Sunday, 30 June 2013

UX Scotland 2013 - slides, resources & write up

The UX Scotland conference took place 20 & 21 June here in Edinburgh and I was lucky enough to go along. Lots of great resources from the sessions are now online, and I've summarised a few notes I jotted as I listened.

The UX Scotland conference's Lanyrd website is chock full of presentations, photos, reviews, tweets, sketchnotes and is well worth a look. 

My highlights from the conference

Lean UX

Jeff Gothelf, author of Lean UX, gave a great opening keynote - Better product definition with Lean UX and Design Thinking.

Jeff proposes that requirements are actually assumptions. Product managers are typically tasked with outlining requirements to meet a (perceived) business need.

But we need to shift our mindset from:
  • "We know" to "We believe"
  • "Let's build" to "Let's test"
So product roadmaps should be a list of questions, not a list of features.

Jeff quoted  Robin Lanahan:
"‘Design thinking’ is defined as “the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.”
 We need to construct sentences in the form:
We believe that building this feature for these people will achieve this outcome. We will know when we are successful when we see...
The big problem comes with basing a development on the users' expressed needs. We need to take implied and latent needs over expressed needs. If you ask whether they want a feature, they're likely to say yes. What's the root cause of the expressed need?

Jeff suggested a questioning technique to understand the expressed need and get to the latent need. Ask 
"If you had (feature) what would it let you do?" 

Webpage comment & user community management

Martin Belam spoke the same morning about his experiences in UK newspaper websites' user comments and moderation - Designing the bottom half of the Internet.

This was a fascinating insight into the concept, development and management/moderation of online newspaper readers' comments. The level of effort involved in facilitating the community and managing the nastier people who are out there was something I'd never really given much consideration to before. While not directly relevant to my work, it did provide food for thought as discussions and initiatives continue in higher education around greater levels of social interaction with key target audiences.

Strategic UX

In Strategic design tools - patterns, frameworks and principals, Oli Shaw proposed that "Purpose plus experience equals impact." His point being that if the purpose isn't right it doesn't matter how well designed the product is.
Design has more value to offer - it's not just lipstick on a pig
Slide from Oli Shaw's presentation on Design Strategy

Like Jeff Gothelf, Oli was saying that solutions = requirements (or assumptions).

I particularly liked this elevator pitch sentence structure:
FOR (target customer) WHO HAS (customer need), (product name) IS A (market category) THAT (one key benefit). UNLIKE (competition), THE PRODUCT (unique differentiator).
Oli also recommended this article on Creating Great Design Principles by Jared Spool

And finally a couple of suggestions that caught my interest that'll I'll be trying:

  • Write an amazon review of the product for each persona
  • Progressively summarise your mission statement to an elevator pitch to a tweet.


I attended a couple of sessions on personas over the two days.

The first was the Persona Express, an ambitious workshop by Rick Monro which, for me, didn't quite come off because we ran out of time and didn't really get to a satisfactory conclusion. Some interesting activities taken from Gamestorming were used though and it was fun interacting with other conference attendees.

And a classic quote from Alan Cooper: 
"It is more important that a persona be precise than accurate"
The second persona session - a straightforward presentation from Kristin Kramer titled Actionable personas: factors in getting them right - was more useful to me. A good mix of theory and experience.

Kristin's success factors:
  1. Grounded in business and research objectives
  2. Timing - know when you're going to jump in (organisation having the appetite for the process and the output - choose your battles). Used roadshows to promote, helped shape the business proposition.
  3. Put the right person on the job - wide range of skills in the UX community. Research skills needed.
  4. Differentiated and working as a set. Among for minimal set. No more than 5.
  5. Useful component parts, at the right level of detail 
  6. Actionable - stakeholders need to know how to use them
  7. Well crafted - presentation has an impact on uptake. Do your personas look the part?
The essential component parts of Kristin's personas:
  1. Minimal amount of personal information: name, photo, age, meaningful descriptor
  2. Differentiated characteristics: in relation to the experience product or service offered
  3. Differentiated opportunity: as a simple statement that maps to or reflects the characteristics
  4. Headlines as meaningful as soundbites - making the characteristics and the opportunities explicit.


Giles Colborne's keynote on the second day - Out of Context - was interesting and thought provoking but provided little that I could take back into my day to day work. I was a little disappointed because I think, I was expecting great things having really enjoyed Giles' presentation at UXPA Scotland last year.

UX comics

In the session Making your first UX comic or storyboard, Bonny Colville-Hyde made a great case for their use in projects:
  • Images are faster to mentally process than words
  • Deliverables and documentation can bore stakeholders
  • The story - well told - encourages greater empathy with the user
  • Comics can go viral - clients are more likely to share them with colleagues and therefore raise awareness of project
After selling the idea to her audience, Bonny then led us through the basics of creating comic storyboards, coaching (many of) us in their first attempt. There were some great examples in the room, but unfortunately mine was not one of them. I've long known I wasn't an artist so the tips that may have seemed obvious to some were not to me. But if I ever work on a team with someone who has the requisite basic talent, I would definitely look to take advantage of it through comics.

They're a great way to bring immediacy to the expression of things like:
  • How things are now
  • How we would like things to be
  • Review how things could be different
A great way to make your personas come to life and compliment things like UX maps and graphs.

My rough first attempt at a UX comic
My UX comic, done in the session
An example of Bonny's UX comic work - What is this user experience thing?

Previous post:  UX comic workshop


The final session of the two days I attended was: Create a spark: using gamestorming and collaboration techniques to fire up your project kickoffs with Ria Sheppard and Silvia Di Gianfrancesco.

Considering the lateness in the conference and the size of the group (the session was really popular so the room was overfull) Ria and Silvia did a great job to energise everyone and basically illustrate the point that they were making - getting everyone active and involved in participatory activities is a great way to create energy and focus at the outset of a project.

I already had the book Gamestorming on my bookshelf, but this session has really inspired me to try a few things out and basically break away from the usual meeting-minutes-emails-documentation approach. Nothing I didn't do as a teacher trying to get disinterested kids to engage with abstract maths concepts...

And finally, a mention to Michele Ide-Smith and her session Getting Started With Sketchnoting which I didn't attend, but created the greatest Twitter buzz of the conference. Lots of delegates sketchnoting subsequent sessions after being inspired. I was lucky enough to sit alongside her in a later session and see her in action which was probably more interesting than the session itself. 

I had my IWMW workshop sketchnoted last year which was really flattering and an intriguing insight into what someone is taking away from what you're saying...

So all in all an ace conference. Lots of fun, some interesting and inspiring sessions and best of all it's happening again in 2014. Fantastic news! :)

There are lots more write ups and resources via the @uxscotland twitter feed and #uxscot hashtag.

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