We had a great time at UX Scotland in Edinburgh again this year. Thanks to everyone who came by our stand for a chat, it was lovely to meet so many of you. A couple of members of the team attended the talks each day, and we have notes from those sessions.
Notes from Paul Elliot.
Opti-pessimism: design, AI, and our uncertain future
Cheryl Platz, Principal Designer and Owner Ideaplatz, LLC
Cheryl talked about the risks of focusing too much on the happy path in our products and not considering the potential negative impacts they can cause along the way. With the speed at which we develop product features, and a desire to constantly innovate and deliver impact, there is a danger that we don’t address the harm our own success can cause. A key example of this was the fatal Uber self-driving crash. Although this is the extreme example, it does remind us that the bigger our products get the more potential points of failure there are. We need to consider the human impact of our work, and plan for the worst case scenario aswell as the best. We need to challenge our assumptions early, avoid scientific detachment and take responsibility for the impacts of our products.
Hug your stakeholders, do more for for the users. What I learned doing UX in a non UX organisation
Joseph Emmi, Storm ID
Joseph spoke about the challenges of practicing UX at an organisation which doesn’t currently embrace it. Whilst working at a company that was very engineering focused, he had to be proactive and resourceful in how he demonstrated the value of UX to departments and stakeholders. We talk a lot about empathy in UX, and a key takeaway from this talk was the importance of empathy not only for our users, but for colleagues who are unfamiliar with UX itself. Instead of using UX jargon which can feel intimidating, try to involve team members in the process and show them the tangible value of it. Have a consistent message and speak to people. Do what you can to fill the knowledge gaps and learn about the product’s users. By demonstrating tangible benefits it is possible to start to shift a company’s thinking and appreciation of UX.
How to design products people want using ‘jobs to be done’
Jean-Francois Hector, The App Business
Jean-Francois is a designer at The App Business and has worked on mobile apps for clients including Tesco and the Met Office. His talk emphasised the importance of putting users real struggles at the centre of every conversation. There were common themes here around the avoidance of UX and design jargon, and a focus on better articulation around the design process when working with other disciplines. While we strive for innovation in our products it’s important never to lose sight of the problems were trying to solve. He stressed the importance of ‘Jobs to be done’ as a vital component of wider UX research like personas and empathy maps. In addition to gaining an understanding of our users struggles and their desired outcomes, it’s also vital to identify what workarounds they use themselves to solve the problem. This will often tell us a lot more about their underlying needs.
Notes from Rui Marçalo.
If I could define an overarching theme for day two, I believe it would have to be “how to design with constraints”. From limited budgets, to physical limitations or even legal restrictions, design should be focussed on looking past the constraints, but also realistic and practical in scope.
The art of things not done
Sophie Dennis, Strategic Design Consultant
The first talk was a great summary of which processes can be used to focus our designs to provide the most value, when faced with a limitation of time and budget (within the context of the NHS, but also any service like a budget hotel). One of the main take-aways was the use of the Kano model, which aims to establish a balance between meeting basic expectations of the user, whilst including performance payoffs that add value to customers, as well as extra touches that generate excitement — and how to justify them in our scope.
Learning from museums
The other talks focussed on different types of constraints, such as this talk. Museums are often based in old buildings with rigid architectures, where creating an accessible and open environment is challenging. Furthermore they often try to target as wide an audience as possible, which is a constraint in itself because it means labels, tours and layouts have to be tailored for the enjoyment and appropriateness across all age groups simultaneously. It was an interesting insight into how museums are fundamentally designed to attract, entertain and inform and how much those goals can be aligned to a digital product like FanDuel.
Discovering the right to write
Amber Westerholm-Smyth, Ministry of Justice
Finally the last talk explored the legal constraints of the prison system, in the context of a current trial that aims to offer a personal laptop to every prisoner, with read-only abilities. The presenter walked us through a study on how not being able to write can impact prisoner’s lives and their rehabilitation and elaborated on how the complexity of their situations couldn’t be fully encapsulated with common research tools during the study.
It was a very insightful day, with examples of design work in fields one might not always think of, but reinforce the importance of considering limitations and using them as a platform to create meaningful solutions.
Notes by Yasmin Amjid.
How do emotions shape brand experiences?
Liraz Margalit, Head of Behavioral Research at Clicktale
For the past year, I’ve been transitioning from being a UX generalist to a more specialised UX researcher role at FanDuel which has meant learning more about human psychology and sharing that newfound knowledge with the designers, product managers and other people I work with. Liraz’s talk gave me plenty to continue that knowledge sharing with my teams.
She spoke of how emotions influence our attitudes towards brands and explained that negative experiences are more likely to form long-lasting memories.
Liraz described how humans use one part of their brain for emotions and another part for rationalising and processing information. We make quick judgements using the emotion part of our brain before the rationalising and information processing system kicks in. The emotions we feel, influence the memories we keep.
This rings true for conducting user research at FanDuel — I often remind the people in my team viewing research sessions that we can’t always trust what people say about our product, but rather, watch how they behave with the product, as they are often acting on emotion and not on careful, rational information processing as they appear to be.
User research with social media
Dave Ellender, Evidence Tools
Dave demonstrated a technique he used for coding and analysing social media data during his time as a user researcher for Highways England. He then split us into groups and provided us with printed tweets relating to Highways England. We utilised Dave’s research coding technique together, eventually turning the analysed data into user stories.
If you are conducting any kind of user research, I highly recommend checking this out; Dave has written a thorough guide on Smashing Magazine.
With FanDuel being a social product, there’s a wealth of social media data out there for us researchers to get our teeth stuck into — the issue I’ve had up until now is not knowing where to start! But with Dave’s advice, I now feel confident in utilising social media as part of my research toolkit going forward.
We need to talk about Frank: designing for the wild child of government
Emma Howell, cxpartners
Being spoilt for choice with 4 exciting sessions going on at once, I definitely made the right choice with this one!
Emma described how she and her team used inclusive design to build the new Talk to Frank service, which provides drug information to teenagers in the UK.
I actually used Talk to Frank a bit when I was a teenager myself, but I hadn’t realised it was a GOV.UK service. Emma addressed this, explaining that although the service had to undergo GDS assessment, the team were given leeway to make the design feel less “government-y”. Through conducting research, they found that teens were less likely to trust and use something that felt like it was coming from the government or any type of authority figure. The tone of the service aims to be like an older sibling, who is less judgemental and won’t give you into trouble.
Emma talked about the different iterations the design went through, and the various research methodologies they used. The whole team was involved in the research and design, which helped the overall success of the project. They ensured that accessibility research was conducted from the start — from testing content with people suffering from dyslexia to testing with blind people who use screen readers — and this sometimes meant that the team were impacted emotionally. The issues that affected accessibility were not only design related but down to the code itself, so the entire team felt responsible for fixing these issues.
The three key parts of the talk that stood out most to me were:
1. How important tone and language is, not only in the product but within the team itself — the team couldn’t call the people who use the site ‘users’, as the term has negative connotations in this particular context.
2. To design something inclusive, you need to define upfront what inclusive actually means — what qualities do the people have who will suffer most if the design does not meet their needs?
3. Conducting truly inclusive research will take you out of your comfort zone, and can be quite scary! The team did guerrilla testing by turning up where teens hang out and approaching them to test out the designs, which is an intimidating prospect for people who are used to conducting research in labs or remotely, but it’s essential to go to where your users are so your research is not biased.
This talk was the one I enjoyed most all day. Although FanDuel’s suite of products is very different to government services, GDS’ principles of designing for everyone and doing the hard work to make things simple still apply to almost every product or service, regardless of the industry.
Ends. Why it is critical we balance the bias consumer lifecycle.
Joe Macleod, Founder of AndEnd
Joe is the author of Ends, and demonstrated why it is just as important to design your product’s offboarding process as its onboarding process — yet most companies fail to put much thought into offboarding at all.
He illustrated his point with case studies from his own life: after changing his printer ink cartridges, he wasn’t sure how to properly dispose of the empty ones. After checking the packaging to no avail, he looked online and discovered that he could return the cartridges to the company he bought them from, but the process was lengthy and inefficient.
This process rings true for a lot of products: the offboarding process isn’t communicated clearly to the user, and even after the user becomes aware of it, the process itself causes so much hassle that many users give up. This produces more waste and creates an imbalanced consumer lifestyle.
On the other hand, companies like Ikea are now focused on reducing waste, and will deliver your new furniture, and then remove your old furniture in the same trip.
He explained how, as humans, we have two halves: a consumer self, and a civil self. The consumer self wants to buy things (e.g. a bottle of coke), and the civil self feels bad about things that affect society (e.g. plastic polluting the oceans, sea turtles choking on straws) but doesn’t necessarily make a connection between the two. When companies design their offboarding process, they make it simple for humans to reduce their waste, both physically and digitally.
This was the kind of talk that you keep thinking about for the days and weeks after. It’s already sparked discussions within the UX and Design team at FanDuel about our own offboarding process, and I’ve no doubt that it will have done the same for the other people who attended the talk.
I had an excellent time at UX Scotland again this year. It felt great to be part of such a fantastic conference with diverse speakers and quality learnings. Well done to Jen Thomson and the Software Acumen team for putting on another great year at UX Scotland!