UXCampLondon – a day out the office

As local community-driven events go none comes close to the UXCampLondon experience – people, subject matter, venue, organisation, communication and relevance all culminating into a UX Festival.

On Saturday, August 22nd, we (pre-registered attendees) gathered at the eBay/Gumtree offices in Richmond to enjoy a full day un-conference-style barcamp for the local User Experience (UX) community – the first-ever organised by Cennydd (Bowles) of Clearleft). Cennydd and his able support team did a stunning job.

I, like many folk, missed the pre-registration but scooped a last-minute place after Cennydd contacted me through Twitter on Thursday evening (August, 20th) to ask whether I was still interested. You bet. I cancelled my track racing plans and began thinking about what I’d talk about.

What I learnt about the local UX community

The local UX community…

  1. is SOCIAL – we love to network (see the Twitter tag)
  2. LOVE what they do – designing good user experiences (see The Wall of Deliverables)
  3. are willing to LISTEN and LEARN – all the sessions were well supported (even mine) with plenty of commentry and debate
  4. KNOW HOW to put on a barcamp and enjoy themselves doing it.

The ‘Wall of Deliverables’

I decided to display my interactive engaging wireframe as an example of alternative ways to encourage engagement with a slightly fun kid-like wireframe assembly method (worked well for me). With exceptional competition my chances at claiming the prize was slim, however I did receive a few votes (using little green dot stickers). Thanks to those to voted for me. The winner, however, was a set of user flows (citation needed).

Photo: wall of deliverables

Photo: wall of deliverables

The opening session

Photo: Jeff Van Campens session: Diaries of a madman

Photo: Jeff Van Campens session: Diaries of a madman

I was struck by how many folk were interested in formal study in the UX/IxD. In the first session Cara bravely kicked off her session with Getting started in UX – my quest for answers‘ as her title. She opened up for feedback on where/how she, as a Project Manager, can get started in a UX designer role. She invited the session attendees to share their experiences. I empathised with Cara by suggesting we were in similiar positions… as did another attendees too. Andy Budd‘s, from Clearleft, heretical view carved a way for talented and experienced UX designers over newly qualified Masters graduates. He view from a small agency’s persepctive.

Photo: Cennydd and Dees leading the session

Over the course of the day in-between lunch and tea breaks, fantastic sessions were being put on by other attendees. With all talks ranging from research, corporate UX, iPhone/mobile UX design, UX patterns and personal experiences within UX, there was something for everone. Cennydd and Dees put on a ‘Location’ discussion which spoke about all experiences and thoughts related to location and its impact on real-life experiences and of course UX design.

The beanbag session

Photo: our outcome from the session

Photo: our outcome from the session

Another stand-out session I attended was facilitated by Andy (Budd) entitled: Design Games 101; better ways for collaboration, facilitation and ideations. The session was very much an interactive session focusing on ways to inspire and get creative with clients. Andy tasked everyone to split into groups – size irrelevant, but smaller groups prefered. We were then given boxes, pens and a sheet of paper and tasked to design a box (yes, 3-D) for Gumtree. We were to design it so people looking at the box would know what Gumtree was and what it offered highlighting all the obvious draws. We were given 10mins to come up with the design, in our teams, and then to present our design (the box) to the rest of the group.

The exercise was great fun, ‘forcing’ each person to bond, to form good teamwork to come up with our design… something that is very often difficult to achieve in the field. The exercise got us thinking about what we were designing, but importantly, as Andy stated, to think about design without the usual constraints (again difficult to achieve). Personally, I had a lot of fun and inspired to try this technique at work, but it also got me to think about design without constraints, this before ploughing into my projects. I’m sure all my fellow attendees would concur that the session was both fun and useful.

Finally, the all important supporters

A huge thanks to all the supporters of UXCampLondonVodafoneAmberlightSaros ResearchGumtreeAxureRosenfeld MediaSilverback and Addlestones.

UXCampLondon sponsors

UXCampLondon sponsors

For anyone local to London and interested in UX design be sure to watch out for news of the next UXCampLondon (follow uxcamplondon on Twitter).

Photo: Post UX Camp London riverside setting (Richmond Upon Thames)

Photo: Post UX Camp London riverside setting (Richmond Upon Thames)

Digital Magazines UX: to switch or not to?

With spiraling print costs it seems a logical move to offer print readers with an alternative medium. Naturally, nothing quite replaces the real thing (the print copy) so it’s important to connect and empathise with these readers. Conversations while asking questions like: why we doing it, when and how we plan to do it and what you can expect from it are important to the readers. If, however, they are really precious about the printed magazine (the physical tactile, olfactory experience) then it’ll be hard to win them over.

Deciding to switch

When deciding to switch mediums careful planning and considerations must carried out. Communicating the change is important too. Considering how best to communicate the switch to our readers raises a few questions:

  1. How have the print subscribers been notified of the ‘change’ in medium?
  2. Is the switch in medium a cost saving measure for us, or a cost saving measure for us plus a bonus for the subscribers?
  3. What reactions have the print advertisers had towards the change in medium and how have been dealt with?
  4. What advantages (for the print subscriber) has/have been identified by the switch in medium and how have they been communicated to the readers? In other words, why would a subscriber want a copy of the digital edition over an existing online product?

One way to help your readers from resisting the change is to offer them a friendly how-to guide demonstrating how easy it is to use eliminating anxieties and barriers to use. The Boston Globe managed to create a short video to help its users: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/reader/demo/

Research and feedback

Interested by this topic I conducted research of my own from a users perspective – how do they find the experience? Also, I asked a professional user experience body whether any specific research had been conducted and soon discovered anecdotally that suggested no real positive experiences can be found – nothing noticeable anyway.

“interest in digital editions was limited at best proven by webstats”

“Ironically, the digital additions probably do better for those papers whose web additions have UI (user interface) problems or limit their online content: users may bypass the web to go to something more familiar and scannable.”

“there’s no evidence to suggest that anything beyond an article rendered in HTML provides any positive experience to the reader.”

Examples of digital/electronic editions

The best-of-class in online news these days are, New York Times, Financial Times, and the Guardian in my view. They use the web in ways to enhance the delivery of news, not detract from it.

What are the advantages?

What benefits do digital editions offer over print?

  • ability to view your ad (if you’ve placed one) in the print edition and all its stats
  • search – finding content: articles, photos, etc (using search)
  • being able to quickly navigate to pages or sections readers become familiar with
  • cheaper production costs
  • personalisation
  • chronology – timeliness and updates, the “real time web”
  • richer experiences – potentially more visual information including extra pictures and video
  • a more familiar feel (e.g., bloggers you can identify and ‘get to know’) aligning to existing online products
  • hyper-linking for related content (on and off site)
  • environmentally friendly.

Any alternatives?

With any business decision it’s important to consider the alternatives. What options do we have.

  • improved website – ensure that your current model is working optimally. Back this up by stats, user testimonials, usability tests etc
  • mobile offering – if you want to offer your users alternative ways at accessing content have you considered what your site looks like on a handheld device?
  • video/audio podcasts – if it’s content you want to allow your users to take away why not offer them alternative formats?
  • e-newsletters – how well does your newsletter serve your readers? Is your newsletter a must-see content piece or is simply ok?
  • better quality content – bump up the quality, frequency and quantity of the current content you produce. Perhaps providing just another medium to deliver your exisiting content does not solve a content quality issue?
  • Social Media – have you covered all the corners of the web? Are there potential communities waiting to consume your content on other more social ways?

Finally, when switching over to an electronic version seems like the only option, be wary of visitor dilution (or visitor distraction) that might effect your current online offerings and ensure you plan and facilitate seamless transition.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with electronic versions, I think it’s good for business, but be sure all the options have been explored beforehand.

A heuristic evaluation

The usability ‘guru’

I seem to be known as the usability or website guru at work. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and flattered, but importantly I’m slowly crafting a UX (user experience) culture within the office. The biggest problem I have, however, is I’m usually drafted in at a very late stage – usually just before it’s about to go live. I know I’m not alone here – especially in the corporate world – so I know it’s common.

A typical scenario -email transcript – might look like this:

Hi Rob,

Please could you run your checks over my designs? I need to send it back to the designers tomorrow so could I have your feedback as soon as possible please?


– the requester –

“..run your checks..” It’s quite comical, but at least I’m asked so I can’t complain. The trick is to embrace the request and respond (to the requester) in an interested manner.

My lo-fi heuristic evaluation (feedback)

I need to be sensitive to my clients needs. Instead of diving into full scale heuristic – strengths and weaknesses – evaluation, I start basic quick wins feedback they can take to their designers now (before it goes live). I start by printing the visual on an A4 piece of paper and attaching it on to an A3 piece. This gives me plenty around the artwork of space to add my comments, draw lines, speech bubbles, add post-it notes, and even attach cut-out printed Twitter feedback tweet (after I’ve internally posted). I ensure the artifact has lots of colour and activity – making it look interesting and appealing. Once the piece is littered with ‘constructive’ feedback I present it in person for a walk-through. I preferably go to the clients desk so that our walk-through is ‘on show’ for all to see.

I ensure the feedback piece is left with the client so that the UX legacy is left behind – for reference and reminder.

The outcomes

The early results speak for themselves. I’ve been receiving direct and indirect feedback on how it has helped and how they appreciate all the effort. Whilst I’ve not seen earlier requests for help yet, I’m confident that will change.