UX Australia 2011 – User Experience Conference

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend UX Australia 2011 in Sydney, Australia.

UX Australia is a user experience conference that goes for 4 days with two days of workshops and two days of presentations held by industry professionals. The conference encourages participation and discussion amongst attendees and aims to provide the most cutting edge information in the UX industry.

I attended the two days of presentations. I flew up from Melbourne early in the morning and arrived by taxi right on time. The venue was Four Points Sheraton in Darling Harbour. The conference was a sell-out and people were bustling all around the place. There was definitely an air of excitement as attendees were scoping out the scene trying to find people they knew or alternatively making a mad dash for caffeine hit at the coffee pots.

There were two rooms with different presentations running concurrently throughout the two days. The agenda was crammed with interesting topics, however as I couldn’t be in two rooms at once, I had to choose which presentation I went to wisely.
I won’t mention all the presentations as there is just too much to talk about, instead I will refer to the ones that resonated with me the most.

UX Australia 2011 Day One

Keynote: Experience Leadership – Kim Goodwin

We all shuffled in for the Keynote entitled Experience Leadership by Kim Goodwin. This was an insightful and entertaining discussion around developing skills to become better at UX leadership. Kim kept the audience engaged whilst she touched on a variety of points ranging from the psychology of leadership, to culture within organisations and UX in general, ways to initiate a continuous change cycle and how to be effective at creating advocates and bringing stakeholders along for the UX Journey.

From Kim’s presentation overview:

UX leadership is a skill set not a job title. UX leaders can come from many disciplines and have many roles. Managers need to carve out opportunities for multiple leaders to develop. Individuals must be able to envision models of leadership that fit their own strengths and interests…
It’s not enough for UX leaders to influence and inspire others. UX leaders must also be equipped to solve the hardest design problem of all: changing not just the process by which our organisations develop products and services, but also the culture that invisibly drives every direction.

Follow Kim on twitter: @kimgoodwin

Gamification Sucks – Paris Buttfield Addison

Paris Buttfield-Addison colourfully presented Gamification Sucks in which he addressed a concerning trend where companies are mistakenly believing that by simply adding gaming layers to a product it will inherently create a more engaging experience for the user. In fact, without careful consideration as to what value add this has for the user, a badly thought out game experience will significant detract from the overall experience of the product. Paris says “A product has to be appealing in the first place.” If it’s not, Gamifying won’t get you anywhere.

From Paris’ presentation overview:

Gamification is Touted as a ‘solution’ to the challenge of motivating certain behaviour in users, or making experiences more engaging, sadly these elements of the game development world are often blindly applied without finesse or elegance.”
Gamifcation is about “putting the heart and soul of game design into designing experiences, and using it to focus on the well-meaning intention of games in the first place: making stuff more fun!

Follow Paris on twitter: @parisba

The Perfectionists Bathroom – Glyn Thomas

This was a short presentation, where Glyn introduced us to a picture of his dad. His dad wanted to build the perfect bathroom for his house. His dad started to design from scratch, working out what tiles to use, which cabinets to buy, where to position the sink and the bath and so on. Glyn said that his dad was so focused on every little detail that in the end, his dad never finished the bathroom. After ripping all the contents of the old bathroom out, Glyn’s dad simply was never able to make a final decision on anything. In the end, the time blew out and so did the budget and his Dad was left with an empty, cracked and mouldy bathroom.

Some quotes that Glyn mentioned stick out in my mind. “Perfect is the enemy of Good” – Voltaire
“Don’t be too precious, good is better than perfect.”
This analogy Glyn uses fits very well with the design world. Sometimes you have to step out to see the bigger picture.

How not to test – Shane Morris and Matt Morphett

Day one concluded with a very humorous sketch by Shane and Matt outlining exactly everything you shouldn’t do when you are conducting user testing. Bringing some good old fashioned crowd participation in to play, two audience members were chosen to be pretend panellists and then an additional two people to be pretend test participants.

Setting up a fake ATM, they metaphorically poked, prodded and coerced the test participants to make the correct choices by offering them bribes of chocolate for every right answer…..The ATM then proceeded to steal money from one person while Matt and Shane were yelling at the panellists through the fake “one way mirror”. From taking gratuitous happy snaps of smiling participants to forcing them to read a glowing script that the facilitators could use for their testing reports, no stone was left unturned.

Matt and Shane definitely made a very funny point by making every usability testing mistake possible in just 30 minutes.
A very entertaining and refreshing presentation to wrap the day up with.

UX Australia 2011 Day Two

A market of the senses: Digital devices in physical spaces – Bob Burns

To me this was an interesting presentation, because it was very similar to something that I had also thought about doing a few times in the retail world. Bob works at a large US consumer product retail company as the User Experience Manager. His presentation focused primarily on using smartphones to scan QR codes that appear on the labels of products they sell in the retail stores. Scanning the QR code allows the user to access additional information that they otherwise would not have. This can then be used to help make a more informed purchase decision.
What I found of particular interest was the user testing scenarios that Bob showed. Test facilitators took participants into a store and got them to try and scan a QR code with a smartphone. Whilst it worked for the majority of participants, sometimes the code didn’t scan, other times participants didn’t know what to scan and others had no concept as to what QR codes are. However Bob highlights the fact that this particular implementation has overall gone very well at his company.

Follow Bob on twitter: @hello_bob_burns

Is that sense-able? – Rob Madison

For me, this was one of the most intriguing and therefore probably my favourite presentation of the conference.
Rob started off by giving a brief history of human input devices starting off with the mouse and keyboard era. He then proceeded onto modern and future sensors ranging from accelerometers to compasses, NFC, Augmented Reality and even other sensors I’ve never heard of before. He also elaborated on how these new sensors will usher in and create new design opportunities and innovations for us to explore.

From Rob’s Presentation Overview:

What does it mean when your apps can see, hear and feel? Digital sensors are flooding through our daily life. Mobile devices have microphones, cameras, accelerometers, digital compasses and now near field communication (NFC) chips and scanners. But this is all just the very start. These small digital sensors are shrinking even further and just as Mark Weiser predicted, they are soaking into the world around you.

Follow Rob on twitter: @nambor

Mobile User Experience: Methods and tools – Oliver Weidlich & Rod Farmer

I found Rod and Oliver’s presentation to be very enjoyable. They discussed current trends in Mobile UX and application development. Of particular interest was how they spoke about Rapid Prototyping and the various mobile development tools, technologies and frameworks they used to create apps. Some of these they discussed were Flowella, Omnigraffle, App Cooker, Liveview, JQuery Mobile, HTML & CSS.

I particularly liked how they used dropbox as a server to view and test HTML and CSS files on mobile devices.
From Oliver and Rod’s Presentation Overview:
Mobile Devices have changed how people communicate and access internet based services, but many mobile services still don’t harness the full benefits of the mobile user experience. The mobile and personal nature of these devices creates problems for observing/tracking interactions within the lab and especially out in the field.

The main conference presentations have been uploaded onto the UX Australia Website. Here you will find the slides and some other goodies for most of the presentations from the conference. Be sure to check it out.

All up, I found the whole event to be very insightful and entertaining. It was great to hear opinions and experiences from other UX designers in the industry. UX Australia 2011 also provided a great opportunity to network and meet like minded people. I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the industry to get along to UX Australia 2012.