Globaldev at UXLondon 2011

By: Pete Lambert

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Last week the Globaldev UX team attended the UXLondon 2011 conference, organised by the great team at Clearleft and held at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch.

The event featured a mixture of formats with the first day adopting a conference style schedule. Seven varied speakers took the stage, talking on a range of subjects and in a variety of styles.

The first day was kicked off with a welcome and introduction from Andy Budd, explaining the format of the day, the various breaks and the plan for the evenings entertainment. One lucky attendee won a book by one of the speakers for traveling the furthest to be at the conference, all the way from Australia.

It’s all us by Alan Cooper

The first talk was by Alan Cooper, founder of interaction design consultancy, Cooper and widely known as the “Father of Visual Basic”. Titled “It’s All Us”, Alan’s presentation looked to challenge archaic design management methods and draw emphasis on newer, more agile techniques and attitudes.

Efficiency increases profits by cutting cost, but effectiveness increases profits by selling more.

A running theme throughout the talk was the difference between the world of atoms and our world of bits. How traditional industrial process models have very little in common with modern development processes, with an Agile philosophy providing a much better fit. The team being much closer to an evolving product.

Alan then went on to talk about what motivates people, with money not being as great of a factor as many would assume. The absence of it hurts, but the greater presence of it doesn’t motivate people. Also know as a Hygiene Factor.

Alan then talked about the book ‘Dreaming in Code’ by Daniel Pink. Who considers there to be three factors that lead to better performance and satisfaction: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

The main points of Daniel Pinks book and this topic have been beautifully illustrated and animated in this video by the RSA.

Redesign must die by Louis Rosenfeld

Next up we have Louis Rosenfeld presenting Redesign Must Die, a passionate plea to web builders to stop redesigning websites in a vain effort to solve poorly defined problems and instead to start tuning websites, focusing on small changes that have a big impact.

Your site is a moving target built upon moving targets, varying users, content and context - how can we say ‘It’s done!

Louis then introduced a data visualisation called ‘The Zipf Distribution’. A concept that when applied to the popularlity of web pages can help identify the ‘Short Head’, or the few pages that do all of the work. It’s these pages where incremental improvements should be made as it’s on these pages where the user will most appreciate the change.

In many ways I agree with Louis’s points. Redesigning a website is often an easy solution with the real problems not considered or addressed. The result being a new shiny site that may look pretty at first glance but suffers from the same, fundamental issues.

But there are very valid reasons to archive the old design and start from scratch. Does the layout of the page require a complete rethink. Does the imagine or impact of the design need to change. Essentially is the decision to adopt wholesale change a requirement not just on a whim.

Making personas work by Kim Goodwin

We then had a presentation by Kim Goodwin, author of ‘Designing for the Digital Age’ on Personas, how best to use them and how to make them affordable. Kim described personas as a scalpel, a precision tool that is hard to master. But also like prescription drugs, often over prescribed, reducing their effectiveness.

I was especially looking forward to learning how to create effective personas on a budget. With the key factors that drive up cost being the sample size and the amount of travelling required. And to ensure market research is cost effect it’s essential to take a careful look at your research segments and determine where any behaviours overlap exists.

Finally an important point to remember is that Personas focus on user behaviour, how they think, what their goals are etc. Demographic heavy personas will not stick, do not confuse Personas with Market Segments.

In my next post I will summarise the remaining four talks from the first day:

  • Oliver King - Service Design and User Experience: same or different?
  • Kate Rutter- Strategy Patois: Language and Tools to Connect Design and Business Value
  • Robert Fabricant - The Behaviour Chain
  • Matt Jones - The Lifecycle of Software Objects

Check back soon.


About the Author

Pete Lambert