Jyrki Turunen

World Usability day 2017 recap


By Jyrki Turunen

A little background for the conversation below…

We took a little trip to Tallinn with Katariina for the World Usability Day 2017 Conference on the 10th and 11th of this month to see what we could learn. The event itself was held between 9th-12th but we only attended the two days, the first being full of half an hour information shots from various lecturers on various topics and the second being a full day of workshops. And now, without further ado, a little different kind of breakdown of what there was.

 

JYRKI

What an absolutely magnificent intro. Now that everyone is completely and utterly onboard, let’s go a bit more into detail. How did you like the event overall?

 

KATARIINA

The lectures on Friday (10th) included a lot of interesting topics, though some of them were perhaps a tiny bit closer to my day-to-day things than others. However, for me the workshop on Saturday (11th) was the crème de la crème of the event. How about you?

 

JYRKI

A pretty good overview there, can’t really add to that. I was ready to pack my bags and swim across the pond between Finland and Estonia just for the “Storytelling” workshop on Saturday, but I was positively surprised by the quality of some of the lectures on Friday too. Some, not all, mind you. Any particular highlights that were seared into your mind from the lectures?

 

KATARIINA

*furious browsing of notes*

The very first lecture, “Design research in business” by Froukje Sleeswijk Visser, was a great opening to the overall topic of the day and happened to be very close to my own work description as well. It emphasized the importance of empathy and understanding the end users and particularly the phrase “customer insights are means, not an end” stuck with me.

 

JYRKI

I agree, that was the first thing I would have mentioned as well as the lecture really summed up the core concepts of UX work excellently. Concepts that too easily are lost or unutilized in B2B projects.

*Angry glare at most management/sales people*

For me the crown jewel of the day was the last lecture “Stupid mistakes smart people make and what you can do about it” by Steve Rawling, partly because the topic was perfect for the day’s finale and partly because the dude giving the lecture was a professional storyteller and ex-journalist and it really showed.

 

KATARIINA

Yeah, his background at BBC News really gave it a different kind of perspective. “In God we trust, everyone else bring data” was a particularly clever quip. I still remember quite a few very useful things from that lecture, like the terms “Loss aversion” and “Sunk cost fallacy”. It reminded me of the fact that it’s very human to not want to give up things we already have. It’s very good to be aware of this human feature as sometimes the best thing to do is to let go or change direction completely.

 

JYRKI

Indeed. Another topic I want to bring up was ”Design at the heart of innovation” by Nur Karadeniz, which really brought up the model of modern digitalized businesses. While previously the main challenge might have been technology and its application to solve problems, today the battleground is trust and peoples’ personal data is the subscription method. Digitalization is the name of the game and it isn’t slowing down any time soon. An interesting conundrum is that technology advances fast, yet people do not change and grow accustomed to it at the same pace. This is a crucial thing to recognize. One quote that really resonated with me was “Digital age design is largely undoing the designs of the industrial age”.

 

KATARIINA

That lecturer also criticized the fact that design methods do not seem to conform to the fact that the world is changing around them and people tend to hold on to old, unyielding methods like a life preserver. Maybe there is some room for adjustments somewhere in this equation?

I’d like to give a special mention to the lecture “Hearing body” by Ana Tajadurea-Jimenez which, while perhaps not intimately related to my every day work, was still a fascinating half an hour about how sounds affect human behavior and our image of both the world around us and ourselves.

 

JYRKI

Now we only need to take a leap of faith as a company and start walking around with sound-altering shoes, an equipment harness and sound-blocking earphones. Good luck pitching that to the managers.

 

KATARIINA

One last lecture I’d like to mention was “Designing anticipated user experiences” by Joel van Bodegraven. People apparently make around 35000 decisions a day. Be it subconsciously or not, that kind of amount sure puts a lot of mental stress on anyone. This is important for UI designs as the more choices we can make for the user predictively, the less stressful it is for the user. Then again, if those choices are completely off the reservation, so to speak, the stress might be double the original amount as you need to fix the machine’s/algorithm’s mistakes, so it’s a give and take game.

 

JYRKI

That makes sense, though like you said, it’s a slippery slope to go down by. Context is the key here, as all great design choices are tied to their surroundings and how well it fits within and works with those boundaries.

 

KATARIINA

Users want even machines and devices to display personalities, not just be cold, calculating hunks of junk. They want to feel like they are interacting with another person, or at least a simulacrum of one, as it makes the action more memorable and personal.

 

JYRKI

Many of us already use TVs, radios or computers to produce a sort of background noise while we’re doing other things, I suppose tossing some more human-ish elements into the mix is the next step on that road. Well, that seems to just about wrap up the lecture day, don’t you think?

 

KATARIINA

I can’t think of anything more to add to it. Now we can move on to the more hands-on part, meaning workshops. Want to tell about your first one?

 

JYRKI

My morning workshop was called “UX for growth” by Molly Norris, with a similarly titled lecture given on the previous day. The workshop really went more in-depth into the things briefly glimpsed on the lecture, which was a good thing as it was a pretty focused topic in contrast to some of the other ones we listened to. A lot of the workshop consisted of establishing customer metrics and overall understanding of the different parts that make up most web user interfaces. The speaker was clearly from a B2C company as many of the examples showed consumer oriented solutions, but the principles should still be applicable in B2B as well with some tweaking.

 

KATARIINA

So what would you say were the most interesting things you learned in the workshop?

 

JYRKI

Some of the more practical things. For example, there are five types of customer metrics: acquisition, activation, retention, referral and revenue. The most usual key metric tends to be one under activation, namely email or account signup. You should also generally build the least for your value and even dismantle products that surpass the MVP if necessary. It was also a good reminder of just how important iconography, illustrations and word/phrase selections really are. We were shown examples of A/B testing results and the simplest of things can result in a huge difference in actual turnover actions. Providing users a menu of actions instead of just one big one is crucial. These actions can be broken down into three main categories: money, members and message which are the basis of any cause/online site. There were also some lovely quick hacks for better UX and a bunch of tools to use, but hey, I’m not going to give everything away here now am I? That seems like a long enough rant about that, how about your workshop?

 

KATARIINA

Seems great, you’ll have to share those hacks with me at some point.

I attended a whole day workshop called ”Mapping journeys into actions” by Lawrence Kitson. During the day we went through the whole service design journey from user research to user stories. When it comes to user research it was emphasized that the most important thing is to find out what the users actually need instead of just asking them what they want. This is why observation is so important! It is also something I have noticed in my own work. We used some time to go through the best practices for observation and interviews, but the actual main beef was mapping user experience. To practice this we mapped which physical and mental tasks it takes to brew a perfect cup of coffee. I can tell you that even this kind of simple process required quite many post-it notes.

 

JYRKI

I never figured that an activity as basic as that would cause so much debate and discussion.

 

KATARIINA

I can tell that you don’t drink coffee.

When the actual user experience is mapped on a task level, it’s important to recognize the pain points and emotions caused by each task. When these have been pointed out, it’s easier to start developing the service/product to the right direction and recognize which features are needed for the MVP.

 

JYRKI

Sounds interesting. And very… well, UXy. Then again, that seemed like quite a good overview of how to work the UX aspect of almost any given project.

 

KATARIINA

Pretty much, yeah. That’s about all I have to say about it, so how about you mumble something about the last workshop you participated in so this marathon of a blog post can finally release the readers who have managed to get this far?

 

JYRKI

Well since you put it so nicely… Last but certainly not least, the final educational effort for me was the “Storytelling” workshop by Steve Rawling. I’m a bit of a pen-wiggler myself so I was almost borderline obsessively expecting this one.

 

KATARIINA

Alright we get it, you were excited, continue if you will.

 

JYRKI

Right, sorry. The workshop put a lot of things in different perspectives and made me realize that while the experience of the story varies from person to person as they interpret things in different ways, all stories share similarities, common denominators and structural points. Yes, even work-related ones, at least the good ones. Basically, a story breaks down to three sections: first, stuff happens (who, what, where, when). Second, people care (how, feelings, reactions). Third, the story has a moral to it (why, lesson, action). While you can do a lot of things with your story, when you really get to the core of it, this is the basic structure of most if not all stories. Every story also has a beginning, middle and end, although not necessarily introduced in that order. Most importantly, whatever you write, the one thing that makes people remember it is EMOTION. If they cannot attach an emotion to the text, it becomes so much more difficult to actually memorize the words. Many a time in business this is the case as people skip the second step of “people care” in favor of necessary, but often incredibly boring, numbers and buzz words. Whatever you do, be honest when telling your stories. If it’s not yours, say so. People will spot a fake and they will immediately dislike you for it.

 

KATARIINA

Makes sense. I’ve seen my fair share of IT documents and they certainly cannot be accused of being captivating reads.

 

JYRKI

Exactly. We also went through the concept of story arcs, a very basic one of which being “The hero’s journey”. A perfect example of that would be the original Star Wars-trilogy. There was talk about how to focus your message by selecting the hero of the story (e.g. in adverts), how people pay close attention to situations where established norms are upheld or broken and how especially factual stories, like news, should be timely, relatable and evocative. Unexpected too if possible. Your audience needs to be able to make sense of your story, which comes around to the fact that you should know your audience. If you really want people to notice your story, break a pattern, include an anomaly, ATTACH EMOTION. I’m reading through my notes here and there is still a plethora of details and things I would like to rant on about, but perhaps it’s best to leave it here with the wider topics for now.

 

KATARIINA

If someone wants to know more, they can no doubt get in touch with you or click through any of the links we’ve included in this conversation. Yes, we can produce links in speech. We’re that awesome.

 

JYRKI

Naturally, and the same with you too. So, to sum it up, we went to Tallinn, listened and did stuff and came back. Worth it. Now to take my own and add an emotion to this particular story, I’m going to shamelessly borrow the first thing we saw in the “Storytelling”-workshop. Enjoy this piece of cutting edge news that made all other articles that day irrelevant: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/31/cow-photobombs-horse_n_1847161.html

 

If you’ve managed to get this far, give yourself a pat on the back. We tried to condense everything for this post, but it still turned out a tad lengthy. Thank you for reading!