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UPA 2007

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Podcasting for User-Centered Design

By Timothy Keirnan, Michigan UPA Chapter

Timothy Keirnan is one of the cofounders of the Michigan UPA chapter and has spoken at numerous UPA conferences over the years. In addition to improving the user experience for companies as a consultant or from the inside as an employee, he co-hosts and produces Design Critique: Products for People with co-host Tom Brinck.

This summer marks the anniversary of initial recordings of Design Critique: Products for People with Tim & Tom, a podcast devoted to informing listeners about the advantages of User-Centered Design (UCD). I hope this article may encourage the creation of other podcasts related to UCD theory and practice.

Our vision of doing a UCD-related podcast was that an informal, occasionally humorous show combining consumer product critiques, interviews with user experience professionals, and occasional method discussions might fill a void I perceived in the podcasting world. Sometimes the absence of a thing may imply more than its presence would, and I was concerned that this new medium didn’t seem to have many regular shows devoted to what user experience professionals can offer the world. A maturing, innovative field ought to be represented in a maturing, innovative medium.

The Goals of Design Critique
The Products for People part of Design Critique’s title underscores our fundamental belief that products—and the companies making them—must serve people/customers, not the other way round. The subtitle also seems a useful way to inform potential listeners that Design Critique is not solely about graphic design or Web design or any other traditionally narrow connotation of the word “design.” Rather, Design Critique attempts to spark conversations about UCD by critiquing products for personal and professional use, talking to UCD-related professionals about their work, and discussing UCD methods.

We don’t recommend that our listeners buy particular products that we critique on the show. We acknowledge the complexity of user populations, the importance for each user/potential consumer to consider wants and needs for a product, and the trade-offs inherent in even the best designs. We strive to inform listeners that usefulness and usability of products may change over time, hence the term “longitudinal review” for many of our critiques—and my insistence that we live with a product for at least a month of regular use before recording an episode about it.

Where To Find Design Critique
We publish as often as our professional and personal lives allow, often twice per month. You can find our podcast in several ways:

  • The Design Critique home page is at www.designcritique.net. You can play episodes via a player applet, so no digital audio player (iPod or otherwise) is needed. Of course, you can directly download the MP3 files to your local hard drive, too.
  • If you use Apple’s free iTunes music software, you can find Design Critique by searching for it by name on the podcast area of the iTunes Music Store. Subscribing is a fairly simple process and will prevent you from having to revisit the home page to find new episodes.
  • If you use another kind of RSS aggregator or “podcatcher” application, you can enter Design Critique’s RSS feed directly into that application:

A Call For More UCD-Related Podcasts
While at the UPA conference this year, I hoped to find some other podcast pioneers for UCD and I’m very happy to write that they are among us. Two in particular have begun recording since the conference, and I want to tell you about them.

Giles Colborne is president of the UK UPA chapter, and he recorded interviews with a number of this year’s UPA attendees. He also told me he plans to start podcasting some chapter meetings, and you can find his recordings at http://www.ukupa.org.uk/.

Gerry Gaffney from Australia has begun his User Experience Podcast and you can find it at http://uxpod.libsyn.com/.

Please join me in welcoming these podcasters to the “podosphere” and give them a listen. Also, if you have any thoughts about doing a podcast of your own for business or hobby reasons, please join us! There are numerous types of podcasts I’d like to hear but so far have not found them—the door seems to be wide open. I am available via email from the Design Critique home page, and would be honored to answer any questions to help you get started.


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