Speaking Engagement: Usability Professionals’ Association

In June, I had the chance to speak at the annual meeting of the Usability Professionals’ Association in Baltimore. The topic was “The Brand vs. Usability Face-off.”

The premise of the presentation was that as companies extend their brands to the Web, they want to leverage brand elements that help make them successful in the offline world—and rightly so. But when we attempt to force traditional brand elements onto the structure, navigation, and function of a website, the user experience may suffer.

Conversely, brand can take a backseat to usability issues, and become diluted or even ignored.

Some of the tough questions that site owners have to tackle are:

·Which traditional brand elements translate to the Web, and which do not?

·Can a brand architecture work as an information architecture?

·How do established brand elements and business practices need to adapt to work in this medium?

·How do we distinguish ourselves from our competitors, even if we’re all trying to accomplish essentially the same thing online?

The good news is that a site’s user experience design can be used strategically to enforce the brand—not just sit alongside it. Through the use of real-world examples (successful and not) my highly visual presentation looked at how companies can best communicate brand to the online audience.

The presentation was well-received by an audience of about 100 conference attendees. Included in that audience was Steve Krug, author of the landmark user experience book Don’t Make Me Think. Mr. Krug was even kind enough to come up after the presentation and offer some kind words.

Next up on my “world tour” will be a workshop on “Rich UX Documentation” at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York (www.web2expo.com).

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