Nigel was a founding member of the first World Usability Day organizing committee. It was his encouragement that help us get started. Below is the story of his role in our work.
I remember first meeting Nigel in 1999 at a CIF (Common Industry Format) workshop organized by NIST to add some rigor to our user centered design work. I went on to serve on the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) Board with Nigel for several years, culminating in our joint appointment in 2004 as the Co-Directors for Outreach.
Nigel was in Boston for another professional meeting and was staying at my house, as he did occasionally in those years. The time was Fall of 2004, which happened to be a big one for Boston (my hometown). The Boston Red Sox were playing the New York Yankees in the playoffs- the American Championship League Series, the run off to the World Series. Red Sox had a long-standing rivalry with the Yankees, going back over 80 years. I was raised a die-hard Red Sox fan and had been paying attention to the series. Nigel and I had planned on going to dinner one night during a very contentious game. We were eating in a restaurant that was attached to a bar that was airing the game, and from which screams and cheers kept erupting. A few times I had to excuse myself to run and see what was going on. A turning point had occurred in the game and it looked like the tide had possibly turned for the Red Sox. Although Nigel and I were talking about how we could change the world with better designed products, I was distracted by the game.
I clearly remember Nigel asking me “is this a big match?” referring to the baseball game that was distracting me. I laughed, just at the way he asked, as if, of course, he knew how big it was. Despite my jumping up every now and then and running into the bar, Nigel and I brainstormed about the ways we could help the world by making products and services easier to use, and how that could help people become the best that they were. It was an inspiring conversation, fueled, no doubt on my end, by the exciting baseball series I was following.
Nigel stayed a few more days at my house and during the time the Red Sox went on to beat the Yankees and win a chance to play at the World Series. I was so inspired by my hometown team, and my conversation with Nigel that I suggested we put together a plan to start an annual day, modeled after Earth Day, in which we could raise awareness and motivate companies to create products that were more usable. That plan help launch World Usability Day(WUD), which Nigel helped start. WUD has now been run 13 times, on the second Thursday in November all around the world. We have reached over 40 countries, with hundreds of events and as such, helped launch a field that is strong today—with many different titles—User Centered Design. User Experience, Interaction Design and more.
I don’t think World Usability Day would have been possible without Nigel’s enthusiasm, support, insight and positive outlook.