UX Lisbon

Three day conference happening in the lovely Lisbon Portugal. The 2012 event will take place from 16 to 18 May.

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With sun, sea, and a tropical 30 degrees C outside, no wonder people kept  saying that UXLX felt like a vacation. You might think it a pity to be indoors. Luckily day one of the conference kicked off with some cracker material that justified staying inside.

Storytelling for User Experience – Whitney Quesenbery

One of the first workshops of the day was kicked of by Whitney Quesenbery. In her workshop she tried to teach the audience the importance of telling stories during the design process, both to clients and team members. One of her main messages is that stories aren’t a broadcast transmission, but always create a connection between the audience and the storyteller:

  • the storyteller shapes the story;
  • the audience form an image;
  • the storyteller and the audience affect each other;
  • the most important relationship is between the audience and the story.

When a UX designer did research and shares his knowledge with the team stories can be a great way of doing this. When done right the storyteller retells the important parts of the stories the users told him, thus creating a connection between the design team and the user.

In order to become good storytellers we first must learn to become active listeners. We need to really be willing to hear the story people (users) are telling us and understand what’s it all about. Being an active listener means we have to encourage the story to be told further, by asking open questions and giving non-verbal feedback.

During the workshop Whitney actively involved the audience by giving several tasks. She focused on the following subjects:

  • Story structure: structures give the story a shape and help the listeners/readers to understand it better. Is it a me-they-me structure, do you want to turn it into an adventure structure or should it be a contextual interlude? The way you set the story up can help engage people in the right way and lay focus on the right part of the story (like the product, the user or the process);
  • Story context: context grounds the story in a specific place and time. You may want to emphasize (or change) the location, time, history or something else to help the listeners to understand it better.
  • Purpose in UX: stories help drive UX work in several different ways. Do you want to share a success story and share what made this product so great or is the focus of your story to facilitate a brainstorm and do you want people to think in a different context?;
  • Format of the story: there are many ways to tell a story, you can decide how. Is it written or drawn like a comic? Should it be a formal presentation or a light conversation starter?
  • Imagery: imagery gives the story emotional resonance. By adding details about the sounds, smell or motion of the environment or a specific person you can pull the listeners into the world you are creating.

These tasks were closely linked to the book she wrote with Kevin Brooks called Storytelling the User Experience., so if you want to know more I would definitely check it out (also check out our excerpt). All in all it was a very interesting workshop with loads of stories. And as Whitney said: “what is design but a story?”

Become a UX Team of One – Leah Buley

UXers may know about being asked if you’re an innie or an outie, but if Leah Buley’s research catches on, you might also be a giraffe, bee, beaver, or penguin. Confused? They sum up the types of people that might be described as a UX Team of One. In her interactive and workshop with a lot of new material (such as I can’t find pictures of the gorgeous icons she used for each animal), she took the group through planning their futures, and thinking about ways to combat issues as the lone UXer.

However, her outstanding and memorable takeaway (including beautiful icons sadly not caught on camera but bound to end up on badges) was that of the four types of UX Teams of One. She sees them as a spectrum (most of us start at number one and move down), and classifies them as the following:

  1. The Crossover (giraffe) has recently come over from another field. (Their long neck is from foresight).
    As their challenge relate to focus, access and skills, the strategies are to do with collaborating and DIY research. A key point to remember is that clients won’t allow for research do it should just be built in or ‘done on the sly’ (our podcast with Sam Lader on design research also talks about this).
    Some methods include using MAYAs Heuristic Markup, The Five Second Test, and competitor images (even getting the clients to collect them as homework!)
  2. The Doer (a bee) is a knowledgeable person in a company without a UX department — they usually have to do things beside UX or move departments a lot. As they are held back by being brought on too late, or not valued, they need strategies to focus on professional relationships, visibility, and ROI.
    Some relevant methods included Liva Labate’s UX Health Checkup, product definition workshops (stakeholders repeatedly draw and disucss their product vision, as after a couple of rounds they’ll be far more aligned) and “Lunchtime UX” listening dates with other key team members.
  3. The Builder (beaver) has been in UX for while on point of starting UX team.
    As their issues relate to relationship management and politics, the strategies are to align with business and build out a team. Methods included ongoing internal surveys, case studies and pre-meetings (1-to-1 reviews of docs with each key stakeholder before a key design review)
  4. The Independent (lonely penguin): those that are freelance etc. Literal team of one
    They need to promote themselves, be legally savvy, and set their own terms (e.g. using a project brief). What’s more, they need to be known for something (as Leisa Reicht has blogged about).

Buley has been evangelising the UX Team of one for a few years now, but those who saw her talk a while ago (or looked at the slides) should definitely see it again as there is a whole lot of new information in preparation for her book-in-progress of the same name.

Skeuomorphs: The Good, The Bad, and the Silly – Andrew Watterson

Skeuomorphism is the act of using cues from the old to make new things feel more familiar. It has been applied for a very long time and can in our practice be a great way to introduce people to new technology and interactions. Some of the better known examples of skeuomorphs are the sound of digital cameras when you take a photo and the fake engine sound electrical cars make so that you can hear them approach.

When launching a product with a totally new way of interacting, like the iPad, you see that skeuomorphism can be an easy way to let people get used to the device. Watterson gives examples like the bookshelf in iBook and the old fashioned look of the contacts page. But at the same time he points out that there is still a lot of debate whether this approach is really the best way to go. There are a lot of people who have strong opinions for or againts, like our writer Rahul Sen is the recent article ‘The IxD Bauhaus: What Happens Next?’  I believe that there is a balance and that skeuomorphism can definitely be a good thing, but that we should always try to keep challenging ourself to also look at different ways of approaching the interactions. It’s just one way to reach what we want, but surely not always the only and best one.

Watterson’s conclusions regarding to this topic:

  • Use skeuomorphs to add a satisfying and nostalgic emotional effect;
  • Bridge gaps between what people are used to and a new method with skeuomorphs;
  • Question whether you’re skipping the opportunity for innovation by using a skeuomorph;
  • Don’t mismatch your functionality with a skeuomorph.

Picking your Neurosurgeon’s Brain— Susan Dybbs

For most of us, the closest we get to seeing what happens in an OR is through TV shows. However Susan Dybbs showed us not only what a surgeon sees when they’re carrying out telesurgery, but how we can use participatory design methods to understand highly expert and tacit processes.

Starting with Terry Winograd’s observation that designers have limited time to process things like how something feels like is in the tacit domain, Dybbs pointed out the issues that designers have when trying to create interfaces for highly expert systems such as telesurgery interfaces — the designer can’t get anywhere near the understanding that the users have of what happens and what is working. She resolved this by reating a toolkit of a mockup process with clipping (words, chunks of information, pictures of xrays etc) and then got surgeons to talk/make through their experience of surgery.

One of the most interesting insights from this method was being able to show the difference between what users say they need and what they actually use. In the case of surgeons, this might be documentation that is for legal reasons but never used in actual surgery, information they didn’t actually need (surgeons thought they needed to see the room view but actually didn’t) and vice versa (e.g. sideness — which side of the body you’re operating on, is a minor but key piece of information in helping a surgeon orient themselves with telesurgery).

Her tips for best practices:

  • Create a toolkit (nothing is more scary than a blank piece of paper)!
  • Do your research (sort original themes)
  • Precondition your participants (e.g. photojournal, or just storytelling/pre-interviews)
  • Keep it rough + impermanent
  • Think aloud (helps show mental models)
  • Be flexible (e.g. meet people at their comfort zone — help them make collage if they don’t want to do it).

Creating the Ultimate Experience: UX + CX + CRM — Stuart Cruickshank

Can you have a relationship with your oven? Stuart Cruickshank argued that you could. How? Through a combination of acronyms: UX, CX (customer experience) and CRM (customer resource management).

CRM has traditionally looked at strategy, business, and technology, but thanks to social media, a new branch of this known as Social CRM has emerged that also looks at engagement and conversation through empathy, emotion, authenticity, transparency. A great example of a company using social CRM is Zappos — their model means that their customers have a great experience and feel empowered, while the company gains advocates and profit (they have no marketing budget!)

On that oven? The Art Home Electrolux project attempts to do this (an exciting restaurant in Paris uses all Electrolux products, and the cook provides tips about cooking, meaning the customer could go home and cook what they got at the restaurant, as well as continuing the conversation through social media.

After a lot of conferences talking about service design, it was refreshing to have an alternate take on service systems UX could get involved with. As Cruickshank pointed out that the end of the talk, while CX and CRM have more visibility at the corporate level, at the end “experience is the goal”.

For those interested in the topic, he highly recommends Paul  Greenberg’s CRM at the Speed of Light (4th Edition).

Effective Design Documentation Without a Fuss — Dan Brown

Despite the growing interest in living prototypes for UX, it looks as if design deliverables won’t be going away any time soon. Dan Brown (who we interviewed earlier this year) tried to trick the attendees into saying it might be or otherwise, but most UXers know to always say “it depends”!

What is design documentation? Brown defines them as “an artefact, defined by a team, to create a project, whose purpose is to move a project forward.”

He suggests that many designers forget to think about purpose and progress (at worst making some projects stand still), as above all, documentation should inspire action.

Brown breaks down design documents into different types: clarifying approach, justifying decisions, comparing multiple approaches. Each of these should be handled differently, just as your structure should change if you’re writing for a different audience (e.g. developers vs C-level).

He finished up with a look through the Eight Shapes Unify system he took part in creating. His rationale for the system is that most existing templates in Word etc are a waste of time as they force you to fill in blanks.

The best takeaway in regards to writing was to “be a journalist not a comedian” — in other words summarise first rather than having it at then end (common in comedy but in journalism known as burying the lead).

Designing by Doing: Bringing Agile Thinking to UX Practice – Anders Ramsay

Agile development is one of the hot topics in todays UX scene, so several talks at the conference today focused on this topic. In Anders Ramsay’s workshop he didn’t jump into the agile process itself, but used the approach of agile thinking and showed how we as designers can use it in our day to day practice. He did this by giving several tasks:

  • Paired interviews: this method comes from paired programming, where two programmers sit behind one screen and together write the code. In paired interviews you let two users interview each other instead of you interviewing them one by one. According to Ramsay this is a great way of getting insights you would normally be unable to collect, since the users themselves know what to talk about and what is interesting to know. By letting them conduct the interviews and write down the interesting material you can collect great amounts of raw data in a short time;
  • Agile personas: in agile development you don’t design all the details at once and you try to minimize the amount of documentation. The idea behind agile personas is to create very light-weight artifacts out of research data (like you collected through paired programming). By letting the entire team check the raw data and detect trends you are able to share with them important insights. When you after that write the agile personas (real name, main characteristics and quotes) you have a great starting point for your future discussions;
  • Story flows: use some of the user stories you collected in your user research and prioritize them. After this you can start adding tasks to each story and prioritize these as well. Even when you are not doing scrum you can still use story flows to get a good overview of what you want to create and especially what’s the most important thing to do first.

Ramsay’s workshop was very engaging, although a bit chaotic. He was well able to show everybody the power of agile thinking, although there are still so many other things to agile thinking that would have been worth sharing… one of the aspects I find most interesting is the daily standup with the entire team, to get a good feeling of what the current progress is. You don’t need to scrum to have the benefits of this way of working together as a team.

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

Vicky Teinaki

An England-based Kiwi, Vicky is doing a PhD at Northumbria University into how designers can better talk about touch and products. When not researching or keeping Johnny Holland running, she does the odd bit of web development, pretends her TV licence money goes only to Steven Moffatt shows, and tweets prolifically about all of the above as @vickytnz.

Patrick Sanwikarja

Patrick Sanwikarja is an interaction designer at Fabrique Communication and Design in Delft, The Netherlands. He wants to make the future happen by designing it.

Miranda de Groot

Miranda de Groot is a User Experience Specialist & Evangelist at ReedBusiness.

3 comments on this article

  1. Pingback: Putting people first » UX Lx, a user experience conference in Lisbon

  2. Pingback: UX Lx: Day 1 « Isotoma Blog

  3. Leah Buley nice storyteller..easy to understand each part(Crossover, Doer, Builder, Independent).