In 2009 I watched UX Australia through twitter and Slideshare, learning what I could from the great coverage the attendees and presenters were providing. This year, being in Melbourne for UX Australia 2010, was considerably more valuable – seeing presentations and talking to the presenters afterwards about points of interest, chatting to people with varying amounts of expertise and sharing stories and ideas, and meeting UX community members from other corners of Australia and overseas that I haven’t previously had the opportunity to meet.
Jared Spool kicked things off on Thursday morning taking us through examples of successful (and not so successful) experience design, the elements we need for experience design, and asking us to reward team members for creating a major design failure because when you celebrate failure you focus on what you have learned.
While we had morning tea, the ballroom was split in to two and then started the tough decisions of which room to move to for each session. I will probably ponder on particular presentations over the coming weeks in detailed posts but here are a few highlights:
Darren Menachemson – Designing wide in Government
Darren provided some background on the idea of “wicked problems” and the need for wide design by looking at products and services in a wider context so systems can work harmoniously. He provided an example of the Citizen Map created by the Design Council which I’ve found in their publication, Touching the State. The diagram is on the last page but the rest of the document looks to have some great reading.
Iain Barker – Design thinking: is this our ticket to the big table?
Iain raised the emerging use of the label ‘Design Thinking’ within the business community and questioned whether the UX community should consider using the label more widely. I’m hoping this presentation ends up on Slideshare as there were a number of quotes and references that I’d like to delve in to. Based on the tweets afterwards, I expect there will be more discussion on this topic over the coming months.
Todd Zaki Warfel – Behind the kimono : Design secrets revealed (Slideshare)
Todd challenged us: visual designers and developers share their outputs so why don’t we? He talked us through an experiment that Russ Unger, Will Evans, Fred Beecher and himself undertook to find a client (Lend4Health) and to approach the design project with four different tools, without talking to each other, and documenting everything. He showed the steps his team took such as creating an inspiration library (a wall of screenshots, google searches, past work, etc that then was attacked with green (good) and red (bad) markers to circle features), quick sketching, the pitch and critique (and to encourage people involved to see the critique as positive), visual design moving from grey-scale to colour, and the prototyping.
Although it couldn’t be applied in the case of this experiment, Todd’s bold statement “I haven’t worked from a requirements document in over 5 years” made me smile – I agree with the need to do research and not just take a client’s requirements as a list of deliverables.
Jay Rogers – Wake-up working session
Friday morning was gently started with group drawing sessions. There were about 6 different groups and Jay’s focussed on techniques that he was taught at art school. We began with drawing lines and circles (harder than it sounds but very relaxing), moved on to outline drawing, then a squiggly technique (I didn’t catch the name) where we drew Jay in various poses, before moving on to charcoal for some variations on the squiggly technique. It was a fun exercise that has encouraged me to spend some more time drawing and doodling.
Daniel Szuc – The ‘value’ of asking why (Slideshare)
Daniel began by asking us what we value before covering key questions to pose clients to understand what they value and the differentiating factors that can be highlighted about a product or service that will lead them to stand out from the crowd. He also spoke about the value of sharing knowledge with the community, understanding your value, defining culture in the places we work, and the importance of aiming for the long term to improve motivation.
Anthony Quinn – The secret life of deliverables
As Customer Experience Principal at Westpac, Anthony provided insight in to how a large financial organisation works with contractors, where their deliverables go, why those deliverables sometimes don’t resemble themselves when they emerge from the company, and the complexity of implicit objectives. He spoke about the review methods his team has implemented during projects such as informing people of their areas of input on the Jesse James Garrett “The Elements of User Experience” (pdf) diagram and their level of responsibility on a RASCI scale.
Stuart Partridge – UX for the non-UX crowd (10 minute talk)
Stuart provided some tips when working with clients such as:
- Frame the conversation – use the right language and provide information in the formats they understand such as through presentations.
- Business needs – let them know you are considering their needs and that they will get an advantage from UX.
- Become the champion – talk about your experience and stick up for UX.
- Make it measurable – transparency adds creditability and communicate the need to fail to move forward.
- Give the business a stake – take them on the journey with you and ask them to help in areas of their expertise.
Steve Baty – The strategic arc of interaction design (10 minute talk)
Steve encouraged us to zoom out and to stop focusing on specific interactions, to realise that we may be working on one point in a larger activity. We need to design for broad-scale change or broad-scale behaviour. He provided an example of a significant failing in the Melbourne bicycle sharing scheme which we recently wrote about for Core77 where the law requires bike riders to wear helmets but the main audience for the scheme (tourists, occasional users) do not own or carry bicycle helmets.
Toby Cumming, Jane Cockburn & Shane Morris – Defining the recipient journey (Slideshare)
This was a very inspirational presentation about Cochlear and their approach to software design for tuning hearing implants based on user needs and research. This one deserves some more thorough notes that I’ll write up soon.
Joe Sokohl – Nailing it down – specifying experience design so it can be built (Slideshare)
Joe covered the reasons why, especially with large or remote teams, we need to bring specifications closer to wireframes or prototypes to specify our intentions of what needs to be produced and to engage the developers.
Matt Morphett – Designs that ship
Matt suggested the reasons why clients sometimes don’t implement our designs (they don’t understand them; they don’t believe them; they are hard; you didn’t tell them to) and how that can be tackled. He demonstrated a method of drawing a triangle with business, user and architecture at different corners that can be put on a wall and post-it notes applied to indicate whose needs are being addressed by each recommendation – this is a visible way to work through motivations and to define specifications. He also showed how asking stakeholders to hold physical props to represent the business, user and architecture can focus their thoughts and help them to realise which group’s motivations they are addressing. He pushed the need to make specifications visible and to make them highly usable.
(I hope I haven’t misrepresented anyone’s intentions with these summaries! Please let me know if you feel that I have.)
Thank you to Donna, Steve and Danielle for organising the conference as well as to the presenters, all the people behind the scenes, the sponsors, 5 Senses for the free coffee, and to the attendees – it was the best conference I’ve been to due to the great energy, the knowledge-sharing and the inspiration it provided.