UX Live - Day One In a Nutshell

27 Oct 2017 - Steve Molesworth

As a company that constantly strives to discover the freshest understandings of User Experience, Orange Bus sent Innovations Consultant, Steve Molesworth, to one of the digital design world’s biggest events - UX Live. This central London conference openly explored the culture and business of UX, as well as speculating over its future. Here are our keynotes from the event so far…

Yesterday (October 26th) I had the pleasure of attending UX.Live’s first conference at the Cavendish Conference Centre, which neighbours BBC Broadcasting House, London.

It was content-packed with 11 lectures in the auditorium, including keynotes from Alberta Soranzo, Lloyds Banking Group and Erin Reiss, FatDUX - plus a panel session on IOT (Internet of Things).

My brain has officially melted.

HUGE congrats to the UX.Live team for a highly polished and valuable event, which supported two broad themes:

  • How to engage senior management into design
  • Can innovation be forced?

Session 1 (Opening Keynote)

The architecture of talent

- Alberta Soranzo, E2E Service Design and System Thinking, Lloyds Banking Group \(@albertatrebla)

Kicking of the day, Alberta from Lloyds Banking Group stressed the importance of not getting too comfortable - comfort leads to failure to innovate, which ultimately leads to disruption.

Alberta went beyond typical examples of this (Kodak and Blockbuster) and made reference to the ‘Local Optimum vs Global Optimum’ model which, states a local user base ultimately makes an organisation risk adverse. Risk is essential if organisations are going to move beyond safe, unengaging ideas.

She went onto deliver some sharp observations around how management is typically undertaken and how incentive systems are structured (hint: we need more risk taking and to reward people with bold ideas).

The theme of how design is viewed and integrates with other parts of a business - particularly management - was one point among many of the talks. Far from a bashing of management, there was a call to designers to start engaging with stakeholders in a way that could be understood - transparency, observation, education and where possible, collaboration. In short the stuff we all do when exploring end users’ needs.

Alberta’s final thoughts:

  • Don’t operate in isolation
  • Nurture talent
  • Meaningful work = happy work

Session 11 (Closing keynote)

Innovation vs Best Practice - Conflict of Opportunity

- Eric Reiss, FatDUX \(@elreiss)
  • Eric, author of Usable Usability, delivered a highly engaging and entertaining talk which could be crudely summed up like this:
    • As designers we haven’t been innovating much in the past 10 years and we have a responsibility to think carefully about fixes to problems.
    • Eric went on to discuss innovation, remarking that Innovation and Best Practice are often viewed like oil and water

  • Best Practice is for the here and now (what Alberta called ‘safe’)
  • Innovation is for the future
  • Pushing the envelop is not innovation
  • Following a fad is not innovation
  • Invention is not innovation
  • I learnt a great Japanese word - ‘Chindogu’ -which means ‘useless innovation’ - illustrated with a photo of the Zen Cat Litter Tray…
  • There is only one reason to innovate; to fix something!
  • And you can’t innovate unless you’ve done the research.
  • Remember: A customer is always a user - but a user is not always a customer.
  • Eric was a co-author on the recent Copenhagen Letter which asks designers to consider taking responsibility.
  • Eric ended with the warning that innovations can take a long time before they are accepted - eg, the car seat belt - just because your idea doesn’t take off immediately doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Talk 2 - 8 key takeaways

Designing for Horizontal Scale.

- Shawn Cheris, Director of Experience Design, Adobe Design \(@shawntourage)
  • There are 1,800 icons in Photoshop alone. If you’re going to manage that many design assets you’re going to need to be super organised. And that’s what they are with Spectrum DNA - Adobe’s single point of truth for icons.
  • Give projects great names like Project Kitten Pony.

Scaling a human-centred practice across the organisation.

- Andrea Picchi, UX Consultant (Sony, Virgin, Babylon Health, RyanAir)

Looking to improve people’s output? Try changing their job title / role:

Reframe roles

  • UX > Experience Designer
  • Mobile Developer > Experience Developer
  • Product Owner > Experience Planner
  • Do the above and people’s’ focus and output will change.
Global Markets: Your next big bet?

- Saskatoon Mirta, Uber, UX Research Manager \(@saswatiSM)

Tell more stories…

Saskatoon now spends 50%(!!) of her time crafting stories (something we have recently started doing at Orange Bus) to: build empathy, engage stakeholders in the company and create tangible human stories.

Designing the Experience of Time.

- Andy Marshall, The App Business

There are three areas you can potentially address…

“Operational Management”
Make things faster - e.g. Disney has an additional Pirates of the Caribbean ride they can bring online when lines are long

“Perceptual Management”
UI tricks e.g. pulsating progress bars

“Tolerance Management”
Radical transparency, eg Amazon

The Ecology of UX

- Scott Weiss, Babble \(@sdweiss)

Learn from everyone:

  • Customers
  • Prospects
  • “Leads”
  • Proxies


Intelligent Guides - Architecting Systems for Context Driven Decisions.

- Tim Caynes, Foolproof \(@timcaynes)

As designers we’re often like “seagulls picking over the shit.” Referring to the challenges of legacy systems.

Designing for Systems of Connected Devices

- Claire Rowland (@clurr)

There’s a lot we can learn about IOT from efforts to-date around designing ‘smart thermostats’. Hint: make sure the code from your device runs locally and not in the cloud otherwise your heating wont come on when “The Cloud” blows away.

Future Interactions with Cars and Vehicle Personality.

- Sam Clark, Conjure (@conjure)

Designing digital dashboards for the automotive sector looks awesome fun - especially if it’s Rolls Royce. Designers of the future must be a mix of:

  • Animator
  • Physchologist
  • Engineer
  • Behavioural scientist

Summary of the day

It was a really fantastic day and it was refreshing to hear/see the UX community looking externally (to how we work with other stakeholders) as opposite to our own ‘in the know’ community.

With my job title - Innovations Consultant - one of two terms getting a good kicking today - I would challenge the suggestion that ‘innovation isn’t something on tap’. Whilst I agree you can’t magic innovative solutions out of a hat, I do believe you can stack the deck very much in your favour by giving teams (with representatives from all parts of the business) the space and time to explore the ‘what ifs’. And beyond this I believe the UX/Design community can, through established processes, help others arrive at and test potentially disruptive ideas in a very short time. As Eric Reiss challenged us: “Let’s get on delivering some truly innovative, curve-jumping stuff and not the ‘safe’ ideas as Angela warns against.

Farmers alone cannot produce a wicked loaf of bread, but by ploughing the field, sowing seeds and tending to the crop (including protecting it from those that would eat the immature seedlings), they certainly increase their chances of having something wonderful to spread butter* upon.

A massive thanks to the whole UX.Live.

*Or vegetable-based spreads if you’re of the enlightened vegan persuasion.

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