February, 2008

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - Nima Motamedi


    Attention please! I'm very excited to launch the first edition of Design Student of the Month on CanUX. There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us.


    Who’s Nima?

    I am a designer completing my Masters degree in Interaction Design at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Prior, I studied Industrial Design at OCAD in Toronto.

    Since my background is in both industrial and interaction design, I have a strong expertise in tactile and tangible interfaces, haptics, embedded computing, tabletop computing, and gesture interfaces. At the same time however, I don’t consider design to encompass physical artefacts alone. I believe that true design is the social, cultural, and individual experiences that artefacts support, cultivate, and nurture. This is evident in my current research where I probe and create interactive technology through the lens aesthetics, emotion, and affect.

    What cool stuff is Nima doing?

    My graduate research explores the aesthetics of experience design with a specific focus on tactile, haptic and touch interfaces. From a theoretical perspective, I am interested in creating a framework, or a ‘language of touch’, so we can better discuss, design, and evaluate this emerging class of interaction style. At the same time, I am developing the technology required to adequately capture, and process touch, gesture, and object data to make sketching and prototyping of these systems more accessible and affordable for designers.

    Included is a video collection of my notable and published work (in chronological order). The first clip documents my current work in coupling HD-LCD display technology with touch and object sensing capabilities. The future goal of this project is to incorporate haptic feedback, continue building new tactile and haptic interfaces for communication, intimacy, and affect. Other notable works include “Keep in Touch” which is a networked tactile interface that allows people in two separate locations to communicate via touch, gesture, and body language. Also, “Under-Control” which is the first prototype of a touchpad located on the rear side small mobile screens featured in the book Sketching User Experience by Bill Buxton.

    What are Nima’s plans after graduation?

    After graduating I would like to continue my work with either a design firm or a company that has a strong interest in user experience design. Anyone interested in discussing opportunities may e-mail me at nimam@sfu.ca

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Interior Design Show 2008


    Yesterday I went to check out the Interior Design Show 2008. It's exciting to see the various trends and creative designs for everyday products. Because of my HCI background, I kept search for the great designs that are attractive and usable. I think in interior design context, "Usable Products" means the products can bring people comfort, convenience, and flexibility in addition to their functionality. Here are some interesting examples I saw.

    DSCN1344 DSCN1336 DSCN1345
    Convenient and flexible. Dinning table, chairs, and silverware container all in one design. The chairs can be collapsed under the table to save space. I also noticed that the surface of the chair is curved so that it's more comfortable for people to sit in. It works well for a simple dinning table but I'm not sure how would it work when there are more than 4 people at the table. Maybe more chairs can be mounted. Another Convenient and flexible example. Fridge draws under your counter - easy to get to when you cook food. There's no big fridge in the kitchen to occupy space. You can think about it as if the fridge divides into small coolers and can be placed wherever convenient (e.g. cabinets, draws,...). Cute and intelligent rabbits can give you peripheral awareness of the weather, time/appointments, new email or IM messengers, and other information you program it to connect to. This is a trend -  intelligent physical objects are coming to our homes and offices to be more than decorative objects. They help us be more productive in our busy days.
    DSCN1343 DSCN1332 DSCN1334
    Not sure about you, it really bothers to me to have a floor pattern of insects. It's definitely unique, but I don't know if your guests will appreciate it. With not so bright evening lighting, they may scream ``Ants!`` before they say ``Hello.`` :) This is a winning student (Alex Mohamed) design from Ryerson. The concept is really inspiring - think of your furniture as an extension of another piece of art. Brilliant! Another smart and very flexible design by a student (Laura HenneBerry) at OCAD. The couch is composed of layers of cloth flaps. Depending on how deep you want to sit, you can flip the flaps up. It becomes a bench when all the components are folded down. Although I couldn't sit down to see how comfortable it is, I like the out-of-box design thinking.
  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Microsoft Canada Development Center Visit


    Earlier this month, I had a chance to visit the brand new Microsoft Canada Development Center (MCDC). On the day of my visit, it was their second day of moving into their permanent home in Richmond at Greater Vancouver area. Everything is so new and people are exciting to get settled in the new space.


    DSCN1263We received tons of questions since fall last year when we announced the opening of the center. Parminder Singh, who is the Managing Director of MCDC, kindly offered to chat with me about his vision for the center, its short and long term development plan, the global perspective of the center, and opportunities to work in the center doing User Experience design and research work. Listen straight from the horse's mouth below.


    Here is a great video conducted by our friends at Microsoft job blog, which includes interviews with many people working at MCDC now.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    UX Focused Sessions at MIX08



    With only two weeks to go for MIX08, the conference is sold out again for the third year in a row! We have more than 100 Canadians attending from industry, academia, and community. As I was browsing the this year's sessions, I felt like a little girl in a candy store. It's hard to choose from so many great sessions, especially there's a lot more UX related content this year. Here are some of my top choices. The picture on the left is one of the winning restyles for MIX08 webiste, called Gung Hay Fat Choy.

    UX design beyond desktop: blending physical and virtual experience, connecting online and offline experience, and integrating various UX touch points such as desktop and mobile are my top UX topics. There are so many possibilities when you think beyond the desktop interface. Check out the following sessions to explore these topics further.

    • Beneath the Surface: The Natural Experience Vision - Daniel Makoski (Microsoft)

    Come hear how the Surface User Experience team is focusing on design and user experience as a key driver for creating more natural, intuitive and emotional products. Learn how Surface shifts the approach that has been used for more than thirty years of making users learn the language of computers and products to an entirely new approach where technology, computers, and products learn the language of people: touch, voice, and gesture.

    • Virgins, Spaceships and Hob-nailed Boots! - Paul Dawson

    Experience Design must go wider than simply 'the Web'-for any business. Using well known brands like Virgin and Harrods as case studies, you will learn how to create Experience Architectures that touch all customer interactions and how great offline customer experience can flow into digital media.

    • Take Your Content Mobile with Windows Mobile, Microsoft Expression, and Zumobi - Shannon Carter, Kyle Lampe, John Sangiovanni

    Come watch us debunk the myth that creating content for mobile phones is a limiting proposition. We demonstrate how the triple-play of Windows Mobile, Microsoft Expression and Zumobi can help you light up devices with your content (and make money doing it).

    Practical UX design and development: it's great to think big and design the whole experience but what are some handy advise when working on real world projects using Microsoft platform and technologies. In the following three sessions, our partners offer their first hand advise and best practice tips from their experience.

    • The Human Brain Relationship: Advanced and Adaptive User Interfaces - Ya'akov Greenshpan, Yochay Kiriaty

    Come learn how Windows Presentation Foundation can be used to create a flexible and adaptive UI that matches our cognitive abilities. Learn how to create a UI that solves the "too hard for beginners, and too easy for pros" problem. Find out what it takes to create real, efficient UX using adaptive UI, and review real production applications that implement the paradigm.

    • Making it Simple: Designer/Developer Workflow - Marcelo Marer (Avenue A Razorfish), Ken Azuma (Second Factory), Robby Ingebretsen (Identity Mine), Ryan Lane (Wunderman), Mark Ligameri (frog design), Christian Schormann (MODERATOR), Robert Tuttle (frog design)

    How do you combine a designer's vision with the requirements of productive software? Left brain/Right brain workflow is a sophisticated problem that impacts us all but has no easy answers. Industry experts will share their learnings and invite you to join in on a lively discussion about the merits and costs of different approaches.

    • Designing Next Generation User Interface Experiences with Microsoft Expression Blend and Windows Presentation Foundation - Johnathan Lansing, Stuart Mayhew, Nicholas Petterssen

    Learn how Electric Rain utilizes the power of .NET 3.5 (Windows Presentation Foundation / Windows Communication Foundation) to build its breakthrough StandOut user interface using Microsoft Expression Blend and Microsoft Visual Studio C#. This session covers early traditional user interface concept designs, using Blend and .NET 3.0 for 2D and 3D UI prototypes, and ultimately creating a final award-winning user interface experience. Find out what worked (and what didn't) and what you can apply to your own next-generation UX projects.

    Just UX: Independent of technology and design tools, how can we communicate our design vision, sell our designs to the business owners, and have a reliable work process that guarantees producing great user experience for our projects? The following sessions will provide some valuable insights.

    • Getting Clued In to Experience Management - Lou Carbone

    Experience Management thought leader and author Lou Carbone urges managing "experience clues", conscious and unconscious, because clues affect the emotions that shape customer attitudes that drive their behaviors. He stresses the need to adapt our business thinking from the "make and sell" approaches of the industrial age to "sensing and responding"-a dynamic change that requires new framing and competencies. He discusses how the systematic design and delivery of experiences can be achieved, and the immense impact this has on customer value, loyalty, and the bottom line.

    • What's the Secret Formula? - Dan Harrelson, Jensen Harris, Nishant Kothary, Daniel Makoski (Microsoft), Mike Schroepfer (Mozilla)

    We've built airplanes that travel faster than sound, ships that resemble small towns, rockets that take people to the moon, and phones that you can carry everywhere you go. Why is it, then, that we haven't found a way to build software that always looks good, feels good, and just works? Shouldn't it be easy in comparison? Is there a secret formula to building great software?

    • The Back of the Napkin: Solving Design Problems (and Selling Your Solutions) with Pictures - Dan Roam

    Let's face it: describing user experience is hard... unless we use pictures. This session demonstrates step-by-step how anyone, regardless of artistic talent or training, can use simple pictures to describe complex design and technical concepts, solve fuzzy problems, and sell others on breakthrough ideas.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    DreamSpark - No-Cost Software Access Program for Students



    This is super exciting news! I've been telling students about Channel8 and today on Channel8, we launched an unprecedented No-Cost Software Access Program called "DreamSpark."

    Microsoft DreamSpark ™ is a program that provides no-cost access to Microsoft designer and development tools for verified students around the world, to support and advance their learning and skills through technical design, technology, math, science and engineering activities. This program equips tomorrow’s developers with the professional tools to inspire and create today.

    Today, Microsoft DreamSpark is available to university students in Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., the U.S., and right here in Canada. The program will expand in the next six months to college students in many more countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe. Microsoft DreamSpark will be expanded to include high school students by late 2008.  Upon launch, students with a valid ISIC (International Student ID Card) will be accepted.  These cards can be obtained at 132 ISIC offices across Canada. Students can find a nearby location at www.isic.org. We will be rolling out a number of other verification means over the next 12 months.

    Check out the official news press: Microsoft DreamSpark Helps Ignite the Imaginations, Careers of Today’s Students

    Tools that are included in the program are:

    Microsoft developer tools. These professional-grade products provide a security-enhanced and reliable environment, enabling students to program everything from a cell phone to a robot or to create their own Web page. Students will also be able to invent compelling new gaming content and make their dream game a reality by porting their creations to their Xbox 360 console.

    Microsoft designer tools. This ultra-versatile suite of tools will enable students to vividly bring their creative visions to life in vibrant new Web site designs and more effective digital content, including animation, imagery and photography.

    Now you future designers out there can try out Expression tools for free and use them to work on your class design projects or your hobby projects.

    Microsoft platform resources. The foundation for development and design platforms, these products deliver a security-enhanced and reliable environment, reliable and manageable environment for students to more quickly turn ideas into reality.

    Some of you may be wondering how does DreamSpark differ from Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDN AA)?

    MSDN AA is an important program where Microsoft works with universities to put Microsoft software in the hands of students registered in a science, technology, math and/or engineering program. It will continue in close cooperation with schools around the world. MSDN AA is a paid membership program for college and university departments that enables them to issue software to their students. DreamSpark will allow all university students in countries where the program is available to quickly download select developer and designer software directly from Microsoft, versus going through their university departments.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    My Great Unpackaging Experience


    I rarely get excited about unpackaging new computer hardware because it seems more like a chore than something fun to do. However, I truly enjoyed my new Dell XPS M1330 unpacking experience. As a user, here's what I was thinking when opening the package. As a UX designer, I appreciate the customer-centric thinking.


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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Add Expression Web into your Design Sandbox



    Thought this might interest the web designers out there. Front Page has been replaced by Microsoft Expression Web, a professional web authoring tool that helps you design, develop and maintain standards-based Web sites. We are doing Expression Web upgrade promotion and you can receive a FREE 80GB hard drive. Check out details here.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    What's Happening at MIX08? - PartII


    MIX08 is less than 3 weeks! Following my previous post, here's more cool happening at this year's MIX:

    Dean Hachamovitch to show IE8 at MIX Keynote

    Dean Hachamovitch, the guy who runs the Internet Explorer team, will be one of our keynoters at MIX.  As he promised on the IE Blog, Dean is going to share more about Internet Explorer 8 including a sneak peek at some of the features his team have been hard at work on.  Dean’s keynote at MIX06 was one of the highlights of the inaugural MIX conference.  Since then, IE shipped a new version with a new UI and dramatically improved standards support, and the browser industry has heated up with an emphasis on web standards and new entries in the browser market.  You won’t want to miss this keynote to see how the next version of Internet Explorer is shaping up and learn how Internet Explorer 8 fits into today’s browser marketplace.

    Scott Guthrie answers the question, "What's Coming for MIX08?"
    In part one of this two-part interview, Scott Guthrie gives a preview of the technology that will be discussed at MIX.  Scott talks about IIS 7.0 for developers, how they've improved hosting scalability, improvements to configuration management and deployment with the recent release of Web Deployment project tools, and the improvements to production debugging and instrumentation.

    Scott Guthrie discusses how MIX08 is going to be larger than ever
    Scott explains how this year's MIX is bigger than ever! Covering everything from Windows Presentation Foundation improvements to Web development frameworks including Dynamic Data and the MVC Framework, to dropping some hints about upcoming tooling support, and the major improvements in Silverlight 2.0. Learn all this during Part 2 of a two-part interview.

    clip_image001"The King of Kong's" Steve Wiebe attempts to reclaim his title at MIX08

    Join middle-school science teacher, Steve Wiebe, on the evening of Tuesday, March 4th for a special MIX screening of New Line Cinema's "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.”   The movie, featuring Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell’s quest to see who is the true King of Kong, will be followed by a Q&A session with Steve, producer Ed Cunningham, and Twin Galaxies referee Walter Day. Then, on Wednesday, March 5th, watch Steve try to recapture his world record at the MIX attendee party at TAO!


    clip_image002Mix08 and The Pit Present: The Battle of the RockBands – Global Domination!

    We’ve got RockBand.  We’ve got a real stage, real lights, killer sound and huge plasma screens for playing and watching.  What else do you need?  A tourney, that’s what!

    Bring your best RockBand stored on a Xbox 360 Memory Unit, pick your best song and go head to head with other MIX08 attendee bands.  We’ll have two contests.  Get the highest score in the tournament and your band wins a real Fender guitar (pictured above:  Fender American Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar).  Show the most style as judged by the super sophisticated “Applause-O-Meter” and win an Xbox 360 Elite.  Come to play, play to win. 


    clip_image003On the evening of Thursday, March 6th, we'll break out the candy and popcorn while watching the best of our Show Off entries.  This is a great way to share your work with fellow developers and designers. Here are a few inspirational ideas about our MIX08 Contests, and here are a few more that seem like they'd be audience favorites: Andrew Rudson's Drum Machine for your Rock Band drum set, the vision-guided fireball-throwing robotic catapult by the guys at Harcos, Inc., and Zombomatic by Miniclip Games. We're looking for stuff that's cool, fun, beautiful, inspirational, or just plain amazing. The audience will pick their favorites, and we'll give away some prizes. It should definitely be fun!  Submit your coolest Show Off now:  http://www.visitmix.com/2008/showoff/

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Chat with Walter Smith on Tafiti Development


    image image

    I had a chance to chat with Walter Smith, one of founders at Jackson Fish Market, about his experience in developing Tafiti (see the images above) during Web Direction North 08. Tafiti is one of my favorite Silverlight 1.0 showcase examples. It's a nice visualization for search results with rich interactivity, it shows how Silverlight can be combined with online service such as Live Search. Walter was a veteran at Microsoft. He spent 11 years at Microsoft working at various product groups including IE and WPF. Because of his deep understanding of Silverlight architecture, he draws the similarity between creating Silverlight application and creating websites. Listen to our conversation on the topic below.

    Walter SmithCurrently co-founder of Jackson Fish Market, Walter spent over a decade at Microsoft as a developer, architect, and development manager on a wide variety of projects, including Internet Explorer. Prior to his time at Microsoft, Walter spent 8 years at Apple working on the groundbreaking Newton project.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Great to be an Interaction Designer!


    j0402585[1] "What's in the perfect job? Money, of course, matters, but it isn't the only measure of an awe-inspiring career. Creative opportunities, healthy interaction, a good challenge from time to time, and other intangible rewards all count, too. FastCompany.com brings you ten jobs that have all these qualities in spades."

    FastCompany.com has an article later last month on Ten Jobs You Didn't Know You Wanted. Interaction Designer made the list in the category of "Enhancing Life and the Bottom Line." It's great news that IxD is getting more and more attention as a profession. However, being on the list also shows we have a lot of evangelizing job to do. We need to help people realize the important roles we play in product development and innovation, and it's great to be an interaction designer! I quoted the description for interaction designers in the article below:

    Interaction designer
    Interaction designers work at all stages of product development to design innovative and user-friendly products. In addition to wearing the traditional hat of a designer, they work with executives to define goals for products and systems in development. They also investigate how people actually engage with new products and systems by creating "personas," hypothetical users with constructed life stories, to predict their reactions.

    Although many interaction designers have advanced degrees in design, such a background isn't a prerequisite, says David Fore, head of consulting services at Cooper, a pioneering interaction design firm. Fore previously worked as a reporter for industry publications -- valuable experience, given that interaction designers' research requires "the skills of a reporter and an anthropologist," according to him.

    Because interaction designers bring such a comprehensive approach to design, their relatively new field, only ten to fifteen years old, is growing in demand. As a result, entry-level designers with two years of background can expect $75,000 to $80,000 a year, with ample opportunity for an increase in salary. Beginning interaction designers usually gain experience through an apprenticeship.

    In addition to the competitive salary, interaction designers enjoy the opportunity "to learn about every walk of life and industry imaginable," says Fore. "There's working with stock brokers, working with a golf course superintendent, an advertising creative director, working with a nurse to build infusion pumps. Everyone needs product design."

    Some other jobs made to list are Travel Writer, Flavorist, Animator, etc.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Chat with Indi Young on Mental Models


    image  DSCN1240 Mental Models

    At WDN08, I had a chance to sit down with Indi Young, one of the founders at Adaptive Path, to chat about Mental Models. Through her talk "Innovation is Overrated," she first set the stage to understand innovation. Two of the characteristics of great innovations are that innovations come from crafting details and focusing on people. Mental Model is a great illustration of both ideas. In our conversation we chatted about what are mental models, how are they used in the design process, and different ways to collect data to form mental models. If you can’t see the audio player, it’ll prompt you to download the Silverlight plug-in once. You can also download the plug-in here.

    The following is an example of the Movie Goer Mental Model Indi showed during her keynote. Check out her presentation slides.



    Indi Young

    Indi began her work in Web applications in 1995 as a consultant in interaction and navigation design. A founding partner of Adaptive Path in 2001, she has worked with an impressive collection of clients, including Visa, Charles Schwab, Sybase, Agilent, Dow Corning, Microsoft, and PeopleSoft. Since 1995, Indi has constructed over 30 interview-based research projects, 22 of which included mental model diagrams. She considers this methodology she has developed another good way to be a “problem solver.”

    Indi is the author of the soon-to-be-released Rosenfeld Media book Mental Models: Aligning design strategy with human behavior

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Insights of Web Directions North 08



    "Half (web) Standard support is worth than no standard support." - Jeffrey Zeldman

    “I pledge not to commit crimes against typography.” and “Circles are like visual electromagnets.” - Kimberly Elam

    "The Stone Soup" story is a great paradigm for open source software development. - Gina Trapani

    "Innovation is not forced, is crafting details, is understandable change, focuses on people and long term."  - Indi Young

    "Designing these interface isn’t easy... Creating a customizable interface means making smart decisions at every step to make sure the user gets exactly what what they want." - Cameron Adams

    These are just a glimpse of the insights I learnt at this year's Web Directions North. The conference was packed with a well-balanced content on both web design and development. There were practical sessions like Working with Ajax Frameworks by Jonathan Snook and Five Essential Composition Tools for Web Typography with Kimberly Elam as well as inspiration sessions such as Where’s Your Web At? Designing for the Web Beyond the Desktop with John Allsopp & Dave Shea and the closing keynote Movement by Matt Webb.  The conference is in its second year in Vancouver with lots of returning attendees from last year. I was surprised at the number of people know each other well at the conference, but I found out later that they met at the last year's conference and kept in touch all year. With the relative small conference size and the heavy weights speakers in the Web space, I was honored to have my one-on-one chat with Indi Young about Mental Models and had a group dinner with all the speakers

    You can get the conference session notes by reading the RSS feed. Session slides are being posted to SlideShare. Here are some of the pictures I took at WDN08. More photos can be found by search "WDN08" on Flick. I'll post my podcasts with some speakers soon.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Mark and Steve Ballmer


    Our Co-op, Mark Zielinski,  has asked me to share this cute story with you. :)

    imageHello again, everyone.

    Over a year ago, during my first internship at Microsoft Canada, I made a post about Flight Simulator X. You may also recall a photograph which was enclosed with that post.

    You see, dear readers, this intern is a very passionate proponent of Microsoft, and its board of directors. Bill Gates, not only through the founding of the company, but through his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has achieved a status of worldwide rapport. Of course, with Bill Gates’ enormous philanthropic efforts, one can easily overlook the work done by other key members of Microsoft’s executive team, and with Bill’s imminent departure, eyes turn to those who will be leading the company into the always-uncertain future.

    Steve Ballmer has been a personal hero of mine for both his early and ongoing work at Microsoft, his vision for the future, and for being an inspiring orator. It was because of this that I felt the need to decorate my workspace with a framed photograph of the CEO in 2006 (thanks to a gift from Robert Sacco, now himself an intern here). Take a look:

    Only recently, thanks to the suggestion of co-worker Daniel Shapiro, did I send this photo through inter-office mail to the man himself to sign, and to my surprise, it was back on my desk with Steve’s John Hancock in no more than a week’s time.

    I have a feeling that this inspirational and now-signed visage will adorn the workspace of 3B18 for some time to come.

    Thank you Mr. Ballmer!!

    Now, to do the same with Mr. Gates while he is still at the company...

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