The Art of Emotional Design: A story of pleasure, joy, and delight.
Aral was a really engaging User Experience speaker who kicked of by talking about the always-current "Technology X is dead" conversation ; that conversation itself is dead. Cobol isn't dead. Adobe ColdFusion might be gone, but ColdFusion the language is a commodity - Railo proves this.
Skills are more important, as its your time you use :-)
Aral says there has been a move from the alternative being not doing (adding a feature) to the alternative being doing differently (changing the experience).
You must not infuriate the user, especially on the Internet where they can just go somewhere else if they don't have a good conversation with your website.
Aral drew what I thought was a great comparison between Maslow's hierarchy of needs and user experiences with software; with delight and joy being at the top, but built on a rock solid foundation of actually working- otherwise users will perceive this as being very rude.
But it was also emphasised that it's more than just UI. Users dont' see a software/hardware distinction of course, so web application design is more like product design, should it really even be called UI design, or UX Design and not just experience design ? An interesting question, and building applications using some of the things Aral talked about is going to be a great challenge.
One example Aral showed was 'delighters'; the moo.com order email has characters in it that talk about how your order will progress, Aral states this generates joy in what would otherwise be a fairly boring order status experience.
Aral also had a good example of an intermittent progress bars being social inaept that was really funny to watch !
This lead to a counter example of a little mascot that says (in Hitchhiker's Guide style large friendly letters) how long it will be, then 'it will be a bit longer', then finally saying sorry, and giving ways the user can make it right.
But Aral was very strident that you must not do that if the underlying stuff isn't working right. It's insulting.
Aral also talked about bad experiences he had where there underlying stuff hadn't worked out. He's mantra was to beware the weakest link, the parts not under your control. Such as a third party closed source library, or a Web API that changes or get suspend.
Test, Debug, Monitor, Profile
Mike Jones (Adobe)
Mike's talk showed all the flex-y air-y goodness of Flex Builder for helping out when things don't work, as well as formal unit test frameworks (if your code is big enough to warrant it; most peoples in the room wasn't).
Although there are nice touches in the latest Flex unit test frameworks, such as using metadata tags to mark methods in a unit as being a Test, or to run before/after (i.e. teardown()), it still seems buggy pickung up tests though. There was well also some confusing steps in the process if it doesn't work; Mike had to refresh the project in Builder, double check a web page (or air app) of the results a few times. May just have been curse of the demo though.
There were also some handy hints and tips for Flex Builder 4.
The new network monitor makes network requests really slow and gets compiled into your code, so only turn it on if you need it.
You can't have multiple tabs open while profiling, as it will crash and burn. Not that Mike could even get the profile working on his machine ! Happens to use all :-)
Mike also talked about the best way to use the profiler, as it's time consuming to use. Mike suggested it needs to be looked at holistically as part of milestone releases, not so much with minor point updates.
Overall the talk was a slightly more in depth look at features in Flex and it's main IDE, which was certainly worth the time. Just the tips above will probably save heart ache at some point.
And that was the end of the first day, and it was good !
It looks like a lot of people have been to a Scotch even before, and I even recognise them. Maybe not the names, however, so force feeding name tags is the winner it always is.
After the sponsored bar a whole bunch of us went for some awesome angus steak, and then wandered around the corner to a charming little London pub called Tom Cribb which had a great set of ale and friendly staff.
So, that was fairly restrained as a Scotch evening goes, though I found out the following day that some of them apperently didn't get back till the following day, hah !