Archives for June 2015

June 25, 2015 - No Comments!

Woman In Tech: Karen VanHouten

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Karen VanHouten is the principal information architect and product manager for SoHo Xi, a new UX system that Hook & Loop launched yesterday to Infor’s product development teams.

Your original plan was to be an English professor. What brought you to tech?
It was completely accidental. After grad school, I took a break and started writing for a tech company—first in marketing and then technical writing. My love for learning and research really pulled me down this path into IA. It was a natural but completely unplanned progression. I think a lot of it was being open to opportunities that I was uncertain about and taking little chances and seeing where they led.

How did your experience in academia influence the way you work today?
Education is such an essential part of SoHo Xi. We’re not plopping some 300-page style guide into product teams’ laps and saying, “okay, now go.” We’ll be guiding them throughout the adoption process. And we’re also educating them about why they should adopt. Over the last few months, we’ve written dozens of articles for our internal UX blog about why things like accessibility and responsive design are so crucial to our users and to the success of Infor’s apps.

What do you think it takes to be a great IA?
I believe that IA is a personality type. You need to be a keen observer and a great listener, but you also need to be good at interpreting the results. It’s not just flat observation—it’s about understanding context.

You’ve been with Ladies That UX Grand Rapids since they launched last September. Can you give us some background on who they are and why they matter to you?
I really want to help get more women into tech, but I want to do it in a positive way. I feel like so many organizations and events focus too much on the difficulties we face when they should really focus on nurturing talent. Ladies That UX has given me the perfect opportunity to teach hands-on skills and inspire women who are new to the tech scene.

Last month I spoke on a panel about collaborating with teams in different locations, which is a topic that really hits home for me since I work remotely out of Hook & Loop’s New York office. I think it’s important to show women that the tech industry offers flexibility for whatever your situation might be. You can work from home. You can work part time. You can have a life. And you don’t need to live in San Francisco or even on a coast—you can do it right here in the Midwest.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in tech?
It’s okay if you don’t have a plan. Sometimes it’s nice to just hang out and enjoy what you’re good at before moving on or moving up. But with that said—don’t ever limit yourself. Have an open mind. And keep everything in your peripheral vision because you never know what opportunities will arise.

June 18, 2015 - No Comments!

The best-ever UX + Information Architecture events, programs, and influencers

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The IA Summit
A five-day summer camp for IAs, The IA Summit draws a brilliant (and fun!) crowd.

Midwest UX
Beloved by H&L Midwest, this three-day extravaganza is all about hands-on training.

An Event Apart
Designers, developers, and UXers learn the latest and greatest during these three days packed with design, code, and content.

NN/g Usability Week
Because Don Norman.


Pratt School of Information and Library Science
The UX concentration within Pratt SILS has come a long way since Dr. David Walczyk created the Cultural Informatics Lab in the mid-2000s and began teaching IA and Usability classes. More than half of Hook & Loop’s IAs are a product of Dr. Walczyk’s unique curriculum of systems thinking, critical theory, and hands-on experience design. Craig MacDonald now leads the expanded program and continues to train aspiring IAs and IA-curious librarians alike.

General Assembly User Experience Design Immersive
We’re big fans of this immersive 10-week program from which many H&Lers have graduated. UXDI meets every day from 9 to 5 and teaches the core skills that make up the entire UX design process, from research and ideation to prototyping and testing.


Abby Covert
Abby is an information architect and teacher at Products of Design. We’re obsessed with her book “How to Make Sense of Any Mess.”
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Steve Portigal
When Steve sets a goal, he meets it. He tweeted #100DoodlesIn100Days, plus he authored one of our favorite UX books: “Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights.”

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Dana Chisnell
Dana is a usability expert who has trained thousands of election officials to test the design of their ballots.
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Whitney Hess
Whitney is a coach to hundreds of companies, with a mission “to put humanity back into business.”
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Jonathan Shariat
We’ve been hooked ever since reading Jonathan’s breathtaking blog post “How Bad UX Killed Jenny.” Now we’re waiting with bated breath for his forthcoming book: “Tragic Design: The real cost of bad design and how we can fix it.”
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June 2, 2015 - No Comments!

The absolute best UX + Information Architecture blogs, resources, and more

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Amazing for thought leadership and inspiration

Nielsen Norman Group
NN/g only posts about once a week but when they do—it’s so worth the wait. Articles are meaty and thoughtful. NN/g isn’t afraid to go against trends with pieces like “Why the Page Fold Still Matters,” because UX and IA aren’t about trends. They’re about what people need. Hot tip: Check out the archives for posts by Don Norman, who is pretty much the grandfather of user-centered design.

Boxes and Arrows
Founded by IA legend Christina Wodtke, Boxes and Arrows posts articles for IAs, by IAs. One of our all-time favorite pieces, "Invent to Solve," explores the signature trait that all great products share.

UX Mag
Daily content covers all facets of UX. Posts are informative and approachable for UX outsiders as well, making it the perfect place to send your family, friends, and co-workers who don’t understand your job.

A List Apart
A List Apart examines the web from a dev point of view. If you enjoy their posts, check out An Event Apart for a three-day show filled with design, code, and content.

UX Booth
UX Booth nails it every time. We were especially inspired by their two-part series "Designing for Dyslexia."

Amazing for research and usability best practices and tips
On you’ll find everything you need to know about usability best practices and guidelines when creating experiences for government apps and sites. Content ranges from the basics of accessibility to awesome ways to involve your kids in usability testing.

Smashing UX
Articles are in-depth with tips and tricks even the most seasoned designers, IAs, and developers will get something from. Their UX Design book is a complete UX reference manual, covering the basics, like user testing, to the nitty gritty stuff we nerd out about, like line lengths and font sizes.

User Interface Engineering
UIE was founded by usability OG Jared Spool who’s been in the game since 1978—before the term “usability” was even associated with computers. The perfect spot for Jared Spool groupies like us, UIE has podcasts, articles, and events.

Usability Works
Dana Chisnell’s articles offer so much great insight into usability and testing. The big green blocks next to all of her posts—with subject headings—are a pretty sweet way to navigate content.

User Onboarding
We love when people love using our apps from the very first time they log in. User Onboarding has tons of pro tips for great first-time UX. We also relish their ruthless teardowns of how popular apps like Periscope and Snapchat onboard new users. H&L Chief Creative Officer Marc Scibelli is especially fond of their Rdio teardown.

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Amazing for nerding out

Journal of Information Architecture
If you want to get really academic, Journal of Information Architecture is the jam. They haven’t published since Fall 2013, but most of their articles are timeless treasures like “Ethnotelling for User-generated Experiences” and “Information Architecture in Contemporary Television Series” (yessss!)

UX Stack Exchange
We enjoy UX Stack Exchange’s discussion boards because they bring up questions we often don’t think about asking.

Donella Meadows Institute
Donella Meadows’s vision for a sustainable world inspired numerous initiatives that are so important to the economic, environmental, and social challenges we face. Though not specifically about IA, her writings on systems thinking have been incredibly influential as we apply her methods to digital product design. Learn about the legacy of Donella Meadows in this heartfelt blog post.

UX Myths
Ever hear something and wanna call bull on it? You still need to do your research (always), but UX Myths is a great place to start.

UXMas is the advent calendar dedicated to UX throughout the holiday season. Enjoy a little piece of wisdom every day leading up to December 25, because the more UX, the merrier the Christmas.


Look out next month for a roundup of our favorite events, classes, and more!