My Favourite Podcasts

RSS feed sign with headphonesI have become a firm fan of podcasts over the last couple of years, and listen to a lot in the area of software and web development. So in the manner of blog posts that list things, here is my list of favourite podcasts (in no particular order).

You will see that many of them are focused on User Experience (UX) or Design rather than being straight BA podcasts.  This is because the BA podcasts I have tried have not been nearly as engaging, interesting, or thought-provoking as the UX/Design ones.  Also there aren’t nearly as many of them.  I find the UX side of web development really fascinating.  The intersection between  psychology and user interaction is such an evolving field, and I find that a lot of the concepts I learn from these podcasts are very applicable to my BA’s work and how I approach a project for a client. Anyway, enough waffle, here’s the list:

UIE Brain Sparks – Jared Spool

  • SpoolCast – My favourite podcast.  Jared Spool is a godfather of web usability and user research and he interviews various UX and Usability professionals.
  • Userability – Jared and Robert Hoekman answer questions from listeners.
  • Revealing Design Treasures from the Amazon.   This is one of the best of the bunch, Jared gives a conference talk on the design secrets of Amazon. Genius, and funny.

I.A. Podcast – Jeff Parks

  • Primarily about Information Architecture (IA), but a wide variety of guests from different backgrounds and different specialties and perspectives.
  • See this episode on Agile and the User Experience.

Boxes and Arrows

  • Again an IA focus, but very design centric also.  The best part of this podcast series is they post all the talks and sessions from the IA Summit that happens every year, and there are some really fascinating speakers.
  • Check out the key-note speaker Dan Roam from the 2010 IA Summit, I really enjoyed this one –

Boagworld Web Design – Paul Boag & Marcus Lillington

  • I may just like this because it is English and I get to top up my accent, but it is also very relaxed and engaging and I love the split between web news and interviews. It’s also funny.

The Big Web ShowDan Benjamin and Jeffrey Zeldman

  • They have very interesting guests, and it is live streamed.  I think Dan Benjamin is a very natural presenter and has great questions, I listen to his other show also, The Pipeline (see below).  The co-host, Jeffrey Zeldman, is not so natural, however he is a powerful presence in the industry as he started A List Apart and works for Happy Cog and often has poignant things to say, although he doesn’t always say it at the right time, and it can interrupt the flow of the conversation.

The PipelineDan Benjamin

  • An interview show typically with web entrpreneurs who are always really intelligent, well spoken, well read, and basically interesting and succesful people.
  • Try out this show with Jeffrey Veen (who started Adaptive Path as we ll as a myriad of other successful ventures).

37 Signals Podcast – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

  • An awesome Chicago company responsible for products such as Basecamp. They are passionate about creating usable products, and have firm opinions on entrepreneurs and start-up web companies who actually have a business model and can make money. Dare to dream 🙂
  • It’s not a podcast but check out the “Bootstrapped, Profitable, & Proud” series starting with the interview with the guys from Campaign Monitor

Think VitaminKeir Whitaker, Ryan Carson, Mike Kus

  • I’ve only listened to a couple of these but I enjoyed them. They do get in to more codey speak occassionally, but they are also great designers.

You Look Nice TodayAdam Lisagor, Scott Simpson, Merlin Mann

  • Just hilarious. Not web, or design, or in fact focused on anything at all. Three friends shooting the shit.
  • Merlin Mann started 43 Folders which is one of the original productivity sites.

TED Talks

  • Just because they’re awesome. Podcast

  • The only BA focussed podcast that I still occasionally listen to, worth checking out.

Agile Toolkit – Bob Payne

  • This looked really promising when I first found it, but after listening to a few, it always seemed like Bob was interviewing success stories for his Agile coaching, and the discussion was too specific to one company or situation.  It was kind of like listening to a really long in-joke you would never get unless you were there at the time.  However some of the new episodes look interesting so I may try it again.

dConstruct 2009 – Various

  • A conference run every year by the Clearleft web design agency in the UK.  They have posted all the talks from the 2009 conference as podcasts and they are really fascinating.

I hope you enjoy these as much as me. I’d love to hear your comments.


My Favourite Podcasts

Agile and User Centered Design

Nielsen Normal Group
Nielsen Norman Group

This new article from Jakob Nielsen was an interesting read. It relates back, in a roundabout way if you really squint at it from a distance, to my previous posts (here and here) on where the Business Analyst fits in to the User Centered Design (UCD) process. Nielsen is looking at the problem from the perspective of how UCD fits in to the Agile development lifecycle. The focus on a rapid sprint style of development leaves little room for user engagement and testing. Furthermore the concentration on small sprints to achieve functionality can be at the expense of a unified, user-focused design and information architecture. Unless of course that UCD is integrated in to the project from the beginning. This is Nielsen’s point.

The BA gets involved in many of the areas that UCD preaches (requirements gathering, wireframing, information structure, process flow etc.) but he/she is not a designer, so my query was how they fit together? Nielsen makes this comment:

“it’s important to designate a gatekeeper to track requirements and communications between the UX team and the other project teams to keep everybody on track (even though those tracks are parallel).”

This would be a natural starting point for a BA to again be that bridge between two groups. Although it sounds like a Project Manager type role at first glance, I see greater scope for engagement and influence in the project, and so more of a BA type role. To be the “gatekeeper” between the UCD team and the development team. To integrate the user and design requirements from the UCD side, and working within the information architecture and design principals, bringing that to bear on the functional requirements and delivering that to the development team.

Just a thought.

Agile and User Centered Design

Does the BA look at the user experience?

Website Prototype; you can't beat paper for starters
A paper website prototype

Just a quick follow up to my last post which aimed to gather comments clarifying a couple of points.  What are the key functional differences between the BA and Information Architect (IA) roles, and how the split falls between requirements gathering and user centered design (UCD).

I am an avid listener to the Spoolcast podcast from User Interface Enginerring (UIE).  It is really informative and Jared Spool always has some great guests discussing UCD and UX topics. One of the recent guests, Todd Zaki Warfel, was talking about prototyping experiences, and during this discussion he touched on the very same role definition issue. Jared at one point posed the question to Todd, does the BA in even look at the user experience? This brought up some interesting points I wanted to share.

Todd felt that the BA’s typical remit on a project was functionality.  What functional requirements does the product need to fulfil.  So although the BA is involved in the design of prototypes, he saw these as being on the wireframe, boxes and arrows, Visio end of the spectrum. A prototype designed to show that the functional requirements elicited from the users and stakeholders will be met, and visually how those functions will look, in their rawest form.

However an Information Architect or User Interface Designer will approach building the prototype by trying to take it that much closer to the final look and feel of the site will be.  Again the functionality will be there, but there would be more care and attention to the usability and user experience with the site.  He also felt that the designer would be more willing to take a risk and create something very new, whereas the BA may be more inclined to stick to existing structures.  He used the specific example of the designer adding AJAX type aspects to their prototypes.

I certainly think that makes sense and although every BA and IA role will vary from company to company and project to project, I can see this line holding true the majority of times.  It does also back up my contention that in fact there is a fine line between the BA role and the UCD process and that the two sides could easily be joined if necessary.  This provides excellent room for growth in a BA’s armory if they can bring in valuable usability and user design techniques and perspectives to the requirement’s gathering remit. Particularly when expressing those requirements visually, which always seems to be the best way to really engage the stakeholders in the requirement’s process as they start to see the result to all the questioning.

Does the BA look at the user experience?

Mobile User Experience Design


Last night we had a guest lecturer, Alfred Lui, in the HCI: Interaction Design course I am taking at DePaul University as part of my Masters in Business & Information Technology program and it was FASCINATING.  Alfred is a Sr. User Experience Designer at Motorola in the Mobile Phone area, and worked on the Cliq you see in the picture.  It was really great to see someone who has built a career focussed on creating innovative and exciting user experiences with consumer products.  Particularly mobile products which is such a buzzing area, with a lot of innovation as everyone scrambles to be the iPhone destroyer!

His lecture was on Emotions in UX Design, and I will not re-hash his presentation and devalue the message.  However I was intrigued by his discussion of work from Ravi Chitturi’s research about Hedonostic and Utilitarian trade-offs when purchasing a product.  He discussed how, if you buy a product because it is cool but only quite usable, but definitely very cool, it results in happy, joyful emotions.  You may even brag to your friends or blog about the experience.  If it turns out that it is NOT cool the emotions are more likely guilt or anxiety at having spent money unwisely, or because you were tricked in to an incorrect purchase by superficial bells and whistles.  Whereas with the utilitarian product with a usability focus, if that does not live up to these high expectations of usability and utility, the emotion-meter can swing quickly to anger and displeasure.  It just did not do what it said on the tin (you need to be from the UK to get that link reference 🙂 If the product is usable and satisfies it’s utility objectives, then you will be pleased no doubt.  However will you brag or blog about that experience?  Will that product command brand loyalty in an economy brimming with new products and ideas?

This is what fascinates me. We need designers and innovative people to push a product or consumer space forward in to a new realm.  But a basic usability study, or a Business Analyst speaking to users and stakeholders, gathering requirements, will be naturally blinkered by the users own blinkered view on the product space.  To create passionate and engaging products, be they physical or digital, you must be prepared to risk usability and requirement requests, in pursuit of something beyond what could possibly be achieved by sticking to the obvious.

What an awfully tricky, but exciting line to be on!!

This course has really opened my eyes to the world of usability, user centered and user experience design, and I have to say I am hooked.  It feels like an area I am already passionate about and I am only just scraping the surface.  A novice looking in to a new world.  I am now looking at how the Business Analyst role ties in with usability teams. Do they work together, or can a Business Analyst be directly involved in this area?  Particularly in small companies where the budget does not stretch to a BA and UCD expert.

I have been talking with my good friend Jan Booy over at web design agency Booyant and I will be getting involved with some basic web usability tests, so more blogging to come on that soon.

Thanks Alfred!

Mobile User Experience Design