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UX London 2014 thoughts

30th May 2014

I attended day 2 of UX London 2014, at Trinity Laban in Greenwich, just a few minutes up the road from me. Very convenient! The theme for day two was People. I could only go for one of the days, and so this seemed the most logical choice. Here's some thoughts about what I enjoyed the most.

Psychophysics with Roy Sutherland

I was looking forward to the first session the most. A key message of his talk was to spot patterns in human behaviour, and apply them to new contexts. His first example was the oft quoted $300 million button story. This story highlights that users are not willing to create a login and pass over details until after the transaction, and that, invariably, they are more than willing to once the transaction was completed. If you understand this behaviour pattern, i.e. that users want to first take, then they will be willing to give, it can be applied to many other scenarios.

Another behaviour pattern pointed out is how uncertainty affects users negatively. We are instinctively averse to feeling uncertainty, and will take action to make it stop, or avoid entering into situations where we will feel uncertain. When we design interfaces or experiences we need to be aware of that behaviour pattern.

I think that through the course of our work in UX we identify these behaviour patterns, and are ready to take them into consideration in other contexts, this is the expertise we apply during heuristic evaluations.

There was nod to the behavioural economics employed by the Government in legislating for the workplace pension scheme. This is a subject close to my heart having worked for NEST pensions last year. If all your peers have pension schemes, it is the norm, and so you, as an individual, feel OK with that. If however you are the only one with a pension scheme, you feel like the odd one out. Instead this effect (the UK government hopes) has been reversed. There were some other aspects of behavioural economics at play in what we did at NEST, another strategy was to deliberately not ‘nudge’ employees with emails etc, because if we prompted action, it would most likely be undesirable action, i.e. they may stop saving.

Redesign for millions with Aaron Walter

Aaron started his talk with a point about how a redesign puts all your loyal users back to being novices again, which is unpleasant for them. An interesting point was that you can try staggering change; making changes to the functional aspects, and not the visual, or vice versa, to maintain a point of reference & some degree of comfort for existing users. I loved the framed photos of their user personas around their office, really gave a sense that they valued their user base. When the inevitable emails from unsettled users came through, these were printed out and were blu-tacked against the associated user persona to further garner empathy within the team for that particular user type.

What is exceptional is that Aaron and Mailchimp have put their pattern library/styleguide on a public URL, so we can all learn from their hard work (I’m a big fan of pattern libraries).

You can also subscribe to a fortnightly email there in which the Mailchimp UX team discuss their design process & pattern library - great!

Workshop: Content modelling with Mike Atherton

Initially I felt I was going over old ground when we started cracking out the post-its, but there were of course learnings to be had. After a short introduction to content modelling techniques, in pairs one interviewed the other about one of our favourite subjects, in order to map this subject matter. We then had to choose one of these subjects to explore further with the rest of the table, and map the types of relationships between the entities we had identified. This was where it became interesting. The other two participants had chosen to model Scuba Diving which we decided to explore further, however their initial attempt at mapping was a point of interest, which I'm going to try and articulate.

They had taken a subjective approach to describing the experience of Scuba Diving, listing positive & negative aspects of the experience, including descriptive adjectives: dark; dangerous etc. These were not entities of the subject matter as described earlier in the workshop. Entities have have attributes, i.e. there are dive 'locations' - the entity, and attributes: The Great Barrier Reef; The Red Sea etc. Note, there is a one-to-many relationship between the entity and its attributes. I gave a little guidance to the group, and we continued but this time we listed some example attributes on the back of the post-it notes to ensure we were identifying the right kind of stuff, or things, as Mike often called them.

I asked myself why this difficulty in mapping the subject matter had occurred. The interviewer must ask the right questions, thinking objectively. We are creating an information architecture for humans, plural, not just for an individual, so we need to tap into the universal understanding of that subject. The other misleading idea was that we were doing 'User Experience Design', when we were in fact doing Information Design. The interviewer was too focused on experiential aspects of the activity, rather than the information structure of the subject matter.

This subject matter was trickier than average I think, and our task became even trickier when our subject matter expert ducked out before we got the the part where we mocked up a UI for a dive locations landing page. I presented our take on the subject matter mapping to the workshop, and in retrospect think we came up with a solid design for an hour or two's work...

This session was a bit of refresher for me. It went over some old ground but it reminded me it can be tricky to the uninitiated, or even the experienced. It also reminded me to take a big step back from any business requirements or any existing information architecture. Instead purely focusing on the subject matter, before then cutting back or refocusing, if required, to align to business requirements. This ensures the integrity of the relationshiops in the information model.

Overall, really enjoyed the day, just wish I could have gone to all three workshops..

Learning Axure RP 7 video course.

Learning Axure RP 7 by Stuart Hopper

My video course on Axure RP 7 was finally published on the 30th January 2015 by Packt publishing, called Learning Axure RP 7.

About a year's work yielded a 4 hour and 17 minute epic. It's great value for money! Go buy it from the Packt site today..