How time flies! It doesn’t feel like a year ago that I attended NUX4 and yet, here I am writing about NUX5. Sadly we didn’t have Chewbacca this time but I have to say the peeps at NUX are doing a brilliant job with the conference as it gets better and better every year. NUX5 was no different, in fact I’d say it was the best one yet!
For those who don’t know who NUX (Northern User Experience) are, we (I’m part of NUX Liverpool btw) are a group of passionate and enthusiastic usability experts who run a variety of events to get together and discuss all things user experience.
NUX5 had a great lineup of speakers covering a variety of topics, which I was eager to find out more about. It was with great excitement that I set off to the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Upon arrival I was greeted by the NUX team who all wore rather fetching green t-shirts to stand out amongst the crowds. This was definitely necessary because in total 600 people attended NUX5 but there certainly felt like there were more people present! Having registered and grabbed a drink, it was time to head to the the theatre for the first talk.
First up was Boon Sheridan, whose opening talk was called “Rules, Hunches and Coinflips”. This was an engaging talk, that involved Boon walking the length of the stage multiple times rather than staying close to the lecture. Boon challenged the notion of abandoning tried and tested practices for the newest, popular technique. It was interesting and reassuring to know that if things are not broken then why try to fix them but at the same time you shouldn’t be afraid to try things especially when you don’t know the outcome because sometimes, it might just work!
Next up was Lola Oyelayo to talk about “For the love of wicked problems”. In this talk, Lola expanded on what wicked problems were, the kinds of wicked problems we are creating. She discussed the future wicked problems we need to address and provided some tips on how to tackle these should you encounter them. Lola was extremely passionate about the subject and explained the uses of journey maps to find pain points and to set expectations correctly from the off. She explained that not blaming others and ensuring that we don't always deal with ideal scenarios will go some way to helping to alleviate these wicked problems. Sadly the nature of wicked problems means they won’t completely go away, we just need to deal with them appropriately and in the right way.
Following a short break, it was back to the theatre to hear Karina van Schaardenburg talk about “Mixing methods abroad: a case study”. In her talk, Karina outlined a range of techniques and tips that can be combined and used when feeling the pressures of a limited budget and when questions can’t be answered immediately. The upshot of all of these techniques was to find the right people to listen to and when you do listen completely to ensure you get every little bit of insight from them.
After Karina, we had Glenn Gustitus talk about “Security and User Experience: Pushing for Change in the Enterprise Environment”.
Although security has a perception of ruining the party for everyone, Glenn passionately put the case forward to demonstrate how security can be incorporated into projects without compromising the user experience. He explained this can be achieved by observing your users to see how they use your product on a day to day basis. He recommended we should also work within the constraints that you are presented with by having empathy for your users.
After lunch, we had Sophie Denis talk about “The Art of Things Not Done”. Sophie’s talk struck a chord with many delegates in the room discussing how to balance what can and can’t be done within the time and budget of a project. She compared a Leatherman Micra (7 tools) to a Wenger Giant (87 tools) to illustrate that just because you can doesn’t always mean that you should. The nature of doing less is to identify what can and can’t be cut without sacrificing the user experience. Using the Kano Model, Sophie was able to illustrate where you should invest your efforts to ensure that the experience for that section is the best it can be.
Following Sophie was Graham Odds with his talk on chat bots or conversational UI through “Let’s have a conversation”. In what was probably the slickest talk of the day, Graham demonstrated how conversational UI could be the next stage in communication. It was incredible to see what was possible and how the use of conversational UI can be really useful to a user when they really need a piece of information. This might be when booking a flight or managing money. What was interesting to see was how this all tied back to Boon’s talk earlier in the day. Since conversational UI’s are only just emerging there is no best practice or right way to do things, we just have to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. With my mind suitably blown it was time for another break before the closing talk of the conference.
The final talk of NUX5 was Henny Swan’s “The Velvet Rope” outlining how critical accessibility is for users. During the course of her talk, Henny explained how we as designers are responsible for accessibility, not just by meeting standards but by ensuring that users of every ability can receive the same level of access no matter what device or technology that they use.
In summary, NUX5 was brilliant with plenty to learn about and digest over the coming weeks. I’m really excited to see what happens with conversation UI and the techniques and tips that were picked up from the speakers will really help with the UX work we do here at Ph. I can’t recommend attending the next NUX conference enough as it really is a great day out. In the meantime head over to one of their monthly events and I hope to see you at a NUX Liverpool event in the not too distant future!