20 June 2014
Bart van Velzel
Bart van Velzel
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UXLX 2014

A trip report from Lisbon

In June, I attended the annual UXLX conference in Lisbon (Portugal) with almost 400 other UX professionals from 40 countries. The conference provided many workshops and presentations on research, design and strategy. Although all three days were pretty intensive, I got a lot of inspiration and insights and met many interesting people.

The first two days of the conference entailed various workshops and short presentations. The last day was filled with many full presentations. Because the conference had a multi-track program, I could only attend the following sessions:

  1. Design-led innovation (Steve Baty, Meld Studios)
  2. Balancing high-level and detailed design (David Morgan, Namahn)
  3. Mapping the experience (Chris Risdon, Adaptive Path)
  4. Collaborative research (Erika Hall, Mule Design)
  5. How to measure relevance and ROI of UX (Tim Bosenick, GfK)
  6. Playful design (John Ferrara, Playful Design)

Day 1 (4 june 2014)

Design-led innovation

In this workshop, Steve Baty (a.k.a. @docbaty) from Meld Studios presented various techniques to support project teams to envision innovative concepts for new online services. ~ Sketch notes: Part 1 and part 2.

Balancing high-level and detailed design

In this short presentation, David Morgan (a.k.a. @davidmorganux) from the Belgium design agency Namahn provided tips on how designers can find the proper balance between concept and detailed design. ~ Sketch notes

Mapping the experience

In the afternoon, Chris Risdon (@chrisrisdon) from the US design agency Adaptive Path took the stage. At high speed, Chris introduced techniques for experience mapping to provide insight into customer interactions of physical and digital services. Especially his section on cartography was interesting. Chris showed examples of building blocks to visualize a comprehensive story. Unfortunately, his slides are (as yet) unavailable, but their Guide to Experience Mapping (.pdf) provides a pretty decent version of his presentation. In 2012, Chris gave a similar presentation at UX Week.

Other workshops and presentations

  1. Designing with Lean UX (Kate Rutter – slides)
  2. Designing for Change (Christina Wodtke)
  3. From Lo-fi to Hi-fi: A walk through of prototypes (Péter Polgár – slides)
  4. Mobile first in a conservative company (Susana Vilaça – slides)
  5. 10 reasons in 20 minutes: Talking your clients to make the mobile shift (Nir Erlich)
  6. Product comparison on mobile (Michele Brigante – slides)
  7. The Workshop Workshop (Russ Unger – slides & sketch notes)
  8. Expert Reviews for Experts (Rolf Molich – summary)
  9. Business Origami: Rapid Service Prototyping (Jess McMullin – slides)

Day 2 (5 june 2014)

Collaborative research

During the second day of the conference, I attended a workshop on Collaborative Research. Erika Hall (@mulegirl) of Mule Design provided a fascinating and familiar story on the reasons why important business and design decisions often result in bad products and services. According to Erika, people – with their irrational habits – collaborating inadequately is the biggest threat to effective research and great designs. The most important take-aways of her workshop were to focus on the right questions, to remain critical and doubt everything, to be conscious of noise (bias) and your own preconceptions while doing research. Her story was filled with tips to conduct research in a pragmatic way.

How to measure relevance and ROI of UX

On the basis of a self-developed model, Tim Bosenick (@sirvaluse) of GfK presented how Volkswagen deployed a tool to measure the ROI of UX in order to effectively manage a UX budget and provide management with a better understanding of the added value of UX. His story sounded promising but perhaps due to the upcoming lunch, I had a hard time concentrating and gained relatively little from it.

Playful design

In the afternoon I attended a workshop by John Ferrara (@playfuldesign) on Playful Design. A couple of years ago, John wrote a book on the topic, accompanied with several articles (such as this one). I assumed we were going to dive into gaming principles and then apply them to our own designs. But in the end, we worked on thinking up our own game and then collectively evaluated the game play with a paper prototype. His introduction still was interesting. Based upon the UX model of Jesse James Garrett, John included in his model examples to explain the elements of a good player experience. He also dived deeper into several game design concepts which can be applied in the applications we design. ~ Sketch notes (part 1 and part 2)

Other workshops and presentations

  1. Design for User Experience (Dan Rubin – sketch notes part 1 and 2)
  2. From Designer to Product Leader (Bill DeRouchey – slides)
  3. Designing with Data (Brian Suda – book)
  4. It’s Not Frankensteining: Why you should be building twin prototypes (Will Myddelton – video & slides)
  5. How to trim your design and keep it healthy (Janne Flusund – slides & sketch notes)
  6. Fun, Confusion, Fear and Basketball (Roland Weigelt – slides)
  7. Re-inventing an Insurance Agent Portal through UX (Gonçalo Veiga – slides)
  8. Mobile First Responsive Design (Jason Grigsby – slides)
  9. Brand-Driven Content Strategy (Margot Bloomstein – slides)
  10. Designing for Discovery with Faceted Navigation (Jim Kalbach – slides)

Day 3

How designers destroyed the world

During the last day, Mike Monteiro (@monteiro) of Mule Design started with an inspiring plea that we as designers need to take responsibility for designing the good stuff. Not only for ourselves, our colleagues, and our field but also for the people we design for. Absolutely a must-see! ~ Sketch notes

Things I’ve learned from leading UX designers

Russ Unger (@russu) shared his experiences of managing designers. He dived into the use of team charters in his team to identify objectives, commitment, focus areas, and expertise and to share these with others as well. He also explained how he used critique reviews and buddy meetings to improve the quality of design. ~ Sketch notes

Adaptive input

Jason Grigsby (@grigs) of Cloud Four showed in his presentation the multi-device challenges we meet currently as designers. By now, we pretty much know how to design for different screen sizes. According to Jason, our next challenge will be to deal with the various ways of interaction and operation and to make our design on various devices the best. ~ Sketch notes

The mechanics of magic

Christina Wodtke (@cwodtke) told her audience how she applied gaming principles in her design work for large entertainment companies, such as Zynga. Her motto is to always design for the desired emotion. Furthermore, she explained the use of player types, engagement styles, game loops, game mechanics, and aesthetics. These, these and these references and the sketch notes provide an adequate representation of her story.

History of the button

Bill DeRouchey (@billder) gave a presentation on the history of one of the most important inventions of the previous century: the button. In a funny story, he told us how the button significantly changed our physical and digital world, as we see, understand and used it. ~ Sketch notes

Citizen experience design and you!

A few years ago, Jess McMullin (@jessmcmullin) wondered how citizen experience design could help the public sector to work better for its citizens. He decided to apply his design skills to improving service delivery of government to make services faster, easier, and better to use. In his presentation, he shared his journey, challenges and experiences with us. ~ Sketch notes

Content strategy for slow experiences

Obviously, content strategist Margot Bloomstein (@mbloomstein) needed some extra time to tell her story on designing services people take more time for. Many digital services are fast, easy and efficient, but sometimes work contrary. Based upon examples, she showed how companies deliberately slow down the service tempo to achieve a more effective user experience and a better conversion. ~ Sketch notes

(Re)framing: The first step towards innovative ideas

Steve Baty (@docbaty) told an interesting story on reframing, the ability to take a different perspective approaching similar problems. According to him, reframing is essential for the creative potential of designers for getting new innovative ideas. Unfortunately, his slides are not available (yet), but these and these pages and the sketch notes provide an adequate representation of his story.

UX strategy means business

Jared Spool (@jmspool) gave the closing keynote address. I hadn’t seen Jared before presenting but boy, can he entertain his audience and deliver a great story at the same time! He dived into the question of how organizations can integrate user experience design and connect it with their vision and strategy in order to offer added value to its customers. ~ Sketch notes

Concluding remarks

Unfortunately all good things come to an end. I sincerely enjoyed UXLX. To sum it up, the conference was very well organized (Thanks Bruno!) and took place in the wonderful Lisbon at a wonderful location. The pre and after parties, the delicious lunches and other side activities provided the opportunity to meet a lot of like-minded people. The line-up of thought leaders and experienced professionals was also well chosen. The workshops, quick talks and keynotes were a good mix between research, strategy and design subjects. Primarily process-related and less technology-related, which I appreciated. I guess it will take some time to digest all the information and apply it to my daily work, but I am definitely looking forward to it. Let’s see what this year will bring and hopefully until next year.

About the author

Bart van Velzel (@bvvelzel) works as a user experience designer at Informaat. He has a solid background in human computer interaction and over 12 years of experience designing innovative services for various entertainment, IT and financial organizations. Bart is passionate about design and always strives to make services in the digital world enjoyable and easy to use. When he’s not designing elegant interfaces, he enjoys cooking, photography and traveling.

Customer journey (11), Design (16), User experience (39)

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