10 Lessons from UX Australia

UX has become a key focus in recent years at Custom D, so we had to jet across to Melbourne for the annual UX Australia event: a 2 day conference on all things User Experience.

There was loads of great content across both days. Here's 10 takeaways from the sessions we attended.

1. Start with People

Steve Portigal questioned the laser beam focus designers can have on “solving problems” without knowing if they’re the right problems to be solving, in a bigger picture sense. He challenged us to step away from the computer and really get to know our customers first.

Understand the customer’s whole picture. Don’t just ask about a specific problem, ask what’s going on in a more holistic sense then focus in on what’s relevant. By doing that, you’ll discover insights you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Today we have numerous tools for user research and analytics at our fingertips. But that can make it easy to delve into details too early and miss the actual point.

It’s simple. Start by talking to your customers


2. How do Good Teams Work Together?

A theme that came through strong across a number of presentations was how critical it is to get a team of good people working well together. If you have the right people, the race is half won already. Without it, all the processes in the world won’t get you there.


Lauren Currie took an example of how birds flock together in formation to illustrate the key traits:

  • Separation: Don’t hit each other
    Allow for autonomy: there needs to be room to breath and freedom to make decisions within the team.
  • Alignment: Fly towards the same goal
    Is everyone on the same page? Do they share the same picture of success?
  • Cohesion: Work as one
    It’s about simple and shared values that everyone understands. Complex structures and hierarchy can stifle. Keep it simple for cohesion.


3. Set Constraints and Boundaries

Jon Kolko gave us all a reality check on what being a design leader is all about. One key point that resonated was:

A design leader identifies constraints and boundaries for the team

When we're first presented with project requirements, there is often an overwhelming amount of detail. As Jon said "the problem doesn't yet have form".

It’s part of the design leader‘s job to tame that ambiguity and make a first version, which could be a sketch, prototype, or a distilled-down briefing document etc. The important thing is that the leader has defined boundaries for the team and that lets them hit the ground running.


4. Get Close to Your Customers

As designers and developers we need to take customer requirements and translate them into the best possible solutions. That translation phase is often too big and complex, so in the process of doing, you can loose focus of the end game.

The distance between you and your customer should be as small as possible

By constantly checking if what we're doing is going to add value and contribute to the end goal, we can make sure we're always steering towards their best outcome.


5. Outcomes, not Process

When custom designing and building anything, there are infinite options for features and infinite ways to implement them.

Taking an outcome focused approach kills distraction and forces us to prioritise and be clear in decision making.

Using outcome based language is also important. After all, customers and stakeholders don't really care about "user journey maps and decision matrixes". They care about the end goal and how it’ll benefit their organisation - talk in that language and people will be more engaged and receptive to your ideas.


6. Easy to Leave, Easy to Return

We all (should) put a lot of effort into the onboarding process for any product, but how much thought is given to the process when someone wants to leave?

Almost everyone can relate to having experiences where it’s been difficult and frustrating to cancel or unsubscribe. Hiding these options or making them annoying makes it even less likely the user will want to return.

Spotify adds a bit of humour and fun to make the exit process leave a lasting impression.


Keep it light and make it easy for them to come back in the future. In Spotify's example, if you do return in the future your playlists are still there and they make the process easy.


7. Adding Intentional Friction

With modern technology there is often no real “loading time” necessary. Data can be processed in an instant. But sometimes that can be unnerving or unexpected, so you may need to add intentional friction.

Imagine you've just submitted some digital medical records for analysis, if the result came back instantly you might question how in-depth the analysis was.

So when implementing features, always consider the context and expectation of the user, and whether a little bit of added friction might be appropriate.

An excellent article that goes deeper into this topic is: Make me think: friction as a function in User Experience.

8. Sticky Design Principles

In a 10 minute talk, Amirul Nasir highlighted how his team were able to push their design to the next level by embracing design principles.

The takeaway was that just having principles stuck up on the wall wasn’t enough. They needed to become “Sticky”. For that to happen, everyone (not just designers) needed to be involved in team discussions so there was a shared understanding and comradery. Principles also need to align with the overall vision.


9. Don't ask, Anticipate

Anticipatory design is where an app smartly predicts the next step.

When designing, always question whether we really need to ask the user for this information? Or whether you can go a step further by using the data at your disposal, even if it's an educated guess to make things easier for the user.

Uber Eats doesn't ask for your delivery address. It knows that 90% of the time users want it delivered to their current address, so it uses that but lets you change it if needed.


10. The Future is Coming. Fast.

Every day a new piece of tech seems to come out. Development platforms are changing at increasing speed and the latest buzzword is quickly replaced by another.

What skills will we need to remain relevant as we head into an uncertain future?

Bill DeRouchey covered this topic in his talk about the future of design careers. It was pointed out that while jobs and industries will be affected by AI and automation, there will still be a strong need for designers to work within new disciples and mediums.

We make things for people, that won’t change but the making may change

The conclusion is that the workforce will shift towards jobs requiring higher cognitive and creative capabilities which are hard to automate. Reports and studies back this up.

ƒMajor transitions lie ahead that could match or even exceed the scale of historical shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing. Our scenarios suggest that by 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers will need to switch occupational categories... Some of that adaptation will require higher educational attainment, or spending more time on activities that require social and emotional skills, creativity, high-level cognitive capabilities and other skills relatively hard to automate
- McKinsey Global Institute Report 2017

At the end of the day, nobody really knows how it's all going to play out. But the advice was to get familiar with one new emerging trend or technology per month, so you can be best prepared for changes when they do happen.

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