Highlights of SIGCHI.nl 2005

Yesterday, the 2005 conference of SIGCHI.nl was held in Den Haag. I have not been a frequent visitor of SIGCHI events, but I must say yesterday was worthwile. Here are the highlights.

The opening keynote was delivered by Thomas Vander Wal (already in the neighborhood for the EuroIA Summit this weekend), who presented his ‘Personal InfoCloud‘ and ‘Model of Attraction‘. I missed his presentation earlier this year in Montreal, so I very much enjoyed this presentation. Thomas describes a concept of taking your information (info you created or gathered) with you whereever whenever. Finding information is relatively easy these days, but how do you quickly access all information you have collected? The key properties of the Personal InfoCloud are: person-centered, continuous access, organization for oneself and awareness of tasks, actions and context.

Next I attended Peter Boersma’s high-speed introduction to User Centered Design (UCD). He tried to talk his way through 150 slides in less than an hour. Although primarily aimed at novices, I left the presentation with some handy notes myself, like www.welie.com which is a useful resource for UI design patterns. Peter led the audience through the UCD method and stressed out the role of the user (“Where is the user?”) in each of the steps.

Eefke Smit (director Elsevier Amsterdam) shared her experience (presentation) how designing for user experience (DUX), or as she called it: Evidence-based Development, helped making Elsevier’s web product ‘Scopus’ a success. It was great seeing a business owner advocate the importance of usability. Eefke also showed a graph which visualizes the ROI of usability (see image). If you invest in usability from the start of your project, the total cost and the time-to-market will be higher than without, but the time-to-profit is shorter and the ultimate profit will be higher. According to her, this applies to (almost) every project.

The conference was rounded off with a keynote by Eric Reiss, who held an animated presentation about innovation vs. best practice. Eric disputes that innovation is to be defined as ‘introducing something new’. He argues that there is only one reason to innovate: solving a problem. On the other side of innovation stands ‘best practice’. Following a best practice is good, as long as you don’t confuse it with tradition or habit (what happens if you stick to a best practice for too long). Conclusion: There’s nothing wrong with following best practices, but things tend to change and today’s best practice is tomorrow’s habit. We need innovation and for that, we need people who break the rules.

Update 17-Nov: SIGCHI.nl’s own overview of the day (in Dutch)