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April 17, 2011 / teknolog

UX London

I spent the last 3 days attending the UX London conference. For people unfamiliar with this relatively recent term, UX stands for User eXperience. In fact, it is so recent that people in the field still don’t quite seem to know what UX is.

People in the field seem to agree that UX largely overlaps at least:

  • user interface design
  • interaction design
  • service design

One of the keynotes alluded to UX being a sub category of the latter – service design. I quite like this way of thinking. It goes well with the general servicefication of products that we are seeing. But there seemed to be a lot of resistance to this among the conference attendants.

This uncertain view on what UX is was reflected in the professional makeup of the conference. Most attendants were designers of various sorts, which was disappointing and shows how far we still have to go. Clearly designers are key to creating excellent user experiences, but if UX is treated as a topic for designers alone and is only handled by the design department, we have little hope of producing great user experiences.

So to the topics. Apart from the first day’s keynotes, I attended four workshops:

I was quite happy with the first two sessions. Simplifying is a core skill of UX design, and we did some good exercises. A/B testing is a good way to make gradual improvements to designs, but as I pointed out in the session you risk getting stuck in a local maximum from which only a leap of faith can take you.

But even though I liked these two sessions the most, I still wasn’t very impressed. The topics were covered at a shallow, almost superficial level, and the exercises were few and quite trivial. There just wasn’t the depth I was looking for. I would have liked to see faster paced sessions, more insightful presenters, more case studies, interesting show cases and radical thinking.

So sadly, in general I must deem UX London to be a very mediocre event.  I left the conference with one new insight, which came over lunch from the Dutch lady sitting across from me (whose name I can sadly not remember), that the user experience lives inside the user’s head. It is not something we can control or design, the best we can do is try to influence it.

Maybe that’s obvious to other people, but it hasn’t been to me.

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