UI17 Recap

Last week I had the amazing opportunity attend the UI17 Conference in Boston. UI17 focuses on the leading trends and best practices in interface design, multi-device design, and team-based solutions. The conference follows an unconventional format with one day of shorter talks sandwiched between two full day workshops. This format was an effective way to dive deep into two topics while still getting an overview of related important topics.

On Monday, I attended Luke W.’s workshop Designing Mobile to Multi-Device Experiences. The workshop focused on how to design for the expansive variety of devices in use today. Screen sizes range from 3″ to 30″, and now device can be touch, thanks to technology like the Leap. Also, we entering in the age of hybrid devices like the “tab-top” (tablet + laptop) and “ph-ablet” (phone + tablet). So rather than designing specific break points for mobile, tablet, and laptop, it is more effective to design for mobile first, then design break points as the content breaks. The workshop also covered the future of devices and interaction. Expect to see more NUI (Natural User Interfaces) and more integration between devices and objects (like Nest) and devices and your body (like Nike Fuel).

Tuesday followed the traditional conference format. I learned about working with and changing company culture (project issues are symptoms, culture is the cause), giving and receiving design critiques (it’s all about critical thinking and having the right intent), links and the scent of information (link text needs to contain trigger words), designing for user happiness (just because a design is useful doesn’t mean it’s delightful), and fearless prototyping (a topic that sparked some passionate debates over dinner).

On Wednesday, I learned about creating Adaptive Responsive Web Designs at Aaron Gustafson’s workshop. The day was a mind-blowing over-view of best practices for web design. To summarize, compelling user experiences are created by focusing on content first and ensuring that content is accessible to anyone with any ability on any device. We often forget there are still people accessing websites on feature phones. To accommodate everyone, we need progressive enhancement rather than graceful degradation. Start with the minimum experience (content), then build semantics, design, interactivity, and accessibility on top of that.

There were a few themes that carried on through the whole conference:

  • Organize and structure content for mobile, then create versions for other devices
  • Don’t limit your site/app’s feature set for mobile
  • Organize/include content based on what users want, not what marketing wants
  • Use em-based media queries rather then pixel based
  • Social badges are the devil

The real highlight of the conference (besides the cupcake buffet) was hanging out with other like minded designers discussing the industry and trading ideas. Colorado was well represented with at lease seven designers present (out of 450 attendees).

Overall the conference was an valuable experience. If you want to learn more about UI/UX from some of the industries thought leaders, you should plan on attending UI18 next fall!

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