An Insightful and Inspirational Day at NUX4

Last week was NUX4, the annual conference organised by our great friends at Northern User Experience, with seven talks from UX industry heavyweights spread the daylong event. A mixture of Computerlovers attended... some from our Client Services, Optimisation and of course, our User Experience team.

We've put together some of our highlights from what was a very insightful and inspirational day...

Tom Adams - Senior User Experience Consultant

This year's conference had a very impressive list of speakers -- I've attended all the NUX events and I think this was by far the best NUX yet. Every talk was either useful or thought-provoking (often both), but there were three particular highlights for me...

Google's UX Researcher Tomer Sharon, was the opening keynote speaker. He talked about the need to fully understand the problem that you need solve, before going ahead and designing a solution. I have seen this happen so often throughout my career, with the rush to design products or interfaces -- that ultimately fail, because nobody knew why the product or interface really existed. I talk about this subject a lot and will be quoting Tomer in every presentation I give from now on: "Fall in love with problems, then with solutions."

UX Strategy and Product Consultant for the IoT, Claire Rowland's talk about connected products and the Internet of Things was fascinating. It's not an area I know much about (except for falling in love with my Hive home heating control), so hearing about the UX challenges posed by legacy systems, connectivity issues, limited interfaces and lack of standardisation was really cool. The potential in this area is vast and irresistible and the people working in it right now are pioneers -- it was great hearing from one of them.

Finally, Content Strategist and final keynote speaker, Sara Wachter-Boettcher's keynote talk on ensuring our interfaces and experiences keep kindness and human decency, was powerful and emotional. The potential for edge-cases (or "stress cases") in the experiences we create to cause genuine hurt and distress to individuals, isn't something I had considered before -- but I will do from now on. The examples (from apps, to government forms, to Facebook) ranged from annoying to horrific and I hope this talk means, I'll never help to create anything similar.

Finally, huge kudos to the NUX organisers for the gender mix of speakers -- it's rare for a digital conference to have majority women speaking - I'm proud of Manchester and of our UX industry that we can do it.

Katy Shaw - Junior Account Manager

My highlight of the day was Evgenia Grinblo's talk on 'Why Clients Don't Suck'. Working in client services, I could whole-heartedly empathise with the client traits she referenced. The talk was highly engaging with practical tips to help every team work more effectively with clients. My favourite tip was asking clients to communicate what they're trying to achieve with the use of storyboards.

At Code, we've found it has been really successful when we've storyboarded ideas, for the client in the early stages of a project -- but, asking the client to do the same, is something I'm now going to try going forward.

Joel Stein - Search & Media Manager

My highlight was Evgenia Grinblo's talk -- 'Clients Don't Suck'. She covered some great tactics for improving client relationships and project success. Some of her tips were just as applicable to internal scenarios, as they were to client communication too. Asking "which business goal is this for?" is just as useful for keeping your own team on-point, as it is for encouraging detail-focussed clients to remember the bigger picture.

I also liked her reminder to "expose your decision-making" -- clients and colleagues might just assume you've formed an idea or created a design at random, so don't hide all the great research and strategic thinking you did to get there!

Andrew Hajduk - User Experience Architect

My favourite talk of the day "Everybody Hurts: Content for Kindness" was given by Content Strategist, Sara Wachter-Boettcher.

An edge case is easy to ignore, after all, only a small user base will be affected by it. However, it's important to note that an edge case is often where our work breaks and so it is important to be aware of them.

How do we make sure edge cases aren't just ignored? For one we need to be empathetic with the audience we are designing for. Most importantly we need to have compassion with the audience. Compassion is where are truly moved to do something with this empathy. Not just ignore things as an edge case.

The importance of considering empathy when designing, is something that I have [discussed myself in a previous blog post][6].

Laurie Penalbar -- User Experience Consultant

Sara Wachter-Beattcher's talk, "Everybody Hurts: Content for Kindness" was a real eye-opener for me. She inspired me to think about all the design decisions we may take for granted. Quite simply, she encouraged me to focus on being sympathetic. As a UX practitioner, this is important for us during the discovery phase. One thing she said that really resonated with me, is that along with the heartbeats we have, we also hold the heartbeats of our users.

It is necessary that we constantly challenge what we think is "normal" for a user characteristic. We need to make sure our users spend their heartbeats wisely, through the designer's act of kindness in every intentional design.

*Gareth Evans - Search & Media Manager *

A thought-provoking day overall. I've discussed the content in a number of conversations since. Certainly stays with you after you leave the event, inspirational stuff.

Halloween at Code Computerlove