Category Archives: uxscotland

Maps, Shoes and gov.uk: UX Scotland 2014

A review by Vicky Teinaki

It was fitting that UX Scotland took place in a stunning piece of architecture housing new ways to help people understand the world around them. Over two balmy days in Edinburgh, Our Dynamic Earth held host to both local and international UXers (as far as I found out, the furtherest travelled award went to Sebastian Mitchell of Nairobi-based disaster management platform Ushahidi).

Over the course of the two days, several themes emerged:

Challenge the stakeholders, and use research to help your case

Several speakers talked of challenging briefs and stakeholders. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all came from kick off keynote speaker Eewei Chen, who challenged the current state of computing and design “making us stupider” and instead encouraged designers to consider mindfulness, creativity, and context.
Also, I really liked his conference call in real life video.

Paul-Jervis Heath suggested that “if you’ve already got a brief, it’s too late”. It’s actually not dissimilar to people losing all their bargaining chips the second they accept a job offer. There were several mentions of Jess McMullan’s UX maturity model, which helps designers consider at what level they can enact change.

Several speakers explained how they’d battled internal differences of opinion until they could verify their hunches with testing. Alex Humphry-Baker from social shopping app Mallzee ran guerilla usability tests to prove a feature, and Lorraine and Mike from investments firm Royal London (formerly Scottish Life) had to wait a long time to get to customer tests …that showed that their proposed new UI was exactly what they wanted. Abi Reynolds also provided a wonderfully in-depth explanation of different ways to carry out UX research based on her work at Paddy Power.

Start from the user needs out rather than channel or accessibility.

Two speakers highlighted how accessibility should be considered at the core. Joshua Marshall showed how if gov.uk can take accessibility to its core, so can other sites. David Sloan continued this with his workshop that explained that by the time people ask for accessibility reviews, it’s usually far too late.

More broadly, Alberta Soranzo spoke of the changing nature of the web and how it affects our content: as we go mobile, and multi-channel, we need to be thinking about goals rather than channels. I also liked her quote of “content shouldn’t be king, it should be queen… since the king isn’t really that powerful in chess”.

Look outward to learn inward.

Several speakers looked at other disciplines in order to help enrich what we do in UX. Richard Ingram looked at how we could use maps in UX, and had a key point to remember: maps are political, and say as much in what they leave out and what they put in. (Look at the map of seemingly perfect 1700s London that pointedly left out all the impoverished areas). That said, they can also be used to surface relationships you wouldn’t have been aware of beforehand (he used the example of a corporate CMS to show how a previously unnoticed workflow bottleneck could be discovered and resolved).

Tin Kadoic (who I interviewed before the conference) took on the journals and rules of famed Noma chef Rene Redzepi to see how his rules of creativity could be applied to interaction design. Redzepi’s story is similar to that of artists such as Paul Simon who felt they were becoming stale creatively and needed some new way to explore. For Simon, that meant going to South Africa and starting work on Graceland. For Redzepi, this meant creating journals.

Think global, hear from the locals

As silly as it might sound, I always appreciate a good conference for making its local talent known. I hadn’t been aware that both UX company Uservision and successful shoe retailer Schuh were based in Edinburgh, and was impressed to hear about the (yep, Scottish) Scottish Life, even if it was now becoming part of Royal London.

For more on the conference, check out:

The UX Scotland Panel says…

We spoke to our Panel members – the wonderful group of UXers who helped shape our programme and your UX Scotland experience – and asked them what they took away from their conference experience. Here are some of their responses:

“UX Scotland was a brilliant event. The sessions were great and I’m increasingly sketchnoting which has proved incredibly useful. That said, what I appreciated most was getting to meet so many brilliant people. The conversations I’ve had post-event have been incredibly useful. In short, UX Scotland helped me learn, find new collaborators, mentors and friends!” Francois Roshdy

“UX Scotland blends the best of local practitioners with some international flavours, too. With just the right ratio of presentations and hands on workshops, plenty of inspirational ideas were shared, as well as hands-on tools and techniques that I could use once back at the office. Couple this with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and you’re onto a winner.
The things I found most useful were Jeff Gothelf’s workshop on ‘Better Product definition with Lean UX and design thinking’, and Bonny Colville-Hyde’s teachings on storyboarding. Thoroughly enjoyed Michele Ide-Smith’s Sketchnoting workshop, too. Now use these techniques regularly. ” – Rhys Nealon

“Great venue and good conference. It was fantastic to see the hidden UXers of Scotland all gathered in one place and take the opportunity to meet with them. I only managed to attend one complete session on making UX comics. This was an intriguing methodology which I could see being of value. At the least it stretched my artistic skills!” – Kevin White

“UX Scotland was a fantastic opportunity to bring together UX practitioners and advocates from across Scotland and beyond. Considering this was the inaugural conference, I was surprised by the volume and diversity of the attendees and this range of backgrounds and roles really added to the depth of the conference. Overall, it was a great couple of days, with many interesting discussions, new techniques and forged relationships. I look forward to 2014!” – Stephen Denning

UXScotland 2013 Free Form Feedback comments

We ask all our participants to provide feedback on their conference experience to help us continue to design an event that meets their aims and goals. We have responded to the constructive feedback in the comments below at the end of this document.

Below are the free form answers given to the question What best sums up your overall experience of UX Scotland?

  • I learned so much and built some great friendships.
  • Very good user experience! Very well organised conference.
  • Great experience with collaboration at the core.
  • Useful enjoyable, I have taken away many things that I will put into practice at work.
  • Overall good although some talks centred around a potentially interesting subject matter were not delivered in an engaging manner.
  • Very friendly and welcoming conference. Lovely food. Three tracks seemed a bit much for the size of the conference, one or two possibly with more slightly shorter sessions.
  • Mass info overload, but good all good, learnt so much that will help me in my new career.
  • Like so many people, great to be and around others who speak the same language, face the same challenges. Going back to work heartened and galvanised.
  • The range of topics has been good, with some standout sessions. Venue very appropriate
  • Cosy, inspiring and very well organised.
  • First time I spoke at a conference of that scale, everything was taken care of and I felt well taken care of as a speaker. Great venue and good networking opportunities.
  • Excellent organisation, brilliant speakers/content and wonderful people! Really feel the event has brought together locals I have never previously met.
  • Great relaxed atmosphere, helped by venue. Good mix of talks.
  • Learnt lots of interesting ideas and examples that would benefit my organisation across all our teams.
  • Great connecting with thought leaders and practitioners in a beautiful and relaxed setting. Part castle, part circus, part alien lair, all awesome.
  • I have had a great couple of days and am excited to see how this conference develops in the future as the community grows. On another note I would really love to see all the talks that I could not go to so if they are available online it would be amazing.
  • A great platform for conversation on UX and many other topics!
  • Fun interesting people and some great sessions please come back next year and bring the ace weather again!
  • I learned a few nice things like how to do Lean UX and Sketchnoting that I was not aware of. I met lovely people with the same interests and challenges and I want another one next year.
  • Good mix of presentation topics and styles.
  • Met some lovely people, heard about new things, tasted Whisky for the first time.
  • Excitement and pride that I am associated with such a clever bunch.
  • Really informative. Generally well led session’s good mix of theory and practice, plenty of food for thought. Liked short sessions easier to digest. Thought the breaks could be shorter so we could finish earlier.
  • Great way to develop and enthuse the UX community on Scotland.
  • A lot of fun. Eye opening learning something I don’t understand at all.
  • Learnt to sketchnote and spoke at the conference for the first time. It was ace!!
  • Interesting, informative energising.
  • Great friendly event for the UX community in the heart of Scotland. Just needed better time keeping for speakers. Great to see an event which isn’t in England (London).
  • Very interesting topics covered by thought provoking sessions and fun workshops. Great Keynotes and lots of variety.
  • My first time meeting fellow practitioners from Scotland. Need to do it more.
  • The fabulous offbeat venue really beats a dull hotel! Beautiful setting. Wide variety of talks free drinks tickets.
  • Eye opening insight into a discipline that has helped me understand and express the questions I already had.
  • Some interesting insights, but nothing ground breaking.
  • I feel enthused and more immersed in the whole UX community/buzz. Being relatively new to the field it has really broadened my experience.
  • A great range of UX speakers and topics. Great to meet lots of people. Really friendly atmosphere and a lovely venue.
  • Hot food would be good or more options. Hotel info sooner.
  • Thought provoking. Could have had more interactive workshops. Intros could have been more engaging.
  • Good range of sessions. Really enjoyed the comics workshop. Beautiful venue, some noise travelled a bit (not drastic though). Would be good to have speaker pics on the website.
  • Great learning experience.
  • Sharing is casing.
  • Meeting new people and getting a whole range of experiences and new information. It was very well organised and I enjoyed myself.
  • Looking at my work with a new set of eyes. Need to work on my preaching skills.
  • Interesting most not directly applicable to my current work but enjoyable for that reason. Lots of food for suggestions to make to my employer.
  • Great people, great food, love the discussion and interactive sessions.
  • Really liked designee bits – sketchnoting, comic books, other people seemed to as well.

Below is our response to the constructive feedback within the comments above:

You told us that some of the talks sounded interesting but were not delivered as well as you hoped.
We are exploring ways to mentor new speakers, work with submitters to sharpen up their offering and considering different ways to ensure the proposals that are chosen are what you see when you join the session.

We had a comment on the number of tracks in the conference – where less would be more! Once we have the submissions for the 2014 conference we will be able to assess whether reducing the number of tracks is reasonable or if there is a structure we can put in place to make it easier for you to choose sessions to suit your aims for your conference experience.
What about reviewing the talks you missed?
We were not able to film all the sessions at this year’s conference however any sessions that were filmed will be added to the coverage on the 2013 conference Lanyrd.com listing (http://lanyrd.com/2013/uxscot/coverage/)

Time keeping for some speakers was indicated as an issue.
We will work harder in 2014 to wrap up sessions before they overrun. Also, when setting the programme, we will consider which sessions overran in 2013 and where we can tighten things up for 2014.

It was mentioned that break lengths could be shorter to allow for earlier finishes.
We’ve considered this one at length but logistical requirements tie our hands. Not only do you, the participant need time to take in what you’ve learned at sessions as well as to connect with other participants but we also need time to make room set-up changes to prepare for different types of sessions. Wherever possible we will arrange the timetable to keep things as simple and quick as possible.

It was suggested that hot food or more options would be good.
We will work with the venues catering team to see what we can do.

You told us it would be useful to have hotel information sooner.
With this in mind we will include some links in the confirmation email when you purchase your tickets. You are also always welcome to contact us via our hotline to ask any questions about the venue or location – 01223 901700

We also received the comment that there could have been more interactive workshops.
We will do our best to make sure there is a good balance of session types at the 2014 conference and encourage you to consider submitting a session. If you have an idea for a workshop but aren’t sure how to go about shaping an engaging session around it let us know – we’ll see what we can do to help you out.