Our experience at UX Bristol 2018

Bristol is a great place to practice UX. We have a thriving creative community and every year UX Bristol gives us the opportunity to gather together, catch up and learn from each other. Now in its eighth year, this all-day event took place at M Shed just a few weeks ago and it was as fascinating and enjoyable as always.

It was a full team day out with all six of us in attendance, including our new Head of Content Alex. As a gold sponsor, we were there with cupcakes and post-it notes for the delegates and Adam delivered an excellent lightning talk on remote moderated research. And, as usual, our UX team also attended a range of really interesting workshops.

Between us, we attended six workshops across the day, on various topics from GDPR to chatbots and bias. We’ve gathered together our key thoughts on each of them below:

Craig Pugsley – Designing voice interactions

In this hands-on workshop, Craig covered the entire conversational UI landscape: from predominantly voice-first platforms Amazon and Google to Facebook’s messaging and chatbots. He showed us the tools, processes and techniques needed to design a conversational app.

This was David’s favourite session of the day. He found it fascinating from a UX perspective and is already experimenting with it back at the office. The interesting question is how best to user test CUIs.

Adam’s thoughts turned to how best add personality to a voice interaction where there is nothing visual. Clearly “copywriting skills to create a character will be key” which led Kenton to wonder “if voice really took off and became the new standard interface would UXers need to become copywriters?”

Mariana Morris – Mapping users’ mental models

When users are frustrated, dropping out or giving negative feedback, often the problem is that their mental models don’t match the designed systems. Maria gave us practical techniques for identifying and mapping out users’ mental models and match with their journeys to improve the user’s experience.

For Adi, this session was great food for thought. The example Maria gave us was around booking a holiday. With some of the client work we’ve done here in the past, we’ve focused almost solely on the booking process itself and Adi realised she’d never really considered how much of a process there is before the user gets to the ‘make a booking’ step of their journey. In this example, Maria showed us that when considering the planning of a holiday, we had four steps to take before we even got to the ‘make a booking’ stage, which in this example, was the end goal.

Alastair Somerville – Designing forgettable experiences

This workshop was all about mapping how we all remember and how we forget. How do we structure exciting future design with elements made to be forgotten?

Alistair talked about how elements of a booking journey, for example, should be so great, they are forgettable. Kenton summed this up nicely saying “I’ve also subscribed to the notion that a good booking/ordering or whatever experience should feel as though it didn’t happen (barring confirmation email and the like). People want to remember the holiday but not how they got there in the first place.”

Kathryn agreed and actually, felt that this is really important when it comes to designing voice interactions because there is no UI to speak of (excuse the pun!). When the spoken word becomes the only medium of communication, sentences are heavily structured to allow clear interaction between user and system, but manual training still needs to be done, especially around fuzzy matching and error handling. Once up and running it should be a seamless experience, flowing from beginning to end.

Emma Howell – Bias in research

In this workshop, we explored the bias in our research, looking at all the places it can sneak in throughout a project. We then looked at how to reduce its effect.

Of all the workshops, this is the one which seems to have really struck a chord with our team. It was Adam's favourite and Adi said that it was great to hear that bias in research is more common than she thought (with the use of leading follow up questions). She was pleased that the way we produce and use our discussion guides here at Natural Interaction is a great way to counter this in practice.

Kenton agreed, saying “I feel that we’re pretty good when it comes to remaining unbiased” and Kathryn took a wider view, saying “It is important to think about how the project as a whole may be biased e.g. in scope and recruitment strategy, not just user activities themselves”.

Paul Matthews & Virginia Power – GDPR compliance and UX consequences

Paul and Virginia talked about how best to encourage consent through design in order to enable service development. Through examples and a collaborative design sprint, we explored and critiqued different approaches.

GDPR came into effect in May and this workshop was one that Kathryn was keen to attend. She learnt that GDPR law extends beyond the need to consent and that actually, UX patterns for portability, erasure and AI profiling also have to be developed. She picked up some great advice, learned about the Data Permission Catalogue pattern library and the emerging field of legal design. She thinks these will definitely be useful in the future and will be taking a look!  

Adrian Howard – Interviewing users

In this workshop, Adrian talked about how to interview people to discover their needs, desires, and pain points. We enjoyed a rapid-fire sequence of mock interviews to learn basic techniques, avoid mistakes. We also looked at lightweight analysis and synthesis techniques that work well in collaborative environments.

Adam attended and enjoyed this workshop. His observation that ‘participants who pause are often seeking permission to continue speaking led him to conclude that ‘we need to get better at letting participants continue speaking as this can often reveal some great insights’.

During the workshop, we played a game in teams of 3, cycling who would be the moderator, speaker or observer. In one, the moderator asked the speaker a single question about their holiday and then shut up apart from listening noises. It was really insightful.

The Natural Interaction Team
The Natural Interaction team - Kenton, David, Alex, Adi, Adam and Kathryn.

Overall, UX Bristol 2018 was a great event (as always). A big thank you to those who organised it. We're already looking forward to 2019 and don't worry, we'll bring cupcakes again...

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