What we learned at UX Bristol 2019

Last Friday we downed tools and headed to M Shed for UX Bristol 2019. Now it its ninth year, it's a well known and important event on the community calendar. In fact, we were proud to be Gold sponsors for the third year running. Each year, there are a number of workshops to choose from with delegates able to attend three in total over the course of the day. At the end, there is also a round of lightweight talks, which this year included our very own Kathryn poking fun at difficult participants and how as user researchers, we can interpret what they say into usable feedback for clients.

Dave and Elena having a laugh at UX Bristol 2019
Dave and Elena, our designers, having fun at UX Bristol 2019.

Just like last year, I sat down with some of the team after UX Bristol 2019 and asked them each to tell me what it was they enjoyed most about the workshops they attended this year. Here's what they had to say.

Senior Product Designer Dave attended Andrew Grimes's workshop on 'Designing Interaction Modes'

Interaction modes are infrequently considered in product design but colour the whole of how you engage with a product. This is particularly important in digital design. That's because the bulk of our users’ interactions with any given product may well be entirely digital.

Happily, these considerations represent low-hanging fruit in our UX practice. They interlace nicely with user personas and can be virtuously affected with a neat set of guiding principles (see figures 3 to 7 on Andrew's article).

Most interestingly for me—apart from the intentional and very well considered interaction modes from Spotify’s Car Mode to internal intranet systems with ‘don’t share’ modes for handling users’ personal data—some interaction modes seem to have precipitated as an emergent property of how websites have evolved. For example, a news article will have a great deal of information and sideways links across articles and sections of the website, you could call that the ‘Evaluative mode’.

As the user scrolls down that ‘above the fold’ stuff tends to get left behind. The bulk of the rest of the page (until the footer) tends to be just text and images directly related to the story. That’s ‘Reading mode’. I think it’s more likely that the change in mode is more likely to be a restriction in how web pages are constructed. Or, it could even be a hangup from the days of print. Both of these are more likely that it being an intentional and considered change.

I find this fascinating! Imagine what’s possible if interaction modes were considered and planned upfront!

Our product designer Elena saw Joe Macleod talk about 'Designing ends'

This workshop was about a topic that doesn’t usually get much attention, both in the project we work on and in our lives: ends. Joe Macleod explained how historically we went from seeing death as a significant part of our lives to gradually push it away and hide it so that we wouldn’t have to think about it. As a consequence of this detachment, we've become oblivious to the last part of the cycle of a product. We've started to feel less responsible for the consequences of our actions in the long term. I would say this is partially due to mental habit (we don’t like talking about our death, right?) and partially due to the design of the products and services we use.

As designers, we spend a lot of energy and effort to understand the people who will use a product, to then create something that they would find appealing at first, and then enjoyable and easy to use once they’re engaging with it. But then what? What happens when consumers are done with the product or the service? There's a difficult conversation to have because ideally, we don't want people to stop liking our creations. Neither do our clients. But the off-boarding experience is part of the journey as much as the on-boarding process. It has a high impact on the way users perceive the product and the overall experience.

For this reason, it should be considered as a part of the design process from the beginning. As Joe said in the workshop “the ends are not just at the end, they’re dragged from the start”. I really like this.

What should we do?

We could educate consumers on what to do when they’re done with a physical product. Or we could make unsubscribing from a service a pleasant experience, rather than an annoying one. This would give a more positive brand perception and it could have a beneficial impact on a big scale (think sustainability). The final part of the workshop was an exercise about this, where we were asked to pick a random product and think of a way to give it a meaningful ends for the user.

Read more about this fascinating topic and see the workshop slides at andend.co

David, our UX Project Manager attended the talk by AJ Justo & Alvaro Ruiz on 'Design thinking: the double diamond in practice'

The double diamond is a design system for identifying a problem and working on a design to help resolve it.

Diamond 1

  1. Emphasise
  2. Define

Diamond 2

  1. Ideate
  2. Prototype
  3. Test

Here's what we did during the workshop:

  • Emphasise- For the session I teamed up with my neighbour and we started to ask questions about what we each liked or disliked about our wallet.
  • Define- It was important to identify 'Why' this caused difficulties for the customer/client. Open questioning helps extract information that someone may not volunteer otherwise.
  • Ideate- We then picked the top 5 problems based on these questions and came up with ideas to help resolve them.
  • Prototype- Finally we sketched a prototype of a wallet which would solve these flaws.

Head of User Research, Kat went to the workshop by Polly Gannaway and Kieron Kirkland about 'Research Repositories'

The thing that really stood out for me was the session on research repositories. I have been mulling over our various strengths and inefficiencies as a research team here for a while now. With that in mind, this session was very useful in helping me give shape and context to some of the questions I had. Designers Who Write was also a well structured session. It provided a very useful structure for writing about the work that we do. I'm looking forward to putting both these things into practice soon.  

Kathryn Davies doing a lightning talk at UX Bristol 2019

In a blur, UX Bristol 2019 came and went. We all found the workshops useful and interesting as always. Kat did a fantastic lightning talk. Plus, we gave out 60 of our now famous cupcakes, lots of post-its notes and 50 tote bags. A great day all round!

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