Monday, April 23, 2007

Role plays - why do them?

Whenever I run a workshop, I put index cards at the end of each table and allow people to write down their burning questions. I either answer a couple of them at the beginning of each new session or wait until the end of the workshop and answer them as a whole.

In the UX management workshop, run at the IA Summit, we had a number of questions asked and we sat down as a group and answered them. For the next few weeks I am going to go through each question, write down the answers from the workshop and add more details.

First one
Why do a role play for job interviews? Can you give us a couple of examples and why you do them? I can’t see how it will help me make a decision.

My thoughts…

I do role plays in a second interview, to try and understand a couple of things about a candidate. Firstly I want to see how quickly they can think on their feet when presented with a situation and only 20 minutes to prepare (how often does that happen to you!).

Secondly the role play is usually between a number of my co-workers playing quite obnoxious roles; I want to see how someone will react to the type of interaction that the candidate can shape in this type of situation.

Lastly I want to see them get into the swing of this – the people that are most willing to get into the activity, are probably people who you want to know more. It tell you about how much time and energy they are willing to put into you and the organisation.

Some examples that I’ve used are:
Example 1
Review Home Depot web site and so a small critique. Then go into a meeting with the Marketing Manager and the web designer to talk through their objectives for the web site. The Marketing Manager has been briefed to be enthusiastic about everything that is new and shiny about the web; the web designer is defensive about the web site; the site she designed a couple of years ago and doesn’t know why it needs to be changed.

Example 2
The information architect is going into a workshop with a Financial Institution with one day preparation. We have responded to a Request for Proposal for a micro-site for a new product offering (life insurance for the under 35s), due to be released with an advertising campaign in two months.

The RFP was very unclear to the actual purpose of mini-site; the department who want the mini-site are new to web site and working with Agencies and need help to extract what they want from the site. The role of the IA is to run a workshop that will help understand the product, the audiences for the product and the objectives for the site. He needs to develop an agenda and go through one part of the agenda in the role play.

What do you think? How would this work in your organisation?

Friday, March 30, 2007

IA Summit 2007 - update

I can't believe that it has been over a year since I last posted to this blog. It is one of those things that everyone keeps telling me to do.

So here's my update...

Moved on from the Head of User Experience in the London agency and am now working freelance; doing all the things I always wanted to do - train, write and hopefully mentor people. The last one I am still working on.

To be honest I can't remember the previous IA Summit very well - other than lots of facet talks. This one I did enjoy, maybe because I did so much.

And this is what I want to talk more about.

I presented on three themes at the conference
  1. UX Management
  2. Structuring data
  3. Admin interfaces
The UX Management workshop went fabulously; a group of people who engaged with each other and the topic. I'm not sure that interviewing, recruitment and politics were discussed in such detail at the Summit before. We are going to follow this workshop up with a mailing list hosted by the IA Institute.

I did two things with structuring data; a workshop with Karen Loasby, John Allsopp and Thomas Vander Wal and a panel with Tom Coates, Matt Biddulph and Lisa Chan.

I enjoyed the workshop, though my data exercise was too long and complicated for the time allotted - it really needed 2 hours to do it in its current state. Next time it will be less complicated. It was so interesting to see the way people were problem solving, some mucking into the data to see the patterns and interactions and some focusing on the purpose of the interface and interaction. I sometimes forget (and am pleasantly surprised) when I see the different working styles of people. I also really enjoyed Karen's chicken exercise; John's really interesting presentation on microformats (read the book) and Thomas' round-up of the topic.

The panel was a scream; we learnt about my dating habits(!), Tom's take on the semantic web guys, Matt's screen shots of the life of Peterme, Lisa's efforts with children's writing and finding THAT editor; all in the guise of trying to pull data from all over the web together.

I also presented on Admin interfaces; the type of unloved interfaces that usually get created by chance or by developers. Tom created the first one I had a lot of exposure to at the BBC and had a lot of frustrations communicating the purpose to the end users. My case study also had the same frustrations; with both showing how the information would be used in the web site and the process of entering in the content. Dan Willis made an interesting comment and one that I will keep in mind for the next interface,
it is about the difference between creating and managing the content

Creating and uploading may need a different interface to the management; using Excel vs. form based interfaces.

As usual I also had a fab time meeting people that I only see once a year at the Summit. Hopefully I'll see more of them before the next one in Miami 10-14 April 2008.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

First one - Mags Moments

I'm here at work supposed finishing up admin interface work (ugghhh), when I wanted to write about a couple of things that happened yesterday. So I started the blog.

I'm Mags, the Head of User Experience at a web agency in London; professionally an IA.

So I met up with Jared yesterday and we talked about developing a User Experience team at his agency. After talking about levels of people needed, startegy and fit between teams, we started talking about the upcoming IASummit in Vancouver. Both of us agreed that the programme looked a little samey (though it is a required event for IAs) and how we could make it better.

I thought about three things that would interest me more than more applications of facets in companies
1. Designing applications for use across platforms (mobile, web, interactive TV, PDAs)
2. What's pro bono work for IAs?
3. How to move from senior practitioner to Director or Head - and what does that mean you need to learn.

So now I've got them down; I must get back to my Admin interface work.