SXSWi recap, Day Two

Jason Santa Maria and Rob Weycert at SXSWi 2008

Day two of SXSWi started with Jason Santa Maria’s and Rob Weychert’s panel, Everyone’s a Design Critic (slides). Given that it was (a) first panel of the day following the opening night parties and (b) the biggest room in the convention center, there were empty seats and bleary eyes to spare. Rob and JSM took it in stride and did a fantastic job of warming up the crowd by getting everyone to cheer and jeer several popular sites. Once everyone was wound up, they whipped out some real world examples and explained how to:

Prepare for a critique: research, develop design and content guidelines, specify roles, and don’t invite everyone in the office to the actual critique.

What to do when you’re in the lion’s den: start by managing expectations and establishing a goal for the meeting. Explain your design strategy, stick to a time limit, and my favorites: Focus on the problems. It’s always tempting to come up with solutions on the spot, but it’s also easy to suggest something that’s not going to work in the final design, so don’t paint yourself into a corner. Focus on holistic design and discourage “buffet style” feedback (aka the tendency to mash up pieces from each design). When you’re receiving feedback, understand perspectives vary, don’t take it personally, stay positive and avoid confusing jargon.

After the critique: Evaluate the feedback and any new problems that may have come up, document the discussion and changes and follow up with the client.

Getting Emotional by Design

Getting Emotion by Design - SXSWi 2008

Dan Rubin, IDEO’s Didier Hilhorst and Apple’s Eris Stassi teamed up for their panel, From Frustration to Elation: Getting Emotional by Design (slides), a really interesting discussion of how products and services can be designed to evoke an emotional response. Drawing upon real world interactions, they stressed that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, communication and trust are critical, respect that people won’t get every interaction right the first time; when they do make a mistake, be forgiving.

“A product that can correct our mistakes as they happen gains our trust” — Maeda

Turning to the negative and qualities to avoid: conflict, escalation, control, blame, stubbornness, deception, and jealousy. Who embodies these qualities? Think RealPlayer, the RIAA, ATMs, and the classic example, Windows.

On a more positive note, they offered up products like the Toyota Prius and TiVo alongside services like Netflix and FlexCar as examples of companies who evoke a sense of hope and redemption.

Wrapping it all up, they offered a few additional nuggets: following the golden rule, nurturing the experience of flow, encouraging memory recall, creating symbolic meaning and crafting a tactile experience.

The take away? Feeling + function + form = happy people.

Going Global

Glenda Sims and Henny Swan led a (literal) roundtable discussion, Core Conversation: Global Design: Web Sites for the World. The Core Conversation’s smaller, more intimate format was new to SXSWi this year. Some subjects are great for this arrangement, but this particular topic proved to be too popular, preventing most of the crowd from really participating in the conversation.

The conversation itself (which was great) felt like a translation and localization support group with a wide range of organizations represented—from small non-profits to large multinational corporations. It seems everyone’s facing the same challenges but there’s not nearly enough information being shared. I came away thinking there’s are real opportunity to build a community of web professionals who share information, tools and best practices. For now, check out Glenda and Henny’s links on

Mobile Manners

The last panel of the day was another Core Conversation—Mobile Manners: Mobile Presence and the Undefined Etiquette—led by Jared Benson. The size of this group was much more manageable than the previous session. You can watch the first 1/2 hour of the conversation on qik. After about 30 minutes, the camera operator was fittingly interrupted by a phone call and left the table.