User Experience Institute at the STC Summit

For over 50 years, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) has been bringing people together. The 14,000-member organization began as a group of technical writers and editors, but their focus has evolved along with technology. To that end, the STC’s annual Summit now includes a User Experience Institute, which is a set of five user experience-focused sessions.

This year, the STC leadership invited me to organize the User Experience Institute, and I gladly accepted. I planned a session to present myself, and invited four other respected friends and colleagues. The sessions are summarized below.

The STC Summit takes place May 3-6 in Atlanta. Find more information at

Rich User Experience Documentation
John Yesko, Roundarch

As websites are moving further away from the “page” metaphor and toward more interactive “2.0” experiences, designers are faced with moving beyond the site map and static wireframe. We need to be able to communicate more fluid interfaces and interactions. Sometimes this means documenting very detailed functionality and almost infinite “states” in a rich Internet application, or representing motion in a static medium. But it can also mean stepping back to paint a broader picture—establishing and communicating the fundamental approach for a site’s interactions—to build consensus before the detailed work begins. This presentation will cover several highly-visual documentation techniques, which attempt to communicate the exact right amount of information, to the right stakeholders, at the right points in the project. From presenting a high-level concept map to an executive, to producing a usable functional spec for visual designers and developers, we will cover a wide range of deliverables.

Designing for the Conversation—Social Media and User Experience Design
Eric J. Grandeo, Roundarch

Social Media and Web 2.0 represents the evolution of the conversation and digital user experience. This presentation will cover the user experience design considerations when planning for a social media implementation. It will review social behavioral analysis and profiles, common goals, tools, and techniques that facilitate social interaction and maximize content exposure. We will review a proven methodology that augments the user centered design process to include the best practices of social media. Attendees will walk away with a thorough understanding of the social media space, and how it integrates with user experience design.

Information Architecture and Interaction Design in Museum Environments
Julian Jackson, Adler Planetarium

Physical environments are rich opportunities for conveying meaning and information in unique ways. Nowhere is this as evident as in the design of museums and their individual exhibits. Who didn’t have some deeply affecting experience in a museum as a child which still shapes their perception or understanding? But the information is growing more complex and the expectations of audiences are rapidly changing, while the opportunities and tools at our disposal are growing. This presentation will explore how modern museums are responding to the challenges and opportunities of transforming the entire visitor experience and highlights individual examples of excellence and innovation.

From Sketching to Code: Jump-Starting the Interaction Design Process
Christopher Fahey, Behavior Design

It’s the start of a new project. You’ve got requirements, guidelines, research. Now what? Like an artist staring at a blank canvas, when designing interactive products we often don’t know where to start. Instead of just waiting for perfect ideas to appear out of the blue, how can we plan for and execute a process of synthesizing specific design concepts and approaches that meet the different needs of diverse stakeholders and users, while ensuring that we’re producing innovative and high-quality products? The answer is through collaborative exercises, design research, and controlled explorative processes, from sketching to mood boards to user scenario modeling. This session will share a broad range of tools and techniques for systematically coming up with the best ideas for your site or product’s design, and for bridging the gaps between the interests of the design, technology, business, and marketing disciplines.

Deconstructing the Magic:
Communicating What We Do, How We Do It, and Why it Takes Time and Money
Barbra Wells and Carol Righi, Perficient

A topic of intense interest in our community centers on the “Magic” of design. This session discusses practical techniques for practitioners, business developers, UX managers, and others involved in IT design and development for “deconstructing the Magic” – that is, for explaining in a meaningful, clear, tactful, cogent, and impactful way what we do, how we do it, and why it takes time and costs money. We discuss messaging aimed at a variety of audiences, talk about actual experiences (both good and bad) delivering this message, and, with the audience’s help, brainstorm additional techniques. The goal of this session is to send all participants back to the workplace with practical, actionable techniques for justifying what we do in a way that gets buy-in from our audience and hence, makes our job easier, our relationships more collaborative, and ultimately, our deliverables more useful, usable, and engaging.