UX Belfast, October 2018

October’s UX Belfast saw the mesmerising Jorge Arango take questions and talk us through his new book ‘Living in Information’ – a compelling mix of practical advice and thoughtful reflection on the responsibility of designers to create what Jorge terms ‘generative’ online environments.

To thank Jorge for his time, the meetup made a donation to his selected charity, The Long Now Foundation. For more information visit http://longnow.org

Puppet Belfast once again provided food and drink in what was our largest meetup to date.

Plans are afoot to evolve UX Belfast to better serve and represent the UX community in Belfast, offering talks and insights into the work of local professionals while keeping one eye firmly on books, learning, and professional development.

UX Scotland 2018

One of the UK’s premier UX conferences once again delivered the goods in 2018, with an impressive roster of speakers and talks. As ever with conferences put together by the team at Software Acumen, the scope and remit of the schedule pushed the boundaries of the subject matter over three days.

I was reprising my role as a speaker, with a session outlining some of my work at Puppet on day one of the conference. From then on, I was able to relax and take in some fantastic education and information from the assorted collection of practitioners.

Highlights were difficult to pinpont, and in many ways it seems unfair to do so. That said, with up to 3 concurrent tracks, the number of talks to take in was limited, so here’s what I managed.

Soren Engelbrecht
How to create a user-centered ‘digital ecosystem’ across devices

Adrian Howard
The User Experience of Management

Gregg Bernstein
Be more certain: a practical approach to research practice

Llara Geddes
Leveraging customer service expertise to improve UX
(no slides available)

Jessica Cameron
Statistics for UX professionals

Honorable mention: Chris Taylor
We need to talk about data

So those were my talk highlights. Delightfully, my talk managed to make others’ shortlist of highlights, and I’m going to blow my own trumpet here and link to them.

Gavin Anderson of the Univeristy of Edinburgh offered summary of my talk was extremely gratifying, in that he picked out some points and themes that I hadn’t even planned in the talk. Thank you, Gavin. https://website-programme-blog.is.ed.ac.uk/ux-scotland-2018-write-up/

I also managed to sneak into Cole AD‘s shortlist of highlights http://cole-ad.co.uk/ux-scotland-conference/

Something else I was happy to be able to do this year was set up a series of shared Google docs to crowdsources notes. While the uptake on these was low (very low…), I was happy to do it, having benefitted from Vicky Teinaki‘s initiative in 2016. Fwiw my notes are available from here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kMuFdzOO0FJErEIz6n-DcdlKPS7cM-fp55MKg89M5hw/edit?usp=sharing

I’ll be back at the conference. Certainly as a participant, and if I’m fortunate, as a contributor. The lineup never fails to deliver practical insights and ‘a-ha’ moments. Kudos to Software Acumen for another quality year.

UX Belfast meetup, May 2018

The Belfast UX bookclub meetups continue, and 30 May gathering had author Sara Wachter-Boettcher taking questions and providing insights on ’Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech’.

Images from UX Belfast meetup, May 2018
Images from UX Belfast meetup, May 2018

This marked the twentieth UX Belfast meetup I’ve organised and, significantly, the best attended. A partnership with Women in Tech Belfast for the evening contributed hugely to that milestone. That said, interest in the group is rising rapidly, with over 220 members on the Meetup.com page at time of writing.

Sara’s book made Fast Company’s Top 10 Business & Leadership books of 2017, and Wired’s Top Tech books of 2017. Although a relatively short read, Sara has managed to gather a shocking number of case studies and examples where technology might be successfully delivering ‘engagement’ with users but letting humans, even society, down in the process.

Further information on the book, as well as Sara’s work as an independent content and UX consultant, can be found at her website http://www.sarawb.com.

Huge thanks to partners for the evening, Women in Tech BFS. Thanks also to PuppetBelfast for providing the great venue and refreshments, Slice app for the copious amounts of pizza and to WW Norton UK for discounts and copies of the book to give away.

To thank Sara for her time, a donation has been made to local charity, WomensTec. For more information visit http://www.womenstec.org

UX Bookclub Belfast, Feb 2018

This time round we had Donna Lichaw (@dlichaw) talking about her book The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products that People Love.

Donna has a background in screenwriting, and carried over the idea of mapping out story from the world of film as she transitioned into products. In the book we’re offered examples from film & TV (Back to the Future and Breaking Bad fwiw), then examples of how that transposes to design.

The storymapping model ©2018 Donna Lichaw

The storymap always follows this pattern (above), the challenge is then to populate the story with the most critical elements of the user experience. N.B. Although Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’ is referenced, that isn’t the central model or focus of the book.

Examples of effective application of the technique included Donna’s own experience with FitCounter, where rate of retention during onboarding doubled, despite extending signup from 5 to 15 steps! Another example given is the signup experience of Twitter during it’s major growth period.

During Q&A Donna suggested storymapping was another tool that could work alongside more traditional methods; in practice I anticipate it will take significant buy-in from an early stage, right across the team. Potentially it might impinge or negate completely many accepted UX practices. For instance, some terms that Donna makes use of might be a formula for ambiguity in the UX vs agile conundrum, not least the definition of “stories” itself.

That said, Donna didn’t get caught up in semantics; the book is simply advocating for increased shared understanding, using story – in a holistic sense – as the agent to establish clarity for project goals. It’s a relatively short read, and makes a compelling case for storymapping to bring something fresh to product discussions. It’s but a short step away from experience mapping and traditional user stories; a consolidation of disparate elements under the banner of story.

If you have time, this is an excellent video of Donna’s presentation at Mind The Product in London, 2016.

Check the resources Donna has provided on her website.

Donna Lichaw appears at UX Bookclub Belfast

A quick history of UX Bookclub Belfast: started around 10 years ago and hosted by an agency named Front. They were acquired by Monotype in 2012 at which point myself and few others took up as organizers, until early 2016 when it ran out of suitable venues… and interest. FF to late 2017 and we held the first rebooted bookclub (now with added Meetup.com!)

UX Scotland 2014

It’s a couple of weeks already since UX Scotland; such is the pace of work these days that my brain has barely had time to process the whole experience.

I was again delighted to speak at the conference, which remains a favourite of all UX-related gathering I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. Without repeating every word from last year’s post, it’s just a lovely event. The city itself was looking great, the venue was again the unorthdox yet perfectly fitting setting, and the programme of talks & workshops again struck the right balance between aspirtational theory and gritty practical.

Feedback on my talk, Managing Complexity – UX vs the business model has been really satisfying. I was a little apprehensive about being quite so candid about a particular project I brought into the talk, but comments have completely vindicated that decision.

Colin Meney’s summary of the talk is available here, and I believe articulates the key points much more clearly and succunctly than the original talk did!

UX Scotland 2015 is already in the pipeline by all accounts. I look forward to making the regular trip across the Irish Sea once again, confident that I’ll be seeing as comprehensive a cross-section of the industry as I could wish for.