World Usability Day @ MRU

Hello Friends!

I had the pleasure of attending Mount Royal’s World Usability Night hosted by the lovely Brian Traynor! I had the fortune of hearing about Brian from Kat, a fellow friend and co-worker from the NEB team this summer. A few weeks ago at the Inclusive Design Workshop by Calgary UX, Brian was introduced and made a small speech about UX at Mount Royal. I took that opportunity to say hi to him and he was kind enough to invite the UofC Ilab to attend his Usability Day. A few Ilab members were able to attend the event which is reasonable but I wish we had a better turn out from the Ilab. It would have been nice to introduce the two HCI/UX/Info design community in the two universities, but alas, a dream shall remind a dream.


The night consisted of five presentations. There was pretty good presentations and some not so good, unfortunately to say. This is all my opinion though. I came to the night expecting to learn about the current status of usability, so the presentations that were ultimately a marketing device still were a great use of time because I became aware of new tools available in the market. I do wish there was more of content related to usability with those presentations that were more marketing their tools.


Westjet started off the night with a bang. It was very interesting to learn how Westjet’s UX Team works. It goes in a pyramid. We have the the Digital Advisors, which is their term for Project Owners. They are the voice of the guests coming to the Westjet site. Then there’s the Production Designers and QA and finally the UI designers. What was surprising about Westjet is that they put in a lot of effort and resources into usability and UX research. They focus on feedback from the support team. And they conduct digital analysis. I was definitely hooked and inspired to work with Westjet from just the mere start of their presentation.


As the presentation went on, they dove deeper into the techniques they use on the team. Some techniques include A/B Testing (they use Adobe Test/Target), looking to the call center for call volumes and context, and app feedback. The team uses Usabilla to gather user feedback and they use Clicktale to monitor user sessions. They went over the different use cases for these tools and I was inspired to use it as well. If the user submitted negative feedback over a feature or part of the site, the team will go into clicktale and find that specific user session to see what exactly the user had issues with. 


I was quite impressed by Westjet’s presentation. They seem like a place I would love to work for, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for any news on their team and such. After the Westjet presentation, we had a student from MRU talk about their summer research project about using data visualizations to remind others to use the hand cleaning stations at a local hospital. She used the raspberry pi with networking chips, and a counter and installed them to multiple places inside the hand sanitizers stations in the hallways of the hospitals. Nearby the hand sanitizers there would be a display showing how many times people have used that hand cleaning station. This not only helped reminded people to clean their hands, but it also showed which hand cleaning station was most used and which weren’t. Using this data, the hospital could optimize the placement of the hand cleaning stations. As someone who worked as a visualization designer, I found their presentation to be quite interesting. And in the end, I had some feedback for their hand print visualization. It could definitely be improved on to look a lot more polished and compelling to passerby’s to stop and examine the tvs.


The other presenters weren’t too engaging to me. One was introducing their line of products that are used for recording data during user research studies. The other was highlighting the Open Data portal for the City of Calgary.


The last presenter, however, was quite compelling. He was a long time user researcher for an Oil and Gas company before becoming a usability consultant. His presentation talked about User Experience maturity in companies. Turns out Westjet is around 8-9 on the ux maturity scale. From this presentation, I learnt how to analyze a business and see where they are on the maturity scale. From that, I can decide whether or not I wish to work for them. So the night started with a bang and ended with enlightenment. Pretty great event if you ask me.


These are just my notes and thoughts about the MRU Usability Night. Thanks for reading! I’m definitely going to try to attend the next one, if I’m still in Calgary that is.

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