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UI2.0 Bringing Sexy Back Re-cap

When I first sat down with Bess to talk about doing a panel, one of the things we realized was that there was much discussion around Web 2.0 and it’s technical, social and business impacts within the web, but not much discussion on how it has impacted the field of UI. Thepanel explored how Web 2.0 has affected the field of UI, the design process and how we got to where we are today. The panel of experts included:

Stephen Anderson – Viewzi, VP of Design
Mitch Grasso – Sliderocket, CEO & Co-founder
Elaine Wherry – Meebo, VP of Product & Co-founder
Bill Wetherell – AOL, Director of AOLMail

There were 3 overarching topics within UI where the panel weighed in on:

1. Defining UI 2.0

“Web 2.0” was coined to describe a fundamental shift that had occurred in the internet world. This led to the question as to whether or not there was a similar shift in the UI world. Was there such a thing as  “UI2.0” and if so, how was this defined?

Panelists in general thought that Web 2.0 had an affect on design in both processes and new interactions. One panelist defined UI 2.0 in terms of the new processes that were practiced as a result of Web 2.0. Other panelists defined UI2.0 as a whole library of new interactions that were “on demand” (e.g. the edit boxes appear in-line on the page). While AJAX has been the technology that has facilitated most of these new interactions, there were still metaphors that users expected. A good example was when the new Yahoo Mail was updated to be more similar to a rich internet application (i.e. users could drag and drop their email), users still wanted checkboxes to be able to delete and more their mail. However, in general the technology has enabled design find ways to have user interaction define the technology rather than technology defining user interaction.

2. Effects on Design in UI2.0
As mentioned above their is no doubt that UI2.0 had affected Design. The main ways design has been changed were in these ways:

  • Product design must work in a much more faster, rapid and agile environment.
    Rather than traditional monthly or yearly releases, all companies represented were working on release cycles from 1-3 weeks. Docs and specifications are a lot lighter and many times design and engineering will try and work in parallel.
  • Product design has become more iterative and less “perfect”.
    This goes hand in hand with rapid and shorter design cycles. Designers don’t have time to make things perfect, and since there is another release coming up, the fix gets implemented/designed in that cycle. This means that lest “perfect” product is released. However, the early feedback will prevent bad product directions before it’s too late.
  • User Testing still exists; however it is re-defined to be just as light and fast as the product design cycle.
    Meebo has done user testing/feedback in one day cycles so that they could catch a majority of the problems in a fraction of the time. AOL leveraged the blogosphere to hear customer feedback regarding their releases. While SlideRocket and Viewzi watched users use their product to gain feedback.

3. Future of UI
While this may be too early to tell much, but that didn’t prevent our panel from prognosticating. Here were some ideas:

1. Interfaces would focus more on delight. As we climb up the pyramid of design needs, delight is one of the top things. See Stephen Anderson’s slides on this topic.

2. 3D interfaces and tangible interfaces will become more prevalent.

3. Interfaces will become more adaptive and learn from the user’s history.

The panel was a great time to focus on UI2.0 – define it, analyze its affects and conjecture about the future. Thank you all for coming.

Watercooler Inc.


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