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My First UX Australia

7th Sep 2016 'Cilla Arnold


Last week I had the absolute pleasure of jetting off to Melbourne with my Practice Lead Stewart Salazar to attend my first UX Australia which happened to be the 8th Annual UX Australia conference. As we arrived on the first day, The Grand Hyatt Melbourne was heaving with UX'ers and everyone seemed quite upbeat and excited. We were given our name tags and collateral and given time to mingle before going into the 1st presentation. One of the first things I noticed was the Lo-Fi Social Network wall which was done by The Customer Experience Company 

This gave us opportunity to introduce ourselves, where we were from, a drawing of ourselves and our interests.
The aim was to paste our little profile cards on this wall and start connecting with people we knew, there was a real buzz of activity and brought out the kid in many of us.

Next we were ushered into the main room whilst the organisers of UX Australia Steve Baty and Donna Spencer welcomed us, talked us through the agenda“ 2 days of talks that focused on fundamental UX skills, presented by experts in their field“ they then introduced the opening keynote speaker Denise Jacobs (Speaker + Author + Creativity Evangelist ) and her segment - Co-create: Creating better together.

She was great and talked about sharing ideas, listening, collaborating, adapting to new ideas, having an experimental mindset and creativity blocks and busting through them by conversing with others and ourselves.
How our body language shapes who we are (Watch Body Language by Amy Cuddy Ted Talks).

How fear holds us back and how to move past it by kicking its ass and also banishing our inner critic which is actually the subject of her latest book (I think we could all benefit from banishing our inner critic!). She also got 6 volunteers up on stage (me being one of them“ why not hey) to do an exercise which showcased the outcome of us working individually compared to when we work together hence co-creating. She was a fantastic speaker and it was a really fun way to commence the conference as she had us all laughing and fully engaged.

We chose a segment with Steve Portigal from San Francisco and founder of Portigal Consulting about Field Work Fundamentals – when to use which research methods. Who-What-Fieldwork-Data. He talked about user interviews being one of the most valuable User Research tools and how researchers need to develop their skills.

We also watched Ash Donaldson from Tobias & Tobias Australia and his talk about The details are not the details: How small things have a large impact How a Tesla vehicle welcomes it's owner by presenting its handles as you approach and how the handles normally stay flush to the car to improve speed. How corporate pressures changed how things were made, The marketing department is all about New and Shiny, Business Units concentrate on Being On Time and On Budget and the Engineering teams focus on Increasing Velocity. Ash talked about how design is becoming valued and how the details are not the details, they are the product.

He talked through history and different products and their details“ The Eames Dining Chair and how it evolved, The Google Self Driving Car that they made to look cute and friendly on purpose, The Washing Machine that plays Schubert when your load is finished (personally I think that would drive me nuts but some people love it so each to their own). He talked about how sounds can influence us. An example where there was a French wine and a German wine being served at a restaurant and when their respective cultural music was playing that particular wine sold a lot more than the other. Also how a few slight changes in words can really effect conversion. It was definitely a thought-provoking presentation.

One of the event organisers Steve Baty did a presentation about the Barriers to innovation and what gets in the way of releasing great ideas.

Chris Khalil from ANZ was a great speaker and talked about transforming a large enterprise to be customer centric. About evolution and revolution and building infrastructure = getting back to basics and the importance of getting that right first.

One of my favourite presentations was by Stephen Cox from Westpac What can social sciences tell us about designing for the Internet of Things and how by 2020 there will be 50 BILLION things related to the internet for 7.8 Billion people. How as a UX Designer you’ll have to design for a world where products, objects and services will communicate and share with each other and how will designers create systems that react to human needs and help shape the behaviours of the users? Stephen was a great speaker who showed us the gadgets he had around that house (he actually didn'™t realise how many gadgets he had until looking for them for this presentation) and how within his family these gadgets might make a difference. It was a fun and engaging presentation with the help of his gorgeous daughter Lily who was a regular on the large screens around the room.

We watched the guys from YouTube Laura Naylor (Head Of User Research at YouTube), Will Bates (UX Designer and Strategist at YouTube) and Cliff Curry (UX Lead for Living Room Devices at YouTube) talk about Video and the power of narrative to develop product.

How to keep things simple and how sometimes keeping things simple has the most impact. Knowing our abilities, not overdesigning the UI and to never forget about the emotion. I think I was a little envious throughout this presentation (seriously how cool would it be to work for YouTube!!)

We also saw a talk from Amir Ansari from Dius who was also a great speaker œFrom building products right to building the right products an example he had was with the Alessi Kettle that is quite pricey and looks great however is not very user friendly. œIt doesn’t pour until you take the bird out which you can'™t because hot steam is bubbling out of the spout. He talked about another example this one was the OXO Measuring cup which revolutionized the liquid measuring cup! An angled surface eliminates the need to fill, check and repeat. This changed the life of us bakers (yes I have one).

My favourite moment of the entire conference by far ( I'm sure many others would agree) was by keynote speaker Pattie Moore from Moore Design Associates. This woman is phenomenal and there weren't many dry eyes in the room by the time she ended her talk.

Pattie is an internationally renowned gerontologist (social scientist of the aging) and designer. She talked about her life experience and being the only female designer at the time to work for Industrial Designer Raymond Loewy. Loewy is widely recognized as the Father of Industrial Design.

Pattie talked about how so much excitement and thought goes into designing for the beginning of life and how much that period of a baby'™s beginning in life is celebrated and that as much thought should be put into designing for the elderly and for the end of life, that the elderly deserve that dignity.

She peppered this with stories of her relationship with her grandfather. How she came home one day to a completely empty and dark house, thinking she was home alone only to discover her grandfather (her favourite person) sitting in the dark with a tear trickling down his cheek as he had lost the ability to turn the light on and was sitting in the dark waiting for someone to come home.

This broke Patties heart and she designed a lamp where it had a sensor and the light would come on. Her grandfather loved this and would swat the lamp frequently with pure joy. Pattie talked about an experiment that she undertook in 1979 for 3 years (with the blessing of Raymond Loewy who was in his 80’s by this stage) where she travelled across America and Canada disguised as a woman more than 80 years of age (wearing her grandmothers clothes and prosthetics) allowing her to experience how elders manage their daily lives and also how people would treat her. She visited 116 cities in 14 states and the experiences she went through were overwhelming. For every horrific experience (which she revealed to us) where she was treated with hostility and cruelty there were the experiences where she was treated with pure kindness. She urged the room to keep designing with compassion and a conscience.

Her story totally overwhelmed me, I was emotional throughout and it has stayed with me since. Thank you UX Australia for having such an amazing woman close the conference. I honestly don’t think there was anyone in the audience that wasn’t completely moved by Pattie Moore.

In closing, I feel very blessed for having attended UX Australia as it made me very proud to work in this space, amongst these extremely talented designers that actually care. The thought process that goes into so many things that we take for granted is incredible and being an attendee at the conference has opened my eyes to how much UX'™ers can really influence the world and make it a better place for all of us.