UX People 2011

UX People 2011 took place on 25th November at Kings Place, London. The format was part conference, part training, with speakers presenting in the morning and hands-on workshops in the afternoon. It’s this balanced format that particularly appealed to me, as well as the well-curated and relevant selection of sessions.

The first speaker was James O’Brien (@sparrk) who talked about Agile UX – or How to do big design up front when you’re not allowed to do big design up front. I really enjoyed James’ presentation and his experience of what does and doesn’t work when integrating Agile & UX closely mirrors my own. The talk was engaging and entertaining, providing a great intro for those who are new to Agile (it’s very much like Scrapheap Challenge!) while bringing plenty of insights and tips to those who have experience working in an Agile environment.

Next up was John-Henry Barac (@johnhenry) who spoke about his journey from Print to Pixel, coming from a print background at the Guardian then moving into mobile design. His obvious passion for design really came across and it was interesting to see how he was taking his print experience and using it in his current work. It’s the inclusion of talks such as John-Henry’s which bring a different perspective that I feel help make a great well-rounded event. For me, this was less about tips and takeaways and more to inspire and provoke thought – which it definitely did!

Mo Syed’s talk on The Psychology of Engagement was itself particularly engaging, taking a subject which can be seen as quite theoretical or academic and making it accessible and relevant through clear delivery, with good examples and explanations. Mo’s talk covered some of the theory behind why certain design patterns work so well and I found it interesting to understand more about how psychology can and should influence our design decisions. The talk has definitely encouraged me to learn more about cognitive biases in the future and consider how they can be incorporated into my work.

Last but by no means least, Leisa Reichelt (@leisa) presented on the topic of Strategic User Experience and explained how strategy is becoming an ever-more important piece of the UX puzzle. I loved Leisa’s definition of strategic UX as “Creating an environment where good UX can exist”, which is a current theme that really resonates with me. Leisa’s depth of knowledge clearly comes from first-hand experience of everything she talks about, which reassures you that what she proposes is both practical and possible – although as she says “It’s simple, but it’s not easy”. When it comes to strategic UX, I’ll definitely be taking on board Leisa’s closing message – to be brave, inspirational, political.

The first workshop I participated in was Teasing out Business and User Requirements in Workshops with Julie Dodd (@juliedodd). Julie ran a good, hands-on workshop with everyone taking part in a fun practical example. The real insight I took from this session was that I know a lot more about gathering requirements than I give myself credit for! Working closely with the business in a very agile environment means that I already use a variety of techniques for capturing requirements from internal clients and stakeholders. I also found it useful simply to observe how Julie herself facilitated the workshop, interspersing tips and knowledge throughout.

My second workshop was Martin Belam’s (@currybet) session on Testing on a Tiny Budget. This was a really insightful workshop packed full of practical tips and techniques from someone who has been there and done it. For me, what made this session so valuable was the fact that Martin happily shared his experiences – both of what had worked and what hadn’t – and responded candidly to participant questions. The 90 minute session covered so many aspects, from recruiting and screening, writing a script and intros, through to reporting results back to the business. I got some great take-aways from Martin’s workshop that I really feel confident to put into practice.

Overall, UXPeople was a great day and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others next year. I attended last year’s event – which was obviously good enough to bring me back for a second year – and was pleased to find this year a definite improvement.

Full talk and workshop notes to follow…

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OK, I admit it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist.

Most people who know me wouldn’t consider this news, although they might not use that exact word. Perhaps they’d say I’m particular, maybe even fussy. That I like things to be a certain way, or that I keep at something until I’m happy that it’s just right.

This can be considered a positive thing, but it also has a downside. It does mean that I can be prone to procrastination.

Which is the main reason it’s taken me until now (2011, for goodness sake) to start a blog. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve started one before. I’ve started many. But I’ve never got to the point of actually posting something, putting it out there for others to see.

I’ve been making a conscious effort over the last six months to let go of things that sometimes hold me back. So I’m worrying less about picking the best layout, using a picture that works with what I’m going to post about, writing the perfect bio text that captures exactly what I want to convey.

It’s more important right now that I just get on with it. Is it perfect? No. Does it need to be? No. Can I change it, improving and enhancing as I go? Absolutely.

In the true spirit of Agile, I’m going with my Minimum Viable Product which I’ll build upon in small increments until I’ve got something I’m happy with.

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