Article  |  UX

WebVisions 2011

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Allison, Brian, and I attended WebVisions in Portland, OR on May 26-27. It was a great event, and I appreciated that time limits for speakers were mostly set at 15-30 minutes. This made for a more energetic conference than most, and speakers needed to get to the point quickly or risk not getting time to make one at all.

I attended as many design related presentations as I could, and this year the talk in web design has shifted from visual design to emotional and interaction design. What makes a user return? What excites them? How can you guide them through your site? Having a pleasing visual design isn’t a big deal anymore, because now that’s just expected.

Kelly Goto had some interesting observations about anticipation and prediction in design. HBO’s familiar trademark show opening sound can build anticipation. The iPhone’s consistent Home button experience make you feel confident and more likely to explore the device. These ideas have always been around in web design, but now there’s a stronger focus on these emotional elements in addition to the usual static visual elements.

Rachel Hinman feels we’ve evolved past GUI (graphic user interface) into NUI (natural user interface). Do you remember when the CLI (command line interface) was all we had? Now we have the NUI, where the interface can understand and evoke context, intuition, and direct manipulation. It’s no longer “what you see is what you get,” but “what you do is what you get.”

James Reffell pointed out some great lessons that designers could learn from pen and paper roleplaying games. One is to add risk and reward to make interaction emotional and compelling. Think about how you feel when you bid on something on eBay. You could win something at a great price, or you could get your hopes up too high while someone outbids you at the last moment. How can we add anticipation and risk like this to other types of websites?

Knowing how to design and write HTML/CSS used to be enough, but now designers need to be aware of interaction, accessibility, context, and emotion. I’m excited for the future of design, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see impressive innovation as we all grow with the changes.

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