CHI Nederland

Kiara Coen

SIGCHI member Kiara Coen delivers the very first English interview for De Naam M/V. Born and raised in New York City, she now lives and works in our capital as a designer of extraordinary rich interfaces.
Read more about the advantages of living in Amsterdam (bitterballs and biking around), her favourite band Quagga and how stuff works…

by: Mariëtte de Haan

K: Kiara, who is Kiara, where and when were you born, where do you live today?

I was born on the 2nd of July in 1975 in New York City to Irish parents. I grew up with my younger brother in green and hilly suburbs to the north of the city. I went to university in upstate New York and spent the two years afterwards moving around the States (Florida, Kansas and Connecticut) with a job before heading back to NYC to work in the web world. I did that for about four years and, one year and one month ago, I moved to Amsterdam, where I live presently. As far as the 'who' question… that’s a much longer story!


I: In 10 years from now I can see myself…
Geen flauw idee! I remember being in my final year of university and interviewing for jobs. This was the question I was asked most frequently and the only one for which I never really had an answer. I still don’t. Rather than looking too far into the future, I try to stay open to the opportunities which arise from the fast pace at which technology changes and the lessons I learn from both my personal and professional experiences.
That being said, I’ve always been interested expanding my focus on usability from web applications to more of a 'wing to wing' approach; concern not just for the usability of an application on it’s own, but a more holistic approach to experience and how congruous and seamless information is presented and actions are executed both online and offline.
I think in 10 years I will either still be in Amsterdam or have returned to New York. I don’t think that I will move to another city or country… but you never know! What I am quite certain about is that I will have accumulated some grey hairs and a lot of speeding tickets.

A: Amsterdam, your most favourite city to live in?
My favourite city will always be New York. It’s a phenomenal place with an unbelievable amount to offer, no matter what your style or interests may be.
My favourite city in which to live right now is Amsterdam. One of the reasons I decided to move to Amsterdam was because it has many of the characteristics which I love about NYC… a diverse population, an accessible range of classic through avant garde culture, a social atmosphere and down-to-earth people. There are a lot of thing about Amsterdam that make it completely different from NYC which I really enjoy as well… that it is 'een dorpje', the picturesque buildings and canals, riding my bike to work, gezelligheid and bitterballen… Overall, I find Amsterdam to be a very liveable city.

R: RIA: can you tell us more about the upcoming RIA event?
On October 14, Lost Boys is hosting the RIA Summit to give an introduction to the segment. The aim is to provide an overview of Rich Internet Applications which will delve into RIA history, impact, benefits, ROI, etc. Following, there will be a more detail look at two different ways of implementing RIAs: Flash-based (Macromedia) and HTML-based (Backbase). For Backbase’s part, we will give a brief technology explanation, implementation considerations, examples and showcases. There will be a good amount of time for Q&A and further discussion following the presentations.

A: Artis: my favourite animal in Artis would be ……, because …
I’ve not yet been to Artis! (so here’s the website).

C: Creating Rich User Interfaces, Backbase’s slogan makes us curious about your job. So fill us in…
Backbase software facilitates an improved user experience via the creation of more interactive, responsive and agile internet applications. The software allows web developers to build this robust functionality using normal HTML in conjunction with B-tags, which are an extension of HTML tags that are powered by our software. We have an R&D team that develops the software and a consulting team which creates web solutions for clients, utilising the Backbase software.
I work primarily in the consulting team as an Interaction Designer. I am charged with designing solutions for our clients, which harness the power of RIA technology and are, of course, appropriate for the user population.
I think the emergence of the RIA space is a huge step in the right direction for the User Experience realm. It represents a broader understanding of the importance of usability and empowering users. It also indicates more wide-spread recognition that while the internet sites and applications may meet certain basic user needs, there are more sophisticated and emotional needs which, if addressed well, can be a powerful differentiator for a site, application, or relationship.
As such, 'creating rich user interfaces' is both challenging and fun. The power of our technology allows us to take design to another level; we have an exciting opportunity to implement innovative functionality and create new ways of representing information. At the same time, one of the first challenges in the RIA arena is the novice-expert gap. Always a challenge for which to design, the gap is increased, given the things we can now do on the web utilising Backbase and similar technology, as users don’t necessarily expect this desktop-like functionality on a web site.

O: Official member of (except for SIGCHI, of course):
I’m not big on things 'official'. Officially I’m a member of IPAN. I attend the Amsterdam IA Cocktail Hour, which I suppose might not be so 'official' but is a really nice mix of formal and informal. It’s organised by fellow SIGCHI member Peter Boersma. When I first moved to the area, sans job and sans professional network, I started to look for freelance opportunities and joined the Freelance Fridays group, started by yet another SIGCHI member, Eddy Boeve. It was through the people I met at these groups that I found my job, ended up in SIGCHI and made some good friends, no to mention dramatically improved my Dutch skills! In New York I was a member of NYCHI and, back in the day, NYNMA (New York New Media Association) which is no longer active.

E: Eating sushi and going to the movies, or what's your favourite night out?
There are so many great nights out in Amsterdam; it’s hard to pick a favourite! A Friday borrel at Café Hesp with my colleagues is always a great time - even better when it’s sunny and warm, sitting outside on the Amstel. I love live music events… whether it’s watching my favourite local band (Quagga), one of the many festivals in the area, or just going dancing. Of course, I would never turn down an opportunity for sushi!

N: Name an interesting website:
Interesting, hmmm… well, I always think it’s interesting to find out how stuff works, so I’d have to say