Alan Dargan attended UXDX on behalf of Irish Tech News. Here are his impressions.

Design events are ten a penny these days but there was nothing typical about the UXDX conference that took place in the RDS on the 2nd of November. The event focussed on product success from the perspective of User and Developer Experience too. DX is a relatively new term that considers the optimisation of the development process whether through automation or organisation.

 

Talks covered the gamut from designing (or ‘crafting’ as I’m sure some would say) experiences and workplace culture through to digital transformation within organisations once resistant to embrace innovation like utilities and financial services organisations.

“This is an amazing time to be a designer”

First speaker was Doug Powell, Distinguished Designer at IBM who kicked off the morning telling us that it’s an amazing time to be a designer and offered three clues as to why he thinks so:

  1. The fact that designer John Maeda joined VC behemoth Kleiner Perkins over two years ago is evidence of a sea change in how design is perceived. Designers now have a seat at the table.
  2. There are over a million designers in China proving that as a practice it is valued globally
  3. The iPhone’s release in 2007 caused a design revolution that put computing into our pockets, making it an indispensible part of our lives and allowing the general public to appreciate the importance of well designed digital experiences.

Enabling the IoT Long Tail

Intel was once tethered to the PC but as sales decline (though rumours of its complete demise are still much exaggerated) the microprocessing giant is seeing more opportunities elsewhere, especially in IoT devices. This makes sense seeing that each IoT device is essentially a computer requiring a fairly complex chipset.

While there are devices that will be manufactured by the big players Intel are keeping an eye on what they term IoT Long Tail – devices created by hackers, hobbyists and start-ups.

Intel’s David Boundy talked about improving the developer experience by making it easier to develop hardware solutions for even those not well versed in hardware.

An example of this is the Joule Module that contains processing, graphics card and bluetooth components. It abstracts away much of the problems of interfacing with hardware and is intended to be used by those who may have once been intimidated by developing for IoT.

Masterplanning

Rasmus Skjoldan, Magnolia CMS’ Lead Product Manager stressed the importance of learning from outside your own discipline to see what can be applied back to it.

Unashamedly self taught, his own disciple is product design and management and he saw correlations between software development and urban planning.

Both are based around designing for functions at a particular point in time when it’s impossible to see how they might be used when by large amounts of users or in the future.

 

Master planning or urban design helps us learn about large complex systems that are based around inclusivity and so too should the products we create.

Resonance

Travis George, Director of Product at Riot Games has a storied career in gaming and in gaming  the user experience is paramount.

When it comes to entertainment your users are spending their free time on your product so will just as quickly decide to do something else if it doesn’t deliver. George pinpointed 3 levels of connection with a good product:

  • Comprehension
  • Intuition
  • Resonance

While having an understanding of how a product works is important it’s Resonance that distinguishes a good experience from a great one – the feeling that this product was made with me in mind.

Radical Agility

When we talk about design we are often talking about experiences or products but David O’Donaghue, Head of Engineering at Zalando applied it to teams.
Taking his cue from behavioral psychology he looked at motivation and self-determination and how ‘Radical Agility’ ensures that organisations are autonomously motivated instead of a prescriptive, which in fast moving environments, tends to be unsustainable.

Following a period of rapid scaling they found that the Command/Control model was proving unmanageable as well as unsustainable leading to lots of their engineers leaving. Radical Agility allows all team members to be self motivated owing to three factors:

  1. Autonomy – The ability to be the author of your own actions
  2. Mastery – Motivation will not exist without competence
  3. Purpose – A meaningful rationale for why work is important

This isn’t a million miles away from Spotify’s take on engineering culture in which autonomy empowers teams to problem solve and as a consequence be more productive.

Innovation Airline

It’s easy to forget but Ryanair were once web pioneers as David O’Callaghan,their Software Development Manager, reminded us. In 2000 they launched a website with a booking engine that revolutionised the travel business.

Since then the airline has had a somewhat (ahem) fraught relationship with User and Customer Experience. In 2014 Ryanair Labs, its digital and innovation hub, opened to improve the customer experience by providing an environment for designers and developers to collaborate, solve problems, ship, test and iterate.

The entire structure is based around moving fast and forming teams to solve problems to add value.

Creating a user experience

It’s this same heavily Agile process that is used within the BBC’s design team as described by Kai En Ong, Head of User Experience & Design, whether they are researching products for the licence payer or for internal staff (who should also be paying their licence fee).

Allowing teams to work together and providing support for them is key to motivating teams to want to create good experiences for their users.

Lost of different perspectives added up to a packed day that delivered a snapshot of where digital product development and user experience is now and where it might be going


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