WebVisions Barcelona: talk notes

I was honoured to be part of this year's WebVisions Barcelona line-up. Interesting content, a super-friendly audience and vibe, and the WebVisions team are lovely hosts.  

The slides (pdf) are up on Slideshare:

As creative people, we experiment in our work. We try out different ways of solving a problem, different layouts, we play around a bit. However, when it comes to collaboration and team work, we can get stuck in our ways and in the roles we assume. My goal for the talk, and reason for choosing this topic, was to encourage attendees to experiment more with how they work with others.

I talked about what has helped me collaborate better - both practical 'hacks' and theory -, grouped into three areas:

  • Space & Context
  • Skills & Toolkit
  • Purpose & Values

Space & Context

Consider what type of interaction you would like to achieve, and adapt the space you're in accordingly.

  • Encouraging active body postures, such as perching, are great for keeping people engaged.
  • Creating a 'campfire vibe' with low, informal seating facilitates interpersonal sharing.  
  • If your objective is to get people interested and involved in the work you do, consider where you put information radiators, and where you put yourself.  
  • Changing the context - moving e.g. from your desk to the sofa - can help you get mentally unstuck. I love walking meetings: moving your body helps your mind to move, and the sense of camaraderie can help with difficult conversations and conflicts.  

Skills & Toolkit

Collaborating with people who are different from ourselves, who bring a different background, approach or tools to the table, can result in better decisions and ideas. I introduced the concept of cognitive diversity, which is about our cognitive abilities and preferences.

Working in a way that makes us cognitively uncomfortable can result in frustration. Reflecting on my choice of tools and processes, and what they say about my cognitive preferences, has helped me understand why I struggle in certain situations.

A facilitation toolbox can help you benefit from different approaches and preferences in your team. Mix verbal with visual techniques. Hack how you pair programme or pair design. Try different ways of running your stand-ups and retrospectives. Change who facilitates.  

Purpose & Values

We often talk about vision. I'm interested in why we choose to believe in a certain vision, leader or company: in  values. When working with others, I try to understand their core motivations, their understanding of quality and craft, and what they enjoy. Having an honest, personal conversation about my values, my reasons to be creative, has helped me work better with others, and do better work.

Resources from my talk

Here's a list of books, talks and articles that fed directly into my talk:

Scott Doorley & Scott Witthoft, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Standford University. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration (2012).

Scott Page. The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, And Societies (2007).

Values and Frames: The Common Cause Handbook (2011).

Jean Tabaka. Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Software Project Leaders (2006).

Margaret Heffernan. Dare to Disagree. TED talk.

Michael Michalko. How Geniuses Think. The Creativity Post, April 28, 2012.

The pair design hack I talked about is based on Samuel Bowles' talk on the topic. http://www.scribd.com/doc/55672319/Extreme-Design

I mentioned the Rich Picture and the Business Model Canvas when talking about my own toolbox. I've written a brief description for each one here.

Sexism is not funny, let's stop laughing.

A talk at a conference showing girls in bikinis. An API presentation from a sponsor featuring ladies in bras. A demo at a hack day with a slide of women in underwear. A business model canvas workshop using a strip club as an example to illustrate the tool.

These are just a few examples of casual sexism I've experience at (tech) events. It's common for at least part of the audience to react with laughter - sexism is entertainment. I've observed that the photo, comment or story gets laughs from the audience, gets attention. No wonder it feels like it's ok.

When I was younger, I just swallowed my anger. It's hard to say something against a joke; I was worried I would be seen as the too easily offended feminist who can't take a joke. I didn't want to be the old lady telling the kids to stop their ball game. Using sexism in a humorous way makes it even harder to have the courage to speak up.

These days, I feed back to the person who made the joke. At events, I tweet and include the hashtag. Whenever I've approached a presenter and explained how this made me feel as a woman in the audience, I got an apology with the words: "It was meant to be a joke, I didn't mean any harm." Most of the guys were genuinely sorry and glad I made them aware of the damage they were doing.
Speaking up encourages other women to do the same; I've had tweets and emails of ladies saying they felt the same, thanking me for addressing the issue, or sharing their own story and how they tackled casual sexism. I'm so happy to see more ladies at tech and startup events. The first step to change the culture is to be there, and to speak up. We need more people to say that this is not ok.

If you attend an event and encounter sexism, speak up. Tell the speaker. Tell the organiser.
We, as an audience, should not reward these 'jokes'. They're not funny, they're sexist. We should all make a conscious effort to discourage this behaviour, and stop laughing.

Collaboration hacks - let's do great together. My talk at Reasons to be Creative, Brighton.

Brighton in September is the place to be, with tons of good events and interesting people in town for the Digital Festival. I had the honour of speaking at Reasons to be Creative, a 3-day conference bringing together people from interactive media, web design, illustration, installation art, and technology.

Be deliberate about how you collaborate with others

As creative people, it's natural for us to work iteratively. We explore different approaches to solve a technical problem. We try out and compare different layouts. We play around with fonts, colours, gradients.

When it comes to working with other people, we stop to experiment with new things, and instead stick to tried-and-tested ways of working. In my talk, I aimed to encourage people to try out different 'thinking tools' and facilitation techniques. I invited attendees to reflect on their own toolbox, and their own cognitive needs and preferences. How an individual learns and remembers things, how an individual prefers to express herself, can have a big impact on how well she works with others. 

In a nutshell, this is what my talk was about. It was more personal than any other talk I have given, and I decided to include a rather risky, unusual bit of audience participation. I'm hoping to adapt it and give an improved version of the talk again, so I won't be sharing the slides or a full write-up here. An attendee called me 'a dark horse', which is awesome, so I don't want to take the surprise element away from future audiences!

Rather, I will tell you what I've learned about presenting, and at the end of this post you can find all the resources I reference in my talk.

How to create empathy with your audience and keep them engaged

When preparing for a talk, I like to watch videos of presentations that got great feedback, like the Stefan Sagmeister talk at Flash on the Beach, or some of the sessions recorded at last year's Build conference. Many good speakers use a personal story or anecdote to create empathy with the audience, and ideally this personal story is revelant to the topic of the talk, and used again in the end to bring it all together.

An hour is long for a talk, especially after lunch. My personal story worked well to get the audience's attention, and eased people in. It also helped me to relax into the talk. It takes preparation to tell a good story well, but once you have the structure nailed, it's very easy to tell, and made me feel comfortable on stage. So, it's interesting for the audience, and it's useful for you.

I was on at the last day, hence in front of people weakened by late nights and overly full brains. People can't pay attention for too long, so if you're giving a long presentation, consider breaking it up. Matt Sheret recommended to tell a joke, and while he is good at that, I'm not. My talk was about collaboration, so I decided to include a collaboration exercise halfway through.

Use music to facilitate audience participation

My collaboration exercise was the one bit I was worried about, as it was unpredictable. No one else at the conference had done any large-scale audience interaction, hence I had to plan time in for people to form teams. It can cost time to get people's attention back. I don't like to shush people or clap or shout, so I used music.

During exercises, have music running on lower volume, ideally music with no lyrics. Turn the music off when you want to shift attention back to you. I know this is effective in workshops, but even in such a large room it worked like magic. Maybe it was the well-behaved audience, but as soon as the music stopped, people shut up and turned to me. The whole exercise took less time than expected, and in the end I finished the talk with time for questions.

I also play my own music before the talk, usually a song I listened to while preparing and rehearsing (to make me feel comfortable, and to create a vibe). My playlist for this one:

  • Cyanide Sisters - Com Truise
  • Korock - Holy Fuck
  • Never Stop - The Bad Plus
  • Anthem For The Earnest - The Bad Plus
  • Northern Something - Tortoise

Resources from my talk

I'm obsessively intersted in collaboration, hence have read a lot on the topic over the past few years. Here's a list of books, talks and articles that fed directly into my talk:

Scott Doorley & Scott Witthoft, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Standford University. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration (2012).

Scott Page. The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, And Societies (2007).

Values and Frames: The Common Cause Handbook (2011).

Jean Tabaka. Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Software Project Leaders (2006).

Margaret Heffernan. Dare to Disagree. TED talk.

Michael Michalko. How Geniuses Think. The Creativity Post, April 28, 2012.

I mentioed the Rich Picture and the Business Model Canvas when talking about my own toolbox. I've written a brief description for each one here.

Let's talk while we walk. Introducing my Walking Office Hours.

Walk with me.

I'm finally trying oHours. But instead of just sitting down for a coffee, I invite you to walk with me. Grab a coffee and walk around. Walk to a cafe and back. Walk from Old St to Soho or Liverpool St or the Southbank or Dalston or... Join me for part of my walk home (Old St to Brixton). Or suggest a route. You can see when I'm free here.

You don't need to sit to think.

Last weekend, Lean Startup Machine invited me back to give a talk, mentor and judge at their London event. It's an honour, it's fun, and I really enjoy seeing different teams in action, trying to help them. As always after these events, there's a desire to continue conversations, so: let's meet for coffee?

I get 'coffee advice requests' quite often, and I ask people to help and mentor me and listen to me, too. In the past, I've sat down and talked with people about

  • their/my next career move
  • customer development goals and how UX research techniques could help
  • quick 'UX surgery' on their/my product/prototype
  • what UX help they would need and how to find the right person to work with
  • their/my idea or project
  • how business models reflect social impact and how we can measure social ROI
  • agile and UX and collaboration
  • hackdays, DesignJam, event stuff
  • how to write a conference proposal, how to prepare a talk
  • and lots of other random topics of mutual interest.

I love these conversations; giving and receiving the gift of attention, one-to-one or in a very small group. I'd like to have more of them. But I don't want to spend even more time sitting and drinking and snacking.

Talking while walking is special.

Some of the best conversations of my life happened while I was walking with another person. Or on the phone with them while walking around. Moving your body allows the conversation to flow.

Of course, sometimes you need to look at something, sketch on a big piece of paper, get your thoughts in order with post-its. In this case, why don't we walk to the coffee place/bar, externalise our thoughts, and then walk back?

Connecting the dots - my talk at Frontiers of Interaction 2012, Rome

I was honoured to be ask to speak at last week's Frontiers of Interaction conference in sunny Rome, Italy. A video will be available soon, but in the meantime, here are my slides with notes summarising my talk.

Connecting the dots - Frontiers of Interaction 2012

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johanna kollmann

As designers, developers, entrepreneurs, we have to find creative solutions, make decisions, see the bigger picture. I've been reflecting on my ability to connect the dots, to see connections that were not obvious, and how my skills and practice impact how I decide what to do next.

My current experience at

Sidekick Studios

inspired this talk. Sidekick do their own startups, and offer consulting services that embrace a design-led and startup-inspired approach. Leading one of the ventures allows me to combine the things I love and put them into practice: User Experience, Systems Thinking, Agile and Lean Startup.

During the last months working on League of Meals, we had our ups and downs, big learnings, and decision points. When do you persevere, when do you pivot? What impacts how I navigate uncertainty in a fast-paced enviroment with time and budget constraints? Reflecting on myself, and on our team's collaboration, I read up on cognitive psychology, abductive reasoning, and creativity. I found that three things impact how I decide what to do next.

1) Toolkit

How we approach a creative challenge, how we make sense of the world is influenced by the tools we pick up as part of our education and work, from others, from literature, from blog posts.

Tools like

affinity sorting or the

KJ technique

are about getting things held in your brain (like ideas, research data, etc) out on index cards quickly. Lay them out, see connections, create groups, label the groups, create hierarchies, prioritise. An approach that helps me to see through the data.

Experience mapping

and tools like a service blueprint have taught me the value of organising insights, features, etc. on a timeline. Understand and abstract human behaviour, think in scenarios, map out interactions.


rich picture

is a tool I picked up from systems thinking, specifically Peter Checkland. I'm explaining it a bit more in this talk. A rich picture invites you to map out all the actors and stakeholders in your system or business context: customers, colleagues, partners, organisations, databases, etc. By encouraging you to think about their roles, motivations and goals, it's a great tool for looking at a situation from a different perspective, a tool for empathy. How are all actors connected? Where are (potential) conflicts? What happens if you change the system eg by drawing a new connection? It got me thinking more about how things fit togehter, and how a context looks different for everybody within in.


business model canvas

by Alexander Osterwalder is valuable to me because it brings different perspectives - customer and business - together. It helps me to combine empathy for people with a better understanding of how a business delivers customer value.

Lean Startup and customer development

are grounded in learning. Build - get your idea out there quickly. Measure - expose it to customers, capture feedback. Learn - reflect on the information you have now, and decide what to do next. It has given me a framework, a more structure approach to capture what I know, what I assume, and what I need to know; then I decide which tool and approach are most suitable. Applying Lean Startup has also encouraged me to keep learning and pick up new tools and perspectives, eg. cohort analysis.

In his book, Scott Page

describes how our ability to apply different tools and perspectives to a situation is key for finding creative solutions. I find that the more perspectives I add to my toolkit, the better my problem-solvind skills get.

2) Collaborate

A 'Balanced Team' is diverse in background and skillset. Amongst them, members should know about user experience and design, product strategy, marketing, business, technology, and more. These different perspectives can enhance the quality of work. I've seen the magic happen when reviewing sketches with developers, when mapping out a customer journey with retail store employees, or when being asked the best questions from a business-savvy mentor.

This is diversity, but

Scott Page

also writes about a different one:

cognitive diversity

. I'm a kinetic, a tactile learner, and the tools I pick reflect that. Moving index cards around, putting brown paper on walls, going for 'walking meetings' instead of sitting down, doodling while I think. Collaborating with people that have different cognitive tools to you can be challenging, but so worthwhile. Are you a visual thinker or a word person? Are you comfortable jumping into making and doing, or do you need time to research and quietly get your thoughts in order first?

I feel we do not really consider our own and others' cognitive preferences and needs. Reflecting on myself and observing others has helped me understand where they are coming from, and I aim to be more open to perspectives I don't feel comfortable with.

Collaboration is hard, sharing a vision, a common goal helps us to harness our differences rather than resulting in creative conflict.

But why do we identify with a vision, share a goal, believe in a company?

3) Values

Values represent our guiding principles: our broadest motivations, influencing the attitudes we hold and how we act (

Common Cause Handbook, 2011


The Common Cause handbook groups values into intrinsic and extrinsic values. We all hold all of these values, we just weigh them differently. Values are contextual; our actions can be fairly divergent from our dominant values. I have personal value conflicts: I want to show less ego and value self-accptance, however I seek out peer approval. As a business, we have an intrinsically motivated mission, but framing what we do in order to attract clients or investors might require addressing external values.

At League of Meals, we took time to share reflections on our personal values, and how they impact both they Why and the How of what we're doing. Which helped us to align, and decide what to do next.

So, in a nutshell:

  • Enhance your toolkit and explore new perspectives.
  • Seek out people who approach things differently to you.
  • Reflect on what grounds you.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

UX research tips for customer development - notes from my session at Leancamp London 2

Notes and a list of resources from my talk at Leancamp London 2. I also added some bits I forgot to mention.
(I gave a longer talk with a similar topic, but different focus and audience at Lean UX Machine Tel Aviv, the mini Leancamp in Edinburgh, and at Lean Startup Machine London and Pakistan.)

We make assumptions about our customers and users. I love that lean startup encourages validating these with real data, but quantitative and qualitative (i.e. talking to people!). We aim to understand our customers' needs and problems, how they are reaching their goals now, and what our product or service could do to help them.
We have to think on our feet every day and decide on the best, most effective way to find out more about our customers and check if our hypotheses are correct.

To get better at this, to collect better data, I urge you to look into UX. A wealth of techniques, materials and advice. Here is how I structure my UX research toolbox:

There are methods to get quantitative or qualitative results, and generative (i.e. creating new insights) or evaluative (such as a usability test) feedback. I learned at university that for a good experiment you need to ensure triangulation. Which simply means: use more than one method. For example, if I'm using an evaluative method like a usability test, I combine it with a generative interview at the beginning of the session. If I'm doing early-stage qualitative customer development interviews, I might also do a survey about a specific aspect I'm investigating.

Research tips

1. State your goals clearly
Write down and/or visualise your assumptions, and what you need to find out.
We used the business model canvas as a tool to capture our assumptions about the customers and value propositions.
If you hypothesise with your team about your customers, make it tangible! We found behavioural variables useful: what attitudes and behaviours do you expect, i.e. do you have to validate? Creating a provisional persona (also referred to as proto-persona) can be helpful to visualise your assumptions about customer goals and behaviour.

Our assumptions were grounded in some research and background information, and especially trying to make the persona made it pretty obvious what we didn't know, and what seemed like risky leaps of faith. In an early stage, when you are still searching for problem-solution fit, an important goal for me is to find out if people care, if there is any emotional response to our idea. Indifference is the worst.

2. Think before you talk!
Please don't just run outside of the building. A small amount of planning will help you to get better results. 

For planning interviews, I like to use a topic map to lay out the problem space. Example: If you are, like I am right now, interested in older people's attitudes towards cooking, high-level topics on your map might be frequency of cooking, types of food, social interactions, frustrations and more. Agree with your team what topics you need to find out about. This makes it easier to ensure interviews stay useful and on track. 

I tend to use prompts rather than writing out questions. Remember, an interview is not a survey! You want to make people talk to you and ask open questions. To get the conversation started, it's useful to have a softball question ready. This is a question that is easy to answer. As an example, when we were approaching older people on the street for some short guerrilla interviews, we made sure we caught them while grocery shopping and simply asked them what they were buying (or had bought) today.

Be smart about how you go about finding out more about people.
Example: we wanted to find out about people's relationship with their family. This is a sensitive topic, so by asking them to share a story about a family recipe, and if/how they have been passing that on, we got to hear a lot about their personal life without appearing intrusive. 

Finally, please please please, especially before you do something quantitative and unmoderated like a survey, usability test your questions! Ask someone to fill in your survey in front of you before you send it out. If they struggle and ask you for clarification, you need to improve your questions.

3. Consider where to find people with relevant experience to talk to
Lots of UX folks use Gumtree and social networks for recruiting (if the customers are lurking in the general public). For more general topics, this can be enough. If you want to make sure you get the right people, you can send them from Gumtree or Facebook to a short survey. Especially with interviews, you want to make sure that you get people who have relevant experience that they can remember and share with you. 
There are great tools such as ethnio out there to catch customers 'in the act' while browsing your website, and recruit them right there and then for a remote interview or usability test.

If you need to get hold of people in the wild, think about when and where they are bored = have time. You want to do guerrilla interviews with young mothers? Don't look for them in the supermarket or on the street, look on google for the nearest playgrounds. Think about where people are waiting, queueing, smoking? If you're after businesses, when is the least busiest time?

4. During the interview: LISTEN!
Practice asking open-ended questions: start with who, what, when, where, how, and why. Say, 'tell me more about that'. You want people to tell you stories. Give people time to think. 
Janice Fraser from LUXr shares some great all-purpose questions in this interview
  • Has there ever been a time when you had x experience?
  • Could you tell me about that?
  • What was great about that?
  • What was awful about that?
  • Why did you do that?
  • And then, what happened?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you make the situation be like?

5. Make the findings explicit
I like to team up when doing interviews - one person can focus on talking, while the other one takes notes. 
I analyse notes by grouping them into learnings and new insights. I check my assumptions, and force myself to write down 'yes, x was confirmed by...', or 'no, we were wrong about x, because...'. I also capture for what we didn't get any data.
Janice recommends this quick way of analysis by Rachel Hinman that I find very helpful:
  • What we heard/what we saw (one post-it per finding)
  • What it means
  • Why it matters

During the group discussion at the end of my session, we shared lots of other useful tips. 

  • If you work in an industry where it's hard to get access to end users (example was finance), train your sales team in open interview techniques. Make everybody who has contact with customers your proxy.
  • Be the customer service centre, take their calls. Ready For Zero do this - here's a post from their CEO about this, and UX Director Loren Baxter gave a longer interview for FastCoDesign.

I didn't take notes of everything we discussed, so if you were there and remember, please add in a comment!


So much is out there, but here are some favourites:
  • 'Mental Models' by Indi Young
  • 'Storytelling for User Experience' by Whitney Quesenbery & Kevin Brooks
  • 'Remote Research' by Nate Bolt & Toni Tulathimutte
  • 'Undercover User Experience' by Cennydd Bowles
  • 'Designing for the Digital Age' by Kim Goodwin
  • LUXr resources and materials by Janice Fraser and Lane Halley
  • The many useful articles on User Interface Engineering's site

So I'm trying to work on stuff that matters. Yes, really!

After finishing school, I took a gap year. To enhance my knowledge of the world, and to grow up - but not through travelling. Instead, I supported mentally disabled artists for a year in an art therapy group. I've always been volunteering: organising summer camps for children, selling cakes for charity, mentoring a teenager in London ( plus I also sold and drank alcohol to get money for a good cause...). My MSc project for Siemens focused on the workflow of outpatient care nurses, and those of you who know me better know why I care a lot about how my generation will deal with aging parents. 

Combine that with my passion for agile and lean startup, the desire to work in a balanced team, and my interest in the overlap between UX and product management, and it should be pretty obvious to you why I joined Sidekick Studios at the beginning of this year. You can read my intro and see a current photo of me on the Sidekick blog.

I'm currently working on getting a concept in the context of older people, communities and food from idea to reality. I aim to share my progress and learning here, kicking lazy blogger me back into action.

IA Summit - a selection of sessions you should check out

The programme at this year's IA Summit was one of the best I've seen at a UX conference in a long time.

The quality of sessions was consistently high, and first-time speakers impressed thanks to the mentoring scheme the committee had set up. This makes it hard to choose highlights. Below is a list of the talks I recommend to my team, grouped by theme. My own talk didn't seem to fit under one topic, so you can read more about it here. For a full list, see Martin Belam's collection of links and materials.


If you can only spare time for one talk, read Cennydd Bowles' closing plenary speech.
When the podcast is available, make sure you check out Jared Spool's keynote. In the meantime, get your hit of Spool here.


Cross-channel and service design
Samantha Starmer shared 5 principles, 5 methods, and 5 tools for creating cross-channel experiences (yes we like lists!). She illustrated these with great stories and examples, also from her work at retailer REI, and recommended a library of service design tools. If you work on retail projects, make sure to take a look.


Content strategy
Start with Karen McGrane's 'We are all content strategists now' (the slides are from IDEA). 
Think about tone of voice and copy with Carl Collins' excellent 'Interfaces are made of words' and his http://dl.dropbox.com/u/185901/Words_vs_Deeds/Writing_presentation/writing_ia...">activity sheet. 
Wondering how to get started? Carrie Dennison tells you how to do content strategy on a shoestring budget. 
Karen also gave a workshop, I'm hoping that slides will be available some time, as they contain more examples of content strategy tools.


'Lean UX: Getting out of the deliverables business' by Jeff Gothelf is a must. Check out the slides or read the Smashing Magazine article
I enjoyed the case study 'Letting Go of Perfection: Developing IA Agility' presented by Serena Rosenhan, Joanna Markel and Chris Farnum from ProQuest. 
I didn't attend Joe Sokohl's workshop 'Nailing it down - Detailed design to preserve the UX vision', wish I had - wondering what discussions were had about (just enough) detailed design.


Data, analytics, measures
Data, web analytics and how to measure the value UX adds was a big topic at the Summit. Louis Rosenfeld addressed it in his keynote, Lynne Polischiuk and Julie Strothman shared stories and examples why it matters and how you get started, and Richard Dalton gave a practical guide to measuring UX.


Visual design
I missed Kim Bieler's 'Flab to Fab' talk, but the slides have excellent examples that will prove to everyone what difference visual design decisions make and why attention to details matters.


Domain models! URIs! I missed Mike Atherton's talk 'Beyond the Polar Bear' about a large IA project at the BBC, but luckily saw his great karaoke performance.


Designing for women
And finally, if you design for women, Jessica Irvins' 'Shrink it and pink it' session is great, and you might also want to check out what Cheryl Platz had to say about women and interaction design at Interaction11 (there's also a video).

Site map creation tools for content audits

I asked on Twitter:

"Looking for an automatic site map creation tool for content audits. Recommendations? Is Powermapper any good?"

Powermapper got support and good feedback! Other tools recommended were WinWSD, SortSite, iGooMap, Integrity, SiteOrbiter, or Xenu in combination with MindManager.

Here are your answers:

@davewpetersen: WinWSD ia brute force tool & SortSite (more tech audit oriented)
@amyk1203: powermapper is a good for starting an inventory. Support response is quick too.
@logorrhoea: I use iGooMap (Mac only, I think). Or try Integrity (also Mac, donationware, I think).
@leannebyrom: Powermapper works really well for site mapping
@doriantaylor: there is also SiteOrbiter
@boonerang: I rely on Xenu to get the crawl data right then port to MindManager or other tools
@guerillagirl_ pointed to the Omnigraffle Site Map generator
@carlrc Let me know if you find one. I use integrity to crawl links and then edit down that data in excel

Thanks, all!

Reflections on my involvement with the UK UPA

This is my personal opinion, and I haven’t shared these thoughts with my fellow committee members before posting. They will probably disagree with some points.

When I moved to London in 2007, there was one monthly opportunity for me to network, learn about the London UX job market, find interviewees for my MSc thesis, and enhance my education by adding relevant talks from practitioners to my lectures at UCLIC: the UK UPA event. It’s where I made the connections that would then lead me to attend the first UX Bookclub or discover the then-small London IA pub meetups. I love the London UX scene, it has been great to see it grow to a self-organising community with many different events, from bookclub to field trip to barcamp to speaker coaching sessions.

My main reason for joining the committee were the events. I wanted to make sure that future students and people new to London, or to UX, had a friendly starting point. Before moving to London, I was more of an interaction design/IxDA kid, to whom the UPA seemed like an old aunt. The London UPA felt different, thanks to Claire, Lola, Hannah and others involved. The events are still successful, which makes me happy.

The summer elections, new committee members and especially the feedback the committee received were a wake-up call for me. Yep, I had been helping out with events, but have to admit I did little else. While not all criticism was constructive, it pushed me out of my comfort zone. Leisa’s blogpost has done the same thing, and it’s good that the discussion is now public. Hence my contribution.

I have been very critical about the committee. Other committee members aren’t on Twitter! They don’t know about London IA, book club, and the UX scene! They don’t know the UX blog of the day! They are suggesting event topics that sound boring! I was so narrow-minded and arrogant. While I engage with ‘my’ part of the UX community, other committee members connect with academia, ergonomics or human factors folks, and attend events on product design or accessibility. The UPA tries to reach wider, and the diversity of the committee is thanks to election, not selection. I’ve realised that some of my fellow committee members are not disconnected from the UX community, they are connected to different communities that make up our field.

I continue to be frustrated with the global UPA. Does the benefit of being part of a global organisation outweigh the constraints and red tape? The first European-based global president has made a difference, and the UPA has great people. I wish it would feel more like a global community. I’m not sure if I want the UK UPA to break free, but I’d like to see memberships (and money) in local hands. At the moment, I wouldn’t ask you to become a member. I’d rather see you pay for our events. If all of you would join, food and drink would be history. The benefit of being a global member is not clear to me, and I’m part of the organisation. This is wrong. The committee is discussing what to do, and opinions differ. We will share our thoughts and involve our members and non-members. I’m the international liaison person on the committee, so rather than complaining about the global UPA, I better collect input, get a plan together, publicise it, and reach out to the mothership.

We suck at communications. The focus on events has left no time to work on the underlying strategic problems. No one knows what the community is up to. I only learned about the valuable different backgrounds and interests of committee members by being on the committee. We’re not a UK UPA. One response to tackling all these issues are the current elections. I’m excited by the candidates. We need someone based outside of London, we need someone to improve our communications, we need another person to work on professional development initiatives.

Don’t let the things you can’t do stop you from doing the things you can do. It seemed like we were making up too many excuses, right? Lack of communication slapping us in the face. We’re doing. Despite all criticism, the new website is an improvement and I’m thankful for the push to get this live. The committee has been meeting more frequently, for all of us to get to know each other, and to tackle the strategic problems. Yes it’s taking long, and we’re still not sharing enough, but please bear with us. I’m working on suggestions to improve visibility and accountability of what we’re up to, and on improving our communications, together with the currently-to-be-elected new comms person. Stuart and I are looking into our speaker selection process - given the number of people who want to present, we need to be transparent about how we decide who gets the slot. If you have input for any of these activities, please let me know.

The committee is the most challenging of all my UX activities. Being part of an elected group of volunteers feels different. I feel even more responsible. I’m glad I’m not a politician. Democracy, transparency, member input, all bloody hard. I love Meetup to group-organise the Agile UX events. Design Jam is a new format, our group of London organisers shares a clear vision for it. The Agile UX retreat peer group shares a vision, but communicating what it's all about is a challenge. I'm learning from these other volunteer activities, and they benefit from my reflections on my UK UPA involvement.
Organising something more or less on my own allows me to make things happen quickly. Putting on something new with a small team of friends has a start-up feel to it, we experiment, we tweak, we own. Trying to figure out how a peer group that's held together by offline retreats can grow, and share with a wider online audience, is fascinating.
Due to its history and set-up, the UK UPA is a different beast. Some think it’s ugly, some think it’s beautiful. I’m happy that there is a discussion, that Leisa, Ian, my fellow committee members and all of you who have tweeted, commented, DMed and talked to me do care. That gives me the energy to try to make this work.

Agile, UX & Startups

The topic for this week’s London agile ux event (organised via the meetup group) was ‘Startups’ - small companies, where the need for good teamwork and the shared love for the product you’re building with the desire to ship often naturally create a collaborative, agile environment.

Collaboration allows us to step out of our silos and define the role we take in our team based on our skills, and based on what needs to be done. Being the sole UX person at a startup is a growth opportunity, but it can be very though - so little time, so much to do. Sjors Timmer has been there, and he shared his favourite tricks and tools (many of them built by startups) that allowed him to do good work under time and budget constraints. When you research a topic or competitors, use delicious as a search engine. Look out for how people share their sketches, wires and designs on Flickr. Use Posterous to build up your inspiration archive (check out Sjors’ posterous). Look at this list of tools (on Sjors' slides), find a way to do your work better, there’s so much out there to support you that there’s no excuse. Thanks for sharing, Sjors!

From being the UX team of one at a startup to being a team of UX freelancers whose client is a startup. Andrew Travers shared his story of ‘the project from hell that turned out to be great.’ One week to deliver a UX strategy, moodboards, a design concept, a presentation - oh, and also three days of research and usability testing. Sounds scary. So what made this project a success story?
Factor 1: the team. On such a short project, the time it takes to establish the team and find a way of working can be the biggest challenge. Andrew referenced Hannah Donovan’s excellent dConstruct 2010 talk: musicians who improvise together listen to each other, have eye contact, and they also hand-pick who they play with. Andrew’s project team was thoughtfully put together by Leisa Reichelt. Also, the client was continuously involved, so the UX consultant team and the client team felt like a team, too.
Factor 2: proximity. Not only the UX and client team were close, they kept their end users close, too. Yes, it was tough to squeeze in three days of research, iterating the prototype for the next session based on the insights from the one that was going on. But moving this quickly did not only help to prioritise what aspects of the service really added value for users, it also allowed the startup to validate once more that they were on the right track, and got everybody excited.
Factor 3: intensity. Startups are intense, if you do a project with them it’s not ‘just another project’ - it’s about their business, their existence. What you’re designing is the manifestation of their business. Hence when you’re dealing with a startup, all UX is strategic.
Andrew’s slides are available here.

The final talk of the day was by Basheera Khan, co-founder and UX Director of startup Play Nice.ly. Startups are ‘agile by design’ as they attract people with entrepreneurial mindsets, who are driven and willing to try new things. Startups have a high number of ‘T-shaped’ people (as discussed by Bill Moggeridge): one speciality, and working knowledge of lots of other stuff. Natural if there’s lots to do, and only a small team to do it. At Play Nice.ly, collaboration is intense. The product vision is omnipresent and discussed constantly. Skills over roles, a shared understanding of what the product is about, open discussions, having fun together - in her talk, Bash reflected on why this dies as soon as a company reaches a certain size.
One important reason is the team, the people. For Andrew’s project, the team was hand-picked. Huddle co-founder Andy McLoughlin emphasised in this talk that you need to hire a team of peers, people who you want to spend all day with, every day. We see some companies, such as Twitter, taking this very seriously. Smaller companies are also brave enough to let people go who don’t fit in. In larger organisations, tough contracts and slow processes can make this challenging.

Bash's slides are here.

In the group discussion spinning off the final Q&A, we discussed how agile has principles and tools that could help to preserve the startup feel, to help to keep the team close and intensely engaged (an interesting read: Jean Tabaka’s ‘Collaboration Explained’). Retrospectives, visibility of work, collaborative planning sessions, etc. facilitate great teams, but often UX people are isolated by working ahead and running behind, hence left out of the ‘let’s build this’ excitement. An interesting point to follow up at a future meetup!

Thanks to Bash, Andrew and Sjors, and to Mat Walker for sorting out the venue. If you’d like to participate in the discussion, or have a great idea for a meetup, join our group here.

Group feedback needs facilitation and structure

Over the summer, I have been in several situations where feedback was collected from a group of contributors:

   * agile ux retreat retrospectives
   * internal design critique sessions
   * London IA presentation coaching workshop for Euro IA speakers

Each of these occasions followed a different process, which allowed me to compare and reflect on what makes a feedback round truly useful. It's often the simple, basic ingredients of successful collaboration we forget when working with others.

Group feedback needs facilitation and structure

Group communication that isn't leading to something tangible is lost communication. For the receivers, feedback should be actionable. The process should allow feedback contributors to combine their own reflections with those of others. For interested people who weren't present, a synthesis of all feedback can be valuable.

1. Process and structure
For the agile ux retrospectives, we used a format well-known from agile retrospectives. Each contributor records their feedback on post-its. All input is collected following a structure that has been agreed with the group. This can be 'good - room for improvement', 'positive - negative - ideas for improvement', 'less - more - start - stop' or whatever categories work best for the purpose of the session. After clustering feedback, either the facilitator presents a summary, or each contributor briefly talks about their inputs.

An agreed process and structure focus the feedback and prevent the session from going off-topic. These ground rules are helpful for making sense of and synthesising the feedback, which makes sharing the outcomes easier. A process also ensures that everybody can have input.
While I focused on group feedback, I've found agreeing a process - and a shared understanding of how to give and accept feedback - helpful in one-on-one feedback sessions.

2. Facilitation
At the London IA coaching workshop, I was both in the role of the audience giving feedback, and on the receiving end. The contributing group was rather large, and we had no agreed process, and no facilitator.
When you are the person receiving the feedback, you can't facilitate the discussion at the same time. A group feedback session needs to have a process owner, who ensures that everybody has a say, that the discussion is not going off topic - but also that the things that need to be said are being said. If the receiver and facilitator are the same person, there's a risk they'll protect their baby by shutting up the people who wanted to help with their input. So, the more personal the feedback is - your talk, your wireframes -, the more important is a neutral facilitator.

3. Note-taking and sharing
Our internal design critique sessions were very informal. For one, we all threw comments at a set of wireframes in a group discussion, while one team member took notes. For another, we individually commented on the designs using post-its.
While the second approach's advantage was individual time to think about the design, the first approach benefitted from the group discussion. Sharing our feedback meant we learned from each other, and it triggered further interesting discussion. That said, the group discussion critique session would have benefitted from notes being taken publicly on a flipchart rather than on a notepad - some good thoughts got lost in the heat and fun.
Make sure your contributors have the opportunity to share their thoughts, and visualise what has been said.

Deciding how to give feedback, appointing a facilitator, and making sure the discussion is recorded - common sense, but especially when winging collaboration sessions, I've overlooked how important these principles are. Next time, I'll look at my checklist. What other ground rules should I add to it?

What I learned about public speaking at IA Summit 2010

A few weeks back, I attended my first ever IA Summit, in Phoenix, Arizona. My only way to justify and afford overseas conferences is to be a speaker. So, in September last year, I submitted a proposal for IAS 10. I was gobsmacked when it got accepted. Scared. A lot.
What followed were months of research, events, interviews. Reading, writing, procrastinating, panicking. And then there I was, at the Summit, with a mic. You can listen to what I had to say here, and the slides are online here.

The Summit gave me a chance to present at a UX conference for the first time. The feedback I got was invaluable. I will approach preparing and presenting a talk differently next time. So, what did I learn?

Lesson 1:
My biggest take-away were the sketchnotes of people who attended my talk, especially those by Kate Rutter and Jackson Fox. Their visualisations of my talk are stuck in my head, and if I was to give the talk again, I would use some of these images to illustrate my story. (Look at Paul Adam's presentation for a good example). I need to introduce more visual thinking to my talks. Hence, it's not enough to do a dry-run in front of friends and colleagues. Next time, I will ask people in my practice sessions to not only take notes, but get at least one 'black pen' person in the room to take sketchnotes. After I'm done, spend a bit of time collaborating on improving a visualisation of my story.

Lesson 2:
I love the research phase of preparing a talk. For my IAS talk, I applied theory to practical projects. To make clear where I'm coming from, I started the talk with the theory, the research. It would have been better to start with a practical example, then introduce the theoretical ideas as we go along. Supported by a visual representation of the story. (Thanks for the feedback, Peter Merholz)

Lesson 3:
You won't learn how to do it, until you do it. It is scary to present in front of people whose opinion you value highly, who are good presenters themselves. But they won't judge you - they will help you grow by giving you great feedback. I expected myself to be perfect - but there are things you only learn by doing, by standing in front of others - not by practising, thinking, and staring at your slides.

The IA Summit was a good place for a speaking rookie like myself. UX folks are smart, passionate, critical, outspoken - scary. But we are also a friendly and helpful community. If you have something you are passionate about, and you can convey your passion and knowledge, then go and speak. If you forget words, fall off the stage, or make a bad joke - if I can tell that you care, I will listen.

If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough. The scary things in life are always worth doing.