A developer’s summary of UX London 2017

Kaushik Chaubal

From 24th to 26th May 2017, Clearleft hosted a three-day conference called UX London at Greenwich, London. I, a full-stack developer who loves building and owning products, decided to attend this conference for the first time and walked out at the end of it with lots of thoughts, ideas, learnings and inspirations. This article is the summary of the things I captured along with plenty of links and references for anyone and everyone.


TL;DR Version:

For anyone unable to read the detailed description, here are some highlights across all the talks from three days (thanks to Scriberia!)

Day 1 highlights…

Day 1 highlights

Day 2 highlights…

Day 2 highlights

Day 3 highlights…

Day 3highlights

Now, let’s go through some details (filled with pictures, YouTube links, and lots of references):

Day 1 — Products:

The focus of day one was product design / management / growth / on-boarding. The format of all three days was talks in the mornings and hands-on workshops in the afternoons. I thought it was great to have that break-down since that gave a lot of food-for-thought in the first half of the day and plenty of practical implementations and tricks-n-tips in the second half of the day. And of course, in true conference style, there were plenty of socialising and networking events every evening.

Andy Budd, the host of the conference, kicked off the conference.

UX London kicks off…

The first speaker was Scott Belsky who spoke about Crafting The First Mile Of Product Experience. He is the creator of Behance and he shared some stories about Behance as the product. Behance started as a paper product and went on to become a book, and eventually, a digital product. The key message there was to be platform agnostic. Another key message discussed was about how products can be powerful enough for professionals and yet, accessible to everyone. And the final key message was how the first mile experience is highly neglected. There was an interesting perspective shared about how every product either SPENDS our time or SAVES our time and as part of our marketing strategy of the product, it’s important to highlight which of the two buckets does our product fall under. Finally, there was a focus on four human tendencies that are observed:

  1. In the first 15 seconds, we are lazy, vain and selfish. And so, the way around that is to Do -> Show -> Explain
  2. We don’t want to make the wrong choices. And so, don’t make me choose!
  3. We subconsciously long for the good old days!
  4. We favour novelty yet cling to familiarity

You can find a very similar talk by Scott here:

This was followed by a great talk about Growing Your Userbase with Better Onboarding by Samuel Hulick. One of the key messages was not to design only for power users. A beautiful phrase used was to start your designing where the user start their using a.k.a the on-boarding! He spoke about how the Mario game has a very well-thought design. Details here:

Also, he shared that there are some great user on-boarding tips on https://www.useronboard.com/. Another key message was, as a product, to give value before asking for value. An example of that is the Weber grills which selling grills but also have great support! They have a YouTube channel, cook books, blog with recipes amongst other support mechanisms. As a consumer, people don’t buy products — they buy better versions of themselves! And showing them success states make them proud — quora (the 5-point list disappears) vs shopify (looks like you are ready to launch!)

You can find a very similar talk by Samuel here:

Next up was How Uber Designs for the Future of Transportation by Molly Nix. These were the 9 key messages covered by her:

  1. Start with what you have
  2. Make product de idioms that enable you to learn
  3. Build up principles across all touchpoints
  4. Know that it won’t be perfect the first time
  5. Design for people, no ideals
  6. Don’t forget delight
  7. Embrace the silver lining of technical constraints
  8. Evolve with your users
  9. Design for change

You can find a very similar talk by Molly here:

Following up from Molly was a talk on the topic of Jobs to be Done: from Doubter to Believer by Sian Townsend, where she described Intercom’s transition to using the Jobs to be Done philosophy. The emphasis was on the limitations of Personas:

  • Personas are a collection of attributes
  • They don’t explain causality

Also, there was a good comparison between Job Stories vs User Stories

  • User Story: As a …., I want to … so that …
  • Job Story: When…., I want to… so I can…

One key message was not to create a product, create a show piece. Historically, product creation have gone through these steps:

  • For years, companies started with the product first and then the market
  • personas and user stories were a much need an attempt to put people first but imperfectly
  • moving towards the model of understanding the job to be done and not the personas

You can find a very similar talk by Sian here:

The final talk of day one was Designing for Business Evolution by Barry O’Reilly. The key message was the improvement Kata:

  • understand the direction of challenge (Totoya wants to move towards zero percent gas emission by 2020)
  • grasp the current condition (Currently, one of Toyota’s car emits 6% gas)
  • establish the next target condition (Can that car emit only 3% by end of 2018?)
  • iterate towards the target condition

Overall, this talk was to think about Lean enterprise.

You can find a very similar talk by Barry here:

The post-lunch session consisted of multiple workshops. I attended a workshop called Thinking In Systems: How Not To Lose the Forest For The Trees by Alla Kholmatova. It was a very hands-on session where we took an example about New York public library’s website and printed two sets of the whole website.

  1. Posted one set of website’s printouts on one of the walls
  2. The website was split them into groups of browse, search, my books
  3. Used the set of printouts to split into different components
  4. re-defined the different components based on good design patterns and created our own wireframes
  5. Finally, discussed about naming of these components to support as well as limit reusability

All the slides for the workshop are available here: https://www.slideshare.net/secret/zwYZlBna61CEDi. The three design patterns that we touched upon in this workshop were:

  1. Specificity scale
  2. Create content structure
  3. Defining visual loudness

Some key references captured throughout the day were:

And just like that day one was over… with plenty of new information and inspirations!


Day 2 — Services:

The focus of day two was services design. Unfortunately, I missed the first two sessions. So, let’s start with the third session of the day.

The third talk for day 2 was Why it’s Time for Designers to Share Their Power by Lauren Currie. A great example of that was about the Dearest Scotland campaign started by Lauren. Some great material around this can be found on: https://www.slideshare.net/jgothelf/there-is-no-such-thing-as-ux-strategy/

You can find a very similar talk by Lauren here:

The next talk was Service Design Thinking and Doing for UXers by Neil Collman. The emphasis was about the change in mindset required to think about service designers with people from a UX background. The slides below paint the picture well:

Three mindset changes between UX and Service Designers

Three key messages that Neil also focussed about

  • Experience Mapping — to understand the experience of other actors
  • Co-creation — to involve other stakeholders in the design process
  • Prototyping Services — to learn by doing

He also listed some harsh truths that one faces when you do that, which is well captured in the slide below:

Harsh truth about Service Designers

The last talk before lunch was Sense & Respond: Products and Services in the Age of Complexity by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

The main focus was 3-point cycle of Sense, Respond, Ship . The picture that is tweeted here has all the detailed:

The four key messages summarised here:

Sense and Respond steps

You can find a very similar talk by Jeff here:

The afternoon workshop that I attended was probably the most challenging workshop for me — especially because of my very limited sketching skills. The workshop was called The Hardworking Pictures Workshop — Making Art That Works by Dan Porter. The main objective of this workshop was to capture the essence of talks / meetups / conferences / seminars using sketching.

  • We started the workshop by scribbling some lines and then, focussing on creating little birds out of it. We followed that by drawing more scribbles and passing on the scribbles to the person to your right and then, the other person made your scribbles into something meaningful
  • Next, we learnt the basics ‘alphabets’ (the building blocks which are the only things we should use) to draw things
  • Using these alphabets, we were given a list to draw and we started drawing that
  • One thing common that emerged was the draw-list handed over to us required us to draw humans and so, we focussed on the transition from drawing stickman to drawing brickman. (Brickman gives more flexibility to draw emotions, actions and day-to-day activities)
  • Next, we were taught some of the templates of sketching and were recommended to use them while drawing more complete story-lines
  • The last exercise of the day was that we were given two completely disjoint business (I got a business about a virtual assistant and wedding planners). And we had to combine these two business to come up with her own business and then, sketch it up to present it to an investor (of course, for me, that combined business was called APE a.k.a Automated Planner for Events)

Here are the ‘alphabets’ that we learnt and my first ever brickman:

The Alphabets and the Brickman

And finally, here are some templates shared during the workshop which can be used while creating more complex sketches:

Templates for Sketching

And boom! Day two was over with just one day more to go!


Day 3 — Design:

The last day of the conference was dedicated to designing and I have to admit, this was the most inspiring day of all (in my humble opinion)!

The day started with Form Follows Me by Mark Rolston. He spoke about
how voice-based computing in homes can transform to something similar to lights (the fact that lights now are omni-present). Also, he shared some use-cases about mixed reality! (See pictures below) and finally, the last section of his talk was all about meta-me.

Couple of slides below show examples about mixed reality:

Examples of Mixed Reality

Couple of slides below focus more about Meta-Me (the combination of the self and the digital version of the self):

Examples of Meta-Me

You can find a very similar talk by Mark here:

The next talk was How We Talk and How Machines Listen — The Structure of Discourse in Human-Computer Interaction by Abi Jones. The talk focussed on voice interaction and creating slicker VUI (visual user interface) for users going forward. There were few theories shared about how human-to-human voice interaction is different and much more complex than the current human-to-computer voice interaction. The pictures below describe that in more details:

How does human-to-human voice interaction work?

You can find a very similar talk by Abi here:

The next talk was Design by Algorithms by Lysandre Follet. In this talk, he gave a lot of emphasis on generative design and how quick iterative designing, co-creation with athletes, sensors and 3-D printing all combined together is reshaping the creative process within Nike Innovation. It is giving designers access to a tool they never had access to before, unlocking imagination and generating products with unprecedented personalised performance. An example of that can be seen in this customised shoe soul based on the distance the athlete is running:

Nike Innovation in action

The next talk was Magic and Design: Using the Thought Process of Magicians to Design New Experiences by Adrian Westaway. He focussed on how as a kid, he fell in love with magic and ever since, he gives a lot of emphasis on magic. He touched upon about how story telling, timing, and making the technology invisible were very essential in both magic as well as designing. And hence, the creation of magical products can be explained as follows:

He, then, took a particular example of a problem of how new phones on-boarding can be stressful and the work he did for Samsung to make on-boarding of new phones simpler and hence ‘magical’.

You can find a very similar talk by Adrian here:

The last talk of UX London 2017 was The Best Interface is No Interface by Golden Krishna. This was probably one of the best talks with the speaker starting with to talk about how we are addicted to the screen, how the ‘there is an app for that’ phenomenon has taken the world by surprise and addiction, and how, some solutions can be designed without need any user interface. Golden Krishna challenges our world of nagging, screen-based bondage, and shows how we can build a technologically advanced world without digital interfaces.

One example of this is the classical Lockitron example — which shows how their first approach was to create a screen-based solution that ended up being a 12-step process. Instead, by removing the screen, it made it a 2-step process!

Lockitron screen-based solution

Golden shared some great references:

You can find a very similar talk by Golden here:

In the evening, the final workshop that I attended was Learning UX from Game Design by Stephen Anderson. There’s a reason so many board gamers show up UX events. The same skills that make us great information wranglers are the same things that make board games like Catan, Pandemic and even Exploding Kittens so appealing! It should come as no surprise that we’ve seen prominent UX leaders cross over into board game design. The breakdown of this workshop was as follows:

  • Introduction of game design
  • Played a game called SissyFight 3000
  • Design round 1: modified the gameplay
  • Design round 2: changed the theme + modified the gameplay further
  • Design round 3: Focussed on core emotion + modified the gameplay further
  • Swap tables: to play test other team’s games
  • Conclusion and ‘wax on — wax off’ effect

The following hand-out was very helpful to understand how to design a game:

Stephen’s slides are available here: https://www.slideshare.net/stephenpa/what-board-games-can-teach-us-about-designing-experiences

More links about game design can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VlJ_BBna_7tzAE305KoHxLZ428f9ovk3ffklIgEAw0Y/edit#heading=h.bfazckfb8th

And so, for the first time, I was able to design and play my own game — it was a great workshop which connected lots of dots all while playing board games!


Overall, UX London was very different from most other development conferences. A lot to learn, a lot to ponder over, and a lot to get inspired from. Hope you found the pictures, YouTube links, and references helpful.

If you did enjoy the article, feel free to recommend the article to family, friends and colleagues.

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