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World Usability Day 2007: Forty Thousand People Hear How to Make Life Easier

By Elizabeth Rosenzweig and Caryn Saitz

The second World Usability Day built on the success of its inaugural year. On 14 November, more than forty thousand people worldwide celebrated World Usability Day 2006. With over 225 events in 175 cities in forty countries, thousands of visitors joined the over ten thousand volunteers who helped organize and execute these events.

The year 2006 brought an increase of more than 90 percent in the number of events and an increase in the number of attendees at each event, making the growth exponential, significant, and very exciting. Additionally, the concept of usability was promoted for the first time in Paraguay, Iceland, Egypt, Kuwait, and Japan.

The focus this year was on “Making Life Easy.” Of the more than forty thousand people participating in World Usability Day 2006, the largest percentage were professionals involved in usability, design, engineering, technology, research, product development, government, and marketing. However, there was strong outreach to general consumers and youth as well. Events, which addressed issues in healthcare, education, communications, government, and more, were hosted at museums, libraries, art galleries, shopping malls, cafes, and offices.

Museums

The U.S. cities of St. Louis and Boston focused on education and hosted their events in their science museums. These events featured activities for adults and youth focused on how user-centered design and engineering affects their everyday lives. Both museums sponsored an alarm clock rally: usability volunteers interviewed visitors about how long they thought it would take to set the time on six different alarm clocks. The visitors then were timed while they set the alarms and interviewed about the outcomes. The volunteers encouraged the visitors to figure out for themselves what factors affected their speed and accuracy. Visitors rated the rally as both highly enjoyable and educational, which surprised the museum staff. The staff said, "We need more of this—permanently."

(For more information about the Boston events, see the UPA Voice article.)

Shopping Malls

Brazil featured twelve events around the country. University students in Curitiba spent time in the largest shopping mall speaking to shoppers about remote control usage. This event made front page headlines and was available via multiple radio and television interviews.

Illustration: Mall display on remote controls in Curitiba, Brazil.

Communities

In Johannesburg, South Africa, the World Usability Day organizing committee and the Computer Society of South Africa presented a seminar with the theme of “Making Life Easier Using IT.” They awarded two organizations with World Usability Day “Making Life Easy” awards. These awards recognized contributions to the everyday lives of South Africans.

One award went to the African Drive Project in Pretoria. The project develops models for blended learning—live and online teaching—in developing regions. The intent of the project is to provide secondary school teachers with better learning opportunities in physical science, mathematics, technology, business studies, English communication skills, and computer literacy. (See www.adp.org.za for more information.)

The other award went to the eInnovation Academy at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The objective of one of the Academy’s projects is to determine if cultural factors affect interface choices by learners, and then to test two different interfaces with a group of culturally diverse, advanced learners.

Both of these groups have worked to achieve usability in their application areas, to employ information technology to assist people from the local communities in their quest for information, and to take new initiatives to rural and urban areas.

Virtual WUD

If you didn’t live or work near one of the 175 cities worldwide that hosted events, you could still participate in World Usability Day 2006. In an effort to support “Making Life Easy,” this year’s event featured multiple opportunities for people to support World Usability Day from anywhere in the world at any time. The opportunities included signing the World Usability Day Charter, taking a red balloon for a walk, taking photos or videos, attending a webcast or event, and participating in the world’s largest card sort.

Signing the Charter

The World Usability Day Charter was officially launched as part of World Usability Day 2006. The charter addresses key worldwide sectors affected by usability: Healthcare, Education, Government, Communications, Privacy and Security, and Entertainment. The charter received more than a thousand signatures and is gaining signatures daily. To sign the charter, visit www.worldusabilityday.org/charter.

Illustrations: The charter in English and simplified Chinese

Red Balloons Take a Walk

“Walking your Red Balloon” was an international effort to identify products—including maps, road signs, forms, and other items—that are either usable or not. The initiative began in London and Auckland, New Zealand and inspired people to walk around their communities with a red balloon and photograph or video the products they’ve identified. Hundreds of photos from this initiative and from local events have been placed on Flick’r photo galleries. Access them at www.flickr.com/groups/makinglifeeasy and www.flickr.com/groups/worldusabilitygallery2006. To see videos, go to YouTube at www.youtube.com/groups/worldusabilityday2006.

Illustration: The instructions for walking your red balloon.

Webcasts

With this year’s focus on accessibility, the number of webcasts more than doubled from 2005. With over forty webcasts available, people were able to join in from their office or home. Throughout the day, the webcasts enjoyed strong support and interest from participants.

Media Coverage

Media coverage for World Usability Day 2006 was extensive. Efforts were spearheaded by PR sponsor, Weber Shandwick Worldwide. This work involved local media support from their offices in sixteen cities including London, Sydney, Bangalore, Toronto, Boston, New York, St. Louis, and more.

Planning for World Usability Day 2006

Efforts for World Usability Day 2006 officially began in March 2006, with the development of a global core committee. The website, developed by Different Solutions in Sydney, Australia, was the central point of access for participants and was launched in June 2006. The website was built using Ruby on Rails open-source web technology and followed accessibility guidelines.

` In its initial phase, it featured registration modules for volunteers and event organizers and offered stories from World Usability Day 2005. In August 2006, the website launched phase two, the events module, and enabled event organizers to register their events and to post them live. The website featured the ability to view events on a map, by country, by hour, and by webcast.

The site included toolkits and resources for event planning, media coverage, and marketing opportunities. Marketing efforts included a direct mail and online campaign with posters and postcards in several languages. These can still be downloaded from the website at www.worldusabilityday.org/tools/world-usability-day-posters. Tee shirts provided by our sponsor, Techsmith, were mailed worldwide and additional tees are available for purchase at www.cafepress.com/worldusability.

Worldwide sponsors for World Usability Day 2006 included Apogee, BusinessWire, Different Solutions, Human Factors International, Intuit, Noldus, Oracle, SAP, Techsmith, Usability.ch, and Weber Shandwick Worldwide. Their generous support was critical to the success of World Usability Day and we appreciate it very much. Additionally, there were hundreds of companies that supported local events and enabled their success as well.

World Usability Day is meant to raise awareness of everyone’s right to have things that work well. The intent was to bring together, for one day, everyone interested and affected by usability. In our case, the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. We value the collaboration of our supporting organizations—Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), SIGCHI, STC, and User Experience Network (UXnet)—and look forward to enhancing these relationships in the future.

The impact of World Usability Day is created by the tens of thousands of people who participate and volunteer their time, skills, offices, equipment, and more. It is their commitment and energy that makes this a unique event. With all of our creativity, energy, and collaboration, World Usability Day can make a strong impact on our society. We look forward to getting together with everyone again on 8 November, World Usability Day 2007!

About the Authors

Elizabeth Rosenzweig is principal at Bubble Mountain Consulting company and founder and director of World Usability Day, as well as past president of UPA. Elizabeth has over twenty years experience in user-centered design and development, usability testing, technology transfer, and team collaboration techniques.

Caryn Saitz is a creative business development and marketing executive, entrepreneur, and consultant with over twenty years of experience working in high technology, life sciences, financial services, publishing, and retail developing new business, strategic alliances, and marketing programs.  Caryn is executive director of marketing and sponsorship for World Usability Day.

 

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User Experience Magazine is by and about usability professionals, featuring significant and unique articles dealing with the broad field of usability and the user experience.
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This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2007.
http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/upa_publications/user_experience/past_issues/2007-1.html.

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