6 things I learned from CanUX 2015

By Christina Leclerc

Last month, Systemscope was a proud sponsor of the CanUX conference — an “amazing showcase of modern experience design trends” held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.

As an attendee of the sold-out event — here are my key takeaways:

  1. Design is a big deal
  2. Belting out O’ Canada in public should be rewarded with beer
  3. Consider the Context– (I have a feeling this is going to get really important)
  4. Thinking like a user is NOT user research
  5. UX toolset needs to expand to measure the whole experience, not just the usability aspect
  6. UX matters, really, it does

In case you haven’t heard — it’s a good time to be a UX designer. User experience, and design in general is getting unprecedented traction in the business community right now. Design is a big deal — as evidenced by a recent cover of the Harvard Business Review– “Design thinking comes of age”. For some time now, good design has been regarded as being an important part of the successful outcome of a project, but there is beginning to be an understanding that design needs to come in earlier, to inform strategy and underpin business processes.

Four aspects of “design thinking”, which are also at the heart of the Systemscope Discovery Solution Methodology include:

  • Talk to users
  • Sketch and visualize
  • Prototype and iterate
  • Tolerate (and learn from) failure
  1. Brent Marshall from Eightlines showed us the O’Canada fridge. It is a wonderful example of those intangible emotions like delight and surprise (and patriotism), in this case because the context — in various public places, and the activity — singing the national anthem to unlock the fridge, were unusual, and the prize — a free beer, was delightful.
  2. The notion of Context in UX was popping up everywhere. This was the overriding, if incidental, theme of the conference. Context adds yet another dimension to the user experience that we need to be aware of, and if we can properly harness it, we will create experiences that shine. Derek Featherstone pointed out that we need to think about the context of our content. For example considering the user’s location, or the notion of time passing (such as during an event). As we untether the interactive interface from the office desk, we are left with more contextual variables than ever before. Where and when is your user accessing your content? What is their physical state? Their mood or mindset? How can we “auto-magically” provide the right information at the right time, and in the right way? There is also the other aspect — your offering might be brilliant and solid in its own right, but not for the users’ particular context (to quote Alanis Morissette, — Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife).
  3. Thinking “like a user” is NOT User Research. This seems obvious but still — lip service to the idea of integrating users — “Look, we made personas!” — is different than actually having users directly involved in your project. Leisa Reichelt of AU GOV DTO prodded us to get people in the door, reach out to them in your design scrums. See someone every couple of weeks. Make sure you and your team log your User Exposure hours.
  4. UX toolsets need to expand — Most of the tools used to measure user experience are still the original usability tools (SUS questionnaire, Time on Task measurements etc.) Even though job titles and conference names have changed, evaluation tools are still the same. There is a big gap between academic research in User Experience and what is actually happening out in the field. Carine Lallemand from the University of Luxembourg highlighted a few available tools worth exploring 1) AttrakDiff, 2)UEQ — Online and 3) The meCUE Questionnaire.
  5. UX matters — It may not be rocket science but from a public service perspective — good UX can affect people’s quality of life deeply. Leisa Reichelt screened a user testimonial video related to the work she did at GOV.UK that tugged at the heartstrings and reminded us that what we do matters. Again with the context!
  6. And lastly, favourite thing I heard over the weekend:
     Boon Sheridan reminded us that: “A prototype is worth a thousand meetings”.

Congratulations to the organizers and volunteers for pulling off another stellar, world-class conference, and I look forward to attending next year’s event.

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