Staying dry at SXSW, day 1

Jared Spool tweeted that “This year’s killer app at SxSW is the umbrella.” Definitely not far off as rain pummeled the area all day and there’s bound to be more tomorrow.

South by Southwest kicked off for me with “Designing for Context” (slides) where a bunch of former Adaptive Path people talked about how a particular context dictates the design. They touched on the notion that Mobile First is not always the solution, which probably gave a chill to Luke Wroblewski. But really, as it is with most shocking statements, they really say about the same thing. Nate Bolt discussed utilizing several UX methods to get the information you’re looking for—information that could take lots of time and money if done the traditional way.

“Design from the Gut” (website) came next and while an interesting topic, I don’t know that its potential was realized. The one fun thing was that my tweet garnered 12 “favorites” putting it tops on the charts. The question was what are some of the most surprising or counterintuitive successful designs you’ve seen? The panel kept coming back to the app for iPhone called “Path,” which is a type of sharing app that allows you to chronicle your daily life with those you’re close to. It broke a lot of conventions at the time and has continued to iterate. A particular feature that was surprising, but worked, is the pull to refresh. It is such an intuitive gesture, it caught on immediately and spread to many apps.

Finally, the last session today was one I would not have picked for myself, but my friend Adam wanted to go, so I went to. It turned out to be really great. “Software Alchemy and the Arc of Technology” featured Alan Cooper, the father of Visual Basic, and the creator of Personas. He began by talking about software as needing to have a people-first approach. He would say that to make a successful product or website or piece of software, go find one (and only one) person and make them extremely ecstatic. This led to the development of Personas who stand in for that one person. As long as that person is not an extreme outlier, they are representative of a group of people. Something to consider the next time I sit down to draw up some new personas.

Tomorrow will be a busy day. I hope to meet Erin Kissane, go on a photo walk with Trey Ratcliff and enjoy more of the best of SXSW 2012


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