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BEA Participate!08 | nina eleanor alter
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my ongoing meditation on systems, human cognition, and how to best collaborate with teams to delight and empower both.

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On 18, Apr 2008 | In | By ninavizz

BEA Participate!08

Primary Tasks: UX/product strategy, hybrid interaction/visual design, content strategy & copywriting

From April 12-15th 2008, BEA Systems hosted their annual user conference in Chicago. Upon arrival, all attendees were given iPod Touch devices pre-configured for the conference, and prior to the conference were introduced to its website through Registration.

For the project, BEA executives wanted to grasp the opportunity to do something experimental with their last user conference (Oracle had just purchased them, and was sunsetting their primary offering). I was brought onto the team mid-project to bring IxD cohesion, product strategy help, and a visual language, to the desktop & iPod conference application(s). And inadvertently ended-up developing the visual branding for the conference.

Over the 4 days of the conference the Participate!08 site recieved 75,000 pageviews from an estimated 700 attendees. In the opening keynote VP Jay Simons presented a demonstration of both the desktop and the iPod Touch apps, and it was received with great enthusiasm. Which yes, delighted me to pieces.

After the conference, the Application itself was licensed (by the developer who had previously negotiated ownership rights to the code) out to a number of other conferences—most notably, SXSW. Of course the “skin” was redone to be on-brand with all licensee conferences, but the core interaction & product strategy remaining in tact for the first few years, left me enormously proud. Unfortunately the code & server-side management wasn’t so awesome, so it performed miserably.


Key Usability & Design Challenges:

  • After looking at concept-prototypes of what had been concepted & built to-date by the engineering team it was clear that the primary need was to step-back and re-focus the whole team on a concise set of goals.
  • Time was too limited to create user personas or multiple itterations of wireframes, so I looked to existing web applications to present in a whiteboard exercise to determine the central “who” “what” and “why” problem/solution equations.
  • Feature names & all product nomenclature had been mostly taken from Facebook and were subsequentlydeemed inappropriate for the B2B audience. Intuitive, sometimes whimsical, and business-appropriate names were created for all features, with the goal of collectively sculpting more unified, less intimidating and more encouraging experience.
  • Giving the application a voice through both written and visual aesthetics that alluded to a “mob” -ish whurr of activity was divined as a top-level goal, with the hope that more user participation among the novice-level social-software users would be subtly encouraged, yielding greater overall app vitality as the end goal.

2 complete design-cycles vested in creating both a robust desktop app and an engaging/intuitive partner Cocoa (iPhone/iPod OS) app, was not within scope in our allotted production schedule. For interaction patterns, I subsequently approached the desktop app “in reverse,” and planned the full IxD with the Cocoa SDK interface tools & standards in mind… so that once complete, the transition would be easy-breezy.