LTUX Lightning Talks 2019

And some methods to take home!

Meg Porter
Apr 4, 2019 · 8 min read

Every year, Ladies that UX London puts together a whopping night of lightning talks on a range of subjects and I hadn’t been for a couple of years, so I was happy to attend this years’ and hear deep thoughts from a few new and upcoming speakers among the ranks of the “ladies what UX”.

I love the event because it gives new speakers a place to practice, but it also gives slightly more seasoned UXers like me a chance to hear from new blood. I love to hear about some crazy cool things like UX in gaming and accessibility master’s thesis in museum experience design.

<TLDR>Check the bold sections!</TLDR>

A quick tour of the night:

Zan Sum spoke about designing prototypes for your life. I actually missed this part of the night, but I loved this image from her slides — diagramming average life milestones of average American men and women by year and week. Fascinating!

Ellen Thomas spoke about how her career path has been a surprising journey, and yet, the motivations that she felt for doing good design in uni haven’t changed. I can definitely relate to the following diagram.

Emese Mandzak spoke about her experience migrating a website for a university over 2 months in 2 languages — she said she learned something about SEO. UX and SEO are not an unlikely pair, but indeed SEO strategy and UX strategy are inextricably linked. She posited that we must keep in mind, especially for project work that is primarily marketing-driven, that SEO and UX don’t make any sense without each other — who cares if you have a good UX if nobody finds it or finds it relevant? What is the point of people finding a website that is really crappy experience?

Method to try:
For any kind of content driven User Experience work she suggests looking at Google (or any search engine) as a key primary user persona — not just in how it reads and processes content on a page, but look at the actual user scenarios screen by screen and how does a SE “use” your product?

Lubna Ibrahim ran away after the event, but I was dying to talk to her about her super important project work in “designing for legacy software.” Legacy, back office and infrastructure systems are what run most of the world’s most important and vital services — hospitals, schools, transport and banks… so don’t you wish your internal software looked like this?…

Bespoke functionality is the name of the game in legacy software (and I’m speaking from my own PERSONAL experience here). I liked that she made sure to mention that small changes can be big wins — this is so true!

She gave three tips to try at home, and my favourite was “Use the power of data to convince the business to prioritise UX improvements.”

Often businesses shrink from the task of devoting resources to infrastructure projects. But if we team up with our friends in product (*GASP*) to build business cases for real ROI on them, we can solve some of the biggest service design challenges that plague most of the population (NHS, for example… see my notes from Cazza’s talk below)

Jen Robinson-Bird didn’t want to tackle or delve into the debate about personas and whether they are useful or not (please let’s have a panel/case study night on that, @ltux!); but instead, she showed us a practical example of personas and how one client decided to make use of them within their business.

She said that in order to get a feel for how users interact with a particular brand, you have to see how they interact with the wider context and start to understand why they make the decision to interact with a certain brand.

Method to try at home:

I particularly liked the method she used during her interviews to place their feedback about the client into context.

She used mind map was really interesting as the connections between different parts of the interview were easy to tie together.

Next came some good affinity mapping followed and grouping into themes. In the end the way the client wanted to identify their personas was by their key trait or need, rather than by a name / age. This was so internal staff didn’t confuse them with market segments — but I wonder why that would be bad and wouldn’t you want to understand the crossover with archetypes and segments?

Caitlin Goodale’s talk about designing games for your mum was a refreshing change to the lineup, and thinking about designing video games for “non-gamers” is what makes me love games like Tetris, Candy Crush and Peggle.

“The gaming and games design industry is dominated by white cis dudes,” Caitlin explained. She discussed how it’s pretty hard to get into the industry, and the people who make the games are not a great representation of the people playing the games.

44% of the world’s population play games (ie. not necessarily “gamers”), and remember, not a lot of the world even have access to the internet. Almost half of gamers everywhere are women, so it’s important to try to introduce as much diversity into the teams working on games.

I’d never heard of Quantic Foundry’s player motivations —interesting to hear that there is a really broad spread across age and gender across completion, fantasy, discover, excitement and competitive games.

“Developers and other game creators should play games with other people.” I wondered about my friend Angus Dick, an indie games designer: “What has Angus learned from playing games with me as I’ve learned to use the playstation controller?”

Methods to try:
Caitlin said she and her team get devs to annotate their own game with notes as they watch user testing, but sometimes that is not enough. They started something called “Mom-meets”, where they bring the mums of their devs into the office. The mums come in and do a think-aloud activity with their own child running through the test script. Watching mum, they actually can’t say “well, that user is just dumb” — because it’s their own mum!

Mona Yang reflected on a freelance project, her learnings about herself and her ways of working as she struggled and succeeded in redesigning MapSwipe, an app that creates map data — (think Red Cross, humanitarian open street map team, doctors without boarders and others are trying to get a community of users to add data and help build out this map data swipe and identify buildings and possible roads.)

Lessons learned had less to do with process and outputs:

  1. Prioritise and have a clear backlog — would save time on final details
  2. Exposing my strengths and weaknesses—I learned that I’m really more strong in strategic design thinking.
  3. Fully understand the context before designing anything

My favourite: Sketch more before jumping to pixels — I learned that I would have gotten further focusing on the creativity side and the ideas longer and then not jumping into the visuals and getting lost in it.

@mona__yang I would love to hear how you tracked your progress and learnings throughout the project!

Caroline Butler asked “Who are we not thinking about when we design?” She equated how the design of the plough meant that wealth ownership and inequality went to the men to how voice assistants look and feel like female secretaries. Alexa is a friendly, compliant, female voice — for a long time you could just call her a “bitch”, and she would pleasantly respond.

She talked about how the design of the space for Parliament is really only conducive to having two opposing parties, and how AirBnb’s short term letting is driving up costs and people can’t afford to live where they’ve lived for generations. People who stay behind and short term lettings are ruining the culture and community.

The answer to these problems is that we need to be thinking about how we can be part of a more inclusive and longer-term impact in our design of services and experiences.

Methods to try:

Think about who designs — make sure your team is diverse in multiple ways. Consider how we design—make sure your process is inclusive and pushes boundaries for looking ahead.
Look at why do we design—is the motivator just money, because you can always make people more money and get more recognition by designing inclusively and for long-term impact.

How do we design at scale — what should we be looking into? Predict. Extend. Innovate.

Look for the negative flows. Care about the long-term impact. Help these companies be smarter, and frame it and wrap it in the ROI that these companies are looking for. Learn to build business cases around change at scale (even in evil companies!)

Nicola Flüchter spoke last, all about “invisible interfaces”. Examples include:

  • Gesture based interactions
  • Biometric sensors
  • Haptics
  • Voice recognition / assistants

In her dissertation project, she worked on accessibility for visually impaired museum visitors. Navigation was a huge issue, and accessing information on a museum guide — a device that had graphical interfaces — was almost completely inaccessible for them.

How is Zero UI a more OPEN TOOLBOX? She worked with motion sensors, haptics and audio. Connecting complementary components was important, for example, she connected audio and haptic feedback. I wondered, how do you design haptic feedback and test it? How do you measure the effectiveness of that kind of feedback?

Method to consider:
In testing, because she mixed abled and disabled users, and sought to measure the immersion into the experience for both — she threw the abled participants into the deep-end and saw that they actually were more easily able to navigate and understand their museum experience on a deeper level using these new features.

I would sum up the night by saying that I was inspired to see that there are so many smart and able female UX practitioners in London, and that I hope these ladies continue to speak. I hope they continue to build confidence in their craft, and that they feel an urgency to share what they’ve learned with others, especially outside of LTUX!

Ladies that UX London

Catch up on the latest from Ladies that UX London