5 UX+ Conference Takeaways to Ponder On as a Creative in 2020

Posted by Cyrus Aaron - February 28, 2020 • 8-minute read

SA blog banner - UX Conference

There have been a number of user experience (UX) conferences popping up around the world over the last decade. This is understandable as UX design plays an important role in providing positive experiences that keep users loyal to the product or brand. 

Just last year, the biggest conference in Asia took place here in Manila, Philippines: the UX+ Conference which is the brainchild of the team behind Graphika Manila and 8020.

The UX+ Conference featured speakers from some of the biggest tech companies today such as Google, Twitter, Dropbox, and more, who showcased various approaches in UX. Here are some of the key takeaways to ponder on as a creative this year.

1. Avoid anxiety, deliver delight

Delight in UX is a positive response to a pleasing event when interacting with an interface. This response is a key player in UX, as we become more susceptible to influence when our emotions are heightened.

One of the speakers, JP De Guzman, shared that to deliver delight to our customers, we have to be aware of their anxieties. These are the moments when users feel uncomfortable while using your website, or simply put, their common pain points.

By being aware of our users’ anxieties, we can take it as an opportunity to deliver delight. Some of the examples are the following:

  • Using loading animation when waiting for data to be fetched
  • Using alert messages as acknowledgement that an event/action is done
  • Using progress bars for multi-step forms to visually indicate the form’s status
  • Ensuring that links are visually differentiated from normal text elements

User Experience Conference - UX 2019 - JP De Guzman - Anxiety, Delight, and Hicks

JP De Guzman - Photo from UX+

JP also pointed out that delight is not just about those pretty illustrations and animations. More than anything, consumers care about ease of use. Since delight is also about performance and usability, users will most likely leave your website once it starts to become difficult to use. Remember that they spend a lot of their time browsing the web, so they are expecting your website to work the same way as other websites.

2. Embrace complexity and be aware of biases

The Occam’s Razor principle states that the simplest solution tends to be the correct one.

Minimalists, rejoice! As a web developer and an aspiring web designer, I’ve seen that overcomplicating things—not just in tech but also in life in general—leads to more problems.

However, the Director of UX for Google, Paulo Malabuyo, gave a different perspective on this. He argued in his talk that sometimes the best solution is the complex one—when done right.

User Experience Conference UX 2019 - Paolo Malabuyo - Embracing Complexity

Paolo Malabuyo - Photo from UX+

Paolo—who has previously worked at Microsoft, Netflix, and Zynga (remember Farmville?)—shared the process on how his team at Google embraced complexity and tackled their challenges:

A. Strategic

What should we build, and for whom? This first phase is all about foundational user research, competitive evaluation, and UX principles.

B. Tactical

This phase encompasses the building process. This is where interaction, motion, and interface design comes in. This includes content strategy as well as prototyping. 

C. Evaluative

What’s next? What worked? Conduct usability tests, benchmarking, and data analysis.

Use the right methodologies to do the right things at the right time. It determines all ingredients that will help us avoid project failure—a thing which of course none of us wants.

 “I hate the fetishization of failure. Failure sucks. But when I fail, I learn.”

During his talk, Paolo also stated that we need to be aware of cognitive biases. Creatives, especially designers, tend to overlook their confirmation bias. It is our tendency to not go for information that doesn’t confirm our existing beliefs or ideas.

Instead, we have to see things from other people's point of view. This is an important piece of advice to take note of—especially when working in a collaborative environment. Sometimes, we tend to accept our own solution over our peer’s just because their opinion contradicts our point of view and our idea, of course, validates what we already believe. That’s self-verification. That’s confirmation bias.

We can overcome this by accepting the fact that we might be wrong. Be aware of these biases, so we can correct them. Put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. Be emphatic. We are delivering delight to our customers after all.

3. Go customer-centric

When we understand our customer, the probability of a project being successful is pretty high. In fact, forming a solution from their perspective is a solid fail-safe strategy, as it would help us come up with different variations of solutions to share with the people we are creating it for.

Take the example of GrabFood Singapore. Jay Demetillo, the Lead UX for GrabFood Singapore, shared that his team faced challenges when redesigning the food delivery service app because every region has its own persona and value.

User Experience Conference UX 2019 - Jay Demetillo - Redesigning GrabFood

Jay Demetillo - Photo from UX+

To solve this hurdle, his team conducted studies in different regions—learning the customer’s daily habits, even dining with them—and they analyzed the pattern. “Don’t work in silos, work together as a team. Conflicts happen. Have a discussion, lots of them,” he said, emphasizing the importance of teamwork and discussion and that every idea is still a good idea.

This experience led to this key point: Focus on the customer’s journey so they can enjoy a better user experience.

“Treat every user as if they were your grandmother.”

Jay explained that we should shift our thinking about design, stressing that design is not only an output and is more than just the UI or UX and pretty screens. It’s all about customer-centricity.

Furthermore, to create a more intelligent platform, we need to localize. “Get out there and enjoy life, find inspiration outside the screen. Learn and fail, not everyone will get your UX.” He tells us about the value of getting personal with our users in order to understand them better (which, if you really think about it, is not a bad idea at all).

4. Take advantage of user-centered content in digital storytelling

Benjamin Hersh, who previously worked at Medium and currently working as the product designer for Dropbox, mentioned in his talk that content is as equally important as the design in digital storytelling. Thus, the content’s voice should be considered also in the design process. 

User Experience Conference UX 2019 - Benjamin Hersh - Digital Storytelling

Benjamin Hersh - Photo from UX+

To help creatives design better with words, he shared these simple guiding principles:

1. Be clear

Aside from simplicity, clarity is key. It makes it easier to get your message across.

2. Be a friend

Be as friendly as possible but still respect the brand’s tone and voice. Don't say things you wouldn't say in real life.

3. Be expressive

Be as creative as you want when providing content—but do take note that it should be appropriate for the message that you are conveying.

Coming up with a good design should be supported with good research and a solid identity, from the brand’s color scheme to the brand’s tone and voice. Know your user and you’ll find a solution. 

5. Find your north and stick to it

This was the most memorable part of the conference for me—the North Star metaphor. Just as the actual North Star has been used for navigation, our own North Star would be our personal guiding light we look to for us to keep focused on our direction or purpose in life—our personal mission statement.

Eleanor Harding, the product designer for Twitter, shared in her talk how she found her North Star through her career journey. She had a number of career changes before she realized what she really wanted to do.

User Experience Conference UX 2019 - Eleanor Harding - North Star

Eleanor Harding - Photo from UX+

Despite her job hopping, she focused on her goal, her true north, and she used that as an anchor and guide. She kept a positive attitude all throughout.

“Tech is built by optimists, because they fundamentally believe that things can and will be better.”

As creatives, it’s very easy to get lost, be stuck in second gear, or feel burnt out. This is why it’s all the more important for us to be reminded why and what we are doing all this for. 

Here at StraightArrow, our North Star is to be one of the most admired companies serving creative industries around the world. We gear towards our true north with our passionate team of great people who consistently deliver exceptionally creative products and services, and actively innovate for our clients.

We’re also committed to helping our clients navigate their paths to their North Star by helping them create customer-centric websites, content, and design, as well as providing them with  social media and search engine services. 

Book a consultation today to learn more about how we can get to your North Star together.

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Topics: Creative Design, Web Development, User Experience, UX

Written By

Cyrus Aaron

Cyrus Aaron

Cyrus is a web development specialist at StraightArrow. When not writing codes, he’s probably talking about films and other people's music.

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