Amuse UX trip report

This October, thanks to my good friend Dean, who is an amazing accessibility specialist, I attended Amuse UX Conference in Budapest. It took place on October 18-20, first day being the workshops. I arrived in Budapest on Wednesday, and although I didn’t go to any of the workshops, there was still something else for me to do that day. Turns out the Hungarian UX community is pretty big and active, so they organized a UX meetup that evening.

Meetup

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It was called Amuse Special Edition and happened in Ankert. The meetup featured 3 talks, which you can see here on their event page. Couple of takeaways: user stories can be told with legos, and if you own a big enough collection of Lego pieces, you can hold very fun workshops. Also apparently people are scared of designers and whatever we do can be seen as dark matter to non-designers. Funny enough, that’s the same as how I sometimes think about developers 😉

The 3rd to speak was Tom Illmensee, and he taught us 3 ways to collaborate better and more creatively, taking  The Funky Drummer as an example. So the 3 ways to supercharge creativity according to Tom are:

  • listen to build on others’ ideas
    • listen to each other, and not just the loudest voices in the group
  • make space in the mix
    • sometimes we need to edit as much as we are creating, press a ‘pause’ button
  • explore and invent with courage
    • step outside the comfort zone and improvise
    • see eg a hackathon as jamming; invite engineers to a sketching session

So one of the reasons I focused on Tom’s talk in detail is because it was a great and memorable talk and he is a good speaker; another one is that his new startup, where he gives adults who are just starting to learn an instrument a chance to jam with others, struck me like a brilliant idea. An the third reason was because he was also the host of the Amuse UX itself and one of the organizers. So let’s move on to…

Amuse UX Conference

Day 1

The conference itself was held in The Magyar Vasúttörténeti Park (Hungarian Railway History Park), which is an interactive museum where we could walk around the trains and enjoy the beautiful weather between talks. Crunch conference was happening at the same time, so if you’re interested in “in building the finest data driven businesses”, check it out. After breakfast and coffee we were greeted by Tom and the conference started.

There is no call for papers for this conference, because organizers select speakers themselves and contact them individually, so I just have to start by saying all talks were amazing and if I had all the time in the world I would share notes about all of them, but there were so many, that you’d better go and see for yourself, once there are videos available. And some of them already are.

Instead I’m going to focus on the ones that grabbed my attention the most and give you a few key takeaways combined with my impressions. So here we go:

Stephen P. Anderson: What Boardgames Can Teach Us About Designing Experiences

Stephen told us that creating board games (or tabletop games) has a big overlap with designing experiences, and here is what we can learn from them:

  • we can start designing with experience, make sure what the core is and how we want the user to feel. “Until my players feel ___________, I will not ship”.
  • focus on the whole and make sure that if you release just parts, they are till a viable product (cupcake – cake – wedding cake model). This must be the most tweeted image of the conference:
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  • test whatever you can as soon as you can
    Screenshot-2017-10-31 What Board Games can Teach Us about Designing Experiences
  • Use space to communicate by arranging and rearranging things in it, as spatial arrangement is very important for conveying meaning.
  • Game design is about creating friction, UX design is about removing it. But is friction in products always bad? We should probably be thinking about critical stuff, and put in a learning challenge in the product.
  • Games are powerful tools for learning.

Here is the link to slides, check them out – there are a lot of great quotes, images and advice!

Senongo Akpem: Culturally Responsive Design

Senongo gave a moving and inspiring talk about steps we could take to make our designs culturally responsive. Go ahead and watch the video, and you’ll learn more about his main points:

  • flexible research
  • forgiving interfaces
  • layered language
  • a sense of place

Eva-Lotta Lamm: 5 Steps to Change Your Note-Taking

Eva-Lotta is a master of sketches, and she got everyone drawing! I have done sketch notes before, and it was great fun to remember the key advice on how to do that. It would have been even better if there were tables or more light, but here’s the talk summary:)
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I too always like to point out, that you don’t have to know how to draw anything more than a cloud and a rectangle to do sketch notes, so take a pen and paper and follow the video!

David de Léon: Design by Magic: Applying the Techniques of Magic to User Experience Design

David closed day 1 with some magic, and yes, I do mean actual tricks!

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He was comparing UX with magic and taught us some connections and tricks. Comparing UX to all sorts of other disciplines seems to be *the* thing now, and I love how you can borrow tips from everywhere. Some magical techniques are:

  • Reconstructing memories
    • people usually don’t remember things that didn’t require much effort, so one could design an experience as a series of low effort actions
  • framing
  • reinterpretation
  • conviction

Day 2

Day 2 started off foggy but changed to a beautiful sunny Friday by the time of the first coffee break. It started with the talk from organizers, who shared a few fun facts and info about the speakers. They did a great job bringing diversity to the conference: half of the speakers were female, and as for the audience, these are the numbers:

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Talks I want to mention from Day 2:

Denise Jacobs: Banish Your Inner Critic v2.0

Denise is an inspirational speaker, who gave us all advice on silencing the critic in our head and swiping left on whatever he’s telling us. She told us we all have mental power tools to do just that:

  • neuroplasticity
  • mindfulness
  • self-compassion

But hey, don’t take my word for it – her’s is the talk I really encourage everybody to watch to learn how to “Be and share your brilliance” and even reduce procrastination.

Vitaly Friedman: Dirty Little Tricks From the Dark Corners of Responsive Web Design

Vitaly is Editor-in-Chief at Smashing Magazine, which by the way, is to be updated with new design any day now. He told (and showed) us about all sorts of patterns, websites and adventures in responsive web design, and provided so many examples, that it will be best if you just go and see his talk for yourself. But beware, as he warned, some things can not be unseen!

Stephan Tanguay: Virtual Intent: User Experience Design in VR / AR

Stephan was talking about Augmented and Virtual reality platforms and experiences and gave us some principles on how to design for them. Currently there are 6 major platforms for consumer VR hardware, and the field is growing. Just beware that light mobile VR, such as google cardboard can be nauseating, and is considered bad practice.

If you get into AR/VR experiences design, remember: they should be believable, and users should need and want to look around. In physical interaction precision matters, and users will explore what is possible. Avoid anything that would break the sync and don’t mess with the inner ear!

So the takeaways: focus on user intent – design for human scale – maintain unity between virtual and real – add value.

Peter Eszenyi: What the F(UI): The Role of Design, UI, and UX in Films

Peter Eszenyi from Territory Studio talked about Film User Interfaces and how they created screens for Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, the Martian, Avengers and other movies. His was once again one of the talks, that you really want to watch, and not only because it was inspiring, but also so cool! So cool! I was amazed by the speed at which they work, how much gets edited and some of the industry secrets. His was the last talk of the 2-day conference, and what a great way to finish!

Summary

It was an amazing event, hats off to the organizers for putting it all together. I took notes at almost all the talks, and if this post could go on forever, it would. Even as I’m writing these finishing lines, I kind of want to go on about other talks… but hey!

The weather was great, Budapest as always beautiful and everyone safe on the train tracks 🙂 I loved that the conference didn’t have any specific theme or focus, so they got a variety of topics covered, including some fields that are totally new to me. I am planning to watch some of the previous years’ talks, too, and definitely (almost certainly) come back next year for more!

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Amuse UX trip report

UXCampAMS17 Trip Report

UXcampAMS took place this past weekend in Amsterdam – here’s what I saw and learned there.

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Why did I want to attend it?

As always, great people, great networking, interesting talks and workshops, tons of inspiration! Really helps to get perspective on my work + keep up with trends and industry standards. Plus this year I had an extra agenda to promote Red Hat and Fedora by giving a talk and distributing some swag.

City and venue

UXcampAMS took place in Amsterdam (of course) on April 22, 2017. Venue was Congrescentrum, somewhere on the upper floor. I did have a bit of a trouble getting into the building, as one has to press a very discreet button with something written in Dutch next to it 😉 But otherwise it was pretty great, 5 rooms of various sizes for talks and workshops, an area to hang out and talk with sponsor booths set up + cafeteria with coffee (very important for a Saturday morning!).

Plan of the day

As all UX Camps, this one was a BarCamp – meaning no pre-scheduled talks, just an outline of the agenda. So after registration and an introduction we had a “Madness Session” – people who wanted to present or have a workshop / discussion got up, filled in cards and pitched their proposals in 30 second time slots. Audience voted on the talks they’d like to attend by raising hands. Here’s a video to give you an idea:

In a short break afterwards organizers put together a schedule, in which I was !surprise surprise! first:

uxcampams17 schedule

My talk

I did the same talk as at ProfsoUX in Russian the week before, so this time I translated it to English.  These are the slides at SlidesShare. So, again, I talked about open source and design, including both graphic and UX stuff, tools and processes and how and why to get started, mostly focusing on work of the Fedora Design Team. The attendance was pretty good, many people knew Red Hat and Fedora, we had a lovely discussion after the talk. I really hope I inspired some people to contribute or try open source tools.

Other talks I attended

Transforming Marktplaats by Jeroen Mulder

Jeroen talked about Marktplaats and their journey through the years, beliefs to transform Marktplaats into a design-led, customer-centric organization; how they started as a desktop environment and now with the rest of the world are quickly moving towards mobile (>45% of their users).  He also talked about their ‘big hairy audacious dreams’ aka BHAG: Bought and sold in 5 minutes. What they found out: the world has changed a lot since 1999, companies now design experiences and care about their users from start to finish. Some of the principles they came up with:

  • outside – in
  • strategic design
  • cross-functional
  • outcome over output
  • discover and fail fast (go through build-measure-learn cycle as quickly as possible)

Jeroen also talked about building a UX team and how we need to ‘get out of the deliverables business’ and own the entire process: Analysis and research → Vision, strategy and concept (not optional!) → prototype and validate (and back to analysis) → build and repeat!

Involving everybody is key, as well as reminding PMs, QA, devs, designers, etc that we all have the same goal. Jeroen specifically underlined the importance of a good relationship between designers and PMs. It all starts with culture and is a journey.

UPD slides linklink

5 remote communication tips for designers by Magdalena Rydiger

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Magdalena works in a Polish agency called Polidea, and as an agency they bring in new clients every couple of months.  Being a designer, she is in constant contact with them and often has to communicate remotely, which as we know, poses some challenges on communication effectiveness. So she wanted to give some tips how to overcome communication problems and have a discussion after.

5 tips:

  1. hold kick-off workshops
  2. make the design process clear for the client
  3. express yourself with talkative examples
  4. support message with video chat and visuals
  5. teamwork makes dreams come true

Again, she pointed out the importance of involving everybody in the design process and constantly reminding them, that we are working towards the common goal. It can start at the kick-off meeting, where among other activities team can look at things that will make the project successful or will make it fail.

She also suggested having all files easily accessible for everybody – for example, a single doc on google docs + photos of sketches.

Designing a UX portfolio by Ian Fenn

Ian talked about the importance of having a portfolio and gave us an introduction to the book he’s writing for O’Reilly. One can buy early release right now, but be aware that that means the book is not yet finished, and you’ll get chapters as they are written. A couple of good pointers from Ian:

  • the purpose of a portfolio is to get a face-to-face interview
  • the recruiters have limited knowledge of UX and very little time, and will spend ~30 sec per resume
  • UX portfolios are often misunderstood: as Jared Spool states, “ A great portfolio is a collection of the stories that describe your best work” and not a collection of deliverables.
  • so one might want to include case studies (no more than 3 pages each):
    • brief
    • what you did
    • key tools and deliverables
    • the results
  • images should support and enhance the written narrative
  • aesthetic affects hiring managers, too
  • language is key, so be short and on the point, no jargon or scientific words. One of the most interesting tips, which goes for any sort of writing: read what you write out loud
  • and seek feedback from the right people

Brand in UX workshop by Flin Nortier and Ramon Schreuder

After that I attended a workshop about brand and user experience. Flin and Ramon told us about the importance of expressing brand values through interaction design, and that it will make the brand come alive. They defined brand as an intangible sum of product attributes (logo, perception, tagline, gut feeling, etc) and we tried to express brand values through interface and communication with ‘clients’.

Keynote: How to make UX count? by Barbara Koop

At the end of the day we attended a keynote about making UX count and subsequently becoming a superhero. Barbara’s main message was: data is an outcome, and we can’t drive outcomes. When we measure UX in any way, we get a lot of data, which doesn’t tell us much, so we need to get behind the data. Barbara introduced the W model of data-driven learning:

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She also advised to define which behaviors drive soft KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) and track those, as well as bundle predictors to an impact factor for each KPI, so we can see growth and success for each goal. Some of the soft KPI’a are: loyalty, brand perception, customer experience, conversion rate, etc.

Actionable and useful stuff

The main messages of the conference for me turned out to be:

  • teamwork is key, so have everyone involved from the very start
  • go through development and iteration process quickly, evaluate and repeat
  • remind people we are working towards the same goals (if necessary)
  • track things that need tracking and be smart about it

I had an amazing time at the UXcamp in Amsterdam, met some very interesting people and attended great talks. As soon as slides are online, I’ll update my post. Thank you, everybody,, who organized it and took part in it, see you all next year? 🙂

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UXCampAMS17 Trip Report

ProfsoUX 2017 Trip Report

Why did I want to attend it?

First of all, I was invited to come and give a talk by a friend, who lives in St Petersburg and works as a UX specialist (more about him later). He said people will be very interested in how open source design happens, what tools we use and what problems we face. It was an excellent opportunity to promote Red Hat and Fedora and meet professionals in my field of work. Furthermore, the UX scene in Russia is a bit different, and I was interested to find out how they work and what projects are going on. As always, conferences are great networking events, and I was happy to find out some people even came specifically to see me talk. So, altogether I really enjoyed ProfsoUX, now let’s talk about it in more detail.

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City and venue

The conference was held in St Petersburg, Russia. It is a very beautiful, huge and cold city, that does not need much introduction. The venue itself I really liked: a couple conference halls just big enough, as well as a standing area, coat room, and resting zone.

My talk

I talked about open source and design, including both graphic and UX stuff, tools and processes and how and why to get started, mostly focusing on work of the Fedora Design Team. Slides (partially in Russian) can be seen here. I just had 15 minutes, so it turned out to be more of an overview. We did have quite a bit of time for questions after, and I’m happy to tell you that the topic is hot-hot-hot, especially questions ‘Why do anything if you are not getting paid?’, ‘Is open source software good enough?’ and ‘Where do you get money from?’. Some people came specifically to listen to me talk and I’ve spotted a couple open source enthusiasts in the crowd. Others had trouble using open source software some time ago and came to just bring that up. All in all, I think it went pretty well, and although they put me last on a program, the hall was not empty at all! I received some comments and suggestions on what to focus more and will try to give an improved version of my talk in English this Saturday at UXCampAMS.

Keynote: Eric L Reiss, http://fatdux.com/, https://twitter.com/elreiss, slides

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You can find a description of his keynote here (look for English text). Eric talked about the importance of having a UX strategy, talking to all key stakeholders, especially upper management, as well as the definition of user experience. He defines UX as a sum of a series of interactions, in which case we can easily talk about UX of a city. He also mentioned that UX is situational, so, for example, UX of a city visitor differs greatly from UX of someone living in said city.

He talked a bit about customers and users and said that while all users are your customers, not all customers are users. Going on to strategy (what?) and tactics (how?).screenshot-from-2017-04-18-12-35-50.png

His main point being: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there”.  Then he talked for a bit about the importance of measuring and optimizing user experience, and how everyone needs to be on board with UX. Mr Reiss is a great person, wonderful performer and I recommend everybody to take a look at his talk.

UPD video is here

Other talks I attended

Often I wished I could be in 2 tracks at once, as the majority of talks promised to be spectacular. Some talks I did go to:

Actionable and useful stuff

Some interesting things I learned there: Kirill told us it might not be necessary to ask a person questions while conducting user testing, if you can monitor brain activity directly with the help of OPENBCI.  Good thing about it is that it’s open, fast-growing community with technology available for everybody, and volunteers practically find themselves – everybody is willing to test the new cool technology!

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While we were waiting for the next presenter, we were introduced to a term of Fundamental attribution error, which is an interesting psychological effect: people tend to explain their own behavior with external factors, and the behavior of others with their personal traits. So for example, when someone is late we tend to think it is their own fault, while the person in question will feel that it’s the external factors’ fault: the weather is bad, their sock ripped or there is a traffic jam, for example. We need to remember this in daily life in combination with assuming positive intent.

Following the keynote, I’d like to underscore the importance of having a UX strategy, as well as involving all the key stakeholders in the process of defining one and working on the user experience as a whole.

One more interesting thing I learned was when and how to use diary studies, a research method I haven’t used before. Its main application is to monitor user behavior over a prolonged period of time, when you need to find out how the feature will be used over time, if the person will continue to use it and why. It is a fairly huge and expensive type of research, which poses many problems for the researchers and users both, but sometimes it’s the only way to go. For example, one of the tasks ladies from mail.ru group talked about was how they got qualitative data on how people find, choose and read media online.

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To sum up, I really enjoyed the conference and want to thank all presenters, guests, volunteers and organizers for a great event. Hope to see you all next year!

ProfsoUX 2017 Trip Report

UXcampNL16 trip report

UXcampNL is an unconference born from the desire to bring together the industry and academic communities to share knowledge in an open environment.

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This past Saturday, September 24, I was lucky to attend on of the many UXcamps (Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, Copenhagen) held in Europe – UXcamp.NL in Eindhoven.

Why did I want to attend it?

  • It was the first and closest UX event I was able to find.
  • Share my experience and learn from field specialists.
  • I’m a bit isolated here in Brno, where most of the people are engineers and programmers – it was a great chance to meet the community.
  • To tell people about open source and Red Hat.

City and venue.

Eindhoven is a medium-sized city pretty close to Brno – there is even a cheap and short (hour and a half) Wizzair flight straight from Brno to Eindhoven! The city itself seemed to me very modern and comfortable to live in, with a lot of bike lanes and bikers, of course.

The conference itself was held in the Designhuis, which was pretty much perfect for this kind of event – very bright and spacey, in the city centre and next to Van Abbe Museum.

Plan for the day.

The event being an unconference, there was no schedule prior to the start. So registration opened at 9 am, and people who wanted to give a talk were given a card at the entrance, where we filled in our names, talk title, twitter handle and whether it’s supposed to be a talk or a discussion. Plus there were pre-scheduled workshops, which people signed up for in advance.

At 10 am we had Introduction & pitching. After a brief hello from the organizers every participant (speaker) was given 30 seconds to pitch their talk. As we pitched, organizers arranged our cards on the wall into 4 separate tracks.

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I was put first in my track – at 11, and was lucky to have the rest of the day ‘free’ for enjoying the talks and workshops.

At 4 pm a panel discussion was scheduled, with awards and drinks afterwards.

Talks and workshops.

11 am: My talk was first in the day, so at 11 I went to Tower room to tell people about introverts and user research. Here are my slides. The turnout was pretty good, I got a good crowd of introverts and extroverts; and after I was finished with the talk we went on to have a longish Q&A session. It was very interesting to talk e.g. to introverts pretending to be extroverts, or extroverts struggling to lead a team of introverts and not over-manage them to the point of team pushing back.

12:00: for the 2nd talk I stayed in the same room to listen to Den Tserkovnyi, UX Design Lead at StudyPortals, talk about Agile and how to remain sane. He shared his slides with everybody, too. You can check them out here. From what I gathered from this talk, Den used to be Scrum master, and is pretty comfortable with agile methodology. He and his team run design sprints, and include all of the stakeholders in the process. Conveniently they all work in the same building, so there’s a lot of team work with huge pieces of paper and post-it notes 😉 I talked to Den afterwards and we agreed to exchange tips on how to involve everybody in the design process + organize it intercontinentally. He mentioned Google Ventures as an example, who run the sprints as a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. They get everybody to work in 1 room for a week, and “shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week.

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13:45: After lunch I went on to a talk about accessible design given by Dean Birkett, Sr. UX Designer at AssistiveWare. His slides are here.

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It really made me very happy that people are designing for accessibility in real life and in web. Dean talked about what accessible design is, how to do it and how to sell it in organization you are working for. There are 4 primary considerations: visual, hearing, motor and cognitive. Ideally you should think about all of them, when designing a product.  This quote really makes you think:

“There are no disabled people. We are all just temporarily abled.” Henry Viscardi

I think Dean is doing amazing work, and more people should be thinking about accessibility and testing for it when designing things.

14:45: I signed up for a sketching workshop lead by Frank van de Ven, Senior consultant at Deloitte Digital. Frank gave an introduction about what sketching is and why it’s helpful in our work; here are his slides. And then we went on to practice; with his helpful guidance and tips on how to make better sketches and implement complex ideas.

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One of the major takeaways was the 3 seconds, 30 seconds, 3 minutes rule. It is nicely explained here. Frank talked about sketching for service design and user storyboards, but his tips can be applied as well to any kind of sketching, for example, sketchnotes. He also talked a little bit about service design, which is supposedly the next big thing in UX design.

The next big thing in design: UX design trends of 2017

All in all it was a great workshop, but it could have been longer; we didn’t get to do all the activities Frank had planned.

Summary and what I got out of it.

I got to meet and connect with a lot of wonderful people and specialists in various fields of UX from all over the world. Didn’t quite expect so many psychologists among them. There was also a Panel discussion at the end, with UX specialists answering questions from the audience and talking about bridging the gap between academia and business, and all of us working together + questions about their work processes and experience.

During the event people could vote for best talks, so that the best speakers could win prizes from the sponsors (Sketch, Jet Brains and Tesla Amazing). Results were announced after the Panel; my talk was voted second best and 1st place was awarded to UX & robotics: bridging the gap by Nina @METiger.

After that we had a quick celebration with drinks provided by organizers, and it was over! I would be glad if it was couple days longer; also I’ve heard stories all day about UXcamp Berlin, which as far as I understand is 2 days long with something like 10 tracks. The quality of talks in Eindhoven was really good, wish I could have attended them all.

I have now a much better understanding of the UX trends and situation in Europe, as well as many valuable connections. TODO for next time I attend this kind of event is to make business cards; for now I had to improvise and use Tesla paper from the goodie bag for exchanging contacts.

UXcampNL16 trip report