11 October 2013

The ever evolving approach to User Experience Design

 

This year’s EuroIA (euroia.org) conference was held in Edinburgh 26-28 of September, Storm IDs Head of User Experience, took the opportunity to attend…

On the morning of Friday 27th of September I packed my notepad, sound recorder and after making sure I had my conference ticket in hand, I walked down Princes Street to the venue and joined around another 250 attendees from around the world. I made it just before the keynote speaker began.

The next two days were filled with various interesting talks, the majority of which were dedicated to case studies on mixed processes integrating user experience and service design with a touch of traditional information architecture methods. There was something, however, that got me thinking more about what are we here to achieve as designers of digital experiences…

Lisa Welchman, an independent web governance and strategy consultant gave a very inspiring talk on our role in shaping the picture of years to come. In Lisa’s opinion, we are not challenging ourselves often enough, relying on the same methods, frameworks and judgments all the time. ‘Are we really innovative or transformative?’ This question resonated with me. How often can we say that we have really changed something? Lisa’s talk carried an empowering message; we can change the world if we start working on it. Every one of us can influence the larger picture if we work hard enough and stand by our rationales. Modern commercial environment may dictate business rules, but it’s certainly possible to influence the greater good with little actions that we carry every day. According to Lisa, it’s sometimes worth saying ‘Let’s do it in a different way!’ rather than to agree or compromise just for the sake of deadline, budget or politics. I wholeheartedly agree.

But Lisa’s talk wasn’t the only one that interested me. Sigurjon Olafsson, Independent Web Consultant, from Iceland spent a quick ten minutes explaining how mindfulness, compassion and other values incorporated in Buddhism can lead to the creation of a much better designed user experience. His talk was a bomb; half of the audience was left bamboozled, while the other half enthusiastically nodded and clapped hands. As Lisa had done, he had left people thinking about their purpose and wanting to achieve more. I found these talks more inspirational than the case studies, which were just what you’d expect from any other similar conference.

Sigurjon Olaffsson

Sigurjon Olafsson, Independent Web Consultant, from Backbone project (www.wojtekkutyla.com/backbone)

From the perspective of someone who’s speciality is in organising and facilitating creative design workshops, I’ve listened carefully to Koen Peters of Namahn (Belgium). Koen explained how the professional environment influences the quality of insight gained from running collaborative design sessions and presented a number of creative methods that I can’t wait to try out and implement in my work with Storm ID.

Chris Rivard of Jive delivered an interesting speech on product design in business. He outlined the process that helped his company to understand and manage social interactions based on the functionality of the tool that is used by a number of large scale organisations around the globe. To me, the most interesting aspect of the presentation was to do with mapping social relationships in a large corporate network.

In conclusion – It was refreshing to hear and see that the industry is starting to shift; that more and more people are beginning to understand that the data behind design is married up with human-behaviour based, observational analysis.

This introduction of philosophy and psychology into experience design that we used to know as a very technology-driven and dry processes makes me feel reassured in Storm ID’s approach to information architecture and user experience.

Therefore I believe that supplementing traditional data research with qualitative information is the way to go. We, as digital professionals, have to collaborate with users and project stakeholders on making things happen – and we should not be afraid of expressing our opinions, even if they are controversial but are for a greater benefit of the user.

How could we change the information world otherwise?

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