Interaction 14: Call for Participation

Right on the heels of Midwest UX 13’s call for participation comes the same for Interaction 14, which will be held February 5th through the 8th in Amsterdam. For those of you who don’t know, the “14” is for the year 2014—this will be the 7th Interaction conference and the 2nd outside of North America.

The theme of Interaction14 is “Languages of Interaction Design.”

We see language in several contexts. There is spoken language, body language and written language. There is an interface language between user and system. Other languages include the jargon we use to discuss our work and the tools that we use to do our work.

By enhancing the “Languages of Interaction Design” we create new ways to view interactions between people and things. Of particular interest is extending the context from urban to mobile screens and from immersive to sensor based environments.

I don’t know how likely they’ll be to accept an improved version of the workshop I gave at last year’s conference, but I’m going to give it a try. After all, it fits the theme quite nicely. HTML and CSS are languages that an interaction designer working on the web, as most of us are these days, will benefit knowing. I’m talking about true fluency. The ability to translate your concepts, sketches, wireframes, mockups, and prototypes into production-ready code gives you control over the final product. It puts you in the driver’s seat.

They will start accepting applications for talks and workshops on June 10. The deadline is September 1. Selected speakers will be notified on October 15th. Registration also goes live June 10 with early bird tickets going for $720.

Every year, the conference seeks out an academic partner to sponsor the conference. This year, there are two: the Utrecht School of the Arts and Delft University of Technology. Between them and the rich history of Dutch Design, we should be in for a real cultural treat. Of course, the conference will include the Interaction Awards, Student Design Challenge, and Interaction Design Education Summit. I can tell it’s going to be a great year.

Check out the new website. There are a lot of nice microinteractions as you tool around.

Midwest UX 13: Call for Speakers

The Midwest UX 13 conference just went live with their new website and announced their call for speakers. While in past years, themes were left to organically emerge from the submitted talks, the organizers have decided to prepend a theme to this year’s event: Place.

We identify with the places in our lives because they have meaning to us personally and collectively. A place is often more than just a space: it can be the very embodiment of our understanding of the world gained from our experiences within it. From ourselves to our relationships to our spaces and our culture, life takes place and that is the challenge to us all as designers, makers and builders.

I was already planning to submit my workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat, to the conference, and I think it fits the theme quite well. While it certainly gets into the technical details of creating production-ready CSS, it is just as much about making a place for yourself within your development team—a place that provides more control over the end product and thus higher satisfaction with your work.

Submissions for 45 minute sessions and both half and full day workshops will be accepted until June 22. The conference will be held October 17-19 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

IxDA Pittsburgh Workshop Open for Resgistration

My workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production-ready CSS, which I led at Interaction 13 in Toronto, is getting a second run in Pittsburgh. All proceeds, beyond the rental of the space, are going to IxDA Pittsburgh for use in future programming. Since this is the first event to which we are charging admission, we’re keeping it very accessible. It’s only $100 for professionals and $50 for students. Spots are limited, so register now through Eventbrite. After you register, RSVP on IxDA Pittsburgh’s Facebook event page to let everyone know you’re going.

CSS 3 has handed the keys back to designers. With a syntax and structure that speaks our language and a fine-grained level of control, it empowers designers to not only prototype in the actual medium, but to contribute production-ready code. The days of pointing at the screen over the developer’s shoulder and trying to explain how something needs to shift three pixels are over. In fact, much of the JavaScript currently employed for simple UI behaviors can be replaced with well-architected styles. Take the driver’s seat, and make the CSS your UI specification document.

This workshop is intended for intermediate designers interested in gaining more control over their team’s final product. Participants are expected to possess a working knowledge of CSS. They should be able to read a stylesheet and understand what it is doing in the HTML page that references it. They should be able to write CSS styles and apply them to HTML elements to achieve a desired layout on a page.

As a participant, you will:

  • Familiarize yourself with the tools you’ll need to integrate with your development team.
  • Learn how Object Oriented CSS (OOCSS) can lead to cleaner, more maintainable code.
  • Discover how to replace heavy-handed, inefficient JavaScript with CSS-driven behavior.
  • Get started on your own library of CSS components.

About Jack Moffett
With a BFA in Graphic Design from West Virginia University and a Masters in Interaction Design from Carnegie Mellon, Jack has been designing web, desktop, and mobile applications for over a decade. He has worked in both research and industry environments and has been teaching design part-time for more than eight years at WVU. As Senior Interaction Designer at Inmedius, a Boeing Company, Jack’s responsibilities cover the gamut from initial user research and product conceptualization through to implementation and testing. As such, his skill set includes visual design, information design, and front-end implementation. He has designed software tools for Lockheed Martin, Shell, DaimlerChrysler, Eaton, and many organizations within the U.S. military, including Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Naval Reactors, and NCIS. Jack has spoken at conferences and led workshops to teach designers how to integrate with their development teams and participate in implementation. He writes about design on designaday.tumblr.com.

Sitting in the Driver’s Seat… in Pittsburgh

Some weeks ago I mentioned that I would be holding my workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production-ready CSS, for IxDA Pittsburgh. Plans are firming up. The workshop will be held in East Liberty Carnegie Library on Thursday, May 30th, from 5:00 to 8:30 pm. There will be 15 seats at $100 and 10 student seats at $50. Mark your calendar now. I’ll let you know when we have registration set up on Eventbrite.

While I’m at it, let me throw in a plug for our Interaction 13 Redux this coming Tuesday, April 16th, at Brillobox from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

Unforeseen Benefits

It seems obvious now, but when I was working on my conference workshop of Interaction 13, I really wasn’t thinking about it being of particular benefit inside my company. I’ve been the sole interaction designer for so long, I don’t give as much thought to knowledge sharing as I probably should. Since the acquisition, however, we’ve had an influx of work, and due to a number of mostly unrelated circumstances, I’ve recently been charged with training a junior graphic designer to assist in front-end implementation. The exercises I developed for Sitting in the Driver’s Seat are perfect for this purpose, and she is quickly coming up to speed on OOCSS and the standards I employee.

On a related note, IxDA Pittsburgh is currently planning to put on my workshop in May. If you are in the area and interested in learning how you too can participate in implementation and contribute production-ready CSS, stay tuned for an official announcement.

Interaction 13: Program

Having attended all of the Interaction conferences so far, and having helped plan one of them, I can’t help but compare each to those that have gone before. The program for every single one has been very good. This year’s program had a lot to offer, from PechaKucha and posters to 45-minute keynotes. I think it’s safe to say that it had the most variety of all the conferences. Every morning began with a short presentation by OCAD students and faculty. There were a few panels, a debate, and the newly introduced ReDux Live, in which design industry journalists gave their interpretations of what happened during the week. I’m afraid I missed the latter two, due to sickness, but I’ve heard really good things about them. I’m looking forward to the videos.

45-minute presentations were often run in one track while three 10-minute presentations ran in another. While I understand now the way they set this up, it was not represented well in the Shortlist application that I used to create my schedule. I had selected a mix of 10-minute and 45-minute talks that didn’t line up. As such, I ended up seeing some that I hadn’t intended to see while missing some that I wanted to. It was easier to see the parallelism in the printed program, once you realized that’s what they were doing, but it wasn’t immediately obvious.

In the Details: Microinteractions

The hardest choice I had to make at Interaction 13 was the first multi-track session on the first day of the conference. Pittsburgh’s own Matthew Powers was presenting Smart and Beautiful: Designing Robots and Intelligent Machines. He actually had presented it a week before for our local group as a practice run for the conference, including a tour of the robotics lab at CMU. I really wanted to attend that, but had an obligation to be somewhere else. In the other corner was Dan Saffer with Microinteractions: Designing with Details, a preview of sorts for his soon-to-be-released book by the same title.

Of all the 45-minute talks to be presented during the week, these were the two I most wanted to see. It figures they would be scheduled for the same block. The deciding factor I typically fall back on in such situations is which one I could more easily make a case for directly applying to my daily work. Microinteractions won out. Actually, it’s a topic that I’m particularly interested in. If you have been reading DesignAday for any length of time, you’ll know that I regularly make posts in my In the Details series. These are exactly the types of interactions Dan is talking about.

It’s the little things that make the difference between a good digital product and a great one. In this insightful book, author Dan Saffer shows you how to design microinteractions: the small details that exist inside and around features. How do you turn on mute? How do you know you have a new email message? How can you change a setting? These moments can change a product from one that’s tolerated into one that’s treasured.

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see one of the examples I wrote about fairly recently on screen towards the end of his presentation. In fact, when I spoke with Dan afterwards, he mentioned that he had mined my posts during his research. It’s good to know they’ve been of use, and I’m looking forward to reading about all of the examples he has included when the book releases this May from O’Reilly Media.

Interaction 13: Food

The first four Interaction conferences were real treats for foodies. Every reception/party had enough food to make a meal of. The selected caterers provided a wide variety of cuisines plated with artistic flair. I remember a dessert table in 2009 that ran the width of the hotel ballroom. I remember shucking oysters in 2010. I remember eating an orchid in 2008, and there was the street vendor outside the Boulder Theater in 2011.

The conference food in Dublin was mostly forgettable. The food served during the closing party at the Guinness Storehouse was fantastic, but there wasn’t a lot of it. Interaction 13 was worse. The happy hours had nothing to munch on, and the appetizers at the parties, while tasty, were not meal-worthy.

The lunches were beyond lame. Each day gave us progressively less meat. In fact, the only meat on day three was some crumbled bacon you could put on your salad. The main course was macaroni and cheese. They made a big deal of the fact that we were not to visit the vegetarian table if we did not request it when we registered, and I really questioned whether I was at the right table. The only explanation I can think of is that a vegetarian planned the menu.

The one positive was that when I checked in at the Radisson, I was issued coupons for free breakfasts (tip included) every morning for myself and my wife. That was a great start to the morning, and it was the most protein I got a couple days.

I guess we were spoiled the first few years while the conference was small. Now it has grown to the point that a conference center is required to fit everyone, and conference centers require that you use their own catering. Here’s hoping that Amsterdam has more to offer.

Interaction 13: Workshop

Upon arriving in Toronto Saturday night, I discovered that the conference organizers had provided me with a list of attendees, including their job titles and the companies they worked for. I was very interested to find that they ranged from the standard “Interaction Designer” up to managers and directors. I was a bit intimidated by the fact that there were two software engineers registered. This was going to be interesting. What would they think of my push to get designers involved in implementation, and how would they receive my approach to replacing JavaScript DOM manipulation with simple class swaps? Would they actually find the workshop valuable, or would it all be old hat? I would soon find out.

I presented my workshop, Sitting in the Driver’s Seat: creating production ready CSS, Sunday afternoon at Interaction 13. There were nine attendees, and everyone seemed to have learned something useful from it. Their technical abilities varied, but they were all able to follow along and understood, at least in concept, if they weren’t able to complete the more involved exercises on their own.

I began with an introductory slide deck that I’ve posted on Speaker Deck. I explained why I think it is important for designers working on web-based applications to not just understand HTML and CSS, but to master it, so that they can contribute directly to the production codebase. I talked about the tools they should be using, and then we got into the code. We started with a simple CSS formatting exercise in which they had to fix a CSS file to adhere to the formatting standards proposed by Nicolas Gallagher in his Idiomatic CSS. Then they used a diffing tool of their choice to compare their work against my corrected version.

After that warmup, we dove into OOCSS. I used Amazon’s homepage as an example, challenging them to reformat the “Get yourself a little something” component so that with a single class swap, it could be changed from the horizontal layout to a vertical layout, matching the “Best Sellers” column also found on Amazon.com.

Finally, we went over the benefits of defining state through CSS, rather than JavaScript. The attendees had to write CSS that would change the display of entries in a contact list, showing and hiding various elements,

In the end, while I could have used a little more time, I successfully fit the content into the three-hour event. Reactions were very positive, and I’m looking forward to giving the workshop again. So, what did the developers think? I’ll let Anton tell you about that in his own words