Summary: Short Talks

To conclude the day, everyone gathered together to hear a series of short lightning talks from delegates. Here’s a potted summary of each of their talks:

Is UX Killing the Art of Communication?

Kathryn Hegarty (@kythryn)


Is [fill in the blank] killing the art of communication? Kathryn Hegarty argued that this phrase gets bandied about all the time and it is bloody annoying!

Imagine it is 2045. A new thing has come out. Someone, somewhere will say it is killing the art of communication/conversation!

This is not a new thing. Kathryn looked back through history highlighting how every technology is viewed as killing communication.

We are human beings. We change to stay the same. The key things Kathryn believes really change the way we communicate are celebrity, acceptability and power.

From a UX perspective, we are communication town planners. We should be concerned about the aspects communication we can affect, such as permanence, findability, who gets heard and verifiability.

These things are not new in our industry. We have been doing these things all along and we will continue to do so, whatever the medium.

What is the User Need?

Jay Spanton (@Spanty)


Jay discussed the ways in which the Government Digital Service (GDS) talks about user needs and how this relates to the ways UX designers more widely might use/understand the term.

Government is currently trying to become more user centred and understand user needs. Government and civil servants really struggle with this. They are moving towards having a discovery phase in every project, starting with educated guessing, followed by data gathering, then talking to real people. He noted that you often have to explain what ‘real people’ are, compared to ‘representative people’.

When they talk to real people, Jay emphasised that the main thing they found was that people lacked reassurance from Government services.


Joe Leech (@mrjoe)


Joe Leech posed a question: Do you agree with the statement ‘UX is a force for good’?

There was unanimous agreement, with suggestions that UX makes businesses better and people’s live better.

He highlighted the experience of working with the online appliance seller and their efforts to work on the user’s experience at every level of the process.

This has consequences. He listed many of the companies (large and small) that have blamed ‘the internet’ for the closure of their business. However, Joe argued that this is because the internet services offer better user experiences. The consequence of good UX is putting some companies out of business. Some are larger companies that offered a poor user experience. Others are small high street retailers who lack the skills to make use of the internet to improve the user experience they deliver.

He stressed that he still thinks UX is a force for good. However, we are now facing a challenge: we are in the minority who have the skills to create good online experiences. We need to share this knowledge so that others can come along for the ride and not go out of business.

Systems Thinking in 3 Minutes

Nic Price (@nicprice)


Nic discussed the importance of systems thinking, including the quote:

‘Systems thinking begins when first we see the world through the eyes of another’

He explained that it is important to keep in mind the well-known illustration of the six blind men touching an elephant and interpreting their experience of an elephant differently. This idea of a personal world view is core to systems thinking.

Every system exists within another system. When you recognise something as a system you start to break these down into components, without each of which the system will not work. When we are designing something, we have to remember what it is a part of and how any changes may affect that system.

He also observed that the boundaries of a system can be changed: a bicycle is a system, but add a cyclist and you end up with a new system. When you change the design of a part of a system you have to think about the whole system to understand the consequences.