“If you’re not failing you’re probably not innovating”

I went to Wellington’s first UX Design Day today. It was fast-paced, with 12 great speakers from a range of design backgrounds. In case you missed out keep an eye on UXDD’s facebook page as they’ll be uploading videos of the speakers’ talks in the near future. You can also check out the UX Design Day website for a range of inspiration and resources.


Here are some themes and quotes that emerged during the day:

  • Don’t tell people; show them. Rather than telling an organisation what their users are saying, show them. Displaying large quotes or showing brief videos of users talking about/interacting with a product/service makes the feedback more meaningful.
  • “If you’re not failing you’re probably not innovating” – Wesley Yun, Creative Director, Samsung. Embracing failure as a part of the design process came up a few times. We hear this again and again but in reality it can be tough as our instinct is often to run from failure, pretending it never happened and mentally blocking it out. Wesley was kind enough to share some of his failures with the audience.
  • Holistic designers make holistic solutions. If you define yourself as solely a UX designer or solely a UI designer, you won’t make either a good UX or UI designer. Breaking down the barriers and taking a holistic, non-silo approach to design can lead to better outcomes. Also, there’s no reason why designers and developers can’t be friends.
  • Too much documentation. Whether it’s style guides, customer journey maps or personas, sometimes we’re creating so much documentation that it’s not getting used. Oftentimes the process of creating personas by analysing research is actually more important than the final personas themselves. The act of creation lets the team own the research and insights.
  • Lost in translation. As designers we carry out a lot of visual research, such as taking photos and making observations in the field. We then transform these images into written documentation, then back to visual outcomes. Switching between images and text can result in accidental changes in meaning and interpretation. Why not make our documentation more visual by including videos?
  • Don’t get fooled by the data. Dealing in averages sounds simple enough, but sometimes designing for average users isn’t the way to go. Instead we should look at the range of users and where there are clusters in the data. Sometimes designing for the ‘average’ user means we’re not designing for any real users at all.
  • Any user testing is better than none at all… or maybe not. This was a bit of a mixed message. While one speaker told us that any user testing/interviewing was better than none at all, another warned us that doing only a little user testing can give us false confidence in unreliable data.
  • “Ethnography doesn’t create value, interpretation does.” – Matt Ellingsen, Design Director, Empathy
  • Get out of the office. Whether it’s to get past a creative block or to talk to users, there was a big focus on learning outside the office.
  • What vs how. Many needs (what) remain pretty constant over time, but the ways in which we fulfil them (how) change rapidly. Focusing on needs rather than one type of solution can make us more flexible to change.
  • User plus business. UX design champions the user, but we can’t lose focus of the business. UX design is really about balancing desirability for users with viability for businesses.

What do you think?

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