SXSW Interactive celebrated its 21st year this March, and the lineup was anything but boring. From masters of the scientific field to innovative leaders in technology, SXSWi 2014 brought tech to the forefront of a festival mostly known for music and food.
While mobile innovation and the shift to mobility for businesses has always been a hot topic at the festival, this year brought a fresh perspective to the scene through various workshops and sessions that discussed everything from UX design to enterprise apps. Everywhere you turned this year, users were connected to each other through tablets and their mobile phones, which only reinforced the idea that as we become more attached to the mobile world, the topic will always be a big one among tech leaders. As the festival shifts from tech to music, the tunes of mobility from SXSWi are still ringing in our ears.
Book Reading: Lean UX, Jeff Gothelf
Jeff Gothelf, author of Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience, read excerpts from his 2013 book that touches on a more efficient way of designing for the user and shifting the focus from deliverables to the true user experience. Called a “fantastic combination of case studies and practical advice” by Laura Klein at Users Know, Lean UX emphasizes that designers should be collaborating with their team through all steps of the design process, in order to produce a product faster than by traditional means. The crowd at Gothelf’s reading was surprisingly large for the subject matter, and his advice was well-received by all. To learn more about the Lean UX method, check out this post by Gothelf in Smashing Magazine.
Meet Up: Mobile- From Apps to the Enterprise, IBM
IBM made a big splash at SXSW this year, from a highly intelligent food truck that could create chocolate burritos to design parties and live demos. IBM CTO Peter Bahrs and IT Architect Sean Sundberg presented ‘Mobile- From apps to the Enterprise’ last week, discussing the concerns and challenges many businesses face when attempting to bring mobility to their enterprise. By examining a variety of companies that have successfully mobilized their business, Bahrs and Sundberg developed a treasure trove of best practices for enterprises looking to dive into the mobile world. We discussed enterprise mobility strategies with Enola Labs CTO Marcus Turner in a recent blog post- to get his views on the mobile shift, check out the post here.
Panel: Mobile Means Business: Learn How to Get Ahead, Urban Airship
Urban Airship, an Oregon-based mobile relationship management company, hosted a panel of experts from their own staff, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, eBay and Forrester Research to discuss the benefits of businesses that maintain a mobile strategy. Through a discussion of best practices for creating a mobile strategy, reasons for embracing mobile-first thinking and integrating mobile into all areas of a business, the panel helped guide attendees in the right direction toward successful mobile enterprise strategies.
Panel: Star Trek UX|UI Rules for Phones, Tablets & TVs, Ana Karen Ramirez & Anjuan Simmons
What do the Enterprise and Captain Kirk have to do with mobile UX|UI? Presenters Ana Karen Ramirez, founder at Epic Queen/Chunches and Anjuan Simmons, CEO at Jannua Multiverse, explained through examples from Star Trek the challengers developers face when creating interfaces for multiple screen sizes. Creating applications that will translate seamlessly to all sizes of devices, and work beautifully and consistently on all forms of communication, can be an extreme challenges. Through the comparison to the bridge screen of the Enterprise, Ramirez and Simmons brought a fresh perspective to mobile design. Check out a brief interview with Simmons about the presentation here.
Workshop: Advanced Agile Mobile Design: Androis 4.x iOS 7, Greg Nudelman
With just a few pads of sticky notes and a pen, attendees of Greg Nudelman’s, CEO of Designcaffeine, Inc, workshop were able to start the process of creating an Agile app with direct input from potential customers. By using Agile design principles and Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation strategies, participants were able to walk away from the session with a well thought out and creative app skeleton.
Panel: The Next Mobile Experience, Sung Kim
Our mobile devices can show us where to go, give us information in a heartbeat and organize all of our data for us in one, simple handheld device- but why are we still limited to only moving our fingers right and left, up and down? Sung Kim, founder of Gestures, Inc explored the future of mobile if we were no longer limited to these typical movements on touchscreens and never had to try to click a tiny button ever again. By switching traditional mobile phones to an oval shape allowing us to move our fingers along a touchscreen freely, Kim explored the limitless capabilities our mobile devices could have. To view Kim’s slideshow presentation on Simple Gestures, click here.
Panel: Making the Mobile Leap, Airbnb, Box, Eventbrite & Pinterest
The mobile engineering leads from Airbnb, Pinterest, Eventbrite and Box all came together for a panel on taking you business from the web to mobile. With a world so focused on having information right at our fingertips, what will it take for your business to successfully architect itself to mobile? All four of these companies began on the web and then shifted their views to “mobile-first,” creating incredibly successful mobile platforms. Since becoming mobile, 75% of Pinterest’s traffic comes from a mobile device. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that a crowd filed in to hear these experts give their tips and tricks for making the mobile leap.
Panel: Reorientating UX Design for the Internet of Things, Alfred Lui
Though mobile is a big player in having the Internet at our fingertips for now, in the future we will be able to access information from the “Internet of Things” or IoT, from our glasses, our wrists, in our cars, everywhere. How will responsive design change and shift to accommodate these new UX platforms? Alfred Lui, Chief Design Officer at Seer Labs, explained that as we become more and more surrounded by the internet, design will have to shift to accommodate our surroundings. There will need to be a way to identify users and to allow services to flow across digital platforms. To view more on Lui’s talk, read his slideshow on the panel here.
Panel: Work Meets Personal: Game Changer on Mobile, John Marshall
One of the biggest concerns businesses face when developing a mobile strategy is protecting their secure information over the device their workers use. Especially when a “bring-your-own-device” strategy is implemented, there could be confidential company information floating around phones, tablets, laptops and other devices. John Marshall, President and CEO of AirWatch gave an important lecture on “managing corporate connectivity” and exploring the ways different businesses can protect their content and apps on their employee’s devices. Marshall believes that mobility makes our personal lives much easier and more efficient, and that these same principles can be applied to our professional lives, while maintaining company security. Read more about Marshall’s talk here.
Workshop: Build Responsively: Modern Responsive Web Design, Sparkbox
It’s no surprise that anything on the web is now expected to translate to mobile, tablet, laptop, and a plethora of other devices that users are using everyday to access data on the web. But, it isn’t always clear how a business should adapt their website to fit these devices. At this workshop, Sparkbox President Ben Callahan and Creative Director Jeremy Loyd guided attendees in developing an outline for “embracing the fluid nature of the web” and helped coders and non-coders alike learn examples of best practices and challenges they will face when bringing their web content to other devices.
Panel: It’s Not Rocket Science: UX for Niche Communities, NASA Ames Research Center/SJSU
NASA landed at SXSW this year, and they were talking UX design. NASA User Experience Designers Joseph Medwid and Kevin McMillin used the serious issues they run into every day working on support tools for NASA exploration missions and how the problems they face could have critical results if handled incorrectly. Though their problems are on a much larger scale, the process is relative to UX design issues that designers run into often- including research, analytics, and testing. Read more about all the panels NASA hosted at SXSWi this year on their website and check out a video of The User Experience of a Space Station.
Panel: Tablet First Design: Holistic Ubiquitous UX, Google, CloudOn & Centralis
Abi Jones, Interaction Designer for Google, Christian Crumlish, Director of Production at CloudOn, and Paul McAleer, UX Strategist for Centralis, hosted a panel on changing the “mobile first” strategy some businesses are implementing to a “tablet first” mindset. Because tablets are more similar to laptops and desktops and other traditional means of browsing the web, the presenters claim that this also lays a more solid foundation for creating further responsive design on other mobile devices. To read more about how the tablet came first, explore the slideshow of the presentation here.
Workshop: Content Everywhere: Preparing for Mobile & Beyond, Sara Wachter-Boettcher
Any content strategist knows the struggle- how do we embrace mobile, responsive design, apps and all kinds of devices with our content? It’s about more than just writing good content, content strategists have to think about how their content is designed. Making new content for every device is a waste of time, but making everything in document form wont work anymore- so what do we do? Content Strategy Consultant Sara Wachter-Boettcher hosted a workshop dedicated to helping plan content that can “go everywhere it needs to,” including focusing on the user journey, content structure, and prototyping content.
All in all, SXSW Interactive stepped up its game this year with some big names and even bigger panels. We learned a lot, and are already wondering what next year will bring.