Speaker Spotlight: Karen McGrane

In our ongoing quest to learn as much as possible from our brilliant and talented colleagues, we ran a few questions by Karen McGrane of Bond Art+Science. Formerly Vice President of User Experience at Razorfish, currently an instructor at the School of Visual Arts, and a future voyager to the uncharted paradise of the eleventh dimension, Karen will speak for AEA in Atlanta, Seattle, and Boston in 2012.

Q. What’s the main takeaway from your talk?

Everyone is justifiably freaked about about the challenges we’re going to face getting the entire web onto a bunch of different devices: phones, tablets, TVs, refrigerators, LCD watches, football stadium scoreboards, you name it. The smart people among us have tried to channel their freaking out into practical solutions, like responsive web design. It seems like there are a lot of good ideas about how to get our front-end design and development practices to adapt to the future.

In my session, I discuss how our content creation and management practices need to evolve, too. In short, we need content that’s structured into meaningful chunks, not giant blobs of text and formatting. To get there, we’re going to have to change the way content creators think about writing—and the secret to that is having better content management interfaces and workflows.

Q. What’s a useful tip or trick you’ve learned in the last few months?

I spent the first half of 2011 traveling all over the country, renting apartments in different cities, and living out of a suitcase. I’ve learned that the most efficient way to pack is to roll your clothes. Don’t fold them, roll them up into cylinders, and you’ll be able to fit more into your bag.

Q. What professional website are you visiting most these days?

Every day, I take a look at the most popular saved bookmarks on Pinboard. I never fail to find something interesting that I haven’t come across in Twitter or RSS. It feels to me like a very clean, not noisy version of Reddit. I wish they would show historical trends, like how many days a story has appeared in Most Popular.

Q. Tell us something we don’t know about you.

After college, but before I started working on the web, I had a job that occasionally required me to dress up as the Muppet character Ernie and do mall appearances.