This year I finally made it to one of the Nielsen/Norman Group‘s Usability Weeks and did the Usability In Practice 3-day seminar.
Very good it was, too. The content was bang up-to-date and the expertise of the presenters was clear for all to see. Although there were a few moments of tedium as one or another of them droned on a bit, on the whole it was all kept interesting by judicious changes of speaker, plenty of Socratic dialogue, effective use of multimedia, and a fair bit of practical work and demonstrations. They even gave us homework!
It was interesting that the seminar confirmed my impression (gained from teaching usability) that writing the tasks is really one of the most difficult aspects of the process: if they’re not right for any reason, almost any results you get from the testing will be of dubious value. It probably won’t be difficult to identify what the most common task will be in any given situation, but wording and structuring them correctly for the test is absolutely crucial.
The best bit of course was the Paper Prototyping on day 3. The day before Janelle Estes had shown us some video of a user test on this page at inMod (modern furniture and lighting). We were then given the task of redesigning this Flash-based wizard and to build a paper prototype of the design. The team that I was a part of came up with an excellent solution and a really cool prototype. Very satisfying and hugely enjoyable.
Of course one of the best things about attending such events is meeting new people and the possibility of networking. There were people from all over Europe in attendance: Latvia, Denmark, France, Switzerland, you name it. Fascinating to see what people were up to.
And, AND, I came away with a great idea…