Digital Reading: First Annual User Experience Awards

Anne KostickBy Anne Kostick, Partner, Foxpath IND

Actor Mark Rylance, in accepting his Tony Award last night, quoted Louis Jenkins’s prose poem, “Walking Through a Wall.” Why did it immediately remind me of user experience design? Maybe because just last week the practitioners of excellent UX attained a new level of recognition at another, far less glitzy awards show: the first annual User Experience Awards.

A joint effort of four allied organizations of professionals engaged in user experience and interaction design, the award program was created to highlight top work in the field and to bring that often subtle work to broader attention; to make the invisible visible, if only for the evening.

We see the results of user experience design—both good and bad—almost every time we interact with websites, computer programs, and of course, digital text readers and apps. If our digital devices and screens are walls, these UX professionals help us walk through them. The painful irony is that the better their work and the more successful the outcome, the less people (meaning users, although UX professionals prefer to call them “participants”) notice it.

These first-year awards ranged widely, demonstrating just how ubiquitous and broadly interpreted the work of UX design can be. One winner presented a corporate intranet redesign strategy that won’t see complete execution for some years to come. Another winner won for her description of her process—not the final product, which does exist but was not entered for consideration—of developing the user experience design for a media-industry digital offering. In between these extremes were tangible results—finished products, successful market introductions, highly visible and available. Many awards involved content on tablets or on mobile apps, and the challenges of streaming, aggregating or migrating to those platforms. One award cited the new tool, called Bookify, at self-publisher Blurb.

Will users (sorry: “participants”) notice the fine application of UX intelligence while they are creating their books with Bookify, checking their running times with the Nike+ GPS mobile app or making investment decisions in a nanosecond with Morgan Stanley’s futuristic Matrix program? If they return for more, UX professionals will be happy.

For those in the publishing industry, understanding the work of UX professionals and appreciating the important contribution they make is a step towards incorporating their insights and expertise into future digital reading devices and products. Publishers and media producers: Check out these winning projects; visit the professional organizations’ sites; and take a UX professional out for coffee this summer. Engaging this practice in our own digital product development will help us all walk through walls.

NOTE: DBW has an Editorial Forum on LinkedIn, a sub-group for editors and others working in trade publishing to discuss standards, workflow, best practices, and the general Qs that most print people feel when confronted with terms like “workflow.” The Forum is moderated by Anne Kostick and David B. Schlosser. Anne’s weekly column, Digital Reading, discusses the field of User Experience and explores what it offers to trade publishers.

Anne Kostick is a partner in Foxpath IND, a digital-print-web consulting and services company specializing in the transition to and from traditional content development, management and publishing. She is also the editor in chief of Dulcinea Media, an online publisher in the educational market, and is the current president of Women’s Media Group.

2 thoughts on “Digital Reading: First Annual User Experience Awards

  1. Andy Proehl

    Anne, nice article. Love the idea of getting editors and UX designers together to talk. One clarification… we typically call the people who will use our product, “users” just like you seem to do. If they are part of a usability study then we (or the people running the test) call them “participants” but that refers more to the test than the product or UX.

    1. Anne

      Thanks, Andy. I was repeating something I’d heard at the awards ceremony from a representative of one of the sponsoring firms, to the effect that users are people and people are participants. I liked the idea and the way it not only humanized the object of all this ‘usability’ but gave us a role to play; a hand in all this Use. We participate! Yes, we do. It seems that UX folks have a wonderful vocabulary of terms and concepts, and that it’s an ongoing effort to describe both process and goals. Is there a dictionary for this discipline? Should someone be compiling one? I’d like to read it.



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