Lisa Welchman – 25 Years of the Web Team

It’s hard to believe that the World Wide Web just turned 25 and even harder to believe that many organizations have had a web presence for more than 20 years. How are we doing with that? Are digital professionals happy in their jobs? Are organizations happy with their digital presence? Spend some time with Lisa Welchman as she talks about what she’s seen happen with websites and web teams over the last 20 years and what she hopes will happen in the future.

Portrait: Lisa Welchman. Lisa Welchman is a global leader in digital strategy and governance, and over the last 18 years has worked with a variety of organizations, including Cornell University, Wells Fargo, and the Library of Congress, to stabilize their complex, multi-stakeholder digital operations through the definition and implementation of sound digital governance practices.

Lisa has presented at conferences around the globe on digital governance, including at the 2010 United Nations Private Sector Forum where she participated in dialogue amongst, industry leaders, CEOs and heads of state regarding how to utilize technology to accelerate the meeting of the Millennium development goals.

Her upcoming book, Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, is due out from Rosenfeld Publishing in 2014.

Follow Lisa on Twitter: @lwelchman

Maggie Koerth-Baker – Spock-Like Things In a Kirk-Like World

In retrospect, the electric light seems like an instant win. In grade school, we all learned this history as a very simple story – Thomas Edison invents the lightbulb in 1879 and, yada yada yada, success! But reality is more complicated than that. The truth is that electric lighting technologies failed for 80 years before Edison came along, and the business of electricity failed for another 40 after him. When you understand why that happened, you’ll be on your way to understanding how the seemingly rational world of tech melds with messy world of humanity to create our present and shape our future.

Portrait: Maggie Koerth-Baker.

Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at Boing Boing, one of the most-read blogs in the United States with millions of monthly readers, a monthly columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and a freelance science journalist whose work has appeared in magazines like Discover, Popular Science, and New Scientist, and on websites like Scientific American and National Geographic News.

Her most recent book is Before The Lights Go Out, about how our energy systems were built, how they work today, and how they will influence what we can and can’t do over the next 30 years.

Follow Maggie on Twitter: @maggiekb1

Mentoring the Next Generation of UX Designers

Any company with a user experience design team knows how hard it is to find people to grow that team. A quick search of reveals 280 open user experience design related positions in Minnesota alone. There are many ways to solve this problem, but one of the most accessible is mentorship. Every practicing UX designer is capable of mentoring someone who has the passion and mindset required for UX design into the field.

During the summer and fall of 2013, The Nerdery took eight potential UX designers through an intense 12-week apprenticeship that relied heavily on mentorship. During that time, we learned a lot about mentoring and being mentored. This presentation will share these lessons from the perspective of both mentors and mentees. Attendees will come away with a comprehensive set of tools they can use to begin mentoring potential designers today.

Claire Bailey is an Associate UX Designer at The Nerdery in Minneapolis, MN. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and has worked in an array of fields from clinical research to print design. After returning to school for web design in 2010, Claire discovered in UX the perfect marriage of human behavior and design, so she set her sights on a career that would utilize her diverse skills and interests. In 2013, she was accepted into the first UX apprenticeship at The Nerdery where her mentors taught her to take risks and find her own path. Now Claire welcomes every opportunity to mentor others interested in the field of UX.

Fred Beecher has been working in User Experience since 1998. In that time he’s seen UX mature from a field struggling to prove its value to one driving an explosion of innovation and economic growth. To help feed the ever-increasing demand this explosion has sparked, Fred designed and implemented the UX apprenticeship program at The Nerdery in Minneapolis, MN where he is currently UX Apprenticeship Lead. In 2007, Fred authored the first official Axure training program, which he ran until 2012. He has written numerous articles and blog posts on prototyping, iterative design, and UX career development, and he has spoken on these topics at design conferences worldwide.

Heather Wydeven is an Associate UX Designer at The Nerdery in Minneapolis, MN. Her background in theatre and graphic design, combined with frustrating online experiences, drove her to discover user experience. Heather quickly developed a passion for making those experiences better for everyone, and in 2013 obtained a UX design apprenticeship at The Nerdery. She graduated to the Associate position, where she enjoys the continued mentorship of her teammates and opportunities to mentor new UX apprentices.

Writing Content that Works Everywhere (Including Smartphones)

Many organizations face content issues that will challenge usability for mobile web. Thousands of web pages, multiple authors and contributing departments, and common industry writing styles can work together to make mobile users cringe.

Writing content for your website that also works on mobile doesn’t have to hurt. See how transforming long pages of content into tidy nuggets packed with informational gold can clean up your desktop site and make it easy for mobile users to navigate efficiently and get done what they came to do.

In 1995 David Poteet had the crazy notion to start a company that was the sort of place where he’d always wanted to work. A place without a lot of hierarchy or politics, where you worked closely with people at the top of their craft to create things that make the world better. Today NewCity, an interactive design agency in Virginia, is that place.

David graduated with honors from Virginia Tech in 1992 with a degree in Graphic Design. It only took six years! The first two and a half years he spent studying aerospace engineering weren’t a total waste, since he learned enough programming and techie stuff to be dangerous. He had no idea the web would be born only a year later, which was the perfect medium for a half artist/half geek.

David’s role at NewCity can best be described as a player/coach. He still keeps a hand in user experience and strategy for a few projects each year. He teaches frequent workshops and on UX, content strategy and mobile. David has led strategy and user experience for clients including the American Battle Monuments Commission, Grand Teton Association, Imperial College London, the University of Portsmouth, and the UVA School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Programmers Can UX Too

Programmers have a bad reputation when it comes to UX, but it’s time to set the record straight: It isn’t because we don’t care! It’s because we fall in the trap of thinking we can design a user interface and write it at the same time when, the truth is, these processes require different kinds of thinking. But learning how to unlock that part of your brain is worth it– and you’ll be surprised at what you already know. From one developer to another, this talk will discuss why you should think critically about the interfaces you write and give you some strategies you can start applying right away.

This talk is aimed at developers, both front-end and server-side, who implement user interfaces but may not have training in UX. And the truth is, ALL programmers implement user interfaces; sometimes the user is another developer (in the case of an API) or a more advanced user (for a command-line tool), but all software has its users.

Eryn O’Neil is a web developer and technical lead at Clockwork Active Media in Minneapolis, MN. There she has worked on everything from e-commerce to online promotions to building a CMS. Her philosophy is to build software by placing humans first: both the people who will use it and the developers who will build it alongside you (and maintain it afterwards). Based in Saint Paul, MN, Eryn spends most of her free time swing and blues dancing, rock climbing, and wishing it weren’t snowing.

From Hack to App

Have you ever attended a hackathon and worked on a great project, only to have it fizzle after that initial weekend? From Hack to App will focus on ways to sustain a project beyond an initial hackathon weekend and make it into a viable product. We’ll share stories from our project, which was born out of the National Day of Civic Hacking, and is a member of the inaugural class of Intel’s Innovation Pipeline.

From this session, attendees will learn how to build a project that survives and flourishes after an initial hackathon weekend. We’ll discuss initial technology choices on the front end and back end, coding strategies, collaboration tools, and group dynamics. Attendees will walk away with clear, actionable strategies to ensure the longevity of a hackathon project.

Jason Kadrmas is a Sr. Software developer passionate about front-end development.  He enjoys exploring new JavaScript patterns, HTML5 goodness, and all the hotness from CSS3 and WebGL.  He currently works for the University of Minnesota developing large-scale web applications for researchers in HTML, JavaScript, and Ruby on Rails.  He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his wife Amy, daughter Kate, and dog Emma.  Follow him on twitter. @itooamaneatguy

HTML5: All Your Games Are Belong to Us

How do you build games in HTML5? In this talk we will learn about the basics of game development and how to apply it in a canvas based HTML5 game. We will be building a simple game live on the screen by leveraging JavaScript and new HTML5 features. We will learn about drawing to the HTML5 canvas, handling key input, maintaining frame rate, the subtleties of performing rotations and translations, setting up audio, sprite animations, basic game physics, and multiplayer support! I will also discuss some lessons in game programming that I learned the hard way so that you don’t have to. If you are interested in web game development, come learn about everything you need to make your first game—from the basics to the advanced.

Erik Onarheim is an Application Developer working for General Mills who loves building cutting edge JavaScript applications. In his spare time he likes to play and develop games, draw comics, study guitar, and drink cheap wine. You can find him on twitter @ErikOnarheim or on his blog,

Talk to more users

Sometimes, usability testing makes me want to groan. Another round of tests means 15 volleyed emails with recruitment partners, hours spent unlocking the mysteries of outlook to procure one decent room for at least half the day, and at the end of it all I’m going to have to churn out a slide deck that no one will really remember.

But talking to the user is really important. If we’re all about user-centered design, we should be doing it constantly. So how to we find the time and energy to get out and talk to our users more?

Pledge to talk to your users MORE this year. Pledge to do it in a way that’s sustainable and delightful, and brings back all the same important insights. We’ll cover a variety of mix and match strategies for simpler usability testing that will reduce stress and go easy on your pocket book.

You’ll learn about methods for cutting down administrative time around usability testing. We will cover various lean testing methods, for example: themes-based result reporting, cafeteria-style testing and participant recruitment strategies.

Beth McKeever is a UX and product designer. Most recently she can be found working on Target’s mobile team. Prior to that, Beth worked on HealthPartners’ mobile team, focusing on the myHP and MePlus apps. She believes in crafting great experiences through a collaborative and lean process. Beth has spoken at Lean UX MN and UXPA MN on the topic of collaborative design. 

Beautifully Functional: Activities that inform features and aesthetic

So you’ve gone through user research, mapped out process flows, and even spent time detailing out the features on your wireframes. What’s next? Unfortunately if you haven’t thought about your visual design strategy there’s no guarantee that what you’ve spent your time crafting will shine through. This strategy is often overlooked because of a perceived separation in UX and visual design activities and requirements. Thoughtfully integrating a visual design discovery into the UX process will not only help with project efficiency, but it will deliver a stronger design with a unified voice.

In this presentation we will go through methods and principles that help define features and  visual direction symbiotically. We will review and speak to:

  • Why UX and Visual Design shouldn’t be separate efforts performed in a waterfall.
  • Why considering both along the way will strengthen outcomes, project quality and overall strategy.
  • How methods can be used to inform both features and look & feel.

Various case studies and project methodology will be shared and discussed to illustrate their merits in collecting insights for the two disciplines. An example of one such method is utilizing Pinterest as a means for feature and aesthetic mood boarding between the client and designers. Further, we will discuss how these methods can be set up and used in various project settings.

Brant Day joined The Nerdery as a User Experience Designer in 2012 with a background in graphic and interaction design. His previous experience includes serving as Creative Director at The Blueprint, an online marketing firm, as well as Interaction Designer at Appible. Brant graduated from Brigham Young University in Idaho with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design. Brant is a connoisseur of beautiful typography and illustration, and he reveals his work and writes about design at

Emily Schmittler discovered her passion for user experience design shortly after graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2008 with her Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Interested in how psychology was used to solve problems, she went on to complete her Master of Science in human-computer interaction design in 2010. Emily worked at Cook Medical as an interaction designer before joining The Nerdery in 2012 as a user experience designer specializing in research and discovery; she was promoted to Senior UX Designer in 2013. Emily is a 2011 grand champion of the Diabetes Mine Design Challenge.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to SASS

Does your CSS look like Vogon poetry? Web Design standards are moving at a very fast pace and developers can’t always keep up. Don’t panic. SASS (and mixins) can help save time by generating vendor-prefixed CSS values for you. It will help you better organize styles with things like variables, loops, control structures, and interstellar bypasses. And SASS makes it easy to separate styles into many files and “import” them to generate a single, minified CSS file. In short, it saves time-and it’s fun!

Tony Thomas from Student Unions & Activities will give an overview on how to get started using SASS–a CSS preprocessor. Jim Hart from University Relations will join him to talk about popular SASS libraries and how they used them in responsive web design projects.

The talk will be part presentation, part demonstration and part Q & A.

Don’t forget your towel.

Tony Thomas is a father, husband, musician and web developer at Student Unions and Activities at the University of Minnesota. He has given many presentations on web development topics to groups like the Minneapolis/St. Paul WordPress User Group, the University of Minnesota Web People and Code People Groups and presented at MinneWebCon in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He has covered topics like WebSockets, mobile web development, project tools for web development, and the Git Flow process for the SUA web team workflow.

Jim Hart is a web developer at the University of Minnesota working primarily with Javascript, PHP, and content management. He would describe himself as a “Full Stack Developer” if a) that really meant anything, and b) most of his server time wasn’t spent fixing configs he stupidly broke. Prior to working as a developer, he spent way too many years in marketing, and narrowly avoided getting a Ph.D. in History. His hobbies include wishing he actually had time for hobbies instead of having small children.