The 24hr UX conference was an event that ran 24 hours straight, with multiple talks covering all aspects of UX design. I couldn’t attend every session that was offered, but here are some of the highlights that I got from it. 

More than visualization: VR and game tools as community empowerment – by UX Wellington

Ellie Tuckey, Mitra Homolja, Kammifi Corinaldesi

This talk went over the research findings when testing architectural environments in a virtual reality (VR) setting. 

How it worked was users would customize their world within the game, organizing how they would prefer their surroundings. This personalization shedded light on architect’s biases, where they would present what they thought the demographic would want, when in reality the users chose something else. The example was the architect chose a vibrant, colorful pattern for one of the walls of a kid’s bedroom, but when kids of that demographic created their own space, they found simple soft muted wall colors more pleasing. 

This demonstrated that having the user interact with a physical (or for VR, realistic) space, the feedback received is more beneficial than a simple survey with checkboxes. The study also revealed that younger people were more inclined to test out new technologies and ways to test than older generations.

A recipe for good design – by UXNZ

Jaz Wilkinson, Thea Betts

A brief talk that went over the ingredients needed for good design to happen.

A connection was made between both cooking and UX design; how mastery was formed the more it was performed and how experimentation evolved with each iteration. As we make choices in what we do, we are subconsciously designing the results that we want from our experience.

The ingredients to good design were as follows:

  • People
  • Scenario
  • Constraints
  • Ingredients
  • Method
  • Presentation
  • Experience

UX + Agile: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – by UXPA Cleveland

Joshua Randall

This talk went over how Agile processes can be a detriment to UX design, and how writers of UX books contradict themselves.

This was one of many talks that brought up the problem between Agile software developers not wanting to incorporate the UX design team. User experience is different from the user interface. Usability is an attribute of the user experience, but not the main reason. Code reviews and sprints can align with UX testing and information gathering. 

Teams should not chase for productivity, or the adage “Fail fast.” Having solid small teams of both UX and software developers can make for a design that is easily adaptable.

Every Word Matters – Inclusive Writing in 21st Century Design – by UX Graz

Sarah Loigge, Johannes Lehner

This talk teaches the importance of how we word our interfaces and copy as to not segment anyone based on gender, orientation, race, and background. 

Companies can’t be apolitical in this day in age. With technology being a big part of everyone’s lives, companies have to be aware of how they segment their products and align their key pillars.

UX should follow these three aspects:

  • Address the user
  • Be respectful and have accessible writing
  • Provide options to empower the user

There are some things UX writing should avoid:

  • The use of titles (Mr, Miss/Mrs)
  • Generic masculine words (mankind)
  • Passive voice

Instead of asking the user what their gender is, rephrase it to “How should we address you?” Instead of limiting the user to specific answers, provide a free text box to empower them to write down how they identify themselves (and don’t use the word “other,” it makes users feel excluded). Forms should provide context and give the user reassurance in giving their personal information. If there is no reason to track personal information, however, DON’T ASK. Just because forms typically have these questions doesn’t mean your form has to if there’s no reason to include it.

Drunk UX testing, and what we can learn from it – by UX Geneva

Richard Littauer, Jesse Anton, Peter Horvath

A casual chat with a usability tester that would get drunk and test out websites.

The topic of this talk was pretty simple, but as it went it covered a lot about bias and becoming better at UX. The main speaker used to have a tiny business where they would get drunk and see if a client’s site was still usable. This provided raw feedback where the tester wasn’t afraid to be harsh about their criticism for the products. 

After a little while, however, the tester stopped the practice. Realizing his entitlement as a straight white male, he realized he was pushing the stereotype that was placed on his race and gender. He made some great points about learning how to design for diverse users, with the key point being “Listen rather than act.” Too often we are prone to react quickly to support a cause we believe in. If we were to take time and understand the viewpoint from the people that we are trying to help, we would obtain a better perspective. 

If we are given labels, we can use them as tools to support a perspective. People shouldn’t be afraid to end projects, as the speaker did. Be open to filling a need and always be on the search to try something new.

KEYNOTE: Transforming Toward Customer-Centricity

Debbie Levitt

An informative keynote on the battle between agile and UX.

When making decisions for UX design, they should be focused on metrics from direct user actions, as to remove biases about what the user might do. The rapidity of a product going to market does not dictate the quality of that product. If teams were to slow down and focus on creating a good product each time to customers, even if it’s a partial product, then better customer feedback would be obtained. 

When designing products, we need to design for the future rather than the present. If we cater our designs only to what can fit the system at the moment, we may be creating bottlenecks for the system, not allowing it to expand when the product decides to grow in the future. This planning ahead lessens the risk involved within the system.

When we are gathering information, we should be lenient towards qualitative information from observing the user rather than quantitative information. By observing how the user interacts with our system, we have a greater understanding than if a user were to simply fill out a form. Our goal is to take the workload off of our system. People don’t use technology to make their lives more difficult, so why should we require them to learn how to use a complicated system?

Creating and Using Agnostic or Gender Neutral UX Personas – by UXPA Los Angeles

Marcella Missirian

Figuring out ways to remove gender bias and be empathetic to all users.

This talk went over the ways the speaker tried to get her past UX team to be more open to different ways people live their lives. Previously the members had stereotypical bias towards what they saw in the personas, and made judgements on what the design should be before reading all the details. After a few years and many iterations on the personas, the speaker found that by removing the persona photo altogether (leaving a blurred, colorful abstraction), the UX team was able to focus more on the details of the user, rather than their own stereotypical biases. 

Accessible design is my passion: the most common errors in digital products – by DALAT

Susana Pallero, Christina Halladay, Silvia Marquez

Speakers talk about giving an accessibility driven focus on UX designs.

Should we as designers create content for users to adapt to or create systems that already fit within the users’ lifestyles? When we are designing for users, we need to make the system accessible before anything else. Accessibility doesn’t mean that it covers usability, however. Making a system accessible to one kind of audience may eliminate the usability of other audiences. 

When designing, we need to keep in mind our target users’ mental model of the system. An example given for when this failed was a video of one of the speaker’s daughters trying to use a vending machine. Having grown up where you can tap your phone or card to a system to have it paid for, she was waving a dollar bill under the light of where you’re supposed to insert it into the machine. The light was trying to indicate that’s where you insert the bill, but the daughter, having grown up in the age of technology, thought you just wave it underneath the light. 

Provide information in the best order and give unique tags/headings for duplicate information. This allows those who use screen readers to more easily understand the information listed on the screen.

KEYNOTE: Dispelling the Seven Deadly Myths of Product Design

John Bowie

An industry veteran goes over the usual myths they’ve seen in the time working in UX.

1: Your product has users.

Your company has problems where the identity of the product is the main focus of the company, rather than its usability. When people are using your product, they are focused on a result, not having to learn your technology. When the user has to learn how to use your system, you are taking them away from their main purpose.

-Remedy: Do user research to find the usability of your product.

2: People who read manuals remember training.

Some companies find pride in having large, complicated manuals. 90% of all training is lost within a week of learning, wasting the user’s and support team’s time. Large manuals turn people away from using the system.

-Remedy: In-product support, where users can access information where and when they need it.

3: Your product’s features are used.

There’s a gap between the user’s knowledge and the knowledge needed to complete the tasks that they want. Be empathetic towards users (personas help with that), and understand their background.

-Remedy: Do in-person user research (observation is the answer to most problems).

4: Your product is inherently complex.

Just because the user may be dealing with complex data, that shouldn’t be an excuse for why your system is difficult to use. By gatekeeping the user in this way, you are making them feel like they are not worthy to have the results that they desire. Think of providing results like how Alexa or Siri provides answers. The user says the result they want and the system does all the heavy lifting to give it to them. 

-Remedy: Field research to find the simplest (best) solution.

5: UX is a separate process owned by a separate person.

Every member on your team and organization has thoughts and opinions on the design of the system. Some members may be more familiar with it in a certain way than you do. 

-Remedy: Cross-function collaborate with your coworkers. Do research on what they think about the system and observe how they use it.

6: Feature parity is a winning product strategy.

Why does a system offer multiple features? If these features are to serve a specific purpose or to cover what’s already been done, more exploration within the system needs to happen to make the old features more prominent. If we cut down on features, we can focus more on providing a strong experience for singular use.

-Remedy: Use a UX competitors report card (report observing what your competitors do), and prototyping.

7: You design products.

A system is worthless without its users. There needs to be a way to track results, but don’t imply that on the user.

-Remedy: Observational research.

Presenting Your UX Work Using Spontaneous Talks Frameworks – by UX Research & Strategy

Jennifer Blatz

This talk went over a systematic approach to explain and promote the designs you’ve created.

These were the different frameworks:

  • Opportunities, Solution, Benefit
  • Situation, Task, Action, Result
  • Point, Reason, Example, Point
  • Bottom-Line Up-Front
  • Answer, Detail, Describe value

This is just a basic overview about some of the talks that happened during the conference. If you want to check them out for yourself and watch previous conference talks, check out the 24hr UX YouTube channel.