Yesterday, I attended NUX (Northern User Experience) annual conference in Manchester.
1 word summary? Superb.
1691 word summary?…
Great curation. The balance of speakers went from someone telling us about GDPR and the impact it’ll have on us as UX practitioners, through to one of the most passionate speakers I’ve ever seen who literally had me in tears of laughter.
First up was Amber Case.
Her talk was about the space between humans and computers. Devices connected to the internet – the internet of things – which will be 50 million strong by 2020. There were a lot of parallels between this talk and a lot of the stuff I learned at the IBM Watson Festival of Disruption I went to a couple of weeks ago. Amber’s message was around how we should design for different situations and how in some circumstances, we might be designing for and empowering secondary attention. Interesting, A.F. She challenged us to think about the appropriate feedback from a particular machine; what’s right for one might not be right for another. We as designers and technologists should really figure out what the social norm looks like. Another interesting observation she made was how we still sometimes battle with getting things finished. Does this stem from when we used to make things for CD ROM?. Note to self : Check out iPFS.. There’s a possible future distributed internet that looks quite different from the internet we know today. Quote of the talk:
A person’s primary task should not be computing. It should be being human.
Daniel Harris talked about Differentiating with Design Activism.
Google has abandoned Mobile first. It’s now AI first. We as experience designers need to think about more about designing behaviour, less about designing screens and visuals. Dan talked about the Joy of Design – finding the joy points in our research. How our design should have purpose and principals. Quote of the talk:
Create BAD ASS humans.
…meaning: (par example) don’t think of ‘it’ in terms of designing a thing – such as a great camera, think if ‘it’ in terms of designing something that will make a great photographer. I really liked that. He cited a fascinating looking company for this example: Relonch, where you get the camera ‘for free’ and pay for the photos instead. he talked about optimising to maximise the human needs and how kind of how we’ve got a power and responsibility to be ethical in our design work. Design activism. Write on brother!
Clara Gaggero on the importance of empathy.
Clara described herself as an inventor. I’ve seen her do a talk before but that only served to enhance the enjoyment I got from seeing the talk she gave yesterday. (The last time I saw her talk was at UX LONDON last year (here’s my review from that event)) We as designers should stop making assumptions about what people like and find out from them in person. Clara told a heart warming story about designing phones for senior citizens using participatory design. The difference between the ages, the whole way we approach things. We should take note of the barrier between the user and the device or product.
Empathy in design is often about beginning at the end. We should bond and connect with real customers.
Clara also outlined her ‘rule of thumb’ for any design task. Total time = 1/3 research, 1/3 design, 1/3 communication. Neat.
Craig Sullivan on How not to suck at A/B testing
This guys was so very good at using humour to get his point across.
One of my personal PET HATES is them collars you get on disposable drinks bottled. The collars that stay on the bottle after you twist the lid on with the pins of plastic that spike your lip. I get the business needs to demonstrate product integrity through the use of a tamper evident seal, but they annoy the h*ck out of me. Surely there’s a better way.
Craig has an analogous pet hate. The plastic sheet that’s stuck to the top of ready meals. How it invariably rips into several pieces, leaving the user no option but to end up fishing around their dinner retrieving all the bits of plastic. This is bad design. Craig took us on a journey of what might happen is someone addressed this annoying thing. Craig also described how ego is the enemy of what we do. People who say ‘I think [personal opinion about a design/product decision]’ are not usually the typical user. The HIPPO syndrome I guess.
Craig also nailed it with a quote about what he does – what I do as well really I suppose..
Look for where delight and money are leaking. Fix the leak.
I think next time someone asks me what I do or what UX work is – I’ll say that this plays a big part. Craig’s talk was jam packed with useful info as well as being incredibly entertaining. Bravo.
Jason Bootle: ‘Downtime = Uptime’
I saw Mike Tindall a couple of weeks ago. He was talking around a couple of the same things as this guy – using the same context at least; Rugby, intense training.. having a goal.. but equally as important as all of this is down time. Jason stressed that we should de stress. Turns out that some of the tips and tricks from the highest echelons of the sports world are transferable to us UX & design folk. Sure, our day-to-day may not be as physically demanding, but we still have to carry out an oftentimes gruelling schedule to reach a goal, and we have to focus, schedule and train.. and it turns out this isn’t too far removed from an athlete’s regime. Other anecdotes from the world of sport was a beauty from the Tour de France, where thinking outside of the sport gave team GB a special edge – they took each riders personal mattress with.. so they the best chance possible of getting a good nights sleep. Thinking about the end to end of an experience would be the moral of the story here. (in our case, I suppose to not just think about the screen we’re designing that day). As he was wrapping up, his mic drop moment might well have been his inspiring twist of the ‘don’t be afraid to fail’ thing that’s been vogue for a while now…
Don’t be afraid to learn.
I wrote loads of notes of usefulness and life hackery. A big theme was how we should deffo make time for ourselves – schedule in a bit of downtime. I totally agree. I did a talk which included the principal of The Pomodoro Technique last year which basically forces you to take a break every 25 minutes. Studies have shown that this actually makes you more productive. Anyway – Thanks Mr Bootle.
Kate Towsey: User research assets, Treasure or Trash?
A good friend of mine who works in the music industry threw a phrase at me one time: ‘File management is the new Rock n Roll’. Creative people and research people do make a lot of stuff and only a fraction of it ever sees the light of day. Some stuff has personally identifiable information in it. This particular subset of digital guff is under massive scrutiny at the moment thanks to a big government shake up, known as the GDPR. Not a particularly pleasant subject matter, but one that all UK digital business (so, all businesses really) will have to face into over the next few months. It makes sense to protect personal data and, well, perhaps it’s not a bad things that we tighten up. Kate, a Content Strategist turned User Researcher was speaking from personal experience and gave us some practical ways we can think about the often huge sprawling mess that is our pile of artefacts.
99% of people feel they’re failing at filling. It’s not just you.
We should have a content strategy for my own stuff, was the big take home there for me. Basic primary filter? Is it treasure or trash?
Jeff Gothelf: Hacking your tractor with black market code.
Jeff is a rockstar of UX. After Jakob Neilsen and Steve Krug, he’s probably one of the most known entities of the field. I’ve seen him twice before – just after he’d launched his seminal ‘Lean UX’ book and then a fairly short while later, but this talk was different. This talk was a fascinating case study of how he’s been helping a supergiant of a company – John Deer first sense then respond to their users needs. A doff of the cap to a couple of other themes through the day – he touched on design activism in a way with the questions: Are we solving user needs or exploiting user needs? If we exploit, we may land in trouble as culture will always win; or to put it another way;
When you enforce bad policy, people will work around that policy.
People will generally take the path of least resistance. My thought was that if that path is to go to an ‘easier’ website to buy the product or do the thing, they will. Jeff doffed his cap to the BAD ASS photographer example from earlier in the day and challenged us to ask of ourselves if we made our customers successful. Apparently, if we do this, they will reward us. I believe him!
A great end to a great day – how on earth they’ll top that line up next year, I’ve no idea.
If you’re into UX and have access to Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester of Liverpool, NUX are well worth checking out (nuxuk.org). As well as ‘the big one’ (as per this blog), they have many smaller ones – usually free / evenings. Thanks very much NUX crew and all you great speaker, keep up the good work!