UX London 2013


From 10th to 12th of April the best UX’ers in the world gathered for inspiring talks and intensive workshops at the Trinity Laban in London. The event had a great atmosphere and was more intimate than I expected. Clearleft did an awesome job organising the event, sourcing some of London’s best food trucks and really good (unlimited) coffee.

The UX London 2013 conference covered Product Design, Behaviour Design and Design Strategy.

Here’s the themes that have stuck with me:

We don’t know what will work

  • We designers should observe people — find problems and pain points, design solutions and test them as quickly as possible. It won’t be perfect first try and that’s why we have to iterate quickly and often.
  • The best way to discover emergent behaviour is by observing. Focus groups don’t work. You can’t ask people what they want, because people don’t know!
  • Working closely with a user or a customer is the key. This is not new.
  • Get rid of the terminology ‘Fail Fast’. It ignores the power of language. If misunderstood, it gets people focussed on failing, instead of learning. It’s not about failing fast, failing slow or whether you fail at all, it’s actually about learning.
  • You learn from failures and successes.

Technology is advancing faster than we think

  • Computer power that doubles every 18 months, embedded devices with more power than personal computers two decades ago, robots that replace human labor and personalised genomics are game changers most people are not aware of.
  • Dove red pill turns back on Collagen production in post-menopausal women. This doesn’t need a pharmaceutical licence as the method is food digestion.
  • DNA based data storage is already here.
  • These developments are not in the daily news or marketed to us as such, but they are omnipresent through other products and services, and have deeply affected social and cultural changes for the last ten or fifteen years.
  • Our lives are littered with shit that doesn’t work.
  • They are happening exponentially so it’s very hard to predict what will happen. A few of the talks touched on similar historical events and how people tried to fight “the new order”. They failed. If it improves life conditions of the majority, the technology will prevail. Always did and always will.
  • Due to fast changes, designers will find themselves without a stable technology skill set and safe guidelines. The risk and uncertainties will be heightened. The only thing that will change very slowly is human nature. Embrace those as facts/truth and work with them, not against them. Be proactive, learn aggressively and open your mind to new experiences to stay ahead of the curve. Change favours the creative, so invest in Meta-skills e.g Feeling, Seeing, Dreaming, Making, Learning.

There is no perfect process, only process for the circumstance

  • Jeff Gothelf favoured testing assumptions with a Lean approach. His case study demonstrated the use of wireframes and PDF prototypes to validate ideas. On the other hand, Ben Terrett from gov.uk team favoured sketching ideas and prototyping in the browser.
  • The ‘Standard’ Process e.g “5 D’s” is a lie (if you want to achieve originality). Good work doesn’t come from this.
  • The real process = ‘Confusion’ » ‘Clutter’ » ‘Chaos’ » ‘Crisis’ » ‘Catharsis’
  • It’s important to be honest with ourselves and our clients about unpredictability.

Design beyond the interface

  • We need to work differently if we want to deliver meaningful experience that deliver real value.
  • The challenge is designing organisations, not UI.

This summary is only a taste of some of the great ideas and learnings that came out of the conference.

Here are the slides from a presentation I gave about this conference:

Keep an eye on this space. I’ll be posting more of my notes soon.

Headshot of Simon Pan

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