pleased with the Friday-Saturday agenda, with pre-program events on Thursday. The Saturday program also made a Saturday stay-over viable for out-of-town attendees, and many stayed on to sample the endless variety of world class tourist activities in the City by the Bay. The weather was glorious, the hotel accommodating, and the attendees were prepared for a jolly good show-and in most cases, that’s precisely what they enjoyed, with some outstanding serious content as well.

The Content

Richard Anderson, a SIGCHI veteran of years of conference organizing, Executive Committee work with Local SIGs, and for many years the program director of BayCHI, developed the technical program with John Zapolski, a newcomer to conference programming primarily representing the interests of AIGA. SIGGRAPH’s interests are largely the same as SIGCHI’s, and Richard ably represented SIGGRAPH as well as SIGCHI in the construction of the technical program. The rigor of the technical programming suffered from a lack of experience in the reviewing corps. The reviewers represented the target audience well, but were largely new to SIGCHI standards and unfamiliar with common CHI practices regarding peer review. Despite this, the audience enjoyed the experience, and undoubtedly the archival quality of the case studies will improve over time. Unevenness in the quality of the submissions was clearly overruled by interestingness. Future installments of the DUX series will gel the formatting and reviewing policies and procedures into a high-quality peer-reviewed literature.

Panels came off as chaotic and the audience generally expressed the view that they were unsuccessful, often falling into the trap of serial monologues. Papers were uniformly interesting and relevant to the audience, but some were little more than snapshots of products or illustrations of theories—not truly case studies, but interesting nonetheless. The opening keynote speakers, Bill Buxton and Mitch Kapor, participated in a conversation that suffered from a lack of focus but did generate a few soundbyte gems. The closing plenary, shared by Stephanie Yost Cameron and Sara Little Turnbull was a masterful accounting of Life in the Design Lane: first, a well-conceived success story by Stephanie narrating the development of NeoPets. Last of all was a joyously relevant and energizing conversation with Sara Little Turnbull on her six-decade career designing in an impressive array of contexts. Her talk delighted the audience and closed the conference on a superb note to thunderous applause.

The Conclusion

Was DUX worth the time and money? Most attendees thought so, and several I talked with were almost overcome with the sense of having finally found a true community of peers. Like any conference with published proceedings—DUX submissions are digital only and can be found in the ACM Digital Library—the material offered at the conference can be read later. The true value of the DUX experience is in the interstitial conversations-the "been there, done that" balanced with the "I am SURELY going to try that next time!"

For a first foray, there were some bumps in the road. But, by and large, if you design interactive user experiences you need to attend this conference. Its small size allows conversations with the authors, exchanges of ideas, and open challenges to design methods and practices. Your life, your practice, and even your social life will likely be enriched by the experience. I tip my hat to the organizers, sponsors (Adobe Systems and Sun Microsystems), and sponsoring organizations for an admirable first run, and look forward to many more.

Following is the list of presentations made at DUX2003 and available online through the ACM Digital Library and the AIGA Design Case Study Archive. Check them out and decide for yourself.

DUX 2003 presentations

bullet.gif FRIDAY

Session 1, DUX in Practice I: A diverse collection of stories about the experience of designing for user experiences.

  • Jesper Kjeldskov & Jan Stage, Designing the Handheld Maritime Communicator
  • Ellen M. Ayoob, Richard Grace, Aaron Steinfeld, A User-Centered Drousy Driver Detection and Warning System
  • Eric Paulos, Connexus: A Communal Interface
  • Tim Brooke & Jenna Burrell, From Ethnography to Design in a Vineyard
  • Tom Brinck, Seunghee S. Ha, Nick Pritula, Kara Lock, Alfred Speredelozzi, & Mike Monan, Making an iMpact: Redesigning a Business School Web Site Around Performance Metrics

Session 2, Informing DUX: A focus on research and collaboration techniques that can effectively guide the design process.

  • Daniel Makoski, Vacations or Groceries?— Purchase Modeling and Loyalty Programs
  • Anu Kankainen, UCPCD: User-Centered Product Concept Design
  • Brian Herzfeldt & Marc Rettig, Interaction Design Case: VasSol CANVAS
  • John Pruitt & Jonathan Grudin, Personas: Practice and Theory
  • Bob Baxley, Universal Model of a User Interface
  • Jesper Kjeldskov, Steve Howard, John Murphy, Jennie Carroll, Frank Vetere, & Connor Graham, Designing TramMate A Context Aware Mobile System Supporting Use of Public Transportation
  • Bob Zeni, Improving the Effectiveness of Election Workers in the Polling Place

Session 3, Focusing on User-to-Product Relationships: Several looks at the role users’ relationships to products can play in design and product success.

  • Jeana Frost & Brian K. Smith, Visualizing Health: Imagery in Diabetes Education
  • Carrie Heeter, Brian Winn, Rhonda Egidio, Punya Mishra, & Norm Lownds, Girls as Space Game Designers: Extreme Baseline Research
  • Aaron Oppenheimer & Heather Reavey, Beyond "Puree": Reinventing the Blender
  • B. J. Fogg, Cathy Soohoo, David R. Danielson, Leslie Marable, Julianne Stanford, & Ellen R. Tauber, How Do Users Evaluate the Credibility of Web Sites? A Study with over 2500 Participants
  • Adria H. Liszka, William A. Stubblefield, & Stephen D. Kleban, GMS: Preserving Multiple Expert Voices in Scientific Knowledge Management
  • Jane Wood, Alison Keen, Niren Basu, & Simon Robertshaw, The Development of Mobile Applications for Patient Education

bullet.gif SATURDAY

Session 1, DUX in Practice II: A second collection of stories about the experience of designing for user experiences.

  • Maria Håkansson, Sara Ljungblad, & Lars Erik Holmquist, Capturing the Invisible: Designing Context Aware Photography
  • Michael Kronthal, Customer Portal Research and Design
  • Francine Gemperle, Carl DiSalvo, Jodi Forlizzi, & Willy Yonkers, The Hug: a New Form for Communication
  • Chuck Moore & Robin Beers, Wells Fargo Online Banking Redesign
  • Lars Erik Holmquist, Ramia Mazé, & Sara Ljungblad, Designing Tomorrow’s Smart Products Experience with the Smart-Its Platform

Session 2, Dealing with Constraints: Addressing real world factors that impact and influence successful design for user experiences.

  • John Armitage, "And Another Thing…The Current Site is in German": The Final Project in an International Digital Business Consultancy
  • Sheryl Ehrlich, Wilson Chan, Karen Cross, & Darcey Imm, More for Less: A Novel Hybrid Method to Maximize the Impact of Research
  • William A. Stubblefield, Karen S. Rogers, & Deborah S. Ingram, The LIGA Traveler: The Use of Technical and Social Invariants in Software Design
  • Steve Portigal & Lynn Shade, Kawaii: Adventures in a Parallel Universe
  • Jack Hakim, Tom Spitzer, & John Armitage, Sprint: Agile Specifications in Shockwave & Flash

Session 3, Organizational/Business Issues: Examining the role of user experience design in creating organizational change.

  • Stephen Sato & Andrew Panton, Advancing a Customer-Centered Design Approach with a Proven Change Management Method
  • Silvia Gabrielli & Jan-Christoph Zoels, Design Strategy as a Way of Creating Imaginable Futures
  • David Heller, Lisa Krenzelok, & Julian Orr, WebTop: Realities in Designing a Web-Application Platform
  • Bill Bachman, Dave Valiulis, Frederick Aliaga, & Marissa Treinen, Four Strategies for Promoting Common UI Guidelines within Adobe
  • Jeffrey Veen & Carolyn Gibson Smith, Developing Best Practices for Distributed Networks of Sites — Heuristics, Design, and Politics

©2003 ACM  1072-5220/03/0900  $5.00

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