DIBI : Design it, Build it 2016 - Edinburgh Digital Conference

DIBI is a major international conference for UX designers and web developers, attracting speakers across the globe from some of the most influential companies on the planet, who are the shaping the future of the web. Our Creative Director, Henry Kunz shares some of the highlights...

 

Conference

It was a fast-paced event covering subjects ranging from psychology to the minutiae of A/B testing. The consistent messages from the speakers were the importance of user empathy, creating close collaborative teams and user testing, user testing, user testing... In this article, I'd like to share some of the ideas that stood out most for me.

 

Buzzfeed - Cap Watkins, Product Designer

Cap discussed why building trust among the team and encouraging everyone to collaborate closely with each other throughout a project, helps to deliver the best possible solution. I particularly liked his suggestions on how to cut short lengthy meetings by quickly establishing who feels strongest about the subject.

 

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Vox Media - Yesenia Perex-Cruz, Senior Product Designer

Yesenia had some interesting suggestions on setting a performance budget for your product. In a world where fast experiences build trust, setting a maximum 'weight' for images, fonts and page loading times becomes a powerful way to retain users. 

 

BBC - Ryan O'Connor, UX Creative Director

When developing a new feature of an app, the BBC embark on user testing very early in the process to reduce development time and help plan an effective user interface. Ryan gave an example of one of the methods used, where hand-drawn sketches are pulled through paper iPhones in front of potential users. As the BBC is the world's biggest media network, it was interesting to hear how small tweaks to navigation, layouts and features had a big impact on the usage and performance of an app.

 

Facebook - Nick Finck, Product Designer

Nick gave a heartfelt talk on how design can change the world - a very Americanised way of putting it but the sentiment is true. He showed tantalising glimpses into the inner workings of Facebook, from the constant problem of competing with nimble start-ups, to some of the projects they are working on, like Oculus Rift. He describes the age we are in as a 'technology tsunami', with so many interfaces, devices and the sheer amount of data to process.

 

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Tinder - Scott Hurff, Lead Designer

This was an interesting talk about UX designers planning for the 'ideal state', with dashboards filled with data and lots of users posting regular content. The reality is often blank dashboards at an initial launch of a product with zero data or interactions, or when a user completes all of their tasks and their dashboard is empty. He showed various examples where using friendly suggestions to point out new features or tips on what to do next, helps to create a better user experience. Error states are a typical culprit with their overly technical language, which just reinforces the confusion, frustration and fear that the user may be feeling when something goes wrong.

 

Financial Times - Patrick Hamann, Senior Engineer

Some great thoughts on what products should do when networks fail. Many countries around the world have slow or patchy networks and giving the user a blank loading or failed screen isn't a good way to build trust in your product. Patrick talked about the potential of using 'Service Workers', which control how your app behaves / loads. One such use could be to cache previous experiences and show the user older content if the network doesn't allow you to load new content.

I also liked his anecdote about how Etsy and Facebook make their team accountable for any issues a product may have on a slow network by slowing their own internal connection to 2G for a week.

 

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Skyscanner - Colin McFarland, Head of CRO

An insight into what Skyscanner calls 'experiments' (user testing to everyone else) where every feature or idea is tested, with a focus on A/B and user testing. The findings from these experiments are used to inform decisions on the addition / removal of features, instead of relying on the opinion of individual stakeholders in the product. A very logical approach, although I personally don't like the idea of removing the team's professional experience from the decision making process.

 

FanDuel - Rob Jones, Creative Director

A humorous talk on Rob's experiences forming various start-up companies. He talked about why user testing an initial idea to make sure it is market fit before developing it, was the key to the success of his 4th start-up project (FanDuel). He highlighted the importance of having a positive approach to solving problems among your team (Mercurytide are world class in this area!).

 

Brackett - Alison Coward, Brackett

How to run effective workshops by creating a collaborative mind-set and getting everyone in the team together at the start of each project. Alison summarised the importance of team members asking good questions, listening to each other and how to avoid the common situation of the conversation being dominated by the highest paid person in the room.

I liked her suggestions of limiting brainstorming sessions to 15 minutes to keep energy high, as well as using a bigger room, without chairs, so people can walk around and stay mentally focused on the task. 

 

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Sky - Chris Compston, Lead UX Designer

Chris had by far the most controversial talk by discussing the idea of UX Designers becoming obsolete. Although not popular with much of the audience (many of them angry looking UX Designers, sitting next to their employers), Chris had some interesting points. He proposed that if a company reaches 'corporate nirvana' where every single employee at the company are focused on user experience, the need to have a UX specialist becomes redundant. 

 

John Lewis - Danny Hearn, UX Manager

An interesting insight into John Lewis' UX processes when planning a new experience, showing how they focus equally on the user case as well as the business case for a project. This is something that I feel UX agencies don't do enough of, as the business needs (eg. more sales) is often the sole focus when building a product, with the user needs being an after thought.

 

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Conclusion

The overall trends from the event were to design experiences rather than design for specific devices, to bring humanity back to software and test early, fast and often (whether A/B, user or device testing). 

Mercurytide's own UX processes are in-line with many of those discussed by the speakers and although there is no consistent formula used by UX companies, we all share many of the same methods. The end goal is the same for everyone - to create the most delightful, easy to use and useful experience possible.

 


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