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Impact - A Blog by INM

The Psychology of User Experience: Usability Week 2010

September 2, 2010 by Raluca Ene
Toronto Skyline

Earlier this month I attended Usability Week 2010 in Toronto. This week-long event was put on by the Nielsen Norman Group and it featured a series of full-day tutorials led by usability experts on a variety of subjects, ranging from information architecture through to user testing.

The tutorial I attended focused on the role the human mind plays in defining the principles of usability. It did a great job of presenting details about how humans process information and the impact that this has in predicting peoples’ reactions and making effective design decisions leading to intuitive interfaces.

What was really interesting to me about this event was the diversity of the attendees. Although many attendees held user experience or usability roles, there were also a significant number of lead developers there too. This reflects a fundamental shift in the industry. Traditionally there was little common ground between UI engineering and UI design. However, recently these two groups have come together more often to deliver applications with complex user experience requirements.

Another key take-away for me was the holistic view of user experience that was presented. In many contexts, user experience and usability are approached as a singular subject. At this event, a more holistic view of UX was presented, focusing on the blend of disciplines that fuel exceptional projects, including marketing, engineering, UI, development and design.

The final element of the event that impressed me was that all of the information presented was backed by hard data. At many conferences, sessions just scratch the surface, often lacking the strong foundation to make them useful. In my role, it can sometimes be challenging to justify to a client why we make certain choices on user experience design. Having a strong foundation of hard data as back-up - including usability studies, focus groups, and reading paths - makes the process much easier.  

Usability Week events are continuing throughout the year, with planned stops in San Francisco, Copenhagen, Edinburgh and Las Vegas.