UXLondon

I started my week at a three day user experience conference called UXLondon organised by the nice people over at Clearleft. What an inspirational few days.

Monday was a whole set of keynotes from some of the big names in user experience – the rock stars if you will. Eric Reiss from fatDUX (and author of one of the books that got me started in this stuff) talked about e-service (sometimes called service design) – thinking about all the touch points between an organisation and customers, not just websites. Luke Wroblewski brought some architectural thinking to interaction design projects in his talk titled Parti and the Design Sandwich. Dan Saffer made us think about how behaviour and function should drive the design of products and services rather than getting hooked up on form or mechanics (how often do we think/hear “we should build an ajax site for this”?). Jared Spool entertained after lunch with his take on making things intuitive, Jeffrey Veen shared insights from his work on the information design for Google Analytics and (the) Don Norman wrapped things up by reviewing the day and arguing how complexity is a good thing.

Then we had two days of smaller, more practical focused workshops. I spent Tuesday morning in Donna Spencer‘s session on Information Architecture. Billed as “No filler, no fluff, just pure IA”, it was just that. For me it was helpful in reassuring me that we’d been doing some of the right things (e.g. card sorting) but that we need to think a little more holistically. For example, you can’t just take the results of a card sort and build a site structure from it, it’s a tool to help you think about tricky parts of a site or get some initial ideas. In the afternoon, I stayed with Donna for a session called Designing for People. Again a fairly introductory session, for me this reinforced some of the things I learnt about people in HCI modules of my computer science degree and put them in the context of the web (which barely existed when I studied them the first time around). So we learnt to think about and leverage things like human memory and visual attention in the web design and development work which we do day-to-day.

Wednesday morning saw me plumping at the last minute for a session on sketching. Not something I’d have normally picked, but I’d heard such good things from those who’d attended it the day before that I decided to give it a go. The session was called Quick Sketching for Interaction Design and was run by two really nice chaps called Mark Baskinger and William Bardel. They took us back to basics with pencil and paper sketching. We drew lines, we drew squares, we drew circles, we added perspective, then we drew arrows. We brought these things together to illustrate problems and sketch process flows and design ideas to address them. My drawing was terrible – it was  pretty embarrassing having my squares corrected in red by NatBat – but I’m going to buy a sketch book and test Mark’s assertion that we can all get better with practice. The session concluded with a group sketching exercise where we explained the many pains of laundering a duvet visually (where are the pictures, Al? Not good enough for your portfolio?!). The chaps are working on a book on sketching and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for that one coming out.

Finally on Wednesday afternoon I went along to Leisa Reichelt‘s session on design research. Leisa discussed the range of techniques which can be used to bring users into the design process and focused particularly on user interviewing. For me this was great as it’s something we’ve been trying out at White October to try to get useful user insights for little cost. It was reassuring to see that the process I’d pretty much made up for interviewing was close to that which Leisa has been practicing for ages.  I wish she’d had more time to go through the analysis side of things, but I’ve got some good pointers of what to think about and where to learn more. Leisa is a prolific live tweeter and the dumps of her tweets on her blog give some good insight into the various sessions she made it along to – well worth a scan through.

Other sessions I would like to have made it along to include Richard Rutter and James Box’s session on wireframing. I heard good stuff from developer-y folks who went along to that to learn how Clearleft use jquery and other tools to produce rapid prototypes for demonstration, discussion and testing.

Just a quick story which I think sums up my overall feelings for the event. At the beginning of Leisa’s session, she asked us to introduce and tag ourselves BarCamp style (no mean feat with 30-40 people in the workshop). The most common tag by far was ‘inspired’. We were nearing the end of a packed three days so the fact that so many were inspired rather than tired has got to be good news for the attendees, the speakers and Clearleft alike. I met lots of friendly, interesting and helpful people and learnt so much so a big thanks to all those involved. The UK UX scene is really picking up now and it’s an exciting time.

3 Comments

  1. Posted 19 June 2009 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    hi Dan, I’m glad you enjoyed UX London and particuarly glad that you found my workshop useful – I was hoping to get more time to talk about analysis too… just needed an extra hour or two to fit everything in – happy to field any questions you have, just shoot me an email and I’ll see if I can help out!

  2. solle
    Posted 19 June 2009 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    are you interested in talking about any of the workshops at a London IA redux event

  3. Posted 19 June 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    @leisa – thanks that’s good to know. I may well email you at some point in the future as I try out some affinity sorting type stuff.

    @solle – that’s a definitely maybe as in I’d love to but there may be practical constraints. I’ll drop you an email.

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