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UX Australia Design Conference, Brisbane

by Lorraine

Four of our Friendly team members ventured to Brisbane on August 27 and 28 for the annual UX event hosted by UX Australia.

Lorraine Chung, one of Friendly’s UX designers, recounts her experience…

This was my first time attending UX Australia, and actually the first professional conference I have attended. It was a fresh and exciting experience for me to be a part of. I found the UX community incredibly welcoming and ready to share professional knowledge. And as it was held in Brisbane it was great to see UX’ers from all over the country attend.

It was very refreshing to see that all the UX professionals we met came with different perspectives. Each one of us had different backgrounds and took different paths that led us into the industry. However, even though we are all unique there are definitely common traits, values, and beliefs that we shared. UX designers all possess empathy, curiosity and the need to look beyond the surface for that deeper meaning. This was a really nice chance for the Australian UX community to come together. The event provided a rare occasion that was less focused on showcasing or selling, but more about sharing. And I found that extremely energising.

A key theme of the conference was the importance of empathy. To anyone who has studied or read about UX this may seem obvious. However being reminded of this spoke to the constant vigilance and improvement required to delve deeper into understanding the perspective of others, and ultimately look beyond our own biases and expectations.

Being a team of four we thought the best thing to do was divide and conquer to try and aim to see all 52 talks. All sessions that I attended were inspiring and speakers were really open to discussing more details and answering my questions post the session too.

The conference kicked off with an awesome keynote from Dave Gray (http://xplaner.com), who sketched his way through the whole session. He spoke about being able to get others and ourselves to change our deeply embedded habits and behaviours; to step out of our cognitive bubble and adopt new ideas; and to experience the world through other people’s eyes.

Another talk I really enjoyed was by Kayla J Heffernan, who talked about Designing for People you didn't know existed. Two main points resonated with me:

1. Sometimes there are groups of people who are not generally considered in the design stage. For instance, the male and female gender, or what we would think of biologically as sex, not gender. This is where we, as UX designers, should try and use the right terminology. Or more commonly, First name/Last name, which is a western naming structure. Personally I find that extremely confusing because my last name is actually my first name, as surname comes first in Chinese naming structure. When we don’t take account of these differences, it might act as a blocker for users to finish an application, or go through with your services.

2. Designing for your core audience who are very different from you. Even though you know they exist, it is hard to keep in mind that they see the world in a very different way. For example, designing for the elderly.

It just so happens Justin and Sharon from Meld talked about this further in their presentation Empowering older Australians through UX design. They shared their experience of working with a not-for-profit community aged care organisation. Having recently worked on a project where our target audience is 60+, I was able to relate to this. We all know the elderly demographic exists, but it is important not to lose sight of how they experience the world, not having experienced it the same way ourselves.

Another topic that was discussed was the role that design can play in organisational structures. These are the results of gradual human activity, design thinking and exploration of purpose. These can reveal new approaches to a UX designer on how to communicate with stakeholders, designers, and team members about the value of user centred design and what UX is (it really isn’t just wireframes!).

I loved seeing case studies on designing for experiences nobody cares about. No matter if it’s upgrading the ATO experience, or local government websites, or medical procedures for children. It is stories like these that make me feel like UX designers are doing great things to make people’s lives better through what may seem like the most trivial of things.

UX Australia’s closing keynote speaker was Cennydd Bowles (cennydd.com) who discussed ethical design. One thing that really stuck with me was that design should be sustainable, in other words future-proof. Instead of chasing after new and “shinier” designs, he prompted us to think how old and new versions and up-coming technology can work with older versions, and for us to include all technology old and new. I was surprised though, that Cennydd didn’t touch up on privacy and online bullying during his ethical design talk.

In summary, UX Australia was a great experience and being amongst the top players in the industry and discussing new ideas was beyond exciting. Not to mention that, personally, going to a conference has always been on my bucket list (how boring is my bucket list!).

I do feel like as a community, one our biggest blockage is still “stigma”. After all we are only human, and a lot of the stigma comes from our inherited cultural context. As UX designers, we are already working hard to have empathy and understand our users. I guess in a way, for us to be even better at our jobs, we need to be conscious of our own stigmas and work around it.

On a personal level, being at UX Australia reinforced my career choice (I've found my people!). I am very proud to be part of this amazing community.

For those who would like more information, here is a link to the session recordings and slides from the conference.

If you are thinking of attending the conference next year, my opinion is you should definitely book your tickets to UXA 2016! You might also be interested in attending UX Australia redux:

Sydney: Wednesday 4 November, Dockside (Darling Harbour)
Melbourne: Thursday 12 November, Sofitel Melbourne

You can register here.

If you are interested there are also October workshops – Designing Forms that Work, or Lean UX .


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