Agile UX New York City – My short and sweet review.

I recently attended Agile UX New York City at SVA and wanted to share my thoughts. I give the event an A-, it was well run, had a clear focus and lacked the insider-y vibe that poisons similar events. The 25-minute slots for each speaker was perfect – core messages were on at risk with any tangents the presenters decided to take – which were few. I was very happy not seeing an ADD inspiring Twitter feed streaming across the large screen, and the head-down-in-my-Twitter-feed people vs. focus on the speakers/stage seemed to be at a minimum. Check out the presentations and ping @jboogie and @semanticwill for more.



AgileUxNYC – Feb 25, 2012

14 Speakers/8 hours/1 location

Eric Burd

Phin Barnes

Josh Seiden

Tomer Sharon

Anders Ramsay

Todd Zaki Warfel

Jonathan Berger

Jen Gergen

Will Evans

Neil Wehrle

Jeff Gothelf

Giff Constable


Reasons I attended:

I just completed two projects using a waterfall process. While the projects and processes were fresh in my mind I wanted to envision their outcome if they had been run using an Agile process.

I wanted to get a better handle on how a smallish/ boutique shop like ours could run Agile.

I have two new internal projects/products that are just beginning and I want to run them through an Agile process.


Overall Takeaways:

Agile requires your entire organization to buy-in to the process.

Agile simultaneously goes against the grain and with the grain.

AgileUX uses design as both leverage and springboard.

Every practice wants to have a prominent seat at the table.

“Iterate the thinking not the pixels.”


All of the presenters’ slidedecks are available here.





“The” Website

With a few exceptions the website has not changed that much in past 10 years. Text + images/illustration + links + shopping cart + data capture. It’s largely a passive experience in a (hyper)active world. A world of getting people to do things and purchase other (occasionally) necessary things. Our storefront office here in Hastings-on-Hudson begs passersby to investigate. On average we get 3-5 people a week poking a head in our office and asking some form of “what do you do in here?” My natural response is – “We help clients with create and execute content-first strategies…” then I watch as their eyes drift to Rushkoff’s robots. After a few seconds they ask — “so…you make websites?”* It’s pure puffery to come back with something like — “No we tell digital stories,” so most often I acquiesce — “Right, websites. We make websites.” Sometimes they ask for a card and other times they back out slowly as if they walked into the middle of a bank robbery. *(For the record – more than 50% of our billable work is strategy only.)

Last week a woman came in, looked at our whiteboard wall covered in product-design brainstorming and said, “Well, this place is fun.” I smiled, realizing that both websites, strategy and ideas were only part of what we do. It reminded me that fun should help shape any experience and not everyone needs to know exactly what you do. Especially if you can make them smile.

PS – Want to work at a growing agency? Check out our job openings >

People and Process: Maybe there shouldn’t be an app for that?

I recently had a conversation with Doug Rushkoff about a project he is working on. My first instinct was, “This could be a product or an app.” Not so much for the commerce aspect but rather to translate the value inherent in his thinking/project to something people could use. And Doug said: Not everything is a product. Some things are process only, and processes are better implemented and actualized by people from start to finish.

Every day a new app that curates knowledge or helps users skip the process and get right to decision making is pushed to web. I use many of these sites/applications — they save me time and money. But at what cost?

To Doug’s point, at the cost of process creation, process understanding and the information/experience loss that comes from understanding complexities. Is opinion formed from a deep understanding of process more valuable than a decision quickly culled from a slider, input box, submit button and results page?


No Bad Clients

I just listened to a presentation by the super cute and wicked smart Liza Kindred from Lullabot. Presenting at DrupalCon San Francisco last April, Liza gives us a peek into Lullabot’s company’s structure, core beliefs and business strategies. You can listen to the full presentation, but here are some highlights:

1) Make mistakes.

Lullabot prides themselves as an awesome place to make mistakes. When an employee made a terrible data error, co-founder Matt Westgate told her, “You made a giant mistake, and you really screwed up here. That is why you are now Lullabot’s data import expert.” The company also bought her a massage.

Environments where people can’t admit mistakes become very hostile and dishonest work environments.

Fess up to your mistakes. Make them a highlight of your weekly team calls.

2) Room for stupid.

Smart people can ask stupid questions. “Take your stupidness and help other people become less stupid.”

3) Give it away/Have faith

Find out the awesome things you do and give it away. (But not all of it.) Have faith that by giving it away, you are making the pie even bigger.

Out-teach. Out-share. Out-contribute.

(Props here to 37Signals)


But one of my favorite parts was how they select clients.

When a potential client comes to Lulllabot, they need to meet 2 out of the 3 criteria:

1) They are a nice person.

2) They have a healthy budget.

3) They have a fun project.

“And one of them has to be that they are nice.”

How’s that for a rule to live by?


The Five Elements of Hip-Hop/Content Strategy

Here is my (edited) talk from June 2nd 2010. Rick Allen and The Content Strategy of New England Meetup organizers and attendees were gracious hosts.  My presentation was a call to action for content strategists to expand their repertoire of elements, understanding and vocabulary.

Check it out fullsize


Matt Brown @ Mix: Running with Wireframes

I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Brown, Principal, thingsthatarebrown at SXSWi 2010. After completing his rounds in Austin, he trekked off to speak at Mix10 which he designed. Watch this presentation and learn how designers and IA’s need to be thinking about content and content strategy in wireframes. The stage has been set, now content creators and content strategists need to think more like designers and IA’s. Then we can all make our clients more happy, go to the gym more and go on vacation. (Freudian slippage revealed.)

If you can’t view (Silverlight download and microtext needs some CS love) view the excellent presentation here >> Running with Wireframes.