We had the great pleasure of attending Design Matters, a big design conference which takes place yearly in Copenhagen, Denmark. This year there were about 600 people, some of which had flown in all the way from USA, Canada and Japan. The speakers included design leads from Google, Uber, LinkedIn, Netflix, Instagram and BBC.
All the happy participants, photo by host David Bailey (BBC).
The main themes for the 2017 conference were:
Among other speakers on the topic, Rahul Lindberg Sen from Spotify talked about embracing and celebrating Failure within their organization, viewing it as a possible and allowed outcome in the design process. The way they do this at Spotify is by talking about failure openly, making sure they know why they fail sometimes and use that knowledge as a way to learn and evolve.
Image by Rahul Lindberg Sen, Design Manager at Spotify. Find his slides here.
This is something that we try to do at Visma as well. However, when working on administrative tools such as payroll systems, we can’t really afford to fail after product shipment. For us, potential failure needs to come much earlier in the design process, before we build the product or feature. We apply this model in Visma by conducting user tests early to learn what works and what doesn’t, so that we at least have an idea of what the results of a new feature will be once it’s shipped.
But even so, failure can sometimes be difficult to accept and there is room for improvement. As UX designers at Visma, some of our biggest challenges are to facilitate communication between teams, to tackle changes in scope and keeping the development process user-centric. If those parts aren’t working, the risk of shipping something that fails increases dramatically.
It’s hard to build Flexible design systems, but it can be done. In this talk Yesenia Perez from Vox presented how they went about creating a single design system and code base for their 350+ websites over 8 brands. They initially started by assuming a number of theoretical components that would adapt to the needs of the different sites. This gave them a stale look that did not fit the needs of the sites and made them look too similar. This shift in focus gave them a much better design system that allowed variation while still keeping to a solid core that represented their company values. Learning from this, they looked at the common themes of what people did when visiting their sites and build the design system around those themes instead.
Image by Yesenia Perez at Vox Media. Find her slides here.
Building flexible and scalable systems is something that many UX designers are challenged with at Visma. We could definitely relate to the Yesenia told. What they learned from launching the unsuccessful, component focused solution was that successful design systems start with content and people. In other words, they needed to (and have) become more user-centric in their design process. This is something that we are reminded of often in Visma and a change that we work on constantly.
Hazel Jennings from Instagram stood out to us when speaking about conversational UI’s. Our minds often go directly to chatbots, voice commands and the like, but Instagram talked about the importance of UX writing. Having dedicated resources would help us to make a more human interface, where the language used actually reflects the needs, culture and references of the person using our products. The words that we use, as well as how the system reacts to the feedback from the user, could create an environment where the system and user actually have a conversation, instead of the system giving incomprehensible orders to the user. This is something that we currently lack but that we think could make a huge difference to our products!
Image by Hazel Jennings at Instagram. Find her slides here.
We recognised a lot of issues that other large companies are struggling with. It’s comforting to see that the UX community is seeing solutions to these pitfalls, and that we can all learn from each other. To sum up, we had two inspiring days in Copenhagen where we not only learned a lot, but got to meet many interesting new people.
Find all the slides and (soon) videos here.
Christina Freyhult works as a UX Designer at Visma. She has a background in the mobile industry and a M.Sc. in Media Technology. She is motivated by the power that is given to users when good design makes their lives easier.
Amanda Lundius Mörck works as a UX Designer and Corporate UX Coordinator at Visma. She holds a B.Sc. in Interaction Design and believes that good UX design is responsible and mindful, meeting the goals of both people and businesses.