UX Poland 2015 Report

Last year I participated in UX Poland just during the workshop day. But I made a promise to myself to attend the whole event this year.  I guess there is no better opportunity to meet that many Polish UX designers to share a couple of days of inspiration and knowledge exchange with. Uselab – the organiser managed to deliver quality again.

For me personally UX Poland 2015 was special for two reasons: firstly, I had a promise to keep, secondly, this was my first UX conference when I was actually working in UX per se, that means: I achieved one of my life goals (Read about how I got my first UX job).

Experience showroom

The first three days of the conference took place in Jabłkowski Brothers Department Store – a historic building, initially housing the biggest pre-war Polish luxurious department store, being one of the few buildings in that area that survived the bombing of Warsaw.

The first day of UX Poland 2015 comprised of 15 talks, during which an array of speakers shared the variety of their experiences, mostly related to recent projects they were involved in.

A couple of them that I will remember the most:

  • Jim Sterne – Augmenting UX with Data
    Along the morning coffee we received a boost of energy from Jim Sterne from Digital Analytics Association. He emphasised the meaning of  complementing the qualitative data with the quantitative. Many companies have only recently realised about the importance of  big data and they’re in desperate need for data scientists, who will stop compiling those huge, unusable speadsheets, but will harness the best tools, have a good understanding of the root problem and how to tackle it. And, the most importantly, they will tell you compelling stories instead of spitting out the next spreadsheet.
  • Maciej Płonka – Things that manager does not know about his employees, but should
    The value of ethnographic research in HCI was highlighted in many publications. Maciej had a brilliant experience that proves that: he was involved in a huge research project for Grupa Tauron, the biggest Polish energy conglomerate and one of the biggest Polish companies at all. The researchers has spent over 100 hours in their users’ world, observing behaviours, barriers, real-life workarounds and the social impact of the to-be-designed interface. A dream project!
  • Karl Gills – How to create better A/B tests based on user research
    Another energy booster – this time after lunch – came from Karl, whose stand-up-comedian storytelling took us on a journey through A/B testing. Many interesting case studies from his own experience has proven that A/B testing is not a piece of cake! You need to fully understand the specific needs of these tests and, the most importantly, don’t test every thing that pops into your mind („Let’s see if the green button converts better than the red one.” „FUCK YOU!”), know what you need to measure and to know the context of use of the interface we are testing.

Workshop – Creating integrated and continuous UX

The Wednesday was a more hands-on experience – I attended a workshop titled “Creating integrated and continuous UX” lead by Nikita Efimov i Yuri Venedin. As I know from my own experience, conducting and facilitating workshops, especially in team demans a lot of discipline, integrity and boldness. That’s why I can truly appreciate the great job done by the guys at UX Poland 2015.

To be precise – the workshop had started two days before – the participants were asked to observe the conference environment and interview different types of attendees. The task was to gather as much insights as possible before designing solutions for a better conference next year.

By conducting various team activities, we went through a number of UX methods, each team being focused on a particular use group. More often than not UX methods are described in articles or books without the whole context and full description of the inputs and outputs of each one. The workshop allowed us to clearly see how information/insights flow from one step to another right through to the design and testing stage.

We managed to work on:

  • Research + target user groups
  • Proto-persona
  • Empathy map
  • Experience map
  • Impact map (That’s a hit! Read More)
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Guerilla testing

Great facilitation, rich content and a full day of hands-on experience – definitely the best workshop I even attended. Even though I had already known and used most of the methods, it is always valuable to reconfirm some information and find new tips and tricks to do your job better and to maintain the seamless flow in your process.

The conference

The third day took place in Dramatic Theatre located in on of the Warsaw’s landmarks:  The Palace of Culture and Science. Nine international speakers were eager to go up on that stage and share their experience and knowledge. A huge dose of inspiration! These are the selected talks that stuck with me after the conference.

  • Josh Payton – Missed connections — a look at history, bureaucracy, ecosystems, and execution
    The Vice President of User Experience for Huge’s European and Asian offices compared the Internet to the boomtowns – cities which grew in a supersonic pace and talked about the growing need of understanding the context of designing interfaces – standalone products that are not available for us every minute no longer make sense – we need to learn how to design whole ecosystems, support human needs from their natural environment and in the language they use. Organisations should stop to produce designs which are copies of the communication of these organisations – it should be user needs that need to be reflected by the design. And this is the only way to reach the optimal experiences.

    Design with empathy. Build for scale.

  • Andrea PicchiA cognitive approach to ecosystem design
    An amazing talk that somewhat predicts new trends in designing interfaces.  Based on great examples from Apple, Microsoft and others, Andrea has described the approach to build ecosystems using the “3C” framework, which is described in full in „Designing Multi-Device Experiences”. If we want to design consistent and continuous experiences across multiple devices, we need to leverage each channel’s and our brand’s unique strengths.  Context is especially crucial in the proximity of the mobile boom – smartphones, smartwatches, smartbands and other extensions of our life. We need to cater for the users’ need to continue their activities no matter how many times they switch the device during the day.
  • Werner Puchert – Creativity in UX design: friend or foe?
    Inspiration straight from the Cape Town – as designers, we shouldn’t feel enslaved by conventional thinking. Only genuine creativity (when properly framed) can fuel true innovation. Of course creativity is not art or throwing random ideas around, just to hope that one of them will hit the target. In each of the stages: strategy, UX, design, implementation – we need to make sure each steps inspires the next one. Creativity is not worth much if it doesn’t provoke reactions. Now how to boost your creativity?

    • Be an explorer
    • Hear the music in the noise
    • Open source UX
  • Nathan ShedroffThe value design brings to business (the link leads to a similar talk)
    Where did the 1.01 bilion dollars added to the book value of Instagram come from when it was acquired by Facebook? Nathan has proven, point after point, slide after slide, that designing experiences and building brands around human needs and proper research is the crucial part of the value of many companies. We can stop mentioning the unique selling proposition and start talking about the unique experience proposition. The business people focus on the quantitative, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg, which can only be seen through a natural synergy between the qualitative and the quantitative. In order to build a consistent and solid strategy we need to go deeper than the functional and financial – we need to dive into our users’ life – to reach their identity and meaning.

Summarising

While writing this article, I didn’t want to review every talk and everything that has been going on at the conference – you would need to see it for yourself. And this article is getting too long anyway. I had an opportunity to meet many inspiring people, hear out some great talks and hand pick the ones that inspired me the most. It wasn’t the first time for me to notice that the Polish UX community is growing and even though the market is still waiting to fully harness the power of the human-centered design approach, UXers are already in high demand. And that’s for the best not only for them, but mostly for the users, who in the end will receive the most.

See you next year!

//All the photos published by the courtesy of UX Poland