U.Va. to Host EdUI Conference on Web Design, Usability and Accessibility

July 06, 2009

July 6, 2009 — EdUI 2009, a conference to be held Sept. 21-22 at the University of Virginia, will focus on Web design, usability and accessibility – designing Web sites so users of all abilities can effectively access online information and services.

The conference will bring together experts and innovators recognized in the fields of user interface design, usability research, accessibility, web programming, social media and instructional technology and will provide workshops and presentations as well as opportunities for participants and attendees to network.

The conference is geared to Web professionals in higher education as well as designers, developers, webmasters, managers and professionals interested in interactive design involved in creating Web sites for any institution or industry.

"The higher education market is starved for this kind of information," John Loy said.

Loy, a U.Va. Library Web designer and information architect, began laying the groundwork for the conference after meeting EdUI 2009 keynote speaker Jared Spool at a conference in Seattle last year. Since then, he and a team of University and regional Web community members have worked to bring the conference to fruition.

"We are embracing a community model for planning this. Many in the IT and communications field are involved," said Trey Mitchell, webmaster for the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Susan Teague Rector, Web application manager at Virginia Commonwealth University and a member of the planning team, is excited about the conference. "It's a great opportunity to hear leaders in the Web community speak about what's next on the horizon in terms of user experience, usability and Web design."

Online learning management is also an area that will be covered during the conference. There is continuing demand for professors to adopt online tools to reach their students, Mitchell said. "Students live their lives online and teachers need to be aware of trends and student expectations."

The team has lined up a group of speakers that are some of the "most sought-after experts in the web industry," Loy said.

"These are the 'rock stars' of the Web design world," Mitchell said.

The conference keynote speaker is Spool, a pioneer in Web site usability and founder of User Interface Engineering, a usability research organization. Spool teaches at the Tufts University Gordon Institute and is the author of "Web Usability: A Designer's Guide."

Other featured speakers are:

• Michael Wesch, assistant professor of cultural anthropology and digital ethnography at Kansas State University, a leader in exploring the impact of social media and digital technology on society and culture. His videos have been translated into more than 15 languages and cover technology, education, information and culture. His most popular videos, "The Machine is Using Us" and "A Vision of Students Today" are available on YouTube. He has been dubbed "the explainer" by Wired magazine and an "Emerging Explorer" by National Geographic, and has received numerous awards for his work, including a Wired magazine Rave Award and the John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in Media Ecology. Wesch is a graduate of U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences with a major in anthropology.

• Molly Holzschlag, an advocate for Web standards. A lecturer and author, she has written more than 30 books, including "The Zen of CSS Design," which she co-authored with Dave Shea.

• Dana Chisnell, a usability research consultant who focuses on user interface design and technical communications surrounding design issues in software, hardware, Web sites, online services, games and other applications. The founder of UsabilityWorks, Chisnell has worked with Yahoo!, Intuit, AARP, Wells Fargo, E*TRADE, Sun Microsystems and others to improve the design of their products and services. She is considered by many to be an expert in usability issues for older adults and presenting information in "plain language" that makes sense to most users, and issues related to ballot design and voting accessibility.

• Dan Rubin, the founder and principal of WebGraph and a leader in Web standards and usability. He is a contributing author of "Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation," a technical reviewer for "Beginning CSS Web Development," "The Art & Science of CSS" and "Sexy Web Design." He is the coauthor of "Pro CSS Techniques" and "Web Standards Creativity."

• Derek Featherstone, founder of Further Ahead, a Web development and consulting company, and a Web accessibility technical trainer and author. He consults to government agencies, educational institutions and companies in the private sector. He is lead of the Accessibility Task Force of the Web Standards Project and a member of the DOM Scripting Task Force.

"To interact with this caliber of speakers for professional development, one would need to attend a conference in a major city like Seattle or New York," Mitchell said.

Fees for the conference are $500 for the public and $425 for U.Va. employees, who can defray the cost by using the employee educational benefit. Registration and information is available at www.eduiconf.org.

"At a time when staffs and budgets are cut back, it is a tremendous opportunity for those at U.Va. to attend this conference," U.Va. webmaster Nancy Tramontin said. Everyone in her office plans to attend. "Under normal circumstances, staff might pay thousands of dollars to travel and attend a conference with these speakers. We are grateful to this opportunity."

The conference is organized by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and U.Va. in partnership with User Interface Engineering.

— By Jane Ford