Further reading for Interact 2014 day 1

What follows is effectively a list of things I wanted to follow up on after hearing at day one of Interact 2014. I then put more words in between the links to contextualise them and share my thoughts.

Andreas Adamec and Bernadette Irizarry

Doing Less with More

Whilst these two where a very friendly and charismatic duo, their talk would be more accurately described as “here is lots of cool stuff”. They talked about Dieter Rams 10 design principles and Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow, Kotler’s 4 stages, Chipp Kidd’s book cover design ethos, David Kelly’s thoughts on what your customer wants and then went on to show some cool apps.

Ian Fenn

Getting UX done

Ian’s talk was packed with practical techniques for everything that surrounds the UX work to make it work. He mentioned the top things that stop designs getting through are HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion, highest paid person in the office), lack of resources and things going into “phase 2”. To combat these he went on to say that “communication and influence are just as important as good design.” and talked about how to handle meetings and people in general. Ian mentioned that Personal Styles & Effective Performance: Make Your Style Work for You has been used as a source for many more recent work on getting things done. I would personally add How to Win Friends and Influence People to the mix, a book that remains relevant today.

Robert Newham

Hearts, minds, science and service. Designing to influence change.

Robert is living the dream of doing something meaningful with is mind and craft. A truly inspiring look at how hard work and a lot of research can make a difference. He mentioned some behavioural frameworks that helped his team inform their work (he also helpfully put them on his twitter):

Juliet Richardson

Thinking Beyond UX

Juliet talked about the somewhat intangible nature of UX and how people are confused when they talk about UX as a thing you can add to a project. She talk about projects being limited to local maxima by this way of thinking. She illustrated this by making examples of people asking the wrong questions about projects that only focus on the digital facade. (“Is it easier to sign up?” when we should be asking “Do people want to sign up?”) The Five Whys can be used to help find the root cause of these sort of problems. She also placed an emphasis on having the right content and also making sure the right people are in place to continue the work it.

Dan Ramsden

Design like you’re right, test like you’re wrong and be careful what you throw away.

Dan talked about his experience at the BBC teaching interns their process. It was a very inspiring talk that I think anyone could have taken a great deal away from. It was like I was getting a personal life lesson and I loved it. He also mentioned The Reflective Practitioner as something designers should read. A personal note, he used Futura in his slides, I felt this should have been Gill sans which is part of the BBC brand. Ended with a delightful magic trick, that mostly worked.

Grandin Donovan

“Welcome to the party” Current practice in user activation

I have to admit I did not listen as attently as I should have to Grandin, who have a very computed and full talk on user onboarding / activation. The reason for my idleness is that at Caplin we don’t have this sort of issue because as Mike the next speaker mentioned B2B software is not bought by the ultimate end users.

Mike Atherton

UX and Brand Values

Mike talked about his time at Huddle and educating people on what a really brand is. (spoiler: its not the logo or colour scheme) Simon Sinek’s Ted talks were mentioned. He talked about how at Huddle one of the biggest setbacks for enterprise software is that the people who actually use it are not the ones who buy it. The decision to buy is often done by counting features which inevitably leads to feature bloat. He went on to say how this washes away any sense of brand within the companys that make these things. At Huddle he found a way to unearth the brand values that were already present in the people who made up the company. A part of this process was the inverse of  The Five Whys  mentioned earlier, where you start from what you are doing right now and keep asking why to get to the root of why its being done.

The next part I took away from Mike’s speech was a warning against the dogma of UX. Put simply this was a reminder to not let “UX” get to far up its own wooden table, coffee mug, standup meeting, ping ponging backside. To stop talking about flat design and skeuomorphism as if they were the only two options. To remember that its about people and that part of UX is also business consultancy.

Mike also talked about how more digital projects should address and meet basic needs before jumping ahead to ‘delighting’ users. Also to focus on what you do best and link to the rest.

Jane Austin

Tales from the Telegraph

Jane proved it is possible to make a huge impact whilst up against tight restraints and years of legacy to contend with. Early on at the Telegraph she noted that sometimes projects where so bogged down in edge cases that nothing go delivered and that a stagnant atmosphere amongst developers saw them writing “defensive documentation” for outsourced development.

Jane come out with some brilliant phases during her talk:

  • “Minimum Lovable Product” – as opposed to viable
  • “Laxative Product” – one that gets through quickly
  • “Evergreen Content” – content that is continually reviewed and refined to develop engagement and search engine optimization that drives traffic to other content
  • “Ruthless Descoping” – part of a theme that I noticed emerged during the day of focusing projects goals and functions

A very interesting point she mentioned near the end was that she found the size of a content bucket in a content management system often correlated with the length of the copy produced. This is something she is further looking into.

Andrew Hinton

Language is Infrastructure

Andrew talked about how language is not only a way to describe things but is in itself a form of creation. That sounds a bit like hot air but his case is solid and he illustrated it perfectly by asking us to think about what an inbox is. Inboxes were once real objects now they are just language.

Andrew gave an example of how language when not properly thought through can lead to problems, “the cart” he told us how this term lead to a team of people at who worked on “the cart” of the commerce website but what is a cart?

Semantics is a tool that can create structure, he pointed to the New York and Erie railroad diagram (very large 3885 × 6125 image) as a good example how “modelling is making”. He also warned against over simplifying complicated things because “understandable is not the same as simple”.

Andrew mentioned some books during his talk that expand on his if I am honest difficult to grasp but increasingly concepts as we enter an age where software is creating language that has no real world metaphor to draw from:

I think what Caplin do is a good example of this, because what we do is far from simple, in fact its very complicated and the FX markets are not going to be understood quickly but within Caplin UX&D we have to make these things understandable to users without patronising them by trying to present things as simple.

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