Our 3-day trip to UX Conference 2018 in London

On February 19th until 21st, Elements’ design team (Remco, Hendrik and Edmond) went to London to visit the UX Conference 2018. It was the first time we attended this relatively small event, but we were pretty happy we did!

The main topic of the conference was focused around how to improve collaboration between designers and business stakeholders and how to fuel the decision making process with research. They shared some very insightful and useful experiences from the fields of user experience (UX), user research and testing, customer experience (CX), design communication, information architecture (IA), conflict handling and emerging tech. There were some interesting speakers from Uber, Deliveroo, Sage, British Gas, LexisNexis etc. and it was really interesting to gain a perspective from these people and these organizations.

The venue

UX Conference London 2018 was held at Canada Water Library in London with a line-up of 10 interesting international speakers. We received our badges quickly and although it was a bit of a struggle to find three seats next to each other, we eventually found some nice seats because someone was kind enough to give up his spot. Awesome!

Key takeaways we want to highlight

Joost van der Ree — Shipping, learning & making trade-offs

The day started off with a talk from Joost van der Ree, a designer at product brand Uber which immediately gave us some interesting insights. He took us through the process of designing the whole experience (not just the app) and constantly making decisions at Uber. He talked about making trade-offs while working with loads of business constraints and keeping the idea of the ideal product constantly top of mind. The key takeaway was that designing is not deciding whether or not to make trade-offs, no… ”good design is knowing which trade-offs to make”. Designers at Uber (and maybe us too) should never make trade-offs too fast because innovation at Uber grows bottom-up instead of top-down!

Onwah Tsang — Disrupting the undisruptable

Onwah started out with an interesting quote from Mark Zuckerberg, because Mark benchmarks business ideas very high-level. Mark asks himself “Will this idea destroy the company or not?” If not, then why not give it a go? The idea that Onwah wanted us to take away was, “start small, but just start…”

Ben Franck — Involving stakeholders in user testing

The presentation of Ben Franck, UX designer at British Gas, was to show the importance of user testing and especially involving stakeholders of the project in this process and that a tight budget shouldn’t hold you back. Franck started by showing how easy a user test can be. Using a laptop, the Silverback tool and a notepad in a coffee shop would be sufficient enough to gather feedback. Apart that this is a cheap and fast way to perform a user test, it’s hard to reach your target group and there is no involvement of the team and stakeholders. Franck then described multiple ways of how to perform a test so it’s more focused on a particular audience and stimulates involvement of stakeholders. He told the audience it was better to use two rooms; one for the actual user test, the second room as a monitoring room where notes can be taken and stakeholders/team can debate during the user test. The biggest advantage of this setup is that the second pair of eyes will removes bias and you don’t have to takes notes and make recordings anymore. The ideal way to claim the room and call it a ‘lab’. This way you don’t have the hassle of booking room(s) for a longer period of time. Now you can decorate the room so it has all the needs to do monitor a user test and other colleagues can use it as well. Stakeholders and other people now can easily join a user testing session. The conclusion of this presentation is that you need to start small to demonstrate the value of usability testing and eventually try to claim a (monitor) room and install it with all the needs for a proper user testing so stakeholders can be involved.

Tom Nicholls — Good UX vs dark UX

‘Good UX vs Dark UX’ was an interesting presentation about how to balance the user needs and business needs when building products for an ever more savvy user base. Tom Nicholls, UX designer at Sage, started his talk blunt but honestly: the number one of all companies is money. UX includes money, but where can you draw the line when it’s utterly annoying and rude. Nicholls wants to zoom in on several methods or even hacks that companies have been implementing that go from the outer left to the outer right of the good versus bad UX spectrum. This spectrum runs from a friendly ‘honest UX’ which can be translated to soft selling, followed by ‘persuasive UX’ in the middle, which is hard selling. The spectrum ends with ‘dark UX’, this is devious selling. The first will please the user because they got exactly what they wanted. The company prioritizes the users, even at the expense of the companies’ low sales. Companies like Tesla and Apple are good example that embrace honest UX. The middle one balances between a satisfied user that got something offered that he didn’t know he wanted, to a user that got what he wanted but feels a bit uneasy. Companies who are operating in this part of the spectrum tend to create a balance of a good user experience with elegant ways of persuading users to buy more. Amazon is an example that is in the middle of the spectrum. The latter is an example of bad user experience and only focus on revenue. Users will have hard time struggling to the interface and looking out for all the catches. These can be hidden so deep that users have trouble finding them. RyanAir is a company that has a lot of these sneaky implementations.

Christine Røde — Using your own products

Dogfooding… Go out and empathize! This talk by Christine Røde related to the story of Rens from Uber in the sense that we as designers should, if we can get the opportunity, go out and really talk to the people that use our product(s). They can deliver very valuable insights. Also, the context in which they use our product really tells us stories about pain points and things we need to take into consideration while trying to make their lives a little bit easier. Christine told us about how she learned that going into the fields and actually see the product getting used, was key to making valuable improvements to their Deliveroo experience. People really depended on their application to actually make money and support their kids. That’s why it was key to really see how the app could make their lives a bit better. She emphasised that good design has a big impact on people’s lives.

Other talks

Although the other talks also highlighted some very interesting ideas and takeaways about communication and stakeholders, they were pretty much showing us that we are already on the right track at Elements. Working at Elements means that you’ll have to learn to communicate in several different ways (about 16 nationalities) and constantly adapt to make sure that everybody is aligned.

Lunch Drinks

Lunch and afterparty drinks took place in the Leadbelly’s bar & kitchen across the library and was nice. The lunch was nicely taken care off and the space also invited people to start connecting to each other. During and after the event. We connected to some interested people and had some interesting conversations while enjoying our lunch and afterparty drinks. Honestly, these smaller conferences (because they are generally more intimate) really invite people to start connecting to each other!

Conclusion

Although we can’t really compare the way of working at product based brands with the way we work in agencies (where we often don’t have the budgets or projects to continuously develop/improve a product), we concluded that the UX conference gave us the sense that we are on the right track with our UX competence at Elements and should open up workflow discussions. Most things people talked about are also things that we are trying to incorporate more and more. It’s all about changing mindsets, involving people and make fueled decisions.

Finally… some sightseeing as well!

Of course, when the design team is visiting London, the obvious sightseeing has to be done. Because time was limited, we saw the city in a stunning record time of only four hours. Here are some quick shots we took that night…:-)

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Originally published at www.elements.nl on March 5, 2018.