My experiences and takeaways of UXinsight 2019

The second day of UXinsight has just wrapped up, and on the whole it was a blast! Read about the first day of workshops in a post here. Today featured a bunch of speakers, and I’m here to share some of the takeaways I’ve gathered.

I started the day with high expectations: the keynotes looked fantastic, and I had chosen three break-out sessions, two of which were out of my comfort zone. The venue was amazing, and the logistics and scheduling done by the organizers was on point. But being honest, I ended the day feeling a little bit disappointed.

I had it all figured out: I’d written an amazing intro to my blog already, and for every speaker I would summarize their topic in a single paragraph, and then give a single key takeaway. I just finished going through my notes, and I only have a takeaway for about half of the speakers.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but allow me to illustrate my disillusion using the two main keynotes of the day. Steve Portigal talked for 45 minutes about the various topics that are currently playing in the UX research field, and the topics that we could do better on. A lot of these (like that we talk too much about what tools to use and too little about why we actually do research) felt a bit obvious: any researcher worth their salt should be familiar with a decent number of the topics he raised.

But more importantly, while it was clear that he felt the community could do better at addressing a number of topics, he failed to provide suggestions for what we as individuals could do to contribute. Given how much of the community he is in touch with, he is in an excellent position to show tangible examples of some good developments.

At the end of the day, Karen Cham spoke about the future of technology with an emphasis on IoT and the 5G network. While she succeeded in bringing across her message that the upcoming ‘4th industrial revolution’ needs the input of researchers to avoid becoming a disaster to humanity, she again failed to point out how we could help. If you blow the whistle on a topic you’re the expert of, then also give your audience actionable steps to tackle this upcoming emergency.

I suppose I have one main message to (aspiring) UX research speakers out there: practice what you preach! Do your research into what would make a good talk. Test it. Refine it. Do what we all believe in, and we will cheer you on with thunderous applause.

Anyway, that’s enough criticism for now. Below I’ve made a compilation of the talks that offered interesting insights, takeaways or tips to improve the UX research trade.

UXinsight was set in an old, large factory-turned-conference venue. An amazing location with excellent facilities.

How emotions shape digital experiences— Liraz Margalit
In a short talk full of energy, Liraz spoke about how measuring the usability or customer journey is not enough. We need to capture user’s emotions as well, since emotions form the basis of long-term memory, which affects things like brand loyalty. This ties into the methods Carine Lallemand showed in her workshop yesterday. They have built an algorithm that can detect the user’s emotional state of mind based on metrics such as scrolling and navigational behavior.

Key takeaway: just meeting a user’s expectations is not good enough to make a positive long term memory. You need amazing positive experiences, especially since negative experiences get absorbed faster.

Show me your face! — Franziska Roth, Zalando
Franziska made emotion recognition software based on facial expressions together with her team at Zalando. In a lab setting, they were able to measure respondents emotions in real-time, and at the end of the test show them the items (clothing) that they were most positive about in a dashboard. Franziska and her team stopped the project due to ethical concerns.

Key takeaway: users were simultaneously excited and frightened by the website when it read their emotions correctly and showed them items that they’d loved, noting that it almost felt like magic when it got it right.

Mixed Methods — Colette Kolenda, Spotify
In a deep-dive into the world of the experience of Spotify Ads, Colette showed us the importance of using mixed methods to truly understand the world of your users. Our work is meaningless if it isn’t backed up by data, and data doesn’t mean anything if we can’t answer the ‘why?’ questions it inevitably summons. She showed how at Spotify, data scientists and user researchers team up to answer the most pressing of questions.

Key takeaway: using mixed methods simultaneously is essential. Sometimes quantitative data will lead to ‘why?’ questions, and our qualitative findings need to be backed up by data.

Some of the various methods you should mix to cover all angles. Source: Colette Kolenda.

Researching for a brain which is unlike yours — Anniek Veltman
Anniek Veltman shared her experiences designing for a group with slight cognitive disabilities, such as issues with comprehensive reading, emotional instability, etc. This is a group often with poor income, that are easy to manipulate, emotional, and prone to crime. As a society we overestimate their capabilities, and underestimate their numbers: 14% of people fall in this category. As a community, we need to work harder to include this group in our research, and improve the services we make for everyone.

Key takeaway: you need to use experts or ambassadors to get access to respondents in vulnerable demographics. On your own you will never get access, as they shy away from unknown situations and mask their disabilities for strangers.

And that’s a wrap! #UXinsight 2019 is over, and I’d like to express my thanks to the organizers for an extremely well-put together event at a great venue. I’m happy an event dedicated to UX research exists so close to home, and am looking forward to next year’s edition. See you then?

Kevin van Ravenswaaij

Written by

UX Researcher @IdeanNL. The best way to tackle problems is to truly submerge yourself in the user’s world. I’ve done just that at the Dutch Navy & Marechaussée.

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