UX Cambridge 2015: day 2 take-aways

Keynote: The centrality of design

Josh Brewer‘s talk was about the role of design in businesses and how design is increasingly becoming part of a company’s DNA.

Technology alone is no longer a differentiator in a start-up context.

Leaders want the user to feel invincible, like they’re in the centre of the company’s universe.

It is so easy getting feedback from people inside your own development organisation, but unfortunately the wrong feedback. Design and engineering need to work together.

UX matters so much because users are experiencing too much. The average person checks their phone every 5.6 mins.

In recent years, many big companies acquired small design studios.


Last year 6 venture capital companies in Sillicon Valley hired designers into their teams for the first time. Five start-ups co-founded by designers have raised more than $2.75 billion.


Human beings are deeply programmed to respond to a story. Words are important.
Have a concise, crisp narrative and do it over and over again.

“90% of being a UX designer is envagelism” – David Malouf

How to infuse a company with design? The follow are a few small things that will make a difference when trying to break down the barriers.

  • Align design with engineering, marketing, etc
  • Sketch together: getting stakeholders to draw makes them do a physical activity, which engages a different part of the brain, triggering creativity and opening their minds to think holistically of the problem at hand. It also makes stakeholders feel empowered. And when someone believes they “can’t draw”, give them one of your sketches to draw onto.
  • Create models to analyse complexity
  • Exercise restrain in the decisions and products you make (eg, don’t overcrowd products with features; don’t ‘overdesign’).
  • Aesthetics matter: it is a designer’s responsibility to instill some taste. “The life of a designer is a life of fighting against ugliness” – Massimo Vignelli
  • Prototype all the things: people become less precious about their artifacts if they know they’ll be discarded.

Design has been transformed from an afterthought, to a pre-requisite.

Greg Petroff, the chief experience officer at GE Software, explains how the iterative process works at GE: “GE is moving away from a model of exhaustive product requirements. Teams learn what to do in the process of doing it, iterating, and pivoting.” Employees in every aspect of the business must realize that they can take social risks—putting forth half-baked ideas, for instance—without losing face or experiencing punitive repercussions.

Design should run the organisation and work closely with engineering. You are still designing a product. It just happen to be a company.

At the inception of an idea, all relevant departments should meet together. After that, the designer doesn’t need to be in all meetings because s/he trusts everyone will do as it’s been agreed.
It’s all about building relationships, building trust.

Business people are starting to get trained in design concepts. Designers should educate themselves in Business concepts too.


Search and navigation is a UX topic – Learn how to harness it on any device

This session was led by Alex Kudelka and Alex Collin from Algolia.

The average attention span of today’s consumers is 8 seconds, therefore we should avoid exerting the users and instead guide them.

1/2 sec delay on Google equals 20% drop in traffic. 100ms = 1% drop in Amazon sales.

The first step towards building effective search results is to translate an intent into a query.

Awesome example of a responsive search. Type [colour] jacket (eg, ‘red jacket’) on the search box and see what happens: http://arcteryx.com.

Stop trying to paint the hallway through the letterbox! UX techniques that help teams help themselves

Chris Atherton explained how she uses cognitive psychology to address the way designers address problems.

As a designer, one starts to identify patterns.

The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been received.

People’s attention span and cognitive load are limited. The average person can assimilate 4 +/- 2 items of information at one time.

Use tools that tell a concise story in an easy way to assimilate, such as diagrams and card sorting.

How to stop worrying and make improvements when usage and research data is hard to obtain

In this session Luis Carreiras demonstrated how he used GOMS (Goals, Operators, Methods and Selectors – sometimes known as Keystroke Level Modelling) in the financial sector to measure the impact of design changes, when usability testing is not a viable option.

GOMS is a powerful persuasion tool if you work in a context where quantitative data is important.

Introducing the service model canvas

This session was ran by Neil Turner and it covered how to use the service model canvas to help think about, de-construct, explore and document a service.

If you don’t measure a service how do you know if it is returning the investment put in?

A community not a library: design patterns for government services

Talk by Caroline Jarrett and Tim Paul

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