At NJ Tech Meetup, New Faces Network, Learn About Lean UX

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The big news at the 19th NJ Tech Meetup in Hoboken last week was how many new faces it had attracted. The northern N.J. tech community continues to grow as more professionals in the field find their way to events where they can interact and network with peers. Overall, the NJ Tech Meetup community membership has grown to more than 1,300 techies.

The recent event, which took place at Stevens Institute of Technology’s (Hoboken) Babbio Center, attracted a standing room-only crowd of developers, entrepreneurs, investors and assorted tech support professionals. Driving the infusion of new blood was the topic, Lean User Experience (UX): Getting out of the Deliverables Business, a presentation by TheLadders.com director of UX Jeff Gothelf.

As at most of these events, after a productive networking session, organizer Aaron Price invited attendees to come forward and describe the services they offer or ask for help in certain areas. For developers or software engineers, the meetup is a useful place to find new entrepreneurs needing their skills. Startups learn about businesses providing services to N.J. entrepreneurs, since many of them sponsor the meetup. Often sponsors offer deals or contests. For example, SorinRoyerCooper LLC (East Brunswick), a law firm catering to early-stage companies, offered a substantial reward to the winner of a contest for the redesign of its website.

Three startups took the opportunity to pitch. Andrew Cohen presented Brainscape, a New York-based web and mobile learning platform that does a digital retake on the old flashcard system, using cognitive science approaches. Cohen says that by using the science, students can learn efficiently. The company’s goal is to own the mobile learning space and move on from there.

Atlas GameWorks (New York), a web-based program aimed at the human resources community and pitched by CEO Rajiv Roopan, uses adventure gaming technology to understand an individual’s personality and ultimately improve team professional development and performance. The game provides feedback but “best of all, it doesn’t feel like an assessment,” Roopan said.

Dan Cristo of Summit, N.J.-based Triberrdiscussed his web community, which uses the social networking multiplier effect to create “tribes” of people committed to retweeting members’ blog posts, thereby increasing blog traffic exponentially.

The main event, Gothelf’s discussion on Lean UX, was aimed at the UX and developer pros in the audience and at startup entrepreneurs needing a way to rapidly develop and test how users interact with their sites. He described a collaborative UX development process that disrupts the old way of doing things.

In the past, developers created documentation ahead of time describing how the entire project was going to look and behave. However, that often resulted in a beautiful project not functional for users. Lean UX instead breaks down projects into smaller pieces, with less emphasis on deliverables and more on the actual user experience, Gothelf said. The process is faster, too. UX pros work together with developers to create a rough proposed user experience and then test out their idea on real users. A key notion is that by paying attention to feedback, adjusting the approach and developing again, user experience can be improved and sites developed rapidly. Gothelf is writing a book on the subject, to be published by O’Reilly Media Inc. in 2012.

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