UX Scotland 2019: my highlights

Kat Husbands
Published in
5 min readJul 18, 2019


I really REALLY looked forward to this conference. I loved last year’s and got loads out of it: ideas, contacts and tons of motivation.

This year’s programme was incredible: with the range and quality on offer, sometimes it was so hard to choose a track that I ended up tossing a coin.

And where last year UofG sent just 3 delegates to Dynamic Earth, this year there were 7 of us — go Team UofG! ❤

I took at least 3 blog posts worth of notes that’ll take me forever to process, and I’m not even going to start on the fantastic social programme as I’m already gushing…but here are the biggest standouts from the main programme.

Conference delegates adding pieces to a large jigsaw
The 2000-piece jigsaw challenge: part of the excellent social programme. We beat Agile Manchester by completing it in just 2.5 days 🏆

Opti-pessimism: design, AI, and our uncertain future

In her playful and poop-filled opening keynote, Cheryl Platz urged us to embrace optimism for a better world, but not to let unchecked optimism blind us to dangers.

When the stakes are high, we must confront our nightmare scenarios before they happen — Cheryl Platz

Technology has changed to the point where the harm our products can cause has never been greater: see self-driving cars killing pedestrians. Add in the student mental health crisis, and it’s just not enough anymore to focus on the ‘happy paths’ where everything goes right. Our glasses can still be half full, but we also have be fully prepared for the worst.

We must:

  • Consider the human context: what are the worst conditions our product will be used in? Who are we excluding? Who will be harmed if our product fails?
  • Design for the best case: assume a long-term relationship with our customers, and design for inclusivity and expansion from the start
  • Build for the worst case: hardware and sensors WILL fail, customers WILL get distracted and biases WILL propagate. What metrics will let us know that something is going wrong? And what processes will we set in motion when those metrics come up?
  • Be ready to adapt in the moment: leave space for the uncertain and allow time to fix things.
2 tweets about the talk showing Dr Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, and a nightmarish dog face generated by the Deep Dream AI
Bonus points to Cheryl for reminding us of the joy of Dr Ian Malcolm and the horror of Google Deep Dream.

Hug your stakeholders, do more for the users

In this talk subtitled ‘What I learned about doing UX in a non-UX organisation’, Joseph Emmi reminded us of the crucial role stakeholders play in the creation (or not) of good user experiences. While it’s obvious that ‘doing UX’ involves cultivating patience and empathy for our users, I know I often forget that the decision makers and budget holders need the right kinds of care and attention too.

It’s all about…

  • Consistency of message: Don’t just be the flavour of the month. We must repeat ourselves until we hear others using our words.
  • Doing stuff: Take every opportunity to tell user’s stories. Insert them in every deliverable until people start to see the value.
  • Keeping it human: No tags, no labels, no jargon, just help people and include them at every stage. But NEVER imply “you’re doing it wrong and I know better”, rather help them to understand.
Several sheets of yellow paper covered with handwritten notes, sketches and user journeys
Ditching the jargon, Joseph made yellow paper his trademark, using it for all sketching, mapping, workshops and so on. A stakeholder who wanted some UX input, but didn’t know what to ask for, said “do more of your yellow paper thing” and everyone knew what they meant 🤗

The Art of Things Not Done

Last year Sophie Dennis helped me finally understand the concept of strategy, and the best approach to developing one. This year she clarified the Kano Model, which had been baffling me for months: I could tell it was powerful but couldn’t get my head around why, or how to use it.

A confusing mess of Google Image search results for the ‘Kano Model’
The Kano whaaaaaat ?!?!!??!???

Sophie neatly tied the Kano Model into 3 key ideas:

  • “There is always more to build than you have the people, time and money for. Always. — Jeff Paton
  • The first half of my favourite UX motto: “Build the right thing, build the thing right.”
  • “Do less.”GDS Design Principle #2

When there are more things we could potentially be working on than we have the resources to cover, the Kano Model helps prioritise our work by dividing the things into categories that relate sophistication against user satisfaction.

Lightbulbs galore! 💡

Example showing things a conference organiser might provide.

She went on to explain how we can combine the Kano Model with other UX methods — such as user story mapping and the Peak-End Rule —and with the Agile concept of the ‘definition of done’.

By the end I was absolutely buzzing with ideas on how to maximise the impact I can have with limited resources, and how I might one day make ‘good UX’ non-negotiable.

Threads & themes

Like welcome whack-a-moles, I saw some ideas popping up again and again in different talks. I’ll dig deeper into these over time…

  • People support what they help create, so work collaboratively and include anyone who makes — or thinks they make — the final decisions.
  • We can overcome our cognitive biases with constant vigilance, and the scientific method: seek to disprove our hypotheses, not to confirm our assumptions.
  • Tell human stories — aka the skill I most want to develop right now. The best, most memorable talks were built around engaging narratives: Cheryl escaping from a wild elephant and Sophie striving to run the cheapest conference. This chimes with what I’ve been hearing all over the place lately: that the best way to convince people of the need for and value of user-centred design is to tell human stories.
  • Have empathy for everyone, not just our users.

UofG students and staff: want to take part in user research to improve the websites and systems you use everyday? Join the MyGlasgow User Panel!



Kat Husbands
Editor for

User researcher, content wrangler, UX Glasgow co-host, fishkeeper, AFOL