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Top Podcasts of 2008

by Jared M. Spool
on December 29, 2008

The following five podcasts, in no particular order, are considered
UIE’s favorite podcasts of 2008. Some of our favorite presenters at
UIE events are highlighted in these podcasts along with great insights
from UIE’s own Jared Spool.

Are there topics you want to see addressed in 2009? Let us know what they are
by sending us a comment on Twitter (@uie).

1: SpoolCast: Excelling at Interaction Design with Kim Goodwin,
published August 18, 2008

What is the difference between good and great interaction designers?

Jared Spool asked that question to Kim Cooper, VP of Design and General Manager at Cooper, one of the world’s premier design
consultancies, in San Francisco. She suggests that three traits of
great designers include design judgment, communication skills, and the
ability to observe people’s behavior and then design something that
can give them a good experience.

Design judgment is the ability to know if your solution is good or
not. Great designers have the ability to look at their own work with
a critical eye, and implement outside suggestions that make their
solutions better. Effective critique is essential.

  • The teams at Cooper follow the fifteen minute rule—if you’re
    experiencing difficulty with a design for fifteen minutes, get
    another brain in on the solution.
  • Critique early, critique often. Critiques test your solutions and
    challenge your assumptions.
  • Don’t have the advantage of a design team? Kim suggests that
    reading is a great supplier of continuous inspiration and education.
    Analyze well-designed products. Keep sharp by going out and meeting
    other designers.

  • Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad
    judgment. Failure is part of the system. Failure is an experience imperative to growth.
  • Communication skills are incredibly important. Active listening
    skills are important for extracting the most information out of a
    conversation. Active listening takes practice.
  • Listen thoughtfully and dig for the needs behind the words.
  • Approach any situation with the axiom “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

Kim has even more thoughts in the podcast about concise communication, time management and collaboration skills, you’ll want
to give it a listen.

2: SpoolCast: Creating a Culture of Innovation with Scott Berkun, published August 12, 2008

“We’re struggling with how to measure how well we are innovating […]
Are we innovating better this year than last year? How would I
know?”

If you work in a larger company and you haven’t heard a
statement like this, you’re going to. Innovation has become such a
buzzword, it’s nearly meaningless. But that doesn’t mean innovation
itself is dead. In this podcast, we sat down with Scott Berkun,
the dynamic speaker and author of The Myths of Innovation.

Innovation is critical, but it’s not being defined for those folks
challenged with implementing it. Innovation is hard work. Scott asks
that we face facts here; to find big, new ideas that will change
things for the better, will never be easy.

OK, how do we innovate? Scott suggests that the key word is risk.
The best organizations (Google, Apple, Pixar and 3M are offered as
examples) promote this through a culture where it’s OK to take
risks, where failure is acceptable if valuable lessons can be
learned. Whenever risks can be taken in a safe environment
innovation is much more likely to be successful.

Innovation happens in both small and large organizations, but in
large companies, it takes dedicated resources, and the expectation
of some amount of failure. Scott has found that in organizations
resistant to change, you can find success in pitching that
innovation is the tradition of the company.

As for Innovation and User Experience, in the early design stage
there’s a delicate balance between collecting data from users and
knowing where to take calculated risks that may run counter to the
data. When taking a different approach, don’t be afraid to step out
on a limb. Then test to see if it works.

Of course, this is just a taste of the half hour discussion with
Scott
, so you’ll want to listen to the entire podcast to get the most
out of Scott’s insights on the subject.

3: Usability Tools Podcast: Successful Web App Usability Techniques (2 parts), published February 7 and February 13, 2008

In this podcast, Brian Christiansen and Jared Spool explore
usability techniques for web-based applications. Web-based
applications are different from content-based web sites because the
users are involved in a transaction. When we’re researching the
usability of a content-based site, we’re focused on how users will
find and react to the information. However, with web-based
applications, there are many other considerations that we need to
account for.

Because this is a big topic, we’ve divided it into two podcasts. In
Part 1, Brian and Jared lay down the framework for what our
usability research needs to tell us about our web-based application.
In Part 2, we’ll look at the techniques for finding that
information.

Part 1, Jared and Brian cover:

  • The differences between hub-and-spoke and interview-based web applications
  • When in the design and development process we look to user research
  • 5 major classes of usability concerns to consider when testing web apps

Listen to part 1.

In part 2, Brian and Jared explore the usability technique toolbox,
focusing on those methods that help us with web-based applications. The episode starts with the basic usability test, moves onto
variants, then talks about field studies. In each case, Brian and
Jared explore the web-app specific advantages and talk about how to
get the information needed to make informed design decisions.

Listen to part 2 .

4: Usability Tools Podcast: Moderating Usability Tests (2 parts), published July 7 and July 22, 2008

In this episode of Usability Tools, Brian Christiansen and Jared Spool talk
about how to moderate a usability test. Turns out, the episode got
so long that we decided to break it into two parts. Part 1
focuses upon the different roles a single moderator needs to take on
during the session.

The usability test moderator has a lot of influence on the success
of the test. Moderating isn’t rocket science, but you’ll need to
understand the basics before you sit down with your users.

Jared covers the three roles a moderator needs to play during the
test.

First is the scientist. The scientist makes sure your tasks get
done, notes get taken, and keeps the show on track.

Then we have the sportscaster. The sportscaster gives play-by-play
so the design team members don’t miss anything the user does.

Lastly, there’s the role of the flight attendant. This is the most
important role. Keeping your test participant happy and comfortable
is your number one job.

Tune in to learn the specifics of each role and how they affect one another.

Part 2 focuses upon the step-by-step tasks of running the session
with a participant and your observers.

Good moderating is critically important to a successful session.
Here are a few points we touched upon in the show:

  • Practice and repetition improves your moderation skills. Start the session on the
    right foot by greeting your user on time and by laying out exactly what will happen during the session.
  • Inform your user of their rights as a participant; their comfort is key. Have and follow a testing protocol which will lead you through
    all the information, and through all the testing steps. It should also govern your observers.
  • End your session on time. Respecting the time of your participants and observers is paramount. Walk your user out, both out of
    politeness and because small talk may lead to critical insights.

Listen to part 2.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is the founder of User Interface Engineering. He spends his time working with the research teams at the company and helps clients understand how to solve their design problems. You can follow Jared on Twitter at @jmspool.