What happens when UX designers attend a UX event? You get a lot of sticky notes and picky descriptions of the flow of events. This is the chronicle of how the UX Week 2015 turned out to be a UX case study on its own.
Join me on the journey from being a reluctant attendee to being fully immersed in the experience. See how the essence of UX as a business discipline reveals itself through the small details.
This is UX applied to a UX event.
The morning was quiet and the cloudy sky posed no threat for those determined to reach their destination. We were no exception, we needed to head out to UX Week 2015. After a quick view of the map, we were ready.
The city of San Francisco is known by its touristy views and walks. In spite of the really steep avenues, any stroll is quite enjoyable. For those who are unfamiliar with local destinations, like Diana and I, it is fairly simple to find your way around. We ended up arriving at the venue in less than 15 minutes.
At the lobby there was a banner indicating the event was taking place there. As we walked to the designated room, a staff member welcomed us and indicated what to do and where to go. No confusion.
The first step was picking up our badges. There was a big sign marking the right place and big letters separating the crowd into rows according to our first names. No struggle.
I was told to download the official app for the event. No biggie.
Surprise Your Users
We picked some refreshments, a little bit of everything for everybody. Then we entered the big conference room. The lights were dimmed and a voice announced Jesse James Garrett as the host.
Most UX Designers are familiar with Jesse. He is kind of a rockstar to us. His book “The Elements of User Experience” was one of the first to document good practices in our field.
“What a nice touch,” I thought.
The element of surprise is always a nice thing to have in every experience.
UX Principles at Work.
As he explained the dynamics of the event, I downloaded the app.
The App behaved a bit jumpy at the beginning but I managed to complete the sign-in process fairly quickly. Voilà! I already had announcements waiting for me, and also tips to move around the venue.
That’s when it hit me, they were driving me through the experience. There were UX principles at work here that been designed into the flow of things.
The only thing I needed to do was kick back, relax and enjoy. So, I went with the flow.
The first keynote by Leah Buley was superb. She had outstanding insights on “The Modern Design Organization” and the common obstacles design teams face. That topic deserves an entire post of its own.
Another short talk followed and then a break, just in time to take everything in.
As UX Designers, we look for these moments to allow users to decompress when designing experiences for software products as well.
“Do not overwhelm the user” we say, and this was a perfect example of progressive disclosure at work. Let users absorb incoming data by bits and at their own pace.
As I reflected on this, the app notified me it was time to go back to the conference room for the next talk.
This was an example of context awareness working well. Pay attention to what’s happening at any moment of the experience.
“The UX Week folks are sharp!”—I giggled to myself.
People Are Just Complicated
The next part of the event unfolded masterfully. A 45-minute keynote, followed by a 30-minute talk, then a short 10-minute talk, and then lunch! Leaving no chance for fatigue.
Again, I could tell the organizers had a deep understanding of human behaviour. They didn’t let the audience get overwhelmed. The amount of information was just right, I felt comfortable with it. I trusted them.
In her article “The Psychologist’s View of UX Design,” Dr. Susan Weinschenk addresses these issues,
- People can only look at so much information or read so much text on a screen without losing interest.
- People will always try to use technology to be social.
We were doing exactly that! Remember the app? During lunch we got acquainted with fellow UX Designers from around the globe. Instead of exchanging the old-fashioned biz cards we just added each other through the app. We were able to view profiles, contact info, and post updates throughout the event. Networking was a tap away!
Prime example of humans using technology to socialize.
Design Informs Business
I was afraid of getting back to work after an abundant meal would weigh in on me like a curse. What to do? Not to worry, just let the UX Week folks take care of it.
The content was really enjoyable, nothing too heavy. All I had to do was enjoy the lightshow. They understood our needs perfectly and adjusted the “system” accordingly. That’s how User Experience Design works. You understand people and let those needs inform your business goals. Then, meticulously craft the flow of events so they both meet seamlessly.
At that moment I knew the rest of the week was going to be full of delightful surprises and small details designed to make me feel at ease.
They succeeded. It was a triumph to Design.
- People are complicated beings, full of needs and nuances. Understand them first and orchestrate your service and business with them at the center.
- Let people feel in control of the experience they are living with your product or service. Or at least provide the illusion of it. You can still craft the desired flow of events, just have them appear natural and unplanned.
- The small details count. These consolidate the story your users will tell about their experience with your product or service.
- We like to tell stories about our experiences, and we like to read about them. I enjoyed the telling, and thanks for reading this far.