How does a designer choose what conferences to attend? For us, there have to be both great speakers providing useful insights and time for networking and sharing experiences. This spring we attended a full day workshop on “Service design Doing” with Marc Stickdorn and May 3rd, the conference “From Business To Buttons” in Stockholm with lots of great speakers and insights we can use in our daily work.
Everything is very well organized by the organizer inUse, from the digital experience with newsletters about speakers to the physical experience at the venue. The conference was located at Cirkus, an old and famous arena in Stockholm. The inUse people greeted us outside the venue dressed like old circus managers, and the graphic design of giveaways, name tags and on-stage presentations were all done in a very nicely wrapped, colourful way.
There were a lot of expectations in the air, and our minds were already filled with new ideas and insights from the day before, where we attended a full day workshop on Design doing.
Design doing workshop with Marc Stickdorn
During this day, we were taken from design “thinking” to design “doing” with a number of practical tips and useful service design methods and tools. What will we be using from the workshop?
- Amount of personas for a high-level journey should be 3-5 (max 7) and they can be persistent (of course continuously updated) over time. Each project might need more, but in order to be able to remember them and use them in our daily work, they cannot be too many. Do not forget the Persona group that are not yet customers – they might be useful for innovation.
- We got to try out creating a stakeholder map (made per persona) to visualize important players/stakeholders and relations to the Persona. It can be all the things related to the Persona, not just the service. It is a great assumption-based tool that we can use to plan research, confirm assumptions and find new stakeholders, forcing us to take the users perspective. If we do not have the users perspective – our competitors will.
- Most of the day was spent creating a journey map with step by step guidance from Marc. We learned that it is OK to start in the middle since the actual start might be hard to know. We also got reminded that the designer role is very much a facilitator that keeps the design work going. Design is a team effort and we as designers drive the progress.
- We also talked about maps that are beautiful but not used and how to make them more useful. One suggestion is to include information that our stakeholders really need (different for different roles, a product manager might not have the same need as a developer).
- Important to include in the journey map is if the content is assumption based or research based (use assumption based to plan research and research-based to make decisions) and the level of detail (high/detailed). The state is also important – describing the current or future state? Use an experience-centred map to understand pains and gains and a product-centred map to discuss details with developers.
Our tip for next year: Attend a great workshop to practice new skills
The workshops arranged in combination with the conference are really good and we can recommend them (useful also when not attending the conference). For the past years, the speakers have had a day of their own with a smaller group (about 30 persons) where the participants get to try out and practice the current topic.
Some of the other workshops this year was “Designing for artificial intelligence” with Christopher Noessel, “Leading UX influencing culture and growing teams” with Kim Goodwin, “Leveraging Lean UX to lead successful agile design teams” with Jeff Gothelf and “Design sprint” with Jake Knapp. We really recommend attending one of the workshops next year!
A conference to encourage designers to make the world better
At last – time for the big conference. The newsletters from inUse have been teasing us with all those great speakers for several months, and finally, we get to listen to some of the most famous practitioners within the UX industry. The arena is packed with about 1000 participants waiting to hear the most mind-blowing things from the masters. Our take-aways below is according to the schedule so if you want the short version, just scroll to the bottom.
Jake Knapp – The Design Sprint: One Small Change to Create a Culture of Innovation
Jake Knapp talked about his journey with developing the design sprint “The Design Sprint: One small change to create a culture of innovation”. There was a need to speed up the design and decision process and to fight occupied calendars.
One of the insights we brought with us was to use an Excel sheet to summarize usability tests and let conditional formatting make decisions easier. While observing a usability test, the development team can simultaneously watch a streaming video, noting their reflections in the same sheet. Columns in the sheet are the tested persons (1-5), rows are tasks and if they fail or succeed.
Lindsay Aitchison – Space Suit Design IRL
Lindsay Aitchison shared how to work with “Space Suit Design IRL”. One can imagine that space suits are hard to design and Lindsay Aitchison gave a detailed yet overall description of the very specific requirements they consider during the design process. Of course, they iterate, test and improve the design – but it better be done before a human goes out in space. Watch her talk to get a conversation started!
Neha Kumar – Designing for Intersections
Neha Kumar’s talk was about trying to solve social problems by applying design methods. We can use the design processes and methods in almost any domain or situation where you need to solve a problem. A user stated “if you are here to help me you are wasting my time”, forcing the design team to challenge their own assumptions and research how aspects like culture, politics and religion affect the design.
Val Head – Purpose and Style: Using motion with meaning in interfaces
Great UI animations have purpose and style. When creating an animation, you need to align with mental models of how we imagine continuity and feedback (for example sliding, scaling, rotating and change of opacity). Some examples of purpose are to direct attention to a specific part of the UI or to make the user understand the relationships of objects and what is affected. See her slide presentation from on “Purpose and Style”.
Marc Stickdorn – Doing is the Hard Part: How to Embed Service Design in Organizations
Marc Stickdorn on “Doing is the Hard Part: How to Embed Service Design in Organizations” gave a lot of inspiration to HOW we work as designers. My main learning was that people working as consultants working “workshop land” – that does not work in a reality where workshops are just a small part of the actual service design work.
People don´t want service design – they want problems solved.
People are the most important part, all humans working together to create the best experience and business value. We should call it whatever we like (it does not have to be called “service design” and we should not trust just ONE process, better to design it yourself! There are many great ways of doing design work and we should always adapt to the current project and conditions. We also need to find the right problem to solve before solving it right. Get to know the user and root cause before you decide on the right problem. Doing design is a team sport where the designer is the facilitator, the glue between all colleagues.
Christopher Noessel – Catch Up to Agentive Tech: AI with Chris
Christopher Noessel wanted us to “Catch Up to Agentive Tech: AI with Chris”. Some time ago, Christopher Noessel published the book “Designing Agentive Technology” and he shared some ideas from the book.
“Designing a tool for you to use is really different than designing the AI that does the work for you.”
An agent that is interesting is considered “new” to us, it is different and can adapt its behaviour. To be effective, it needs to have a new meaning, for example, save time, personalize or help with things that humans cannot do. The talk is filled with lots of great examples and gives us an eye opener to how we can design for the future.
Jeff Gothelf – Hacking your Tractor with Black Market Code: A Sense & Respond Case Study
Jeff Gothelf shared a story about the farmers and their relationship to John Deere products such as tractors and harvesters. The products are being more and more efficient and high-tech, forcing the farmer to contact the supplier when the machine is broken or need a spare part. This is a great conflict to the farmers’ culture to “do it yourself” and challenge the business model for the giant company. Culture will always win over technology and if you force people to do things they do not want, they will solve their needs in a different way. Jeff asked us – are we solving user needs or exploiting user needs? Every (business) decision is design and affects the experience. Some of his tips were to use feedback loops to reveal the culture and frame success in user-centric terms. The video is not out yet but you can see what Jeff is up to at Twitter.
Jeff Gothelf gave credit to Greta Thunberg and encourage us as designers to make an impact. Photo from FromBusinessToButtons.
Paul Fu – AI Design and the Future of Experience Design
Paul Fu shared how Alibaba use AI and people as information objects. They create a huge amount of design that affects millions of users around the globe, both good and “evil” considering they collect data about the users and their usage without the user being aware of it. When working with artificial intelligence, we need to be aware as designers that we change peoples lives in ways they might not have anticipated or wanted.
Laura Kalbag – Disruptive Design: Harmful Patterns and Bad Practice
Laura Kalbag emphasised in her talk “Disruptive Design: Harmful Patterns and Bad Practice” that what we usually measure as “engagement” can rather be “addiction” which we do not want to encourage. There needs to be a balance and the way we measure affects people. She also stated that personalization need to be really transparent to a user and we should make the user in power of their own information. I believe GDPR is a great thing here. As designers it is our duty to be different, to question decisions, be a human and users gatekeeper and advisor how to make good design decisions. It is okay to be regarded as “difficult”… our world needs us to be.
Kim Goodwin – Organization as Designed System
Kim Goodwin talked in her keynote – “Organization as Designed System” about that influencing culture in your company is more than the graphical interface of a product. People’s experiences are also impacted by the company policies for example, even though it seems like a by-part of using a product or service. So as UX designers we should be involved in all aspects impacting the user’s experience.
When in doubt if your design is good or bad for the user and the society, we can use the “Nuremberg code” as guidance. Does this design benefit the user or society? Is it serving or exploiting the user? Do they have informed consent? Is it truly voluntary or can they opt out? As an example – we should NOT use session replay tools (such as Hotjar) if the user is not clearly aware of the above questions. If we cannot predict that users are in control of their own information we should always say no. Care about the people using our tools and do the user research (correctly…). Think of the consequences of our design! We cannot imagine all types of harm we have never seen or heard about. Use diverse teams and get outside input. You always need to measure two things; the goal you want to achieve and the values you will not sacrifice to get there. A good decision system is a learning system – the stories of our decisions give us our history and we need to invest at least as much in a decision system as in the design system. Start by working on your weakest parts of your system in order to make the world a better place.
Main takeaways from the conference
- Try the design sprint in your work if you have not already. The ideas can inspire innovation beyond the current project. Jake Knapp
- “If you are here to help me you are wasting my time” – get to know your users before changing their lives. Neha Kumar
- Design methods can be used for anything, for example to solve social problems and designing space suits 🙂
- Move away from “workshop land” and build your own design process suitable to solve the right problems. Marc Stickdorn
- Are you exploiting or helping your users? Both can bring you money, so it is a very good question to ask ourselves every time. Culture always wins, if you have a bad policy, users will find a way to work around it. Jeff Gothelf
- As designers it is our duty to be different, to question decisions, be a human and users gatekeeper and advisor on how to make good design decisions. It is okay to be regarded as “difficult”… our world needs us to be. Laura Kalbag
- You always need to measure two things; the goal you want to achieve and the values you will not sacrifice to get there. Kim Goodwin
- Always create a shitty first draft – no matter what you do. Then test, learn and improve it. This can be applied to processes, design, concepts and everything we work with.
The “shitty first draft” for a nice poster on the wall turned out smaller than expected and with punch holes 🙂
- For more videos follow From Business to Buttons page or the inUse Youtube channel.
- All speakers https://frombusinesstobuttons.com/#speakers
About the authors
Nina Boljang, UX Architect
Simina Harla, Senior UX Designer