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CHI 2012 – A Collection of Trip Reports

By Janaki Kumar, with additions by Fatimah Shahid, Muktha Hiremath, and Visvapriya Sathiyam, SAP User Experience, SAP Labs, Palo Alto – July 4, 2012

Here is a collection of personal trip reports of CHI 2012, which took place in Austin, Texas, in May 2012. The main trip report was written by Janaki Kumar. We also added two more reports, one by Fatimah Shahid and a short one by Muktha Hiremath and Visvapriya Sathiyam.


Opening Plenary

YouTube’s head of User Experience Margaret Gould Steward delivered the Opening Keynote. Today, many more people have the opportunity to take part in the creation process than ever before. People spend their time and energy to create and give away their creations for free, just for the satisfaction of self-expression. When YouTube sent out an open invitation to contribute to a Life in a Day documentary, they received 80,000 submissions, and 4,500 hours of footage from 192 countries. You can watch the trailer to this amazing movie at YouTube.

Steward outlined the design principles that guide a designer when creating a tool for creativity, with examples of sites that do this well. They are:

  • Empowerment: Sites that do this well are Etsy, Pinterest, facebook, twitter, Instagram among others.
  • Disruption: Empowerment of a previously unempowered segment of the population usually leads to disruption. In the field of education, Khan Academy has introduced technology to enable a student’s self-paced learning, which free up the teacher for 1:1 couching and problem solving. In the field of news and politics, social media has given voice to people who previously suffered in silence under oppressive regimes. Steward compared and contrasted the Katrina and the floods in Pakistan. In Katrina disaster, the news was disseminated through traditional channels like CNN and press briefings. Whereas in Pakistan, which happened a few years later, the traditional media was absent, and people on the ground used their mobile phone to share photos.
  • Magic: “Any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic” – Arthur C. Clarke. Steward advices UX professionals not to get in the way of the magic. In our rush to analyze, we may minimize observations that we cannot rationalize. There is deep meaning in what we cannot explain. Don’t overthink it, and believe in people.


Figures 1-3: Margaret Gould Steward and the topic of "magic" at the opening keynote


Then, Steward explained the process she went through to create the visual design for YouTube. Steward asks the question “If every story and story teller is unique, how do you create a container to hold the most diverse set of faces and voices in human history?”. Using the analogy of dinner plates, we don’t want a disposal paper plate fit for picnic fare, not ornate and expensive fine china that draws more attention to itself than the food on it. You tube went with something neutral and sturdy, that can serve multiple cuisines for any occasion.

This challenge is not unique to YouTube. In business software, with mergers and acquisitions happening in rapid succession, how can we create a shell that can fit content coming from a diversity of sources? Do we want a flimsy paper plate, or ornate and brittle fine china, or something in the middle as YouTube has chosen to do?


UX Management at CHI2012

A few years ago there were hardly any sessions on management at CHI. This year, I attended a weekend workshop, Special Interest Group, Women in UX Leadership panel where I was the organizer and panelist, and an Executive UX management panel.

UX Management Workshop and Special Interest Group (SIG)

Figures 4-6: Denis Wixon and Janice Rohn (left); Janice Rohn (center); CHI 2012 (right)


The UX Management workshop and SIG were organized by Janice Rohn and Denise Wixon. The purpose of the two events was to identify and discuss topics of interest to the CHI Management community. The full list of topics that were of interest to the participants:

Topic cloud

Figure 7: Cloud with list of topics

Of these, we discussed industry trends, CXO and organizational model in more detail. Here are the key points discussed on each topic:

The Industry Trends

  • “Age” of the Customer
    • Focus on customer lifecycle
    • Forrester (and others) have a survey tool for benchmarking customer experience throughout the lifecycle by brand
  • Consumerization of IT
  • Emphasis on UX across the company
    • Not sole responsibility of UX
  • Accelerated organizational changes in some companies
  • Lifecycle changes
    • Agile
    • Shorter lifecycles
  • Cloud and SAS
  • Big data
    • Friction-free access to people, data,…
  • Distribution, size, and shape
  • Expectation of cross-platform support
  • Mobile
  • Location-Based Services
  • Multiple screens
  • Micro-apps and fragmentation
  • Input model (touch, voice, motion)
  • Sensors
  • Combination of community, connected sensors, shared data
  • Social and identity
  • Notification
  • Data comes to user when appropriate

Chief Experience Officer (CXO)

Forrester has conducted a study in 2011 that states that we have entered the Age of the Customer, which empowers the buyer and demands a new level of customer obsession.

Age of the Customer

Figure 8: Graphics announcing the "age of the customer"

Here is a summary of the key points discussed about the CXO:

  • Also known as CCO and other names
  • Relatively new (last 5 years) and growing trend
  • Often responsible for end-to-end brand experience for customer
    • Ads, emails, website, products, shipping,…
  • Sometimes design guru
  • Can be advocate for UX management
  • Can be career path for UX management
  • Should be at brand level for large conglomerates
  • Benefits
    • Recognition that all touch-points matter throughout lifecycle
    • Focus on customer journey
    • Can help UX and UX can help CXO
    • Breaks down silos
    • Position elevates visibility and focus
    • Focus to synthesize existing data (such as CRM)
  • Potential Risks
    • Without solid line resources, could be un-empowered
    • Could have responsibility without authority
    • Sometimes person in this position does not have a customer-focused background
    • UX could be overlooked (along with other functions)

Organizational Models

The participants at the SIG and workshop, represented a variety of companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, among others, all reported that they have oscillated back and forth between Centralization and Decentralization, and everything in between.

The options were:

  • Centralized—1 per company
    • Centralized and matrixed
  • Federated—centralized for each business unit
    • Federated with central standards group
  • Decentralized
    • Decentralized with central standards group (Center of Excellence/Strike Team)
  • Distributed—small numbers throughout
  • Hybrid—mixes of org models

Any model can be successful as long as UX has a “seat at the table” to make drive product strategy, and the UX team members have a community and a forum for information sharing. It is easier to get a seat at the table if UX is decentralized. And it is easier to build a community and share information if UX is centralized. Therefore both models have their pros and cons and have to be managed effectively for success.

The Women in UX Leadership

I organized this panel and was on it as a panelist. We had a great lineup, with Dan Rosenberg as a moderator, Janice Rohn, Apala Chawan from HFI, Lisa Anderson from Microsoft and Kathy Baxter from Google.


The Women in UX Leadership panel

Figure 9: Moderator Dan Rosenberg, Janaki Kumar, Janice Rohn, Apala Chawan, Lisa Anderson, and Kathy Baxter (left to right)


The goal of this panel was to launch a dialog on women in UX leadership. Despite ongoing progress toward equality, women still haven’t reached significant representation in leadership positions in the high-tech industry. Is the field of User Experience an exception to this norm? Does the interdisciplinary nature of UX play a role in making it easier or more difficult for women in our field? Does a career in UX, regardless of gender place a glass ceiling on upward mobility into “C” level positions? Our accomplished panel of UX managers shared their professional journeys, their observations on advantages and disadvantages, and their advice for the next generation.

The panel opened with some stark statistics of women in technology and women in leadership. Then we asked the question, do these statistics apply to UX? What Unique advantages and disadvantages do you face every day as a woman leader? And what advice do you have for the next generation of UX leaders?

The panel was well attended and received. The panelists kept the answers short and crisp, and the audience members had a chance to submit many interesting question on index cards that were passed on to the moderator. Dan did a great job as a moderator, and the experienced panels shared some insightful advice.


Adventures in Austin

Austin Texas is known for its diverse culture, live music, and BATS! The CHI website informed us that the Congress Street Bat bridge was home to more than 1.5 million bats. On the last day after the closing plenary, a group of five of us decided to go check it out. We were in for an adventure. Unfortunately, it was not the right season for bats, but it was for thunderstorms and flash floods. We did see one bat, and got drenched in the process. Hungry and wet, we took a taxi to what we thought was a highly rated restaurant and was surprised to discover it was a food truck – another Austin feature, according to the CHI Website. The food truck owner was so friendly and drove us back to the hotel , and the food was delicious. All in all, it was a successful CHI 2012 in Austin. And in 2013, see you in Paris!


Adenvtures in Austin

Adenvtures in Austin

Adenvtures in Austin

Figures 10-12: Adenvtures in Austin...

CHI 2012 – Another Trip Report

By Fatimah Shahid


The main task for my participation at CHI was to recruit for our Summer Internship in User Experience. We met over a 100 graduate student and working professionals with varying degrees of perception of User Experience. Overall, the UX team received an abundance of interest in helping improve the SAP Experience.

CHI Seminar and Panel Participations

Another aspect my participation was to attend seminars relevant to the SAP UX group and report back useful insights. Below I describe one panel and one seminar in particular I thought useful for the UX community.

Panel Presentation – UX Management and Women

This panel discussion included key women in management to discuss the evolution of women in UX management, insights and recommendations. Our own Janaki Kumar was included in the presentation; and former SAP UX VP, Dan Rosenberg facilitated the panel. Along with women managers from; Microsoft, HFI, Experian and Google. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of being women in UX management include:

  • Advantages: able to translate well; better communication between different team members and executive, people felt they were easier to connect with and share deep feelings
  • Disadvantages: managing that perception of being too aggressive and standing up for a feature and having your teams back; finding balance with “jumping into fires”, picking your battles, not being able to disseminate information as quickly as team would like due to management obligations
  • In general it has become more equalitarian in recent years.

Dan and the group of women recommended the book, “Games Mother Never Taught You” by Betty Lehan Harragan.

Advice for next generation of leadership given:

  • “Don’t attribute malice what attribute to ignorance. Some people are not aware.” – Janaki Kumar
  • Develop a thick skin
  • Appreciate the changes women have made
  • Be savvy about technology and business
  • Build a “360 network” to be valued, known and supported.
  • Be active in the field and make a name for yourself, build a portfolio
  • Attribute most important is resilience.
  • Stay true to values and boundaries
  • Pick your battles very carefully; you need to conserve your energy in the big battles

Seminar Presentation – Designers and Persona Usage

Personas: Perceptions and Usage | IBM Research, Google, UCSC

This first paper to examine how UCD practitioners use and value personas in practice, and demystify the assumption that designer utilize personas in their daily work. The study interviewed 14 experienced practitioners—10 designers and 4 UX professionals—about their use and perceptions of personas.


Figure 13: During the persona seminar


The study recruited 12 participants from the three product divisions, plus 2 designers from Research. The 4 UX professionals’ roles spanned user research and design. The methodology included a 20-min interview about the participant’s experience, role, design process, and use and opinion of personas; and a study task—a 40-min task using two personas to complete cognitive walkthroughs of a company product; and a debrief.

The study examined the perception and use of personas across product divisions, roles, and training. The study categorized based on their opinions and use of personas:

  1. Persona Champion – made fully productive use of personas (3 participants).
  2. Persona Moderate – focused on user role information in personas for design. (6 participants).
  3. Persona Pessimist – did not use personas and had negative opinions of them (5 Participants).

Why Personas Are not Used

They found multiple reasons why designers do not use personas for their own design work:

  1. Personas are abstract – it is hard to understand the abstraction process from user data to persona, so personas come across as lacking critical detail.
  2. Personas are impersonal – the personifying details in personas fail to provide a sense of empathy.
  3. Personifying details mislead – it is difficult to select personal details that do not create false constraints on the design problem.
  4. Personifying details distract – personifying details make it hard to focus on the aspects of a persona that are Critical for the design problem

How Personas Are really Used

Most personas across all groups of UX professionals were used primarily to communicate with non-UX professionals and to advocate for features with development teams. Most designers did not use the personas for their professional design work. If used at all – role specific information was most useful.

Helping Personas Mesh with Design Practice: UX Professional Would Use if …

The primary parts of a persona used were combinations of firsthand accounts from actual users, user study data and user role information. Designers noted that they would use persona if they following occurred:

  1. Access to raw user data, because personas usually eliminate the raw data and make it hard for designers to convey a deep understanding of user for designing
  2. Accurate data on personifying characteristics, versus “engaging personas” would keep from distracting the designers with “false constraints”. This argues against the ongoing literatures around attractive appealing person design; this may be helpful for internal buy in but for designers it may be distracting.

The article suggest the following approach to improving the use of personas buy UX professionals; create the persona in three layers 1) persona 2) user roles and 3) user study data (raw data). The study also suggest including designers in the persona creating process, for more transparency and participatory persona creation.

Study Limitations: The study was only conducted with IBM designers from a particular design group.



  • How Do Designers and User Experience Professionals Actually Perceive and Use Personas? CHI’12, May 5–10, 2012, Austin, Texas, USA. Copyright 2012 ACM 978-1-4503-1015-4/12/0

CHI 2012 – A Participant Report

By Muktha Hiremath and Visvapriya Sathiyam

This year’s CHI 2012 was all about ‘the Experience’ and was held at Austin, Texas, during May 5-10 2012. It was held in the Austin Convention center, in downtown Austin, a 10 min walk from the Congress Avenue Bridge (famed for its huge urban bat colony and its flights) over the Lady Bird Lake. SAP was one of the Champion Sponsor’s at this year’s CHI and had its User Experience booth in the exhibition hall.

SAP UX thought leadership at the CHI conference was represented by the UX team members participating in panel discussions and paper presentations. The UX team members also participated in a few of the courses offered as part of the CHI conference. The colleagues who participated at CHI 2012, have included a summary of their experiences for the various events/courses they participated in.


CHI 2012 calendar

Figure 14: Snip of the CHI 2012 calendar. * indicates SAP UX presentation


Design Re-thinking for the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Case Study Based on Designing Business Software for SMEs in India

This case study was presented as part of the HCI4D track, written by Visvapriya Sathiyam and Muktha Hiremath. The paper is a reflection of the end user research they did with small and medium enterprises in Bangalore for the Analytics area of Business ByDesign. The paper highlights the design factors such as infrastructure support (power and internet constraints in developing countries), micro-localization needs and sustainability as business value critical for adapting enterprise software for emerging countries like India. The case study is available online for you to read and they’d like you to send your feedback.



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