Design events are ten a penny these days but there was nothing typical about the UXDX conference focussing as it did on product from the perspective of User Experience and Developer Experience too. DX is a relatively new term but one that considers how to optimise the development process whether through automation or organisation.
Talks covered the gamut from designing experiences and workplace cultures to digital transformation within organisations once resistant to embrace innovation (such as utilities and financial services).
“This is an amazing time to be a designer”
Doug Powell, Distinguished Designer at IBM 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:
- 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.
- There are over a million designers in China proving that as a practice it is valued globally
- 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 experiences
Enabling the IoT Long Tail
Intel was once an organisation tethered to the PC but as sales decline 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 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.
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.
His own is product design and management and he saw correlations between software development and urban planning – we design for functions at a particular point in time when it’s impossible to see how it will be used in the future much as cities are designed based around industrial and other factors of the time.
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.
Travis George, Director of Product at Riot Games has a long background in gaming in which the user experience is paramount.
In entertainment your users are spending their free time on your product so will just as quickly move on to something else if it doesn’t deliver. George pinpointed 3 levels of connection with a good product:
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 for me.
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.
It’s easy to forget but Ryanair were 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.
Not bad considering it was built by two 17 year olds for €20,000. Since then the airline had an often (ahem) fraught relationship with User and Customer Experience however in 2014 its digital and innovation hub Ryanair Labs opened seeking 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 is now and where it’s going