Every other month, the UX Designers from the Stockholm and Linköping offices meet up in person for a full day of knowledge sharing, design critique, post-it posting, fika frenzy and cat videos.
Why we have internal UX days in Stockholm
As a UX Designer at Visma, we work closely with our teams and usually have our own applications where we know the domain and the details well. From time to time, we all need to get away from the daily work and meet our UX colleagues face to face. These UX days were invented by our UX manager in 2014 as a way for us to get to know each other better and share knowledge and information. Over time, the agenda has covered topics such as how to measure UX, graphic design, documentation, tools, expert evaluations, design critique and work processes. Since many of our applications share the same users, we used one of the UX days to create a user journey where we can see pain points. Later on, we are able to use it in discussions with sales and product managers to plan future UX work.
The focus for these days tend to evolve over the years, now getting more and more hands on work done, doing things where we can help each other, such as mob sketching and design studios. The planning of the days have also evolved from a one-man-job to a collaboration between all participants. This has lead to more engaged work and higher quality – we learn more!
One of our design studios.
What we do
A plan for the day is usually written as a checklist in our UX day Trello card some weeks before our next meet-up. During our UX weekly meetings when we spend a moment on looking through activities we previously wanted to include, as well as brainstorm for new ideas. Then, week by week the plan becomes more detailed. Usually we also invite users or other participants, depending on what the topic is.
We meet up in the morning to start a whole day of UX fun. After a “check-in,” where everyone shares what they are currently working on, we start by setting details of the agenda together. Even though users or other colleagues are invited, we usually have a lot of room for adjusting the agenda and everyone is involved in how much time we want to spend on each topic.
The UX day is all about share and care and participants are encouraged to conduct a session of their own about a UX subject, which can be either theoretical or more practical. For example, you could share some experiences from a method you have used, do a live usability test or try out a new method together. Some of the things we have discussed and tried out hands on so far has been accessibility, remote user testing, design studios, personas and business impact mapping.
Lastly we have a short and straightforward retrospective (for example “start, stop, keep”). Usually our focus for the retro is administrative stuff (such as what kind of fika is good, location for next session and having an agenda everyone is allowed to edit) and also ideas for new activities we’d like to do during the next UX day.
Everyone helps out during the day, either by booking a nutritious lunch, making sure we get some delicious “Swedish fika,” or by finding an awesome cat video that we always watch at the end of the day. A bullet proof tip if you want the participants to leave with a big smile!
Sketch work and fika is the greatest combination.
Why we meet in person
The UX designers in the Stockholm area are located in different departments and different cities. We have a lot of use of video chatting tools, and we meet that way regularly. Often poor connection and technical problems make it difficult to hear each other clearly and to get a grip of what the situation is on the other side of the line. A great deal of the value of these UX days lies in the fact that we meet in person. One of the advantages is that it’s easier to communicate and avoid misunderstandings. Another benefit is that we get to know each other better and therefore more easily can understand each other, also when we meet online. Furthermore it is so much easier for doing design work and trying out methods together.
The result from a design studio for a chat functionality.
The main advantages
- One of the main advantages is that this is a forum created by us – for us. The participant-driven approach where we set the agenda together, where everybody contributes with arranging sessions ensures that we use this time to tackle issues that are really important and engaging to us.
- Another strength is that we put the daily grind aside for a full day and allow ourselves to geek out in UX space, for instance to dig deep into a subject that cannot be covered during our weekly one hour video meetings.
- A particularly good use of this opportunity has proven to be trying out new methods that seems promising but that we haven’t used, or that we aren’t really familiar with. With this small group of colleagues that we know well, we can test and fail in a small safe group.
- Another strength is that we can use these days not only to zoom out from the daily grind, but to actually zoom in on particularly tricky design problems that we are facing, with the goal of solving them together. The design studios and design critique sessions we have held during these days have really improved the quality of the user experience in the products we are working on, considerably.
- Finally, the UX days help us with team building; getting to know each other better, making it easier to ask for and give help later in the daily work.
Our recipe for a successful UX day: A tricky design problem, lots of post-its, whiteboards, paper, all sorts of pens, tape, scissors, computers and of course a whole lot of creativity!
And don’t forget the fika and the cat video(s)!
Nina Boljang, UX Architect
Soma Azad, UX Designer
Tom Airaksinen, UX Architect
Sandra Skogum, UX Designer
Madeleine Hammarbäck, UX Designer